Greg's in town this weekend and we found ourselves with a little play time on our hands this morning so we decided to make the half hour drive to Glendale, a quaint little town just west of Phoenix that's rich in thrift stores and Mexican eats. There's a neighborhood restaurant there that sells tasty bastardized cheddar cheese green chile tamales that scream pocho! every time you bite them, but I'm getting ahead of myself because today, lunch came after dessert.
I'm a firm believer in dessert after every meal and I'd push for dessert after every snack too but my bathroom scale won't allow it. It just so happened that this morning as we were driving out to Bitzee Mama's for lunch, we drove by Cerreta's Candy Company. Cerreta's is a real throwback to the days of mom and pop operations, in fact, the store is decorated with murals of the Cerreta family. The patriarch, Jim Cerreta is a real life Willy Wonka who raffles off Golden Tickets and assigned each of his sons to one of the departments: chocolates, caramels, creams and the retail store. The candy factory has been around for forty years and most of the machinery is original or only slightly modified. Tubes and hoses run along the ceiling and walls, carrying molten chocolate to giant vats where it is carefully measured into plastic molds of hearts, Santas or rabbits, depending on the season. They also have some unusual molds, such as bones and feet.
Cerreta's offers free daily tours of the small factory and we'd tried to take it once before but had come at the wrong time. Today the sugar gods were smiling and we walked in right at 10:00am, just in time for a tour. We were the only two people waiting for a tour and I was certain they'd send us away but instead, a sweet smiling lady came over and started telling us all about the factory. My eyes grew as large and round as lollipops watching the thin sheets of caramel being chopped into bite sized squares, then shooting down a conveyer belt to be wrapped in cellophane and dropped off the end into neat little white boxes. Just when my inner Veruca Salt was about to be unleashed, the tour guide offered us a sample of some warm, fresh caramels that we popped into our salivating mouths and I was sent floating in heavenly bliss.
We ate our way through the various departments then hit the candy store where we sampled more, including some yummy prickly pear cactus brittle. I selected a bag of a strange looking confection called Arizona Gold; it's crunchy but light and airy like cotton candy that's been through boot camp and has gone from soft, pink and bouncing to a firm honey gold.
We buzzed out of there riding our sugar high to our lunch stop where we packed away the green chile tamales, chips and salsa, cheesy refried beans and rice then complained on the way out about our bulging panzas and our inability to move. I felt like my belly was going to pull me off balance and tip me over as I wobbled along the Glendale town square.
On our way home Greg and I looked at each other as we approached our favorite Arizona panaderia, should we stop, hadn't we eaten too much already? What the heck, as long as we were in the neighborhood we might as well get some pan dulce. We showed some self contol and only purchased half a dozen pieces of conchas, cuernitos and elotes.
It was a great day for pigging out because like the song says "Everyday will be like a holiday when my baby comes home..."