Toronto Chow, Part 2: Candies We Can't (Easily) Find Here

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Cadbury's Plc. (UK)
Web: Cadbury's Plc. (UK)
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Our childhood memories of visiting Canada involve two culinary treats: especially excellent Chinese food, and candies - wondrous candies - that were virtually impossible to find south of the border. At one point, both things could be had within a minute of one another; a visit to Ming Teh would be followed by a stop at the convenience store a door or two down, where we'd emerge with a bag full of chocolates and toffee to bring home.

That convenience store is now long gone, but the special candies remain. Due to odd licensing agreements and occasional importation into the United States, you may see items in stores that sound like they're from the same companies, or even the same candies, but unless the boxes come from Canada, the U.K., or another country rather than the U.S., there's a good chance they're not quite the same. Here are a few of our favorites.

In the United States, Cadbury-branded chocolates are little more than a side business for Hershey's - frankly, one of our least favorite candy companies - but elsewhere in the world, this is one of the very best mass chocolatiers around. Seriously: if you've had a Cadbury's candy in the U.S., erase the taste and conceptions of the brand entirely from your memory. Run from the United Kingdom, the originator of the Cadbury's formulas, Cadbury Plc., makes fantastic, interesting chocolate bars such as Caramilk, shown in photos 1 and 2. Caramilk is an oversized milk chocolate bar that literally oozes caramel from its pouch-shaped pores as you bite or snap off pieces. The mix of this liquid goodness with Cadbury's decidedly milky, perfectly blended chocolate is irresistable; we somehow always find a way to justify getting a large bar or two whenever we come across them.

For whatever reason, Swiss chocolatier Nestle doesn't bring some of its very best chocolate bars to the U.S. -- the list of brands on its American web site begins with "B." That omission results in Canadian and British residents having access to Aero, shown in photos 3 and 4, a chocolate bar that is perhaps half air and half chocolate. While we prefer the peppermint version, which has a green mint center inside of the milk chocolate outer shell, the standard all milk chocolate version is also quite good. In a world full of heavy candy bars, these light, almost crumbly bars let you feel a little less guilty with every bite.

Buffalonians take some pride in Sponge Candy, a local confection that consists of a honeycomb center with chocolate on the outside. Outside of this area, if it can be found at all, it's often known in the United States as "sea foam." But the Canadians and British have their own, not-so-rare version: the Crunchie bar, shown in pictures 5 and 6. Described as "sponge toffee," this Cadbury version of sponge candy doesn't come in all the various flavors that can now be had in Western New York, but it's extremely close, and generally available year round. It also sells for normal candy bar prices, rather than the inflated ones that some places in Buffalo charge.

In the U.S., Smarties are cheap, tart sugar discs sold in thin plastic wrappers. Canadians and Europeans get the real thing: Nestle's once heavily advertised alternative to M&M's, shown in photos 7 and 8, which was touted on Canadian TV with catchy, musical commercials: "when you eat your Smarties, do you eat the red ones last? Do you suck them very slowly, or crunch them very fast?"

Nestle's Smarties have the same combination of a hard candy shell and milk chocolate inside as M&M's, but in different proportions. Here, the candy shell is thicker, making the candies even less likely to melt in your hands before making their way to your mouth, and the variety of colors is a little different. Nestle doesn't bother with peanut, almond, dark chocolate, or other versions; Smarties are solely sold in the milk chocolate version. Some people swear by them and prefer them to M&M's; others don't. We're definitely fans.

Finding these candies in the United States can range from challenging - if you hunt in person - to simple, if you're willing to order on the Internet and pay a premium. These days, the easiest way to find them near Western New York is to cross the border and stop at any Duty Free store. You'll find all of these unique chocolates, and a number of other Canadian candies, for sale at reasonable prices in whatever quantity you may desire. We consider the ones above to be the best, but you may well find another that tickles your palate. Let us know what you discover.

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