Tanja Kern for The Food Channel
We couldn’t help but head home from the 90th Annual Retail Confectioners International Convention & Expo with full bellies and happy demeanors. We saw so much good stuff in Lexington that even the slight ache in our back tooth isn’t keeping us from sampling more candy. Here are the Top Ten people, places and candies we’ll remember from the show.
1. Squittle. James Crowder of Sugar Daddy Desserts in San Antonio, Texas, served up some maple pecan brittle made with real smoked bacon. The packaging turned our heads (so cute!), but the taste kept us reaching in the box for more. It’s the perfect combination of savory and sweet. Hey, if you’ve been achin’ for bacon, pig out on this!
2. Gourmet Mighty Mango Gummies. When the Albanese Confectionary Group named its new gummies â€˜gourmet,â€™ they weren’t kidding. Biting into these chewy bears is like taking a nibble of a juicy piece of fresh mango. The fruit-flavored gummies would only be better if they could be counted as one of our daily fresh fruit servings.
3. Deconstructed Chocolates. Bernard Garbusjuk, owner of Boehms Candies, leads chocolate tours across Europe every three years to show American chocolatiers the sweetest trends from across the pond. This year’s trip to Italy inspired him to pare down. â€˜The Europeans are tired of the fancy truffles and ganache,â€™ he explains. â€˜They take a simple chocolate nib and top it with flavors, like Fuji apple, chili pepper, green tea or ginger. It’s very avant-garde.â€™
4. Chocolate Tattoos. Linnea’s makes decorating chocolates easy with their new line of disposable transfer molds. Each mold is pre-painted with colored cocoa butter designs that transfer onto the molded chocolate with no additional labor.
5. Elaine Gonzalez. The RCI show marked Master Chocolatier Elaine Gonzalez’s retirement from the industry after nearly 30 years of chocolate production and sourcing. In addition to teaching confectionery classes at institutions like the Culinary Institute of America and leading tours to Mexican cacao plantations, Gonzalez has served as ambassador for Cargill, Inc.’s Peter’s Chocolate brand. â€˜On the eve of my retirement, I admit I never intend to turn this off,â€™ she told The Food Channel. â€˜I daresay I will always be discovering new ways to use chocolate.â€™
6. John Booe. There’s something to be said for a lifetime of experience in the candy industry. John Booe of Rebecca-Ruth Candies in Frankfort, Ky., says the key to his family’s success in making bourbon balls is quite simple. â€˜What’s my secret? Hard work,â€™ he says.
7. Industry Collaboration. The Food Channel team was a bit starstruck meeting Larry Graham, president of the National Confectioners Association, who also happens to be the father of actress Lauren Graham (she played Lorelei on Gilmore Girls). Larry was at RCI sharing news about his association’s work to promote candy’s role as the â€˜little pleasureâ€™ in the American diet.
8. Derby Hats. Lexington, Ky., is known as the horse capital of the world, and it’s hard to think about horse racingâ€”and the Kentucky Derbyâ€”without thinking of Derby hats. Hats have played an important part in horse-racing history starting with the Royal Ascot in the United Kingdom. At this year’s RCI Convention, candy makers Pam and Don Hurt of Old Kentucky Chocolates hosted a Kentucky Derby Hat-themed reception at their house. Show attendees showed up in style!
9. Giving Back. Bill Copeland, president of Specialty Box, launched Glacier Confection in Tulsa, Okla., to help raise money to support the families of fallen U.S. troops. A portion of the company’s sales of fine chocolate truffles, bars and nibs goes to the Folds of Honor Foundation, which provides post-secondary educational scholarships for and support to the spouses and children of service members who were disabled or killed while serving their country.
|Jill and Warren Schimpff|
10. The Romance of Chocolate. Jill and Warren Schimpff have been making sweet chocolates together in Jeffersonville, Ind., since purchasing Schimpff’s Confectionery from Warren’s family in 1990. Schimpff’s is one of the oldest, continuously operated, family-owned candy businesses in the United States. The family has made candy at their present location since 1891.They also run a candy museum that displays thousands of pieces of American candy memorabilia and represents decades of collecting candy equipment and artifacts.
RCI Show Highlights, DAY 1 (with video)