The first things you see when you step up to Kilwins window on the south side of the second block of Rehoboth Avenue are two huge marble tables. More often than not, four rectangular stainless steel rods (they’re called slab bars) will define the perimeter of a freshly poured and shiny lake of molten fudge. The marble and the steel cool the mixture evenly to promote proper molecular crystallization to achieve the required fudgy consistency. The same tables are also used to make Kilwins slightly salty and ridiculously good cashew brittle. You heard it here first, kids.
The Rehoboth Beach Kilwins is a locally owned (Gary and Claudia Simpson of Henlopen Holdings, LLC) franchise of Don & Katy Kilwin’s Petoskey, Michigan candy store founded in 1947. Most of the chocolates, candies, taffy and ice cream are made on ’40s and ’50s vintage equipment at the central Michigan location that provides product to about 80 Kilwins stores. But the really critical stuff — the caramel and the fudge — are made right there on Rehoboth Avenue.
My two favorite things at Kilwins are (1) the dark chocolate cashew turtle and (2) the sea salt caramel ice cream. The turtle is huge and chock-full of what must be a quarter-pound of plump cashews bound together with smooth and creamy caramel crowned with dark chocolate. It’s also available in milk chocolate, but I prefer the reduced sweetness of the dark. Whole cashews are not cheap, and they use the best. I genuinely believe that Kilwins’ caramel is the best around. It’s immediately obvious that it’s made from high quality ingredients. The laws of economics naturally kick in, and that translates into sweet creations that are fairly pricey. If you appreciate high quality candy, it’s worth every penny. But be careful! When you get into the “Ohh, I’ll take one of those, and two of those … oooo … those round things look good too: Give me three of them and two of the white things next to them” mode after a couple of cocktails at the Parrot, the resulting register total can be a buzzkill if you’re not prepared. Trust me, it can happen. Ask me how I know. But it’s worth every penny, assuming you intended to spend your pennies on high quality confections.
But I keep going back, and so do many, many fans. And one of the reasons is the sea salt caramel ice cream. In spite of the multiple emails urging me to try it, it took me a while to get around to trying it (even I have my limits!). Gadzooks! It’s really good. Salt and caramel are made for one another, and along with the cool ice cream, make for the perfect bite. This one is definitely a Foodie pick.
Kilwins also makes several things I’ve never seen anywhere else. Like the Rice Krispie Treats on-a-stick, enrobed in chocolate or caramel and maybe sprinkled with chopped pecans or maybe not. And these people know exactly what to do with a marshmallow: They dip it in caramel, drizzle it with chocolate (or not) and perhaps roll it in chopped pecans and/or toasted coconut. So many combinations. (They actually call the Rice Krispie things “Krispie Treats.” Snap, Crackle & Pop do retain lawyers, y’know.)
Caramel apples take center stage in the fall, of course, starting with plain (encased in that amazing caramel), or encrusted with pecans, M&Ms, peanuts — you name it.
Cashew Brittle in its infancy...1/15 The cooling table for the freshly poured fudge.2/15 WOW these are good.3/15 English Toffee/Buttercrunch4/15 Caramel Apples — especially in the fall5/15 Caramel Krispies. Get ready for a treat.6/15 And you thought Oreos couldn’t get any better!7/15 So many treats, so little time.8/15 They may look cute, but they’re watchin’ out for their Trademark.9/15 An assortment of goodies10/15 Those cashew turtles!11/15 Scary Halloween assortments12/15 Milk Chocolate leaves in the fall13/15 Get this ice cream!14/15 Taffy15/15
The sea salt and caramel theme is also carried over into their fudge. A ribbon of milky caramel tops the buttery chocolate fudge, and then it’s all sprinkled with Bali Pyramid sea salt (they pay around $150 for 40 pounds of the crackly, crunchy stuff!). Seasonal and regular flavors include pumpkin walnut, chocolate English walnut, chocolate peanut butter, plain peanut butter and double dark chocolate.
Oh, and don’t forget the peanut brittle! Nutty and delightfully salty. Get two bags — y’never know….
By the way, did you know that fudge freezes perfectly? It’s a Foodie fact: If you wrap it as tightly as possible in plastic wrap, or evacuate as much air as you can from a plastic Ziploc (or, better yet, use a vacuum device), it will store in the freezer for a long time. Open it up, let it thaw on the counter, and dig in. Now you can take advantage of the local 2 fer and 3 fer fudge sales off-season here at the beach. Life is uncertain. Stock up!
Kilwins is at 140 Rehoboth Avenue. They are open all year, usually starting at about 11 a.m., but always call for off-season hours (302) 227-3611. Check out their cute website by clicking here.
If you’re having a dinner party and can’t figure out what to get for dessert, try the Krispie treats-on-a-stick enrobed in caramel and coated with chopped pecans. Or maybe the caramel marshmallows on-a-stick with toasted coconut. Ask me how I know.