I have a sweet tooth. I have had one for many years, and I do not think it will ever go away. But I would like to call it a classy sweet tooth. I do not crave hard candy, cake, or soda. I crave very specific foods with magical satisfying powers, and I cannot wait to tell you about them so that you can try them for yourselves and fall under their spell too. And they all come from wonderful small businesses, so if you are looking to support some new ones, these are highly recommended.
Fudge from The Original Fudge Kitchen
For 27 years, my family has traveled down to Ocean City, New Jersey for our summer vacation. We have yet to miss a year, and I make sure of that - even if we cannot go in the summer, I find a time that works later in the year so I can still step foot in the best place ever, and so I can get my share of the most delicious fudge. Full disclosure, they do ship around the country, so you will still be able to get some without leaving your home; going there makes it taste even better though, and you have a whole boardwalk with numerous other treats to explore as well.
Let me explain why The Original Fudge Kitchen is so amazing. First of all, they have samples! I love samples - shopping at Costco with my Dad on the weekends was another tradition growing up as they presented customers with free samples of their products on those days. Outside the storefront, a lovely employee will offer you with either Vanilla Walnut or Chocolate Walnut, and then when you walk inside the store, there is another tray! And then when you walk out of the store, the employee is still there! So you can have at least three samples, but that is no where near enough fudge to hold you over.
You can buy fudge by the pound, and the bright teal boxes will fit between eight and nine pieces, so that means you can get eight or nine different flavors, and you want to taste as many as possible! Don't forget to pick up a coupon book across the Boardwalk at The Music Pier for $1 off, or buy two pounds and get a free bag of saltwater taffy too!
It may take you a second to actually focus on the fudge, because when you enter, you will feel as if you are in a beach version of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. The right side is lined with nostalgic and seasonal treats, and the left side has cases of freshly made fudge, chocolates, and other classic confections. There is even ice cream! So many wonderful options to choose from, but for me, all I need is that fudge.
It is definitely hard to choose my favorite, but as a family who loves mint chocolate chip ice cream, I would have to nominate this one as my top choice. Its bright green color captures your attention immediately, and the mint is so perfectly balanced. Vanilla or Chocolate Marshmallow is so much fun too - I love the texture variation between the gooey marshmallow and the creamy fudge. Chocolate Peanut Butter is divine - sweet and rich, like an elevated Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Sea Salt Caramel is even more decadent, for it oozes out such a satisfying caramel embellished with the perfect touch of salt. Snickers is similar with an extra crunch from the peanuts, and there is Chocolate Chip and Cookies and Cream for a chocolate and vanilla combo.
You can see that I typically choose a chocolate or vanilla base - after all these years, I still have not ventured over to the strawberry, maple walnut, pistachio, or peanut butter, but I am certain they would be just as yummy. And if you want to keep it simple, the vanilla and chocolate on their own will win you over in an instant - no matter the flavor, this incredible fudge will melt in your mouth and fill your heart's desire. It is distinct, fresh, authentic, and made with just the right amount of sweetness and so much love. Even the cold will not prevent me from getting it!
Apple Ice Wine from Sheldrake Point
Going to school at Cornell in the Finger Lakes meant that I was surrounded by some of the most beautiful vineyards. The region is known for is wineries and gorgeous setting around the various lakes, and in particular, for its ice wine. Due to the cold climate during the winter months, ice wine tends to be very prevalent - the grapes are harvested later in the season after frost, allowing them to freeze on the vine in a very ripe stage. Once the water as ice is removed, a juice so concentrated called 'must' remains, and because it contains a high amount of both sugar and acid, you end up with a wine that is actually so well-balanced and not cloyingly sweet. Typically, these grapes are hand-picked at night and hand-pressed in some very cold temperatures so they do not thaw. They also take a long time to ferment due to their higher sugar content; therefore, ice wines are sold in smaller quantities and at greater price points.
Ice wine is totally up my alley, and the first time I tried it, I was blown away. The intense, tropical aromatics and flavors of stone and tropical fruit, citrus, flowers, vanilla, and honey that come from the grape mold Botrytis cinerea are so enticing, and the wine is always smooth and easy to drink. It is so special, and with numerous grape varieties as the bases, you will have a different but still lovely experience with each one.
While ice wine is not produced everywhere, you can find it in other cold regions around the world - Peller Estates in Canada produces classic Vidal, Riesling, and Cabernet Franc ice wines, and when I visited a few years ago, I took home as many mini bottles as I could. Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and even Michigan are also popular areas, so if you are ever there, make sure to pick some up! As we are still at our houses most of the time these days though, having them shipped is another solid option.
The title of this section refers to Apple Ice Wine, but ice wine, as discussed above, is produced from grapes. So how does that make sense? Well, apple ice wine, also known as ice cider, is produced from frozen apples or apple juice instead of grapes. Actually very logical! Fortunately for me, the Finger Lakes climate is extremely well-suited to growing apples in addition to grapes, so I had the opportunity to enjoy both Apple Ice Wine and traditional Ice Wine throughout my time up there. And being someone who absolutely loves apple cider, this more adult version and I were meant to find each other as I reached the drinking age.
One particular Apple Ice Wine that I would like to highlight is the one from Sheldrake Point. Located on the expansive Cayuga Lake in Ovid, NY, just being on the property is an experience in and of itself. If the sun is shining, you will see the lake shimmering endlessly in front, and you can even pull up by boat if the weather is nice enough! Inside, the winery is open and industrial but extremely inviting, and you can enjoy a tasting right there or purchase bottles for consumption later.
While Sheldrake Point has a wonderful selection of wines, my favorite of course is the Apple Ice Wine. It is made from the juice of eight different cider and eating apples from Cornell Orchards, which is even more exciting for me. The crystal clear, golden orange color is so appealing, like the sun waking up or drawing to a close on a warm fall day. And the elegant taste is spectacular - sweet like honey with an essence of fall and apple pie, it immediately transports you to the wonders of autumn and holidays and wraps you in a color scape of the most vibrant, reds, oranges, and yellows. It is basically the most luxurious apple cider ever. If this does not feel like heaven, I do not know what does. I definitely could drink an entire bottle in one sitting, but if you can manage to savor it in smaller portions, you have impressive willpower. Or you could just buy as many bottles as possible at once so you do not have to worry about running out!
Sweet Clover Raw Honey from Beekeeper's Naturals
I have only recently been introduced to Beekeeper's Naturals, thanks to quarantine and living at home with my parents. My mom is a huge fan of the company and has many of their products here, so I have become quite familiar with them myself, and they are wonderful. The company is all about clean health and sustainability, offering natural remedies to help us feel our best along with some specialties to indulge in as well. Everything is free of additives, refined sugar, and and anything else that keeps us from functioning at optimal levels on a daily basis. In addition, their bee products are extremely therapeutic, packed with ingredients that truly nourish our internal systems, brain, energy, and soul.
While I have sampled all of their signature honeys, my favorite is the simplest and most familiar one - the sweet clover raw honey. Clover honey is probably the most common honey found in stores, well-recognized in the adorable bear container at Trader Joe's. I will admit, I know that this honey does not have a wow factor, but it is affordable and comforting and usually does the trick for me. However, when I tasted the clover honey from Beekeeper's Naturals, I realized that I need to raise my standards!
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to taste numerous honeys, and I love how different each one can be. Floral ones are usually so distinct and just a little too potent for me if I don't use them cautiously, but when you have the right amount, they really take a dish to another level. Honey with a little bit of heat is fantastic as well - it creeps up on you and explodes at just the right time, giving the dish new life and enabling the honey's deliciousness to linger even more. Flavored honeys are great for adding acidity, vegetal, or fruit notes depending on your preference. And clover honey is good for added sweetness when you want something mild.
This clover honey is different though. Yes, it is still light and subtle in flavor, but there are layers to that subtlety reminiscent of spices, flowers, vanilla, and ultimate purity. It is hard to believe so much joy and nature is in this translucent, glowing, pale yellow jar. The sweet clover raw honey is an elevated, elegant version of everyday honey that is so good for you, and it can be paired with fruits and teas or used in dressings, sauces, or baked goods - I love it as an accompaniment to my challah every Friday night for Shabbat. Plus, it is 100% natural and pesticide-free with no unwanted additives. No wonder they refer to their rejuvenating honeys as liquid gold!
If you are interested in honeys with a little more to them, the wildflower, raspberry, or buckwheat are so unique and fulfilling (try them all in a honey flight); if the healing properties appeal to you too, check out the rest of their truly worthwhile items! Whatever you choose, you will be so thankful!
I hope you are inspired to treat yourself to these extraordinary products. They are ideal for this time of year as we transition out of summer and into fall where their flavors are so evocative of this glorious season, keeping us connected to nature and the world around us and giving us more to celebrate while staying safe at home.