Digesting Caramelpalooza: A Judge's View

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The People's Choice award went to Monica Castillo of Churn for Caramelpalooza's other frozen dessert, Salted Caramel Swirl Ice Cream. With a great buttery flavor supported by buttered cashews, it's no surprise that this ice cream was a hit with the crowd. I definitely finished my entire portion, which says a lot with 18 sweets to taste. However, the Platano Paleta just beat this one out with its rich, complex flavor.

David Duarte of Hyatt Regency Phoenix took home a prize with his Dulce de Leche Praline Crunch Bars. The only real candy bar entered, it had praline and caramel enrobed in dark chocolate. This was the softest, creamiest caramel of the event, rightfully earning Best Traditional Caramel.

Best Non-Traditional Caramel went to Tammie Coe for Concord Grape Caramel Tadpoles. The presentation of these was clean and modern, and the caramel was of competitive quality. I only wish these had been made with another flavor candy, maybe something one part odd and one part trendy, like pomegranate. The Concord Grape tasted a bit artificial; some ripe red wine grapes would have been stellar and less kiddish.

Slade Grove's Chocolate Ganache Caramel came in a close second for Best in Show. It was incredibly rich and decadent, and I wish I could have finished the whole thing. Although buried under the ganache and a cookie, the silky, well-crafted caramel sauce was the star of show.

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Dominique Chatterjee