Q: What do Tom Green, the Hoover Dam, and candy canes all have in common?
A: They’ve all been the subject of false rumors, perpetuated thanks to the Internet.
So for the record, Tom Green didn’t dress up as Hitler at a bar mitzvah, the Hoover Dam doesn’t have bodies of workers buried inside, and candy canes? Oh, where do I begin. Perhaps with a warning: other than grappling with a particularly divine-tasting edible, a column about foodstuffs isn’t normally the place to tackle religion. Today it is, because the candy cane and Christmas are as intertwined as the stick’s red and white stripes.
Few things matter more to the Halloween tradition than candy. Sure, we like the annual rituals of dressing up in costumes, hanging cobweb decorations, and carving pumpkins into jack o’lanterns. Though, if we’re being honest here, diving into the bounty of seasonal Halloween treats is the part we look forward to most.
But don’t be so quick to blindly raid the trick-or-treat bowl this year. You may end up with a trendy-flavored twist on the classic you were craving. Just like it has in every other foodstuff lately, the pumpkin spice craze has infiltrated the Halloween candy scene. So has the trendiness of the candy corn flavor — a fad that I will never fully understand. And I’m afraid there are more caramel-apple-themed treats than there are actual caramel apples.
The Table Matters tasting panel recently assembled to sample a wide assortment of these recent candy innovations. We tested all of the newcomers — the good and the bad — so you wouldn’t have to. But there weren’t many treats we hoped to see again on shelves in 2014.
If licorice conjures memories of movie theaters and popcorn, then turn your thoughts to the dark side. The distinctive flavor of black licorice is usually associated with chewy candy, but there’s so much more to it. Salted licorice offers a satisfying chew that’s part savory, part sweet. Anise seeds have an earthy, almost spicy character. Fennel gives two more options: Raw, it has a crisp, bright taste and cooking brings out its syrupy sweetness. Star anise makes for a pretty garnish, but it also has a delicate sweetness. And tarragon’s subtle licorice flavor is tempered with herbaceous notes.
Given the versatility of licorice flavors, it’s a prime candidate for combining with chocolate. It can be tricky to pair the right type of licorice flavor with the right type of chocolate, but in the hands of these three chocolate companies, the results are something to savor. MORE
Peanuts get a bad rap these days, from outright bans at schools to bags of Halloween candy proudly declaring their peanut deficiency. But when I was a kid, the more peanuts, the better. I present for your deliberation: Mars versus Snickers. Mars bar? Cloyingly sweet with an oddly slick texture. Snickers bar? Caramelly, chewy, and delicious—and stuffed with peanuts. I rest my case.
If peanuts are good, then peanuts and chocolate is better. There’s a reason that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups have endured since 1928, and it isn’t because my college roommate used to—and probably still does—eat them compulsively. MORE