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Roman Chewing Candy – A Longstanding New Orleans Tradition Rolls On

2 Mar

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The Roman Chewing Candy cart has made its rounds in New Orleans since 1915. Yes, I said 1915! NOLA is an old city (at least in US terms) and this is one of the city’s oldest culinary traditions. The cart, as you can see above, has seen its share of wear and tear. But like most things New Orleans, the cart’s worn and weathered look makes one more than a bit nostalgic for the “good old days.” And yes, this is the original cart fashioned by New Orleans wheelwright Tom Brinker in 1915. Amazing. Many cities bulldoze or bury their past. New Orleans celebrates theirs. God bless ‘em for that.

roman candy 3

We recently encountered the cart at the Crescent City’s wonderful Audubon Zoo. Eileen and the boys promptly called me with the good news. I urged them to take a few pics and bring back an assortment of the gourmet taffy. The price of the taffy has gone up a bit since it was first offered for 5 cents per stick by the Cortese family back in the day.

roman candy wraps

 You can now purchase three basic taffy flavors (Vanilla, Chocolate, and Strawberry) for $1 per wax paper wrapped stick, 6 sticks for $5, or $10 for a full dozen sticks. The candies are handmade on the cart each day and they are not, like many of today’s confections, overly sweet. Personally, I prefer the vanilla.

You can now track the Roman Candy cart’s day to day location via Facebook.

You can also purchase by mail by ordering at http://www.romancandy.gourmetfoodmall.com

In the immortal words of Jackie Gleason, “How sweet it is!”

Roman Candy Company – 5510 Constance St., New Orleans, LA 70115 

(504) 897-3937; romancdy@bellsouth.net

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Roman-Chewing-Candy-Co/124215977625950

Alabama’s “Pecans Project” Is Worthy Of Your Support

5 Feb

This unique non-profit program is based in little Greensboro, AL.

Here is a brief history:

Pecans!: born in 2009 from a HEROyouth* marketing assignment, is revered not only for its quality of taste, but for its business model. Pecans! is not only a sustainable small business, but co-serves as a job training opportunity for at-risk HEROyouth to gain valuable food service skills. Utilizing home grown ingredients to forge its pecan butter, sugared pecans and pecan brittle, it is a must taste in the South. To make it even sweeter, all Pecans! profits go to the HEROyouth Scholarship Fund that rewards three (3) scholarships annually to HEROyouth students who are pursuing a post-secondary degree.

*HEROyouth serves 18 at-risk, out-of-school youth annually through  GED courses, job training and career readiness

Great cause, no doubt about it. But are the products any good? We posed this question to the project’s management and they responded by sending us a sampling of their goodies. Pecan Butter, Pecan Brittle, Sugared Pecans. What’s not to like? I had never tried Pecan Butter before … and boy, was  I in for a treat! It’s not exactly creamy like peanut butter. It is drier and more crystalized. The ingredients are simple and natural: Alabama Pecans, honey, cinnamon, and a touch of salt. It comes in an attractive glass jar made by the famed German company Rundrand Glas Weck. It is a keeper, for certain. The pecan butter inside these beauties is very tasty. We enjoyed it immensely. It’s not exactly spreadable, so a quick spin in the microwave helps.  ***The only oils in this product are the natural oils from the pecans.

The project’s pecan brittle is also totally natural: Pecans, sugar, light corn syrup, salt, water, butter and baking soda. And it is just what you would expect it to be — crunchy, crackly and good. My wife loved it and greatly assisted me in quickly emptying the brown paper bag. The sugared pecans, in my opinion, were even better. I’ve had lots of candied pecans before, yet there was something unique about this taste. A gander at the bags ingredients gave me the answer: NUTMEG! What a stroke of genius. Never thought about doing this before. It may seem like a subtle little thing, but the results are life changing. Make sure you order more than one bag. If you don’t, you are truly a NUT! 

http://pecansproject.com

A Trio of Delicious Sweet Treats from “The Old Dominion”

14 Jan

Red Rocker Candy’s Cashew Brittle with White Chocolate. Where do I begin to sing your praises? To say it is simply good would be a gross understatement. It is really, really, really good. OK, now we’re getting closer to reality. Now I am not the world’s most passionate brittle fan. I like peanut brittle all right, I guess. I am a native Virginian, after all. But most of it is average at best. Too sweet. Not enough peanuts. Far too hard and dangerous for my somewhat fragile dental work.

Sue Charney, owner of Red Rocker Candy, is pictured above. I’m not sure what her secret is, but she has obviously found a winner in this particular brittle recipe. The soft layer of white chocolate on top is a perfect foil for the crunch that lies below. It is indeed a crunch. However, it is decidedly not a bridge breaker. The incredible, buttery candy brittle is generously spiked with cashews — one of my favorite nuts on the planet. Well, it’s actually a seed, not a nut. But that’s another story for another day.  

Sue’s confections have recently been discovered by famous folks like TV’s Rachel Ray. This attention is certainly well deserved. I just mentioned on Facebook that Red Rocker’s Cashew Brittle with White Chocolate may be one of the best things I eat all year in 2012. Yup, I know it’s only January, but these crunchy, crackly beauties are a world class treat and without a doubt worthy of your immediate time and attention. Get some quickly before the entire world finds out — and order some for a friend. Order some for an enemy too. That person will not remain an enemy long.

Pistachio Brittle is just one of many irresistable varieties offered

Spice Rack Chocolates are made in Fredericksburg, VA. They’ve been making artisan chocolates since 2006. It’s a family oriented business founded on a “quality over quantity” philosophy. Their products are handcrafted in small batches and you can clearly taste the difference. The Belgian chocolate they use is excellent — pure and lacking in the waxy texture that plagues most mass-produced chocolates. But let’s not stop there — the chocolates are frequently goosed up with uniquely exotic spices/flavors like chipotle peppers, crystallized ginger, Jamaican curry, and Celtic smoked sea salt.

Spice Rack kindly sent us a variety of products to sample and enjoy — and enjoy we did! The dark chocolate chipotle peanuts (billed as “Fire Antz”) were spicy and superb. It didn’t hurt that they feature first class gourmet Virginia goobers grown just down the road by Belmont Peanuts. They’re not overly spicy, but they do deliver a pleasant afterburn. The Ginger Cubes offer a highly unique marriage of dark chocolate and crystallized ginger. I love ginger, so these little nuggets were a special treat.

Even better was the Spice Rack Collection. This attractive & informative (it suggests wine pairings) 15-piece gift box featured 3 each of the following flavor combos: Fresh Lemon with Sweet Basil, Celtic Smoked Sea Salt and White Ground Pepper, Key Lime and Jamaican Curry, Rosemary with Mint Leaves, and Spicy Cayenne and Chili Powder. The coupling of curry and chocolate (a first for this guy) was surprisingly noteworthy.  My personal fave was the sea salt variety — I’ve long been a softy for that now trendy salty/sweet combo. Spice Rack offers 5 other, equally interesting 15-piece collections. Next on my list will be their On The Rocks mix, which boasts matches such as Rum and Cola, Pina Colada, Amaretto, Orange Cognac, and Butterscotch Brandy. Cheers, y’all!

Pretty much everyone loves banana pudding. Southerners certainly crave it. But how often do you actually prepare it at home? Probably not all that often. The slicing of the bananas part is pretty easy. So is the pulling the Nilla Wafers from the box part. So what’s the big deal? Most folks will tell you it’s the preparation of the pudding part. Well, Reggie Rodgers of Chesapeake, Virginia has solved that problem for you.

Rodgers Banana Pudding Sauce is smooth and delicious — and comes in refrigerated jars. How cool is that??? Just layer your Nillas and sliced nanners, poor the sauce over top, and you’re done. It’s good too — creamy and tasting of pure vanilla extract. No baking required. The ingredients are all natural and you make as little or as much as you’d like — then put the rest of the sauce back in the fridge for later. How convenient! Reggie Rodgers — you are THE MAN. We love their logo too. The cartoony wafer and banana both appear to be thrilled about their pending collision course with the pudding bowl. Their ultimate demise will be your gain, that’s for sure!

We hear Rodgers’ Banana Pudding Sauce makes a great shake too!

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Red Rocker Candy – PO Box 1135, Troy, VA

www.redrockercandy.com ; (434) 589-2011

Spice Rack Chocolates – 10908 Courthouse Road, Fredericksburg, VA

www.spicerackchocolates.com ; (540) 847-2063

Rodgers’ Banana Pudding Sauce – (757) 558-4964

www.rodgersbananapudding.com ; reggie@rodgersbananapudding.com

Be Sweet. Visit Mrs. Wheat’s Treats Today!

9 Apr

Mrs. Wheat’s Treats has been around since the late 1980s. This is no overnight success story. It’s never been easy. But it’s a family recipe and a family business. Always has been. They have survived through good times and bad and now they need your support. A combination of road construction, theft, and the sluggish, post BP spill economy has caused Julie Wheat to tighten the proverbial belt. She makes a mighty fine New Orleans-style praline and deserves our loyal support.   

The window sign at Mrs. Wheat’s Treats in Mobile, Alabama

Pralines on the cooling trays at Mrs. Wheat’s Treats

The company was founded by Marguerite Busch Wheat. She was a whiz in the kitchen who made hundreds of pralines each year for her closest friends and beloved family members. Her praline recipe was a treasured heirloom passed down through 4 generations of the Wheat family. She was said to be quite particular about the pecans used in her recipe. Marguerite gathered pecans from her own family trees and was known to crack and shell each nut by hand. Talk about your TLC!

Chocolate Fudge from Mrs. Wheat’s kitchens

The original Mrs. Wheat passed away in 1987, but her family was determined to keep this most Southern of cooking traditions alive. Mrs. Wheat’s Treats retail location on South Florida Street first opened its doors two years later in 1989. Fast forward more than two decades later and the Wheat family is still at it. They continue to incorporate top of the line sugar, fresh butter and cream, pure vanilla, and meaty hand picked pecan halves. Each batch of pralines is hand dropped and hand wrapped. No mechanized, mass production here, folks.  

Mrs. Wheat’s also offers delicious Cheese Straws & homemade candies

Chocolate Pralines — ready to be devoured

Mrs. Wheats Treats has a great history here in Mobile. It is our hope and prayer that they have a bright future too. That is ultimately up to the public. They may be a little out of your way, but we urge you to go the extra mile to purchase these legendary Dixie delights. Mrs. Wheat’s has always gone that extra mile for you.

Mrs. Wheat’s Treats – 154 S. Florida St., Mobile, AL – 251 478-0709

www.mrswheatstreats.net

www.facebook.com/pages/Mrs-Wheats-Treats

Sweet Revolution Maple Honey Caramels – “Viva La Revolution!”

31 Jul

San Francisco’s Sweet Revolution makes a darn good salted caramel. Now, you may think you’ve had good caramels before. But, believe me, these folks take it to another level. This (above) is how our candies arrived at the DixieDining.com HQ.

But before I continue, let’s learn a little more about the source:

Sweet Revolution’s Maple Honey Caramels are as unique and innovative as their name. The only confectioner nationwide making USDA certified organic salted caramels with the finest ingredients and devoid of corn syrup or cane sugar. The caramels are handmade in San Francisco using only Maple, Dairy, Honey, Sea Salt, and Vanilla Bean.

Deliciously addictive, the intense sweet and savory flavors and the buttery finish have created a frenzy amongst candy lovers all over the world. Even candy fans who don’t love caramels have touted their praise and asked for more.

Anastasia Hägerström, the brainchild behind Sweet Revolution, developed her sense of taste and style from living in many different countries throughout her life. It was her exposure to the pureness and simplicity of these various cuisines that impelled her to create a candy that best exemplified the integrity and ingredients she grew up with. The result is Sweet Revolution’s Maple Honey Caramels; her attempt to revolutionize the candy world as we know it.

Now that we have that bit of back story out of the way, let’s get down to the fun part. Eating them! I carefully opened the brown cardboard box to reveal 12 delicious salted caramels wrapped in plain white wax paper. Sure they’re almost $2 each, but these babies are something to be savored, not woofed down like a bag full of Sugar Babies.

Here (above) is a single candy piece — for scale purposes if nothing else.

The unwrapped caramel is a glistening thing of beauty to behold. Bask briefly in all its sweet glory before taking your first bite. Yes, I said bite. Don’t go scarfing these caramels down in one giant chomp. Take your time … savor the rich, complex flavor. You’ll taste the honey, the maple syrup. All organic I might add. Vanilla bean and sea salt round out this delicious party in your mouth.  

A certain sadness will set in once you’ve polished off the first piece. A sadness that comes from knowing you only have 11 candies left. Ouch! I guess I’ll be placing another order soon. I was also thinking these attractive little boxes (sealed with red wax a la Makers Mark Bourbon) would make for unique holiday gifts. Hey, it’s not that far away, people. So make yourself a note to put a few of boxes of Sweet Revolution Maple Honey Caramels on your end of year shopping list. Your family and friends will appreciate it. I know I sure would — hint, hint! 

Get your own little brown box today. Here’s how …

www.sweetrevolutioncaramels.com

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