Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What Have We Here?

Ralph Pierce of Gem City Candy told me he was making beer truffles last Wednesday so I took a short road trip to Boo on a lovely fall day. I needed a quick video for class and he was very generous with his time,  and as always, sweet samples.

I loved, loved, loved the beer truffles. More on that later.
Do you know what's pictured above?
The item on top has become all the rage, but I've never seen it so completely covered in luscious chocolate. The unique treat pictured on the bottom is most likely new to you, even if you do live in Wisconsin.
Stay tuned for my attempts at digital video and iMovie at Gem City.

NOTE: Erika from Tummy Treasure got it on the first try. Leave it to a ched to recognize the ever popular chocolate covered bacon (why?) and the more elusive beef stick dipped in chocolate.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Halloween Is Coming

Signs of Halloween have been in the stores for some time now and it might be the only holiday I don't mind rearing its severed head in July.
Please do not hesitate to send me your photos and you just might get something grossly edible in the mail from the Dish.

 Today's photo is from one of our best taste testers, Jackie. She didn't seem too interested in this yummy gummy heart with candy fluid. I don't see why. Maybe it didn't go with her Cobb salad (but the week is still young).

Jackie used to decorate her Christmas tree with all kinds of fanciful and delicious candy and I'm not going to stop bugging her until she starts again. Not just a cherry Nibs here or there, but needle to needle sugar. Notice we have some of my fav treats, Nerds, Dum Dums, and what looks like Laffy Taffy in this lovely cobweb boot.

This is one of the aforementioned grossly edible items I was talking about. No takers yet, but it's been tempting me lately. If you would like to try one or more of the many Monster Lab items I'll be featuring, please let me know.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Qué Lástima

I was excited when my cousin told me about a new candy shop on the west side. We took it as a good omen that the new store shared its name with her mom and my godmother. Unfortunately Dulceria Lucy is one more upside down question mark at the end of the sentence, "What happened to all the good candy stores?"
I'd rather have a bag of Sour Patch Kids than something made with tamarind, unless it's fresh from a talented candy maker's kitchen. Let's face it, most, if not all of this type of candy (small store with shabby shelves of unfamiliar candy) is imported, and much of it is old and unsold for a reason. Something hard or chewy and vaguely stale and spicy is much worse than an old Aero bar.
After a quick tour through the odd little dulceria, I don't think it's time for an education on why I should love hard candy rolled in chili or ignore articles about lead poisoning and Mexican candy
We have many area chocolate makers such as James J (moving near Dorn Hardware on Midvale in October), Candinas (which sadly did not fly on the Square), the Chocolate Caper, and Gail Ambrosius.

But no more Badger Candy Kitchen, Twee & Luliloo (they didn't cut it with their name, location, selection or unused space), Ben Franklin's isn't what it used to be, and there's nothing but iffy offerings at grocery stores (some gas stations and the Cracker Barrel have to fill that gap).
Where are the magical rows of Chum Gum, wax bottles, wax harmonicas, hot dog gum, sugary blue bubble gum—oh the sparkling playful gumballs—candy lipsticks, free floating candy button strips, jars of giant pretzel rods, Jolly Ranchers, or Turkish Taffy and their siren's call from the slanted shelves of the mom and pop grocers of the sixties.
That's not to say you can't find some great candy, although pricey, in town. But I can only think of one place that has more than chocolate which I'd call a good candy store, and that's James J Chocolate Shop. Their gourmet apples are expensive, but worth it, and should be available by the time they move in October—but it's really their hard candy I love. Their Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pillows are to die for.
So my trip to Dulceria Lucy's was a bust, but I'm finally going to the Daisy Cafe & Cupcakery tomorrow and cupcakes being all the rage, have renewed expectations.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Slapping The Taste Out Your Mouth

I went to the Taste of Madison Sunday and my suspicions were confirmed: People aren't fighting traffic for the food, but for the music. They certainly aren't braving the abominable parking for Caramel Apple Nachos.
Is the Taste of Madison becoming Irish Fest?
No, and the parking is a lot worse. But there's been a marked shift in the quality of music vs the quality of food since I flung black bottom pie for the Memorial Union in the eighties.
Sure, there will be calories, but sound beat smell. And with four free music stages, the line up, crowd size, and diversity has become impressive. I also like the free Pepsi samples.

This group of country western fans spread out from the New Q stage on Wisconsin Avenue to perching like pigeons along the Capitol steps and railings. If anything is going to jam my radar, it's "new" country, but the local band, Madison County, was not without their charm and have a rabid fan base. I'd see them again on purpose rather than just on the way back to the car because it was raining.
I was surprised that most of my photos will go on the Curtain rather than here considering the Taste of Madison colorfully maps out 92 food booths, but no. Let's look at some of the food anyway, shall we?

From the first booth as you come up State, these Gotham Bagel sandwiches seemed made to travel in the crowd and mild rain, but weren't tempting or unique enough to try.

This is the Athens Gryros stand which means I could have hopped on my bike and gotten the same thing at the Shell station down the street. Not to say I'm not a fan, look at their menu. The Shell station, seriously. The spanakopita is good, if not a little bland. My favorite is the combo gyro platter with fries, souvlaki, and extra pita—good for three plus meals. They literally shove as much food as they can into a large take out container which barely closes.

I should call this photo from the Daisy Cafe booth "Late to the Party" since the Daisy Cafe & Cupcakery opened in May of 2009. But then again, I never did trust good buzz. They are on the top of my list of things on which to dish.

If you're going to eat fries why not add gravy?
But not much of the food really caught my eye or olfactory system, although I thought if they did a kind of Kanook fries with gravy thing, and did it well, that would be the most popular booth on the square. I believe a Capital Brewery stand near North Hamilton was the most crowded, not to say that a few of the food booths didn't have healthy lines.

"Yo, where's das Brat und Brau?"

Although the pet ban has kicked in, at least one of our well intentioned pals got through on a technicality. I only saw one non-working dog, a nervous little Chihuahua (is there any other kind) looking for a Teddywedger as I made my only food purchase of the day, six bags of popcorn at Clary's.

You have to give it to Clary's for their staying power on upper State, especially being such a tiny shop.
These bags got eaten up quickly by family members and a homeless guy who likes the white corn with a little salt and half butter in the middle.
I don't care for Clary's cheese corn, but knowing that the RR1 outlet in Montfort has some of the best cheese popcorn around and that I'm due to fill up some empty buckets, didn't really care. Especially since the Clary's caramel corn was delicious without being sugary and balances crunch and chew quite well. The Badger corn managed to be distinctively cherry and vanilla without being either too sweet or overwhelming.
In sum, go for the promise of food, stay for the free Pepsi samples and music, leave with several bags of Clary's popcorn.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

More Stuff I Found At The Gas Station

Gas stations and hardware stores can be a treasure trove of found candy, especially of the hard to find or novelty kind. One of the best "foodie" gas stations in the area is the Shell Trader Gus, known by the locals as Where The Guy Who Makes The Best Gyros From the Parthanon Downtown Is Now.
It's a long, grammatically questionable, but accurate title.
Their regular candy rows are pretty standard with the occasional kind of interesting point of purchase selection below the check-out counter. But there are several pockets of Greek sweets, and I thought it time to try something besides baklava.

I'm guessing from the looks—certainly not the taste—it's supposed to be Turkish Delight. (I'd link that, but so many people who write and sell candy think that taking photos with the wrapper on is the way to go: Here's a link to some nice Google Search Images of the gooey stuff.)
And here's someone who knows better and has an excellent archived post about Turkish Delight.
I'd only tasted the Cadbury made Fry's Turkish Delight, like it very much, but know it's not the real deal. Still I sometimes pull an Edmund and crave the stuff.
The hard plastic tub I got at Trader Gus is called "KOYΛOY" and I can't find any information on it. Everything but the numbers on the thin tear away label is in Greek and the candy tastes like hard lumps of old powdered sugar.
All the flavors have the same taste, stale, and it's fairly nasty stuff that if I were a little less mature would say tastes like ass. But I won't.
Someone tweeted me with a suggestion about where to get the good stuff, and I'll look into that later.
Right now it's time to check out the Taste of Madison and see how many people listened to the new "No Dogs Allowed At Madison Festivals" ordinance.
Burn down the mission and throw in this tub of KOYΛOY's Turkish Delight.