I just discovered NPR’s “Americandy: Sweet Land of Liberty,” a series of stories about regional candies from around the U.S. Some obvious ones make the cut—GooGoo Clusters, Valomilk, Idaho Spud, Cherry Mash, Nut Goodie, Rocky Road—but I’m excited to learn about a bunch of others that I’d never heard of. Chukar Cherries, Chewie Pecan Praline, Melty Bar, Chocolate Charlies, Red Coconut Balls, Needhams, Modjeskas, sponge candy…these are all news to me. Every time I travel someplace new, I scour corner stores for regional candies. Now I’ve got a bunch of new candies to be on the lookout for. →
- FDIC Bank Closings
I was curious where banks closed by the FDIC tend to be located, so I put together this visualization. (You have to click on Visualize -> Map.) Turns out they're mostly in Florida and Georgia which are—surely not coincidentally—hot spots for home foreclosures. Almost all of these closings were after mid-2008.
- Pew Charitable Trust: Checking Account Risks at a Glance
Pew's study of the 250 types of checking accounts offered by the ten largest US banks (which hold 60%) of checking accounts found that, on average, a customer has to watch out for 49 different fees and penalties that they could incur.
- Wikipedia: Candy desk
For over forty years, the Senate has maintained a single desk in the chamber with a drawer full of candy. It is the job of the senator assigned that desk to distribute the candy within to fellow senators. Past candy desk assignees have included John McCain and Rick Santorum.
I spent the last week on vacation in Chicago, and one of my goals for the visit was to find some regional candy bars. Despite stopping in a dozen or so corner stores to study their candy racks, I wasn’t able to find anything more interesting than a Chick-O-Stick (which I like, but that’s a Texas candy.)
But I did luck out in stumbling across a new nationally-distributed, limited-edition bar: Hershey’s Thingamajig. It’s basically Hershey’s Whatchamacallit, the peanut-wafer, caramel, and mockolate bar, which they first introduced in 1978. (It used to be chocolate, but it is now made out of faux chocolate, chocolate that lacks the cocoa butter that makes chocolate chocolate. Hershey has switched many of their products from milk chocolate to what the FDA requires that they call “chocolate candy” or “chocolate-flavored.” The result is that many Hershey bars now suck. Also, Whatchamacallits had no caramel when I was a kid, which I preferred.) The Thingamajig is made with cocoa butter, replaces the peanut-flavored crisp with cocoa-flavored crisp, and uses peanut butter instead of caramel. I’m a Whatchamacallit fan (or at least I used to be), but the differences in the Thingamajig weren’t obvious to me upon eating it, other than the real chocolate. A side-by-side comparison would have been more obvious, I guess. Still, it was good, and it’s too bad it’s a limited edition. For more reviews, see Cocoa Heaven and A.V. Club’s particularly impressive review.
Today, back in Charlottesville, I found that CVS was selling Wildly Cherry M&Ms, another limited edition candy. (Note that, unlike Hershey, Mars uses real chocolate.) These aren’t very impressive. They’ve got a strong cough-syrupy cherry flavor, though I think Bliss Tree’s description of them as tasting like cherry cordials is probably closer. I found the cherry overpowering enough that I bit one in half to inspect it for chocolate content, wondering if perhaps they were just full of cherry flavoring (sort of the opposite of the awful chocolate Skittles). These I will not be buying again. For more reviews of Wildly Cherry M&Ms, see Candy Addict and Chocolate Obsession.
Further to my interest in candy, I have recently eaten:
- Twix Java. Eh. Compared to Kit Kat Coffee, it was a disappointment. Brian at Candy Addict loved it, but I thought it was weak.
- Junior Mints Inside Outs. Not a candy bar, but close enough. Not good. Rather than the standard peppermint, they’ve switched to something closer to wintergreen for this. Though I like peppermint and spearmint, I find wintergreen disgusting. Peppermint has a vaporous effect in the mouth that results in Seinfeld’s “they’re very refreshing” line. Failure.
- Chocolate Skittles. Also not a candy bar, but M&Ms are an honorary candy bar, and I figured these would be like M&Ms. They were not. Chocolate Skittles are disgusting. They have the same chewy texture as Skittles, and are divided among (ostensibly) a half dozen different chocolate flavors, one of which is, oddly, vanilla. (The opposite of chocolate, in my taste lexicon.) All tasted the same to me. All were simply foul. The sole exception was the “brownie batter” flavor. That was particularly wretched. Epic fail.
- Snickers Rockin’ Nut Road. Heavenly. Dark chocolate with almonds, caramel, and marshmallow-flavored nougat. The dark chocolate was what really made this, providing a bitter note that played off of the sweetness of the caramel very nicely. More than anything else, this reminds me of the tragically-discontinued Mars Bar, though with darker chocolate. It’s a shame that this is a limited edition, like the other three candies mentioned here, because I’d buy this one often.
- Chick-O-Stick. I picked this up at a Walgreen’s in Reno. I’d heard the name before, but didn’t know anything about it. I saved it for the flight home, and devoured it in lieu of dinner while waiting for a connecting flight in Charlotte. It was quite a satisfactory dinner. The outside was coated in crispy coconut, the inside a flaky peanut butter. I agree with Nico at Candy Addict: Chick-O-Stick is what Butterfinger wishes it was. The whole thing seemed a bit flimsy, quality-wise, but I had already bought into the gestalt of the thing. This I’d definitely buy again.
My favorite part about traveling? Going into convenience stores to find candy bars not available at home. Seriously. I don’t care if I’m in Wakefield, VA, Wilmington, DE or Walla-Walla, WA—I’m headed to the candy aisle.