Originally published in 2008, this post about Halloween treats (and my kids costumes) has become something of a tradition for me. It’s the only post I return to and annually update, and I kind of enjoy the chance to walk down a spooky memory lane – both looking at Halloween costumes and some of the treats we’ve sampled on our travels. Hope you enjoy!
My oldest child is somewhat famous around these parts for choosing over the course of his short life a number of unusual Halloween costumes. In the spirit of the season, I thought it would be fun to feature both a montage of costumes and a list of places to get some great treats in various locales I’ve passed through with my children. This allows me to indulge in two of my favorite topics (travel and food) and share some funny photos. I also hope that in stopping to read this post I might save you from demolishing a few of those bite-sized candy bars that you surely already have lying around.
Please note that I made the sacrifice of trying everything that I describe below. What can I say? I’m just that devoted to my readers.
So here is Tommy’s first Halloween costume:
That’s my child dressed as a donut – a sprinkle donut to be more precise. And perhaps the reason that he chose this costume, insisted on it, was that even at two, he knew from donuts, having had a number of opportunities to try them.
Happily for me, I can get what I consider to be the best cider donuts in the world about five minutes from my house. Milburn Orchards, a family-run affair that also offers apples, pumpkins, and a great petting zoo. But the primary allure is the donuts; not too sweet, with a fabulous texture.
If you’re in the mood for something a little smaller, Matt and the boys swear by the mini maple donuts to be found at the Big Picture Theater and Café in Waitsfield, Vermont.
And a final note about donuts in a surprising place. Il Rifrullo, the little bar up the street from the apartment we rented in the Oltrarno in Florence had some fabulous ones flavored with orange water. And the cappuccinos weren’t bad either.
So now we’re on to Tommy’s second Halloween costume, and it’s a doozy. When Tommy was three, he decided he wanted to be a blade of grass:
Yes, people were confused, and yes they did ask if he was dressed as Saint Patrick or Gumby. But he was insistent and always said quite distinctly that he was a blade of grass. Not a piece of grass, not just grass. A blade. And you know what? Cows eat grass and then produce milk and cream, and we all know what that means at this blog! Ice cream.
I’ve talked elsewhere about Berthillon in Paris and Vivoli in Florence, and I recommend them again here. Stateside I recommend The Sweet Spot in Vermont, Amy’s in Texas, the Island Creamery in Virginia, and Woodside Farm right here in Delaware.
But if what you’re craving is a milkshake, the place to go is sunny South Pasadena, California where the Fair Oaks Pharmacy and Soda Fountain will serve you one with an entire pint of ice cream in it. And if you think that it’s not possible to finish such a thing, well, I double dare you to go and try (bring your kid to share if you must).
So a blade of grass is tough to top and the following year, Tommy was a monster in a homemade costume. We believe in homemade costumes at our house. In fact, most of our costumes are more abstract than literal although this one was a little bit fierce:
This was followed, after a few months in kindergarten, and a new awareness of folklore, with his hero, Johnny Appleseed. Although, for the record, he insisted that he was Tommy Appleseed:
Now apples, that’s easy (yes I skipped the monster, but I’m trying to keep this a quick and breezy read). Apples of course make me think of pie and when I think of pie I think of another Pasadena landmark, the Pie ‘n Burger where you can get apple pie and a number of other varieties, including my favorite, ollallieberry.
And for something a little different, I’d suggest the Skinny Pancake in Burlington, Vermont, where they sell a tasty little morsel called the Hot Apple Crispy which is a crepe full of apples, honey, cinnamon, whipped cream, with an optional side of ice cream.
At six, Tommy dressed as a spy:
His dark costume gets me thinking about chocolate And since it’s getting to be a bit chilly here, I prefer my chocolate on the warm side. You can always go to Angelina on the Rue de Rivoli for a hot chocolate the next time you’re in Paris. But I actually cast my vote for Rivoire in Florence. The silken substance served in the white cups there is worthy of its own food group. And while you eat it (which is indeed what you do – it can practically be cut with a knife) you are gazing at the lovely Piazza della Signoria, one of the great open-air museums in the world.
And what if you’re just looking to stock up on candy? Especially some of the older varieties that are tough to come by these days? I have two recommendations (and both of them offer mail order). Either branch of The Vermont Country Store is worth a visit just for the hundreds of varieties of candy. My kids went nuts for the licorice, gummy worms, malted milk balls and rock candy all presented in old-fashioned self-service glass jars – just grab a paper bag and help yourself. And the iconic Dylan’s Candy Bar in Manhattan is like ever child’s dream come to technicolor life.
In 2009 Tommy’s passion was reading the Hardy Boys mysteries and so he dressed up as Joe Hardy. Teddy was a brachiosaurus (which is what they now insist we call a brontosaurus. I think it has something to do with the fact that Pluto isn’t a planet). The costume, which he helped to make, had glittery toenails.
I’m going to admit that the Hardy Boys had me stymied for a minute. And then I remembered their friend Chet who is always starving. In fact, a trope in these novels is Chet’s enormous appetite, which is often slaked by huge sandwiches. And where, I ask you, can you get better sandwiches than at Joe’s Farm Grill in Gilbert, Arizona? As a bonus, they offer some fare that is a little out of the ordinary like an Ahi tuna burger and horchata cupcakes – I’m sure that these adventurous menu items would satisfy the intrepid Hardy brothers.
That may have been our last year of quirky, homemade costumes – popular culture and a Wii entered our life in force in 2010 and I’m sad to report that the boys both wanted store-bought costumes. However, Tommy continued to buck convention by refusing to wear the glasses with his Harry Potter costume, despite the fact that they cost five dollars. He was insistent that they just looked horrible and wrong. We also did make his wand using a stick and duct tape:
And here’s Pikachu with his unorthodox pumpkin:
Harry Potter reminds of the dining halls at Hogwarts and of our visit to university in Oxford, where these were filmed in the movies. We didn’t have anything to eat there that would qualify as a treat, but in London we saw retro British candies sold at several tony department stores, my favorite of which are actually called “Potted Shrimps” – doesn’t that sound like something Harry and his friends would eat?
2011 may have presented the most challenging costumes to connect to treats yet. I present Wario and a baseball catcher:
Luckily, I’m pretty clever. That getup of Tommy’s has me thinking about our trip to Boston, when we visited the famous Fenway Park. And since what do you need more before and after a baseball game than a huge smoothie or some all-day breakfast, I recommend Trident Booksellers and Cafe, which offers both. Or if you need some heavy duty resuscitation fueled by dessert after the game (it was a bit of a dispiriting season wasn’t it?) perhaps the Indian pudding at Durgin Park will fit the bill.
Here are the boys in full 2012 regalia: Gangnam style and Meap (a little alien who pops up now and again on Phineas and Ferb):
What treats can I put with these costumes you might ask? Well, Tommy’s makes me think of Asian food, and that puts me in mind of Wagamama – my favorite Asian chain with outposts all over Britain. I recently ate at the one in Heathrow Airport’s international terminal in fact, when Matt and I were returning from Scotland in September.
And for 2013, meet Harry Potter (yes, recycled) and Bad Grandpa:
Once again my oldest child is stretching the limits of my creativity. What possible connection could Bad Grandpa have to food? Well, I think he would let kids come to the bar with him while he drank a little Pabst Blue Ribbon and ate some fried cheese curds. And what better place could he possibly have to do that than Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub in Milwaukee, Wisconsin? I didn’t call the offerings there the best bar food yet for nothing. If the kids are lucky, grandpa won’t accidentally hit them with a dart.
And here are the 2014 costumes: A cute Ewok (Teddy is obsessed with Star Wars) and what may be my favorite costume for Tommy yet: Bacon Boy!