Caramelpalooza 2011: A Sticky Situation

Thumbnail image for caramelpaloo1.jpg
Jonathan McNamara
Last Friday, locals craving a sugar rush lined up in the parking lot of Smeeks at Central and Camelback roads for Chow Bella's second Caramelpalooza event. The judging is over, and a favorite was selected by both the audience and a judging panel -- Essence Bakery's delicious caramel macaron, served in miniature.


But does a French cookie really count as a caramel? We pitted all 11 caramel entries against each other in a Battle of the Dishes royale to determine which one was not only the tastiest, but the best example of what a caramel really is.

Find out our pick after the jump...

caramelpaloopop.jpg
Jonathan McNamara
Meghan Olesen's elemental pop shed too much for us.
The first contender out of the gate was a blood orange caramel wrapped in parchment from Meghan Olesen of Elemental Sugar. As I peeled open the wrapper, a fine brown powder fell from the pop like caramel dandruff. Not a good start.

Apparently the powder was a smoked salt & chili "Fun Dip" I was supposed to dip the caramel into. Unfortunately, I don't believe in the 5-minute rule when it comes to powdery substances on tables and floors. Too bad, because the caramel itself was perfectly textured -- soft with a slight bite -- and sugary sweet.

Next up was a pretty, elongated teardrop with a crunchy red coating akin to a candy apple. The slick coating and unique "tadpole" design made for a lovely presentation, though the caramel inside was very traditional. The coating was thin enough that it was easy to bite through without removing my dental work, and the soft texture and delicate vanilla flavor of the caramel appealing. A strong contender from Tammie Coe.

Cork's smoked sea salt caramel was so heavy on the "smoke" that it tasted burnt, while Tracy Dempsey's soy sauce variety was too heavy on the saltiness. Slade Grove's ginger caramel was dark and rich. I adore ginger, especially when candied, but the ingredient mix in Grove's caramel brought out the natural bitterness of the root, rather than playing up its sweetness.

caramelpaloomacarons.jpg
Jonathan McNamara
Will the real caramel stand up, please?
Essence Bakery Cafe's macaron was lightly sweet, with a delightfully savory tinge that reminded me of the saffron-infused cream filling I've tasted in some Indian desserts. It was delicious, but I'd argue that something "caramel flavored" doesn't count as an actual caramel, especially when it's not sticky.

Speaking of sticky, while the Honeymoon Sweets entry had a scrumptious natural honey taste, it was so soft I had to use my teeth to scrape it from the wrapper. Brendan McCaskey's peanut butter and jelly caramel suffered from the same problem, though the child in me was squealing with delight at how much the tasty treat reminded me of the lunch box sammies of my youth.

My Voice Nation Help
16 comments
Russell Mantilla
Russell Mantilla

Just to reiterate the sentiments ienjoyedthecaramels expressed. I know a couple of the contestants personally; and i know they were disappointed with the blatant disrespect paid to their colleges. Wynter Holden's heavy handed smart ass comments and sarcasm have no place in an article about an event where the participants competed for fun, received no prize money, and spent their own time and money to show up to represent themselves and meet their fans. After this kind of negative press, why would any of these professionals "compete" in this event again? This article was total BS!

Caramel Lover, Anon
Caramel Lover, Anon

This was a bit of a downer article for such an amazing event! I was so happy that these amazing people were willing to bring me, of all things, free caramel! Hello?! I tried everything and thought they were all great. It was way to hard to pick one! Elemental Sugar's entry barely eked out the rest as far as the voting for me went. Loved it! I also loved Bourbon Steak's BBQ sauce entry. That, my friends, was truly amazing. Loved the event, loved the people (except for the crazy lady behind me in line. What a whiner!), loved the shops. Can't wait until next year!

Concerned Caramel Eater
Concerned Caramel Eater

Why doesn't toffee count? That was the best one. A few of the caramels were pretty gross, a couple were decent, and a couple were pretty good. The best were the toffee, as well as the macaron that won. Apparently making a great caramel is pretty tough, since the tastiest entries were also the least traditional. Honorable mention to the soy sauce caramel -- I loved the idea of substituting the soy sauce in place of salt, and it was *almost* there -- just a little bit off. Some of them were way too soft or cloyingly sweet -- the pb&j one that keeps being mentioned was an offender on both fronts. It was a good concept, though. The candy covered tadpole that's also been up as a favorite just needed a little more flavor -- a bit more caramel would have helped counteract the plain sugar taste of the too prevalent shell.

Of course, I still have a lot of these melting away in my cabinet to sample again..

Anita
Anita

Was this chick at the same event? These caramels were delicious and creative. What the heck? Why bring up so much bad about a fun and tasty event.

ienjoyedthecaramels
ienjoyedthecaramels

This review leaves much to be desired. I hope this blogger is not filling shoes for Laudig. What a jerk. At this rate, all of the Caramelpalooza contestants wont go back next year if they face scrutiny like this. Why would someone be so critical about candy. This review sucked. Really, "caramel dandruff", "pastry", "burnt", "too salty" - Wynter don't piss people off by thinking that your remarks are clever. Enough. My favorite caramel was Brendan Mclusky.

Shell01
Shell01

Hats off to Meghan Olesen of Elemental Sugar, that "caramel dandruff" that the obnoxious Laudig called it, was too stupid to realize what she missed and dropped all over the floor, that stuff was the shit! To Tami Coe, the tadpole rocked! My favorite was Bourban Steak, wow was that ever good, the the UB's toffee was outof this world. I've been on a diet ever since. My love and I went together. This girl in front of me - in her 40's, was dressed up like a Good Will Prom date, just awful! What a beautiful night to attend such a cool event, thank you everyone.

Tilda
Tilda

You were probably the one in the f'n prom shit huh?

Tilda
Tilda

Give up your tadpoles!

Shell01
Shell01

Meant Wynter Holden :)

Caramel Lover, Anon
Caramel Lover, Anon

Heck no! I was dressed more like an average person. Heaven help me if somebody thinks I look like I'm in my forties... The woman to whom I was referring complained that there was no ice cream, and that the people ahead of her in line were being too chatty with the presenters

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...