Old-Fashioned Candy, New-Fashioned Chocolates, a Little Cheese and Lots of Memories

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Yesterday, I took a whirl through candyland with my friend Kerrin Rousset, who was in from Zurich for a quick week, and at each turn there was a mom memory, but none stronger than seeing the stacks of Choward mints, particularly the Violet Mints, a stable in my mother’s candy cupboard.  If you didn’t grow up with violet mints (take a look at the website, it’s really interesting) – and I can’t imagine that many (or any) of you did – my bet is that you’d find them truly odd.  They’re chalky mints, like Vichy mints (another really old-fashioned candy), with a beautiful lilac color and a strong scent of yes, violets.  They still come in a foil wrapper, but when I was a child the foil was very heavy and all the corners of the package were squared, as though they’d been neatly pressed with a very heavy iron.  I can still remember how when you’d unfold the top, the wrapper would stand up tall.  My mother kept violet mints in her purse – always – and so whenever she’d open her bag, you’d catch a slight whiff of them.  If C. Howard’s ever goes out of the candy biz, they might consider sachets.

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After buying salted licorice and licorice rolls and contemplating some of Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy’s replacement (something oddly called French taffy), Kerrin and walked across the street to the Essex Street Market, where our first stop was Roni-Sue’s Chocolates.  Here’s the charming Roni-Sue helping Kerrin decide what to buy. 

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In the end we split ‘a nickel bag’ (that’s what it’s called) of Bacon Buttercrunch and we each bought a box of chocolates.  And again, I thought of my mom. She always said that the only candy she liked was ‘junk’ candy, but I had a feeling she’d have loved one of Roni-Sue’s truffles, the one called Black-Out Cake and fashioned after the icon of the old Ebinger’s Bakery.  (it’s the one in the upper-right hand corner.  Working clockwise, you’ve got the Dark and Stormy, yes, like the cocktail; beer and pretzel; bacon caramel; Portly Fig; and the Fuster Cluck, with bacon, banana and peanuts.)

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Finally, because man does not live on candy alone – even my mother ate ‘real’ food – we stopped at Saxelby Cheese Mongers.  If you’re in the Essex Street Market, you should stop there too:  Anne Saxelby has an outstanding selection of American farmstead cheeses.  With bread from Pain D’Avignon (also in the Essex Street Market) and wine, of course, Michael and I had a perfect pre-candy meal.

Dorie Greenspan