Candy Girls: Urban Pantry

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Friends had been telling us about the unique candy and other goodies at Urban Pantry, 1242 South Broadway, and with the holidays approaching we decided to stop by and see if the Pantry stocked treats that might make good gifts. But nothing could have prepared us for the bounty of unusual delicacies we found there.Truly a foodie's dream, the Pantry carries a large array of hard-to-find tapenades, spreads, jams, cheeses, meats, pastas, sodas and, yes, candy. Even better, it's conveniently located between locally owned shops Divino Wine and Capelli Floral, so with one convenient South Broadway stop you can grab a nice bottle of wine, some flowers and gourmet foods to go.

The owner of Urban Pantry, Alex Failmezger, told us that the shop has been making homemade peanut brittle for the holidays, as well as fresh ravioli -- eight different kinds every day.

But what really caught our eye was the candy. The Urban Pantry has plenty of tempting possibilities, including the Chocolate Boyfriend and Girlfriend ($9.99 each) that would make a fun gift, Laura's Candy handmade marshmallows in a variety of flavors, and even British-made Curly Wurly Bars and Lion Bars.

We opted to try the peanut brittle ($7 for a half pound) and a few sweets from Tom and Sally's ($10 for a half pound). The Pantry's Tom and Sally's huge selection includes Coastal Cranberries, Sweet Strawberries, Plump Blackberries; we went for Sweet Pears and Whole Almonds.

Urban Pantry will put together a nice gift package, and also offers catering. For more details, go to its webside at www.urbanpantry.com . Now, on to the candy:

Peanut Brittle

First Reactions: As we enter the store, we're overcome by an agonizingly delicious smell. Is something baking? "It's the peanut brittle," Alex tells us, bringing out a little container full of the freshly cooked candy. The pieces are a warm, caramely color, studded with mounds of peanuts.

Taste: Aubrey: This is a great, classic piece of peanut brittle. Liz: It has a good snap to it. Sometimes brittles can be a bit sticky and settle in your molars, but this one is the exact right texture.

Conclusions: Would we finish it? We polished off our sample in no time. Would we purchase again? Absolutely. Good homemade peanut brittle isn't something you stumble upon every day. Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Sweet Pears in French White Chocolate

First Reactions: This is the first of the Tom and Sally candies to catch our eye. We'd heard of chocolate-covered cherries and berries -- but pear? Our reaction is further confused by the fact that the candies don't look at all like dried bears, but rather like your average chocolate-covered confection: small round balls dusted with what looks like powdered sugar.

Taste: Aubrey: Yum, the white chocolate and dried pear go really well together. Liz: There's another flavor in there...like a spice. Alex: It's powdered ginger! Aubrey: It's a perfect combination of flavors and really unusual.

Conclusions: Would we finish it? And then some. Would we purchase again? This would make a perfect hostess gift or holiday party treat. Rating: 4 out of 5

Whole Almonds in French Dark Chocolate Dusted with Coarse Salt and Raw Sugar

First Reactions: These look like your standard chocolate-covered almonds, but with a bumpy exterior.

Taste: Liz: Oh, these are good. The salt comes in right at the end to blend with the chocolate in your mouth. Aubrey: The chocolate is nice, too. The fact that it's small-batch really makes a huge difference in the quality. Liz: I love the crunch of the salt and sugar.

Conclusions: Would we finish it? We were stuffed with brittle and white chocolate pears and we still finished these. Would we purchase again? Unique, delicious and handmade: What could make for a better candy purchase? Rating: 4 out of 5

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