Monday, July 18, 2016

Lolli & Pops - A girl in a candy store

I rarely step into a mall. I'm not a shopper. My money goes to dining out before it goes to shoes and clothes. I have something I need, I'm a focused shopper on a mission - find and get out! I was in Arden Fair Mall a few weeks ago and stumbled across Lolli & Pops, the second location of this chain of candy stores. 

About a week ago I got an invitation to come in and taste my way through the store. Who could resist such an offer?

The first Lolli & Pops opened at the Roseville Galleria several years ago. Arden is the 24th store with expectations for there to be a total of 50 by year's end. The stores themselves are stylish and inviting. Roseville has stained wood shelves, giving it a darker look. Arden has bright, painted shelves, making the store seem more cheerful, open, and inviting.

My friend and I were greeted by Gabriel Romo, Assistant Candy Purveyor. It soon became clear that the use of "purveyor" was appropriate. Gabe was very knowledgable about everything in the store and enthusiastic! He has an infectious spirit and I'm sure is a treasured employee.

Gabe took us section by section through the store. Whenever we wanted to try something, he got us a sample. That wasn't just for us. Lolli & Pops wants people to try things. Just ask. If he opened a package of cookies, he offered it to any customer that was near us to try as well.

We started at the front at the Harry Potter shelves and moved down the row. There are old, classic favorite candies such as Pop Rocks and Goo Goo Clusters as well as new artisan candies and gourmet chocolate bars. No matter what level of candy eater you are, you'll find something. 

One section that was particularly of note was the specialty diet section. This is where they had such things as paleo chocolate and chocolate made with stevia. I bought one of each. The paleo was good and the stevia did well with dark chocolate. I have to wonder how it would do with milk chocolate. There was also vegan, gluten-free, and sugar free candies in this area as well as specialty honey.

There are quite a few specialty items. These are giant rice cereal squares, but what makes them different is that they are more marshmallow than cereal. It's funny how you see it and think, "why had I never thought to change the ratio of marshmallow to rice crispies?" This is also something I ended up taking home because I had to try it. It was so huge that I gave half to my coworker. We both enjoyed it. There is also a cotton candy made specially for L&P that is made with cane sugar and natural flavorings. 

The Sour Tower
Lolli & Pops has its own line of branded candies as well. You'll find L&P branded truffles in gift boxes with assortments such as Salted Caramels, Ice Cream Shoppe, and Holiday Favorites. They also have specialty bark and candy bars. I tried their Jalapeno Peanut bar. Spicy, but with ground peanuts. I personally would have preferred larger peanut bits. 

The bulk candy area is quite extensive with a variety of chocolate treats and gummie candies. What's noticeable is that the flavor in the gummies is strong and the texture is exceptional. These gummies don't stick to your teeth. Instead, they are soft and don't pull at your tooth enamel like some chewy candies do. I even tried the jalapeno gummy. Be careful, it's hot! They go through a confectioner who uses cane sugar and natural flavorings. 

Gabe showing us a foreign candy
The area I was particularly interested in was the foreign section where there were candies from Europe, Asia, and Mexico. There were many British candies I remembered well such as Rowntree Fruit Gums and Cadbury Flake bars. Flakes, by the way, are best eaten in a soft serve ice cream cone. In fact, I need to go back and get one and then head over to Dairy Queen.

Anyway, one important thing to know is that often there are the foreign and then the American versions of these candies. American Cadbury, made by Hershey's, uses a different formula in the United States than in Britain. Europe and America have different standards as to the amount of dairy and cocoa butter are used. Same holds true for Asian candies; the American formula is different. I could go into a whole discussion on this, but we all know our American food standards are often different than foreign.

Thirsty? There's a cold case up front with artisan sodas. I'm not exactly sure what would inspire a person to name, let alone taste, a soda called Dog Drool. Gabe sampled out more familiar things like the root beers and a cream soda. 

Finally, up front we sampled some macarons that are flown in from the east coast and the truffle case. The case is a bit bare in the summer as the manufacturer refuses to compromise the quality by shipping in the hot summer months. As for the macarons, I would say to stick to Ginger Elizabeth. While I liked the unusual flavors, they did not hold up well to travel and time. 

The Lolli & Pops motto is "Purveyors of Sweetness". Whether you are young or old; like chocolates, sours, or gummies; American or Foreign, they have a sweet for you.

Disclosure: I was invited for this tasting visit and given a discount on my purchases.

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