By Kevin Williams
I don't spend a lot of time thinking about chocolate (no one ever buys a guy a box of chocolates for Valentine's Day), but, wow, those gift boxes of candy are fun. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, you truly do never know what you are going to get. I'm not a fan of the kind you bite into and a bunch of runny liqueur squirts out. Ugh. And chocolate-covered cherries? No thanks...actually, I love coconut, or just pure milk chocolate.
So turns out I'm not a very bright candy guy or my part of Ohio is just a hot bed of candy. I'm not sure which. I mean, there are national brands like Russell Stover that, of course, I know. But I always thought Esther Price was a national brand but, apparently, it isn't. If you are from outside of Ohio and have heard of Esther Price, let me know. But then you get outside of my area and there are all sorts of regional candy companies apparently.
ESTHER PRICE: I just grew up thinking everyone ate Esther Price candies but, at the age of 44 and living in this area my whole life, I just learn that they are based in my backyard. So perhaps if you live in Maine or Washington or even Illinois you've never heard of Esther Price? Wow....It's been almost 30 years since my Grandma Williams passed away but I can remember pretty clearly that if you wanted to brighten her day, you'd bring her Esther Price candies...
RUSSELL STOVER: Now I am fairly certain this is a national brand that you can get anywhere and the problem with national brands is, I think, their quality diminishes. I would just think brands like Godiva and Ghiradelli and Russell Stover would have a tough time keeping the quality the same as a small place that hand-dips their chocolates.
WINAN'S CHOCOLATES: I guess this is another regional candy company, but you'd think with Esther Price nearby they'd really be duking it out for the same customers. Is this a "Dayton thing" or are there chocolate companies all over the country and I am just not aware? I'd love to hear about others.
LOWERY'S CANDIES: This is a candy company based in Muncie, Indiana. I only know about it because I know one of the owners. Had the chance to taste some of their candy once. Good stuff.
SOUTH BEND CHOCOLATE COMPANY: I only know about this because they have a store inside a turnpike toll plaza, so if you are ever traveling I-80, the westbound toll plaza east of South Bend has a South Bend Chocolate Company store inside. Yum.
SEE'S CANDY: I had never heard of this place until my wife mentioned them to me once and then looked at me incredulously: "You've never heard of Sees?" Nope. I have now and I've seen there chocolate around.
So, these are some of the chocolatiers that I am familiar with, now which ones SHOULD I be familiar with that I have heard about? I'd love to hear about some more!
HOMEMADE TAFFY: Or you can just say heck with it and make your own candy...this is a recipe from Rosanna Bauman, our Brethren columnist, for homemade taffy. Click here.