In honor of Top Chef Duels, airing tonight on Bravo at 10 ET, we’re taking on some food duels of our own.
The finale of Top Chef Duels airs tonight on Bravo at 10 ET, with 10 chefs still vying for the win. For FWx’s final duel of the season, we’re taking on an October favorite: Halloween candy. Though there are almost innumerable ways to get more sugar into your body to honor a formerly somber pagan ritual, most orange-wrapped candy breaks down into two major categories: chocolate and fruity. Is it Snickers or Skittles? Wonka Bars or Warheads?
Chances are good you have strong opinions about which is best, as do FWx’s Noah Kaufman and Justine Sterling. Noah has been a lifelong chocolate eater, while Justine still indulges a fruit snack habit. Here, they try to settle which is better to fill your pillowcase or plastic pumpkin with, come Halloween.
NK: This is an undervalued quality when it comes to Halloween candy. If you are a child, you need something you can eat, two at a time, for 50 nights (because your parents are monsters and that’s all they’ll let you eat). If you’re an adult, you need something you can find in your cabinet in December, realize you didn’t put out for the kids, and then immediately eat it all yourself (because you are a monster). Chocolate does have the possibility of melting, but even if it’s a little soft it won’t turn. Back in 1993, I found a Nestlé Crunch bar under my bed and it tasted as good as the others did on Halloween. I’d like to see anyone say that about stale fruit snacks.
JS: But fruity candy comes in every variety: Hard candies like Life Savers will stay fresh longer than you’re around to eat them. Shelled candies like Skittles and jelly beans won’t stay fresh as long—but we’re still talking years here. And gummy candies like gummy bears and Swedish Fish will get a little stale after about a year. But even then they’re still good—just more of a work out for your jaw. And who are we kidding, that jaw could use some exercise.
NK: I will put this out there now: I don’t like my chocolate in bright, artificial shades of green or orange. But just because it’s not Halloween-colored doesn’t mean chocolate doesn’t get in the spirit. Pumpkin peanut butter cups anyone? Yes. Also these terrifying baby heads are made out of pure chocolate and they should be enough to give you nightmares for weeks.
JS: If it’s a scary Halloween thing, then it can be gummi-fied. Spiders? Skulls? Internal organs? You betcha. And, of course, there’s the original creepy candy: the gummy worm.
Severity of Sugar Hangovers
NK: Coming down from the sugar rush you get from eating artificially fruit flavored garbage is one of the worst experiences you can have as either a kid or an adult. I’ve had way too many Skittles before—the headaches, the jittery hands—it was like doing actual drugs. The bad kind. Chocolate, being made of things besides refined sugar, “natural flavors” and Red #40, doesn’t cause those kinds of problems. If you ate an entire pack of fun-size Snickers you’d probably have a little stomach ache, but I’d say it’s worth it. Even the pimples.
JS: If you’re chowing down on Swedish Fish, you’re probably going to be fine. Gumdrops? Go for it. Smarties? You might be a little phlegmy. It’s when we get into the world of sour candies like Warheads and Sour Patch Kids that we start talking about regret. A night of mouth-puckering candies also can mean a morning of sores in your mouth. It’s gross, but it’s the truth. Such is the price you pay for delicious sour candies.
NK: In this age of hipsterdom, it’s quite possible some people will go out of their way to hand out what I’ll call the PBR of chocolate bars—cheap, not very good and consumed only ironically. For example, did you know the people behind terrible, terrible Necco Wafers also make a whole lineup of terrible chocolates? They do, and someone is buying them and handing them out. But even if you’re stuck with chocolate-covered raisins, at least you’re eating chocolate and not gagging on chalky lemon-lime Necco Wafers.
JS: There’s really no defending Necco Wafers, but they can be used for trading leverage if you happen to find a poor, unsuspecting young soul who will trade some gumdrops for a candy that you convince them is a flattened SweeTarts knock-off.
NK: The best-case chocolate scenario is any kind of full-size candy bar, period. It is the holy grail of Halloween candy. It almost doesn’t matter what it is. While I would rather have a dark chocolate Hershey bar or a Baby Ruth, even a full-size Charleston Chew beats the bejesus out of a bag of Sour Patch Kids because it makes you feel like you’ve won some sort of candy lottery. There is a reason whatever house on the block is giving out full-size bars has a Cronut-esque line snaking around it every Halloween, while whatever house is giving out Mike and Ike turns the front light off early.
JS: Full. Size. Haribo. If I may borrow a dated phrase from Vince Vaughn, that’s money. Just picture it: You, a child, of course, approach a house. You’re hoping for a fun-size pack of Skittles or maybe a handful of Starbursts. You say your line, “Trick or treat?!” in your most angelic pitch. And then a full bag of Haribo Sour S’ghetti or Twin Cherries or—jackpot—Peaches is dropped into your hollow plastic pumpkin. It’s heavy. And it’s heaven.