With candy season upon us, I couldn't help but notice this sweet little company that still makes candy by hand. Supermarket shelves are filling up fast with bags of Hershey's kisses, candy corn and fun-size Snickers, but these handmade sweets are rare treasures.

Made in small batches with high-quality ingredients, Route 29 candies taste like the genuine treats that they are and not some cloying, waxy imitation. The most addictive concoctions are the caramels, which are stirred in small copper kettles until the watchful eye of a real – not mechanical – candy maker deems them ready. A simple wrapping of wax paper enrobes each piece. The chocolate caramels are similar to Tootsie Rolls, but they are way better, fatter and not so dense; teeth sink into these with hardly any jaw-popping resistance. The vanilla version has the same soft, chewy texture with butterscotch overtones. In addition to the traditional flavors, Route 29 also offers fruity varieties that are hard to resist. Made with real fruit, they have so much flavor it's like eating a whole dessert in a single bite. The lemon reminds me of fresh lemon curd. An initial creaminess coats the tongue, then a tangy, citrusy nip comes along. The strawberry version rolls the flavor of an entire shortcake into one nugget.

In addition, Route 29 sells chewy peppermints: They look like traditional hard candy, but they become as chewy as taffy as they warm in your mouth. The soft, minty essence has an aromatic quality that enlivens and cleanses the palate at the same time.

Kid-friendly candy of the cotton variety comes in red and blue fluffy masses that disappear on the tongue like magic, leaving a lingering remembrance of spun sugar. Last but not least, an assortment of licorice twists includes delicious renderings of the traditional black and red as well as a pantry of wacky flavors, including sour apple, peach and pi—a colada.

This stuff is so much more exciting than candy corn.

Route 29 Homemade Candy
(800) 569-1347

Speaking of On The Side

More by Adrian J.S. Hale


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