Tasting Panel TM_CANDY_FI_003_1

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.

The Larder TM_TL_CANDY_FI_001

My mom grew up in the fifties and sixties, in one of those idyllic suburban neighborhoods where kids walked to school unsupervised and played outside in the afternoons until the streetlights came on.

There was no better day of the year in her community than October 31. The streets would fill with miniature hobos, ghosts and witches, all clutching brown paper shopping bags to hold their treats, warm winter coats concealing most of their costumes.

These were the days before candy companies got wise and started producing snack and “fun” sized candy bars and long before homemade treats were deemed dangerous. This meant that my mom’s grocery sack ended up filled with full-sized Snickers and Chunky bars, freshly baked gingerbread men from Mrs. Rath and Mr. Brown’s famous popcorn balls. MORE