Saturday, July 23, 2011

Down The Shore: Fudge And Salt Water Taffy

If you haven't figured it out yet, when I'm "back home" in Philadelphia, I like to eat. A lot. It's partly because it reminds me of different times growing up, partly because the food's really good, and mostly just because I can. Sweet. Savory. It doesn't matter. It seems like I go out of my way to eat pretzels, water ice, cheese steaks, and lots of other stuff. Lucky for you, I like to write about it too!

While I was in Wildwood checking out the Googie/Doo-Wop hotels, I happened to pass by one of the classics of going to "the shore"--Laura's Fudge shop:

I couldn't resist stopping at the pink-and-white-striped store and getting some fudge and salt water taffy. Laura's has been around since the 1920s and probably has some of the best fudge in town. There are other shops and their's is good too but nothing says "down the shore" and "fudge" to me like Laura's. Going into the shop is like a trip back in time. For example, the menu board that lists all the flavors looks like it hasn't changed in the 90 years that they've been open. Also, in what seems like an ode to less hygienic times, they leave all the fudge out on a table. After all, who'd want to actually have to open a case to pack fudge?

Their fudge is made in the back of the shop, which they wouldn't let me in to check out (I asked but they said something about safety and insurance and some other crap - oh well) but "you can" go around and look in from the side windows of the shop. Hmph... In the photo below you can see the copper bowls that they mix the fudge in and the racks that they let the fudge cool on. Nope, nothing's changed here in 90 years either:

In case you're not familiar with fudge, it's a sweet treat that's made from everything that's good in life including sugar, butter, milk, and pretty much nothing else. The ingredients get cooked and flavors like chocolate, mint, peanut butter, and so on are added. It has a texture that's harder than a brownie but softer than a chocolate bar...maybe almost like a super-dense icing on a cake. What I like most about it is that it has a slightly grainy texture to it. It's very decadent and sweet so you really can't eat too much of it at one time. It reminds me of butter cake in that you take a small piece then come back 18 more times for ever increasingly small pieces until you just can't eat any more.

Most of the shops like Laura's that sell fudge also sell what's called salt water taffy. Salt water taffy is probably THE shore candy as it's also been around since the 1920s and is believed to have been invented in nearby Atlantic City, New Jersey. Basically, it's a chewy, sweet candy that has the texture of a chewy toffee or a thick caramel but without any of the dairy products. Actually, I think that it's just sugar held together by more sugar. Who knows...

Like fudge, salt water taffy's cooked up in copper kettles and flavors are added during the process. It comes in a ton of different flavors including chocolate, vanilla, lemon, mint, and so on. Actually, it comes in almost any flavor you can imagine. This is a photo of the loose taffy bin at Laura's:

Stopping by the shop was definitely a trip down memory lane for me. I picked up some treats and, much to the horror of my dieting sister-in-law, brought them back to my dad's condo to share. The pink boxes are each one pound of mixed-flavor salt water taffy and the white box holds a pound of fudge:

Okay, just to tease you, here's a photo of the fudge I'm about to enjoy. There's chocolate (my favorite), chocolate peanut butter (yum), maple (yum yum), vanilla, cookies-n-cream, and rocky road in this box:

Don't hate me because I have fudge! You too can head "down the shore" and get some for yourself. Just make sure to bring me back some chocolate fudge and salt water taffy.

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