Sunday, August 1, 2010
Jelly Belly, the World's #1 Gourmet Jelly Bean
They can rot your teeth. They have little nutritional value. They're not natural, organic, sustainable, or low in carbon footprint. But we love 'em, because they taste so good.
It's our family tradition to stop by the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield on our way back from Lake Tahoe where we vacation every July. This gives us something to break up the long drive home, and eases the inevitable end-of-vacation letdown.
Stepping into the Jelly Belly factory, shop and restaurant center is like entering a cross between Chuck E. Cheese's and the candy store of your childhood dreams. It's meant to get your children and the child in you excited, and it works. Where else can you get a piece or pizza or a hamburger in a jelly bean shape? The factory tour line can snake out with a wait time of almost an hour, but where else can you indulge your Willy Wonka candy factory fantasies? For us the highlight is the large shop which offers every kind of Jelly Belly you know about, lots you've never heard of, all kinds of branded merchandise, chocolate candies, and even lower priced Belly Flops, the jelly beans that came out misshapen but still taste great.
We have to set some ground rules before we head into the shop. Usually everyone can choose whatever confections they desire, as long as the total amount comes up to about two handfuls. Yep, that seems like a lot and it probably is. The kids fill up their bags with a mix of their favorite flavors. I usually get a pre-packaged bag of whatever strikes my fancy. Last time I tried the pomegranate flavor which I enjoyed not only for its tart, fruity flavor from real pomegranate juice, but also because it has Vitamin C and antioxidants added in. Jelly beans for the health conscious--who woulda thunk? My other favorite flavors include raspberry, black licorice, tangerine, and sizzling cinnamon.
Brad goes for the unusual, including buttered popcorn and jalapeno. To me the buttered popcorn flavor tastes bizarre. It just doesn't translate well from the original food to jelly bean form. And forget about the jalapeno for me, although Brad loves them and often gets jalapenos on his pizzas, in his omelets, and in his burgers.
Jacob's favorites include black licorice, sizzling cinnamon, and mint mint chocolate chocolate chip. Valerie has a hard time choosing favorites but loves lemon lime, root beer, and tutti-fruitti, while Amanda's up for most flavors like watermelon, bubble gum, and green apple.
Not only does Jelly Belly offer its fifty regular flavors, it also has extended its offerings to include Sports Beans (to give exercisers some carbs and electrolytes), Cold Stone Creamery ice cream flavors, Sunkist fruit flavors, Cocktail Classics, and BeanBoozled trick flavors. BeanBoozled jelly beans are nauseatingly brilliant when you think about it, with each normal flavor having a lookalike disgusting twin. The top banana flavored bean has an evil twin that tastes like pencil shavings. The trick is to know which is which without actually having to taste barf, skunk, rotten egg, or booger flavors. I remember once Brad's father Brian bravely tried a barf flavored Jelly Belly. He declared it sweet and tasty, and laughed at himself since he knew his sense of taste obviously wasn't as acute as it used to be!
It's also fun to experiment with Jelly Belly recipes which require combining different flavored beans to create something different. Did you know eating two cappuccino beans, one cream soda bean, and one chocolate pudding bean equals tiramisu flavor?
Jelly Belly has a fascinating history, a classic American success story. The brothers Gustav and Albert Goelitz emigrated from Germany and bought a candy store in Illinois in 1869. The family's second generation invented Candy Corn around the turn of the century. In 1960, the family's fourth generation based in Oakland expanded the company to include jelly beans and America's first gummi bears. The first eight Jelly Belly flavors were born in 1976: Very Cherry, Licorice, Lemon, Cream Soda, Tangerine, Green Apple, Root Beer, and Grape. Gustav Goelitz's descendants continue to make more than a hundred kinds of candies over 140 years after the brothers arrived in the U.S.
So if you're driving back from Lake Tahoe or Sacramento and want something sweet and fun, try some candy from the Jelly Belly factory and shop in Fairfield or the standalone shop in the Nut Tree shopping center. Your mouth will be happy.