For years I passed a very cute, gingerbread looking house whenever I went to visit my parents. It always looked out of place on the side of a rather busy highway, especially since it was attached to what looked like a cold warehouse. During one visit, my step-mom told me that it was actually a chocolate factory. She was excited because it was soon to be opened to the general public. I’ll admit it, when I heard about it, I was a bit giddy. Even more so when she told me they were going to have a chocolate waterfall. My mind was filled with images of Willy Wonka and finally fulfilling my dream of eating my way through a chocolate factory.
I was a bit disappointed when Albanese Confectionary opened up and I found that while there were tons of edibles inside, they were all in bins and packages. No gummi bear trees or giant mushrooms with sticky cream lined my path inside. The chocolate waterfall, while technically warm melted chocolate falling down from some mysterious place above, could not possibly have sucked Augustus Gloop up, much less my two year old kid. No chocolate river flowed through the store.
Once my initial disappointment wore off, I took a moment to take everything in. Aside from the fact that everything in the room wasn’t eatible, I did sort of feel like Charlie when he stepped in that marvolous door. Everywhere I turned, there was candy. Bins line about 1/2 the store and are filled with amazing treats like giant peanut butter cups, seafoam candy, chocolate carmelcorn and more flavors of gummi bears than I’ve ever seen in one room. Not to mention loads of different nuts, dried fruits and prepackaged candies like Bit O’Honey and Tootsie Rolls.
In addition to all the bins, the floor is full of displays with unique and interesting prepackaged candies. Gummi breakfasts, suckers with insects in them, Pixie sticks, Hello Kitty hard candies and more. Around the chocolate waterfall (which is really a tube that runs from the ceiling to a counter), are freshly dipped fruits and packages the employees put together of their chocolates as well as gift items (like picture frames and teapots). The ceilings are strewn with giant decorations like bees buzzing around vibrantly colored flowers.
Now for the candy itself. I’ll admit, I haven’t tried it all. Despite a dozen or so trips, I’ve only tried about 1/4 of what they have (and I’m only counting the candy, not the nuts). One of the great things about Albanese is that they will let you sample anything in the store. And not just one sample per customer. For me one of the biggest frustrations with buying chocolates is getting something that looks tasty but isn’t. I’ve had more than my share over the years, so I love the ability to try before I buy.
As for their actual chocolates, I’ve yet to have one I don’t like. My problem is actually that I like them a bit too much. It’s not hard to sit down with a bag of their chocolate covered raisins or their double dipped peanuts and realize I’ve eaten, well, let’s leave it at a LOT. I can rarely stop at one of their vanilla creams. Then again, I have a real weakness for these. Their vanilla creams remind me a bit of cake frosting. They are sweet and creamy. A thin layer of chocolate surrounds them, so it’s the perfect combination.
Another must have on every trip are their chocolate covered toffee pecans. They are large praline pecans covered in a thin layer of crunchy toffee and then covered in a layer of milk chocolate. They are amazingly sweet, but the nutty flavor at the center keeps them from being too sweet. They have a great crunch as well. I can eat an entire 1/4 and not even notice the bag is empty.
They also serve up one of my husband’s favorites, chocolate cherries. Not the overly sweet disasters I loved as a kid that are full cherries in that icky, sticky disgustingly sweet juice. These are large semi-dried cherries covered in chocolate. I’ve also had some tasty chocolate coconut haystacks, chocolate almonds and chocolate covered caramels.
One the best things about Albanese is that it’s tasty chocolate at affordable prices. A pound of vanilla creams is $8.99. A pound of chocolate covered raisins or double dipped peanuts is only $3.99 a pound. And it’s not cheap chocolate either. Now, I don’t think it’s as creamy as say, Godiva, but it’s a completely different taste sensation. I think of Albanese as comfort chocolate. It’s creamy, it’s tasty, and it’s full of flavors I remember from my childhood. Like the raisins…they are like the cheapo Raisinettes my mom used to get me every now and then, but only 10 times better. It’s quality chocolate in amazing quantities! Every time I go, I get at least half a dozen treats and spend less than $20. Plus, they have yogurt raisins, which I feel good about giving to my son. When I got to other chocolate places, he sometimes gets upset because he can’t get little cakes (what he calls truffles and fancy chocolates), but when we stop at Albanese, there’s always a treat I can get him and he LOVES them.
On a side note, although I know it’s not chocolate related, if you click the Albanese link, you will notice that they boast the World’s Best Gummies. There is no exaggeration to this claim. They are AMAZING! They have 12 different fruit flavored gummi bears, including peach, raspberry and Granny Smith apple. And each one actually taste exactly like what it’s supposed to. No random red or white flavor that you can’t quite place. In addition to the bears they have army men, jet fighters, worms, fish, butterflies and cola bottles. Plus, they are only $2.49 a pound. Every time I go, I am required to get my bff, who is a bit of an addict, a pound. She agrees they are the best bears ever. When I was a kid, I liked gummi bears, but I got burned out because whenever I’d get a package, the red ones always tasted like dish soap to me. The only distinct flavor I got from them was the yellow ones, which I think were lemon. Albanese gummis are the opposite. Each one is bursting with flavor. They are amazing. I can easily finish off a pound and still want more. And, no matter what you may think of the war or the politics behind it, Albanese made gummi soldiers, then sent 100,000 packages to the troops over in the Middle East. It wasn’t until the soldiers requested them for their kids that Albanese started making them and selling them in their stores. Pretty cool if you ask this humble candy connoisseur.