Posted on

Travels through a Sweet World (part I)

Tasting the worldFrom San Fran to Seoul, an international search for yummy in my tummy sweets!

Pre-baby human, when Sarkara was in It’s incubation phase and I still had time to achieve things I’d spend my out of work time, hunting down sweet suppliers around the globe.

I soon discovered that the range of candy available was a bit overwhelming. I thought I was pretty well acquainted with sweets, but after looking at webpage after webpage I realised that I hadn’t even nibbled at the tip of the sugar iceberg.

So I booked meetings with those I thought would make good suppliers, packed a suitcase, bought a round the world ticket and set off on an international candy hunt. My destinations where:

  • San Francisco
  • Tijuana
  • Bournemouth
  • Barcelona
  • Istanbul
  • Tokyo
  • Seoul

Before I continue, I need to warn you that this blog post, like any good travelling tale, will feature a few travel photos. So if you’ve been traumatised in the past by an over-zealous snapper subjecting you to hours of post-holiday photo torture then you may want to look away now, as things are about to get ugly.

This week I’ll only subject you to snaps from San Francisco to Bournemouth, before moving into the more exotic tastes of Asia (and Barcelona) next week.

San Fran

It’s the epicentre of personal journeys, where many an American has been lured from across the country to find their inner freedom.

And right in the heart of this beautifully hip and horrendously over priced city (blame Facebook and Google for pumping up the average salary) is a wee slice of candy heaven. Fisherman’s Wharf, in the hub of San Francisco is a place where locals don’t dare tread, as the throngs of tourists have made it uncool and possibly irreversibly damaging to a local’s street cred. But for me and for many of Sarkara’s customers it is the home of American candy.

Candy Baron sweet store San Fran
Candy Baron – San Fran

There are at least two mind-blowing candy stores at Fisherman’s Wharf which are literally jam packed full of more candy than a five year old could dare dream existed. Salt-water taffy, Hot Tamales, Twizzlers, candy corn, Peeps Marshmallows and even bacon candy (which unsurprisingly didn’t pass the Sarkara taste test) can all be found on the Wharf.

They’re candy stores done in a brazen, over-brimming American style and they’re amazing.

It's Sugar San Fran
It’s Sugar San Fran

 

I dedicated much of my time to gnawing my way through kilos of candy and can say that personally, American candy isn’t my across the board cultural favourite, but there are plenty of specific treats that I will happily stuff my face full of – Bit o Honey (old school caramel bites), Warheads and even Twizzlers, which bear no resemblance to red liquorice but have a strangely moorish rubbery texture.

After visiting the U.S.A on a purely candy focussed trip and seeing the eye-watering amounts of candy on offer, it’s no exaggeration to say that America is probably the uncrowned King of candy.

Mexico

After looking at the outrageous prices of flights to Mexico I ended up driving down from San Fran to the border town of Mexicali and then back home via Tijuana, San Diego and L.A. What a trip!

Truly, if I can advise you to do one thing in the U.S.A it’s to go on a long road trip. There will be so many unforgettable experiences and people throughout your journey that you’ll forever remember every single one of them. You’ll also never forget the stench of a car after a 14-hour drive, which has been fueled with beef jerky, energy drinks and candy.

Tijuana border
It was a three hour wait to cross the border back to the U.S.A.

In my ever more distant youth I’d done a stint in Mexico as an English teacher so I already had a number of Mexican sweets that I had fallen desperately in love with. Rockaletta (spicy, mango, bubblegum centred lollipops) and De La Rosa (melt in your mouth peanut Marizipan) were and still are my absolute favourites.

Mexico, and Mexican candy are both in my humble opinion unmatched in the world. Mexico is a vibrant country pulsating with bright, primary colours and a people who are always willing to have a chat and a laugh. Oh and did I mention the food? Forget the over cheesed crap we get in NZ, Mexican food is divine in its simplicity, and yet spellbindingly full of flavours and spice. It’s on my ‘I’d love to live there’ list of countries alongside Vietnam (again I go where my stomach guides me) and Morocco.

Like its people, Mexican candy is balsy and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It tends to head towards the mouth explosion territory and is often filled with tamarind and chilli, making it not for those who have a subtle palate. As with salted liquorice once you get the hang of the salty & spicy goodness you’ll find yourself craving more.

Mexican candy
My Mexican candy taste testers

For beginners I’d always recommend Rockaletta and for those looking for something truly Mexican I’d grab a tamarind Pulparindo fruit stick.

After eating my weight in Mexican candy, dancing with mariachis and eating tacos on the street (always ask your hotel or backpackers staff where to eat, trust me they know the spots) I headed back through Tijuana towards my on-bound flight to the U.K.

 

Bournemouth

Ahhh Bournemouth, the Victorian English Ibiza. Surrounded by historical promenades, blistering winds and a seemingly unhappy populace. Seriously, I have never heard so much whinging in my life and yet the promenade was really stunning, and the town itself rather pretty. But not one person I spoke to was happy to be there, they all seemed to dream of being somewhere else.

bournemouth pier

I happen to love England, the narrow streets steeped in history, the rolling green fields and the wonderful array of accents from town to town. And there’s almost nothing in the world that is more fun than spending a Sunday afternoon enjoying a roast and a pint of lime & lager at a village pub. But perhaps due to the time of year (February), the winter blues had overtaken Bournemouth’s people and made them all begrudge their existence, who knows?

I’d gone to Bournemouth to meet with a supplier and had patiently endured a never-ending taxi ride to an industrial zone to attend a meeting which I’d arranged two months prior.

But it must be that coming from New Zealand isn’t enough to get out of bed for, as the man I’d arranged to meet wasn’t even there!

Annoyed doesn’t even begin to describe me. But a slightly embarrassed young employee showed me around their stock rooms as I pointed out dusty out-of-date stock and he complained about going on leave and returning to find he’d been demoted. I couldn’t have felt more glamorous and special, I’m pretty sure it’s exactly how David Beckham is treated every time he launches a new line of smelly sprays.

UK Supplier
It wasn’t really this welcoming. UK Supplier!

But without English candy Sarkara would be a shadow of itself. The English who are in my opinion underrated in culinary terms (have you tried a decent bangers & mash?!) are one of the all time best sweet making nations in the world. Their toffees are pure and delicious, the bon bons divine and then you’ve got my English favourite flying saucers that are a post World War Two wafer filled with a sherbet bang. You can never underestimate the yumminess of English sweets.

From the clouded skies of Bournemouth I took a short flight to Barcelona, where the people are way, way happier to be there, as was I.

 

To be continued…