Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Urban Folk Art in Hillsboro, OR

image

Oregon customers, mark your calendars! Kate & I are excited to announce that This Charming Candy will make its Oregon craft show debut about six weeks from now. We’re participating in the Hillsboro edition of Urban Folk Art, a national organization that holds shows in a few locations around the U.S.

When: October 7-8-9, 2011

  • Friday Oct 7: 5pm – 9pm
  • Saturday Oct 8: 10am – 5pm
  • Sunday Oct 9: 10am – 4pm

Where: Washington County Fair Complex, Hillsboro, OR

Why: so you can buy candy without no waiting for shipping! And so we can meet you in person – we love chatting with our wonderful customers.

Spoiler alert… Our popular holiday gift, the Greatest Hits collection, will be available at the show! It’ll have a few different flavors compared to last year’s collection – we’ll refresh it with this year’s best sellers.

So, Portland/Hillsboro area friends, do you have any recommendations for restaurants and lodging near the Fair Complex? And we’re curious – have you heard of this show yet, seen any advertisements for it?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

This Charming Candy in Slow-Motion

Our beloved photographer Kevin Keeker experimented with the video capability on one of his cameras, and recorded me pouring candy syrup into the lollipop molds. It’s not a true video camera, and so the videos are a little grainy, silent, and for some reason they are in slow-motion. Having no video editing skills of our own, we’ve left them that way. I kind of like the slow-motion anyway.

Here’s ~1 minute of me pouring the syrup for Birthday Cake lollipops – note the candy confetti pieces in the mold cavities:

video filmed by Kevin Keeker

The rest of our videos are posted in our This Charming Candy YouTube channel. If we were to film more kitchen videos in the future, what aspects of candy production would you want to see?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Lolly piles!

One of our favorite ways to “pose” lollipops for photoshoots is to artfully scatter them on a table and take “lolly pile” pictures. Behold!

Love Triangle lollipops

Adventurer's Pack lollipops

We tend to favor the “overhead” shots but I also like the side-on shots for a different angle:

BT Lollipile 1

assorted flavors of hard candy lollipops

Do you prefer one of these styles to the other? What do you like or not like about them?

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Return of Hockey Friday!

Instead of an Eye Candy post this Friday, I wanted to at least briefly resurrect the Hockey Friday series. The NHL recently posted an interesting video about the prototypes of new nets they’re testing in research & development. Dan Craig explains:

Dan Craig explains potential changes to the NHL goal

The first changes he describes are to make the footprint of the goal cage smaller. You might think that any change that involves the words “goal” and “smaller” would be designed to inhibit scoring – not so! The intention is to allow skaters to curve around the back of the goal cage faster, increasing their chances of scoring a wraparound goal! I love counter-intuitive stuff like that.

Some of you know that Kate & I are not only hockey fans, but we have experience working in user research and usability. From that perspective, I’m also intrigued by the changes that are intended to help the referees determine whether to call a goal or not: clear plastic instead of an opaque goal skirt along the bottom pipe and behind the crossbar.

The one thing I can’t figure is the green line painted on the ice. Craig says that if any part of the puck is touching the green line then it should be ruled a goal. How is that any easier to determine than whether the puck has completely crossed the *red* goal line?

HOW SOON DOES THE SEASON BEGIN? WANT HOCKEY NOW!

I mean, um, are you looking forward to the start of the next sports seasons? Hockey, football, college football, basketball etc? What’s your favorite sport to watch? How about to participate in?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Blooper Reel

Despite having three people reviewing the designs for the Adventurer’s Pack lollipop labels, somehow a cute little error got past us all. Luckily it only appears on a few labels:

text error on lollipop label

When I saw this label, my mind immediately went Barry Melonllow (you know, like Barry Manilow – please don’t ask how my mind works). So for fun, and because we are gigantic dorks. he went along for the recent Adventurer’s Pack photoshoot. We took photos of Barry in front of a printed calendar from San Francisco’s famous Castro Theater. I think he’s looking pretty much like a rock star:

lollipop label with a funny typo

photos by Kevin Keeker

The Castro calendar was all we had handy. Where else should we take pictures of Barry on his adventures? Would you be excited or appalled to buy a lollipop that had this blooper on its label?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Good News for the Soy Allergic

On the back of every bag of lollipops from This Charming Candy, we of course print our ingredient lists and disclose allergy information in accordance with guidelines from the FDA and the WSDA. Here’s the back of the Love Triangle lollipops packaging:

ingredients label on lollipop package

photo by Kevin Keeker

We spray our candy funnels and lollipop molds with nonstick spray to help facilitate syrup flow and finished lollipop release, respectively. Until recently, we had been unable to find a nonstick spray that didn’t contain Soy Lecithin, so there was a chance that our lollipops contained traces of soy. Hence the statement, “Contains: Soy” on our labels.

We are thrilled to say we have finally found a nonstick spray that contains no soy and we’ve begun to transition to that product. The Adventurer’s Pack and its flavors by the dozen are the first to be soy-free and to have the soy statement omitted from their packaging:

ingredient label for Adventurer's Pack lollipops

photo by Kevin Keeker

Of course, for the rest of our products we’ve got lots of labels already printed and they still have “Contains: Soy” printed on them. And we have a small stockpile of cans of the nonstick spray with soy. So we’ll use those up. Eventually those stashes will be depleted at which time we’ll update the rest of the allergy statements accordingly.

Celebration Time will be the only collection that will continue to contain soy, because the candy confetti pieces inside the Birthday Cake lollipops contain it. But the rest of the flavors will be soy-free. Yay!

What foods are you allergic to?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Behind The Scenes in the Kitchen

Jessie from Cakespy recently visited me in the kitchen for a little look at our charming operation. She took some great photos of syrup cooling in the lollipop molds and a few other bits of scenery.

Go read her blog post if you haven’t already - http://www.cakespy.com/blog/2011/8/15/seeking-sweetness-behind-the-scenes-with-this-charming-candy.html - I love how she described the cast-off bits of sugar :-)

Have you ever been to Cakespy’s shop in Capitol HIll? It’s completely adorable!

Monday, August 22, 2011

More Yummy Photos

Yeah, this is your basic picture spam post – so many great photos of the Adventurer’s Pack lollipops! All photos by Kevin Keeker, of course!

Black Pepper Melon lollipop in a garden

Lollipop pile

Lollipop Teapot Cannon - lollipops coming out of a teapot spout

Adventuer's Pack lollipop package

Which one’s your favorite? I go back and forth between the teapot-cannon and the garden.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Eye Candy: Elaborate Carved Watermelon

I came across this web page with beautiful, intricate food garnishes and was totally entranced by this amazing watermelon sculpture:
WaterMelonThumb
image from johnpoon.org
I’ve never attempted anything like this. In fact, my food is woefully under-garnished pretty much at all times.

Have you ever carved a garnish out of fruit or vegetables? Which picture on that web page impressed you the most?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tart Pluot (plum-apricot) Lollipops

Tart Pluot lollipops are now available in our Etsy store! They’re a blend of two delicious stone fruits: plum and apricot, but amped up with a healthy wallop of tartness. That tartness is courtesy of two acids that occur naturally in fruits – citric and malic acid – added in sufficient amounts to create sourness.

Tart Pluot lollipop

photo by Kevin Keeker

We weren’t aiming for a level of sour that would cause you to scrunch up your face, though. Instead, we’ve delivered a seriously and literally mouth-watering tart flavor. Tart Pluot beat out a few other tarted-up competitors in taste testing:

Love love love the pluot. Great flavor, good color. –Eric

Absolutely, positively my favourite of the three. Really yummy and really authentic tasting pluot flavour.  -- Karen

If you’re interested in trying Tart Pluot, or any of the Adventurer’s Pack lollipops for that matter, we’re having a 10% off sale in our Etsy store between now and August 22nd, after which we’ll be on a short vacation. Enter the checkout code SUMMERFUN2011.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Black Pepper Melon Lollipops

This week, we started selling new flavors including Black Pepper Melon lollipops in our Etsy store. When I found out that a new, high-quality natural Black Pepper essence was available, I ordered it immediately without any particular plan for it. I just knew I needed to try it out in a dessert context where you wouldn’t usually see it.

Black Pepper Melon lollipops

photo by Kevin Keeker

Honeydew Melon was one of the first flavors I tried pairing it with, and I was delighted when our taste testers started raving about it:

a very solid flavor that's the kind of unusual brilliance we expect from This Charming Candy – Deb & Mike

I loved, loved love the Black Pepper and Melon--Spot on for my palate!  I wouldn't change a thing – Anne

You might think a sophisticated combination such as this one would be enjoyed only by adults. Well, think again. When I was refining the recipe, testing different levels of pepperiness, my friend’s daughter got in on the action with Mom & Dad and declared, “I love these! I like that one and I also like that one over there.”

Young girl enjoying Black Pepper Melon lollipops

photo kindly shared by her mom

If you’re interested in trying Black Pepper Melon, or any of the Adventurer’s Pack lollipops for that matter, we’re having a 10% off sale in our Etsy store between now and August 22nd, after which we’ll be on a short vacation. Enter the checkout code SUMMERFUN2011.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Salted Anise Lollipops

We launched these jet-black Salted Anise lollipops in our Etsy store this week. A friend who’s originally from Europe first introduced me to salted licorice. I was skeptical, but intrigued. I shouldn’t have been intimidated – it was quite good!

I’ve since learned that salted licorice is popular in several northern European countries: Netherlands, Ireland and Norway to name the ones I’ve been told about. Maybe it’s popular in other countries too, I don’t know! Do you?

Salted Anise lollipops

photo by Kevin Keeker

Anyway, when we started taste testing different salted flavors I figured that Salted Anise might not fare too well, because it’s an unusual combination in the U.S. We definitely saw that it was polarizing – if people know they don’t like licorice flavors, well, they definitely don’t like them! But the flip side of that is that if people like licorice, especially with salt? THEY GO NUTS FOR THIS LOLLIPOP. Their fevered support helped this little lolly beat out its salty brethren in competition.

Personally, I find that the salt really goes well with the slightly cool and tingly effects of the Anise flavor. Like in our Salted Caramel lollipops, we put grains of sel de mer in the lollipop molds before pouring in the syrup. This creates one salty side with a slightly rough texture, and one smooth sweet side. Heck yeah. Check ‘em out.

p.s. We’re having a 10% off sale in our Etsy store between now and August 22nd, after which we’ll be on a short vacation. Enter the checkout code SUMMERFUN2011.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Adventurer’s Pack Now Available

We got our pictures taken this weekend, so now the Adventurer’s Pack is fully available on Etsy, yay!

AP Unwrapped Quartet 1 - picniked

photo by Kevin Keeker

From left to right, that’s

  • Pistachio-Marshmallow – longtime darling of our customers
  • Salted Anise – a new entrant into the sweet/salty world
  • Black Pepper Melon – which combines subtle peppery heat with honeydew
  • Tart Pluot (plum-apricot) – a flavor tart enough to make your mouth water without scrunching up your face with sourness

We call them the “Adventurer’s Pack” because these flavors are unusual blends you don’t find very often in hard candy. But they’re not *so* weird that you’d only want to eat them once – our taste testers truly loved them. We’re very proud and excited to launch them today, and we look forward to shipping them to you :-)

p.s. We’re having a 10% off sale in our Etsy store between now and August 22nd, after which we’ll be on a short vacation. Enter the checkout code SUMMERFUN2011.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Eye Candy: Pinterest

A portion of my pinterest home page
I've been playing around with Pinterest a bit lately. What is Pinterest? It's a site full of nothing but Eye Candy, found by all kinds of people all over the internet. This Young House Love post explains it waaaaayyyy better than I ever could (and, in fact, was my introduction to it). Basically, it's where I save links to images that I like, either for future Eye Candy posts, or to find things similar to our current flavors, or maybe to put flavor combos for future development (not that I've started doing that yet), or whatever. I'm still figuring it out.

Do you use Pinterest? We'd love to follow you! Let us know in the comments. :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Adventurer’s Pack, Redux

We’ve been busily expanding our sets of flavors this year, and updating all of our collections to have 4 flavors to bring you even more variety than ever. Most recently, we welcomed Cherries Jubilee into the Celebration Time collection. Hooray!

The last collection to get rejuvenated with new flavors will be the Adventurer’s Pack. Previously it’s had Pistachio-Marshmallow, Teaberry (a relative of Wintergreen) and Nutmeg Crème. Well, Nutmeg Crème ran away to join the Spice Rack, so the search was on for new flavors.

Kate & I decided to take this as an opportunity to retire Teaberry and to tighten up the Adventurer’s Pack theme. The new and improved Adventurer’s Pack will take you on a journey through four fabulous taste sensations:
  • Sweet: Pistachio-Marshmallow
  • Sour: Tart Pluot (Plum-Apricot)
  • Salty: Salted Anise
  • Heat: Black Pepper Melon
We are incredibly proud of these new flavors and we can’t wait to let you have them! That’ll happen very soon (like Monday or Tuesday), so watch this space! You might want to keep an eye on This Charming Candy’s Facebook page too.

Which flavor intrigues you the most? Which do you think will be your favorite?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Making Lollipops!

photo from King Arthur Flour blog
Karin, a friend of ours, found a lollipop tutorial on the King Arthur Flour blog. It looks like fun! I'd never have thought to use flour as a replacement for lollipop molds, and I love the idea of making stained glass out of hard candy syrup.

Have you ever made your own lollipops? What would you do with stained glass candy? Do you regularly read the King Arthur Flour blog? Are you going to start?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Not Too Sweet

One of my favorite compliments that we receive from customers is that our lollipops are “not too sweet”. It’s one of the factors that I think makes our candy such a hit with grownups once they get a taste of what we do. One customer recently left us this feedback on Etsy:
I didn't know what to expect from Pistachio Marshmallow so I peeled one open right out of the box and just about died it's so good. Not too sweet like how commercial marshmallows can be, more that warm fresh marshmallow flavour and unique taste of pistachio. It's completely fantastic.
How do we accomplish this, given that all hard candy lollipops are ~99% sugar, no matter who’s making them? In some of our fruit-based flavors, we do it by adding acids that occur naturally in all fruits such as Citric Acid or Malic Acid. These have the effect of cutting the sweetness and sharpening the fruit flavors. We experiment with different acidity proportions until we find a recipe that our taste testers rave about.

In other cases, I think it’s simply the fact that we blend multiple high-quality flavors together, and their interactions cut the sweetness. Hazelnut-Coffee, for example, combines a bitter flavor (Coffee) with a nutty one. Our spice flavors such as Tangerine-Clove and Nutmeg Crème reduce the perceived sweetness by introducing a complimentary spice.

If you’ve had any of our flavors before, what do you think? Are any of them too sweet for your grown-up taste buds?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Creative Local Chocolatiers

Despite what you may think, we don't limit ourselves to our own delicious lollipops when we're looking for a hit of candy. I'm a fan of dark chocolate, for example. Within the last week or so, two Seattle-based chocolatiers announced some new flavors that sound amazing:

Komforte Chockolates announced on Facebook that they'll continue their innovative sweet and savory inclusions with two new flavors this fall: Apple Pie + Graham and Savory Ramen (onion, garlic, soy sauce and ramen noodle bits). We love their packaging too.

Theo Chocolate, the USA's only organic fair-trade chocolate manufacturer, previewed their winter ganache flavors in a Facebook post: Date Bourbon, Eggnog, and Coffee Cinnamon.

I think the Savory Ramen and Coffee Cinnamon sound the most intriguing. How about you? Do you have a favorite boutique chocolate company? Which do you prefer: milk, dark or white chocolate?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Conference of Creative Entrepreneurs, or, Why I am Tired

Genevieve of LightboxSF talking about branding
I am tired and worn out and I just had a BLAST at the Conference of Creative Entrepreneurs. I am so inspired by everyone who loves to create things, wants to support their community, and everyone who is determined, in this not so great economy, to start and grow their own small business.

There's a large number of tweets over at our twitter account (and you can also search on #CCEWest) to get a lot of the nuggets that came out of the conference. I have 24 pages of notes in my notebook that I need to write up for Susan. TWENTY-FOUR.

Some of the mini cupcakes we were served
It was great to meet NerdJerk, Genevieve from LightboxSF, to name 2 of the many people I got to put faces to names. I also got an unexpected chance to talk to Marlo (though I knew she was coming, but I was still like, Hey, it's Marlo! I forgot she was going to be here!) and learn so much more about all of the amazing things that small businesses all up and down the West Coast are doing. Expect a lot of Eye Candy in the next few weeks.

In short: I loved it. But now I am tired, and I need to spend a lot of time typing. Where's my glass of wine?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sweets for the Sweet

What would a Love Triangle be without the girl everyone loves to love - that is, a sweetheart?

photo by Kevin Keeker
We've made her a flower because she's often described as having an irresistible scent, like a beautiful flower. So our Sweethearts taste like jasmine (one of my favorite flowers and definitely my favorite tea) and honey. Because fragrant+sweet=amazing.

Buy your Sweethearts as a dozen or as part of the Love Triangle in our Etsy shop, or email us to learn about in person pickup in Seattle.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Blood Suckers

Blood Suckers is such a cute name for lollipops. How could we not have used it?
photo by Kevin Keeker
You can get the apple-anise flavored Blood Suckers over at This Charming Candy on Etsy as a dozen or as part of our Love Triangle collection, or email us about in-person pickup in Seattle!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Vampires and Lollipops

photo by Kevin Keeker
Is it early for a Halloween product? Yep. Is it early for vampires? Never! (Well, unless you're reading this post while the sun is up, in which case the vamps might want to be a little careful.)

We've brought our Love Triangle lollipops back - if you loved them the first time, you can get them again, and if you haven't tried them, why not? They're delicious. They are:
  • the tingly apple-anise flavored Blood Sucker;
  • fragrant, delicious honey-jasmine flavored Sweetheart; and
  • the warm, slightly bitter hazelnut-coffee flavored Lickanthrope.
You can find them at This Charming Candy on Etsy, or you can email us about in-person pickup on Monday afternoons in Seattle.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Strange Food Combinations

 Vanilla-Cardamom lollipops photo
by Kevin Keeker
Here at This Charming Candy we like to think that we're finding a good niche by creating delicious and sometimes unusual flavor combinations. Pistachio-Marshmallow, Watermelon-Basil, and Vanilla-Cardamom are just some of the flavor blends we offer that seem to be developing loyal, devoted fans and for that we're very grateful.

You might think that Kate & I must be super adventurous eaters in real life. Speaking for myself, I don't know if I'm truly adventurous, but I've been known to eat really weird foods together. (I'm just extraordinarily picky. But I like trying new things. -K) Probably the weirdest thing is that I put jelly on grilled cheese. After both pieces of bread are toasted and the cheese is melted and the sandwich is assembled, yeah. My first choice is to spread some sweet, delicious strawberry jelly on the top side. But I'll use any kind of berry jelly, really.

My dad always did this, so I never knew it was Not Normal until I went away to college and started doing it in the dining hall. Boy, did I get some strange looks! But c'mon. If you put jelly on plain toast, what's so weird about having a little melted cheese in the equation? You should totally try it sometime!

What whacked-out food combinations do you enjoy? Have I convinced you to try putting jelly on a grilled cheese sandwich? WHY NOT?