Saturday, January 30, 2010

Chicago Candy Series

Museum to unwrap Chicago's sweet history as candy capital

Lecture series to feature tours of Wrigley Building, Vosges Haut-Chocolat

January 27, 2010

Chicagoans are proud of the city’s status as the City of Big Shoulders.

But the city also has a sweet heart.

Chicago is the birthplace of Fannie May, Jelly Belly (a.k.a. Goelitz) and the sweet-smelling Blommer’s Chocolate Factory.

In 1893, William Wrigley Jr. rolled out Juicy Fruit and Wrigley’s Spearmint Chewing Gum. Some cities name their majestic baseball stadiums after beer barons. Chicago’s most famous ballpark is named after a gummy confectioner.

In 1965, the Beatles stopped in for some Atomic Busters at Margie’s Candies, 1960 N. Western. Money can’t buy you love, but it can buy you candy at Margie’s (at the same location since 1921).

Only in Chicago.

Much of this history will be covered in depth at Sweet Home Chicago, a month-long series beginning Feb. 4 at the Chicago History Museum.

The opening night lecture, “A Sweet Kinda Town,” will be delivered by Beth Kimmerle, an Evanston native and author of Candy: The Sweet History (Collectors Press, 2003) andChocolate: The Sweet History(Collectors Press, 2005). Kimmerle, 40, will talk about Chicago’s legacy as the one-time largest producer of candy in the United States.

At 1 p.m. on Feb. 6, Kimmerle will lead a Willy Wonka-ized bus tour of Chicago’s sweetest spots, with stops at Fannie May, Blommer, a VIP tour of the Wrigley Building and Vosges Haut-Chocolat, 951 W. Armitage. Tastings will be served at each spot.

Chicago was the perfect storm for sweets.

“The Chicago Fire [of 1871] gave the city an opportunity to reinvent itself,” says Kimmerle, who was a marketing rep for Fannie May in the mid-1990s. “The rail lines and waterways made Chicago an ideal location. And immigrants were from so many different places. They all had fantastic recipes to make unique things, unlike Milwaukee, which would be predominantly German. Chicago was home for Italians, Greeks, you name it.

“At the [1893 World’s] Columbian Expo, equipment companies from Germany manufactured chocolate. It was the first time anybody in America had seen the stuff. Milton Hershey walked by and said, ‘Forget caramels. I’m going to be making chocolate.’ ”

Juicy Fruit and the hamburger also made their American debut at the exposition. “By the late 1800s, a national confectioners organization started calling Chicago ‘America’s Sweetest Spot,’ ” she says.

Kimmerle is conscientious about her confectionary pursuits. She is director of the American Museum of Candy being planned for a 2011 opening in Somerset, N.J.

“I have one of the biggest collections of confectionary-related historical material,” she says. “That’s several thousand pieces ranging from advertising to old packaging and boxes and trade cards. I’ll have a show-and-tell table at the lectures where people can put on white gloves and hold candy bar wrappers from the 1920s.”

Kimmerle fell in love with the candy business while working at Fannie May.

“The factory was next to the offices,” she recalls. “I could see Joe Labello making our candy in the hard-candy room the way he had done 50 years earlier.

“I got fascinated with the recipes and historical aspects. And because I was a buyer, I got to go into other candy factories as well. That’s what led to my first book [Candy: The Sweet History].”

Kimmerle has just finished her latest book, Blommer: An American Chocolate Legacy, about the largest cocoa processor in North America. The book will be out in the spring and will be available at the Blommer gift shop, 600 W. Kinzie.

Candy seems recession-proof. Last week, the British candy company Cadbury accepted a $19.5 billion takeover bid from Kraft Foods Inc. to form the world’s biggest candy company. John Cadbury founded the company in 1824 in Birmingham, England. He was a Quaker who believed drinking chocolate was better than drinking alcohol. The Kraft-Cadbury double-decker will feature more than 40 confectionary brands.

“There’s a reason Warren Buffett owns See’s [Candies],” Kimmerle says. “That’s why Kraft put billions on the line for Cadbury. And, as a consultant, I definitely got busier during the recession. People can’t take the large vacation, but they can afford to spend a little on candy.”

What is Kimmerle’s favorite candy?

“That’s an interesting question,” she says. “Does it have to be from Chicago?”

No. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (est. 1928) rank high on my list.

“So you’re a salty-sweet guy,” she says. “Right now, I’m eating a lot of dark chocolate. Let’s leave it at that.”

Friday, January 15, 2010

No Rooster trophy but LOADS of candy lovers...thanks to all!

Now Branding | The Next Big Small

(Edible) Thing

Tuesday night, upstairs at the bistro Ici, in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, a handful of hopefuls pushed snacks upon invitation-only guests and waited for the passing of judgment. One of them would take home the “I’m a Winner” trophy and, more important, win the consulting expertise of the Rooster Design Group. It was the culmination of the company’s first “The Next Big Small Brand Contest for Culinary Genius.”

Rooster’s founders, Fernando Music and Fran Gaitanaros, had canvassed the 140 local applicants and winnowed the field down to the final five. They got all kinds. “We had some real head-scratchers,” Music mused. “Insects as nutritional supplements, positioned as a food that was borderline vegetarian. The insect ingredient would either be ground or mixed into the food product whole to make it more accessible and digestible. We also had a team with a perfectly nice product, good flavor profile, but one of the presenters was drunk … that was pretty dark.”

Fortunately there were no winged things served at the event. Instead, there were unusually velvety Tipsy Truffles and smile-inducing Wild Honey & Corn Nougat from Beth Kimmerle’s Catskill Confections; Cinammon Sugar Butter from team Better Butter;Plowshares Coffee Roasters’ cups of joe brewed from ethically sourced and eco-polite beans; pleasantly chewy, bacon-like orange-ginger strips of smoke-cured, grass-fed beef from Bklyn Batch Craft Jerky; and Kombucha Brooklyn’s (KBBK) pleasantly mild iteration of the fermented tea.

Glad I wasn’t a judge. I would have voted with my sweet tooth, which was easily swayed by Kimmerle’s Chocolate Perkies; they fall somewhere between caramel and fudge and are infused with locally roasted coffee. The criteria, however, called for much more brainpower and objectivity. Design opportunity, enthusiasm, market share and opportunity for impact all required consideration.

In the end, it came down to the Brooklynites: the jerky boys and the kombucha man. The former won the people’s choice award; the latter, the prize. Eric Childs, the man behind the ‘bucha, was over the moon, because a well-positioned product will hopefully mean that he and his business partner Rick Miller can open a larger, full-time brewery and, finally, make their first dollar on the stuff.

Next fall, Rooster will repeat the contest, so start working on your products. Childs offers classes in home brewing should you want to get in on the kombucha action. That probably won’t win you the title, though. Chocolate-dipped spiders, anyone?

Clipped by Beth from New York Times, T Magazine

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Beth Kimmerle’s Catskill Confections

Hip, hip hooray! I made the Rooster Design Group Next Culinary Genius contest finals. I am getting ready to sample my sweet things at ICI restaurant in Fort Greene tonight. I have produced a yummy line of handcrafted confections featuring fresh & local New York area ingredients. Here are some of the items on the tasting menu.
Wish me luck! Beth

Goat Milk Caramels

Classic, chewy caramels get a makeover with the addition of local, tangy goat milk. The unique

taste of these fresh, rich caramels is winning.

Tipsy Truffles

70% Chocolate flavored with smoky, locally distilled bourbon creates a truffle like no other. Lightly

dusted with cocoa powder to enhance the bittersweet smokiness.

Wild Honey & Corn Nougat

Locally produced, dried sweet corn and wildflower honey marry to give new life to this

traditional favorite.

Chocolate Berry Bark

Chocolate embedded with locally grown and dried blueberries, gooseberries and mulberries.

It’s a sweet & tart, melt in your mouth treat.

Chocolate Perkies

Chocolate and locally roasted coffee make this mocha treat a real delight.