Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Exploring Armenia 4: Yerevan - Grand Candy

What better post to share on Halloween than one that is all about sweets! Grand Candy is one of my favorite foodie adventures in Armenia. It's a chain of candy and chocolate stores (22 locations according to their website), but it's really so much more. Here's a little backstory on Grand Candy.

Grandy Candy had its roots in the Yerevan Confectionery and Pasta Factory in 1934. In the early 1950s it became one of the largest confectionery factories of the era. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the economy in Armenia was destroyed, and with it the plant became virtually inactive. It was later privatized, but still only worked at a small percentage of it's capacity. At the end of 1999, an Armenian businessman named Hrant Vardaryan bought the company, changed the name to Grand Candy and started building a new, modern factory. In April of 2000, the company started back up with the production of confections, finding a large market and gaining popularity in the region.

Grand Candy is now the largest manufacturer of confectionery products in Armenia and the only factory in the region that processes cocoa beans. All of their products are high quality, and only use the best, totally natural ingredients. There are no artificial preservatives and additives in their products. Their products range from hard candies, chocolates, and cookies. Grandy Candy also set a record in the Guiness Book of World Records for the world's largest chocolate bar.

In addition to the Grand Candy factory and retail stores throughout Yerevan, there is also the story of the Ponchikanots, which now belongs to Grandy Candy. A ponchik is essentially fried dough filled with pastry cream, topped with powdered sugar and served piping hot (unlike other cream-filled donuts which may be served at room temperature).


The Ponchikanots Cafe was a major part of student life in Yerevan in the 1950s. My own mother has the fondest memories of going there with her friends to enjoy ponchiks and hot chocolate after classes on a regular basis. It was right by her university campus.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Ponchikanots took a major hit. It was closed and turned into offices. Once again, Hrant Vardaryan came to the rescue. He purchased the space in 2000. Here at the former site of the original Ponchikanots, he opened the updated Ponchikanots along with the Grand Candy flagship store. A pink elephant named Grand became the mascot of the store and welcomes visitors into each location.

What more can I say about Grand Candy and the Ponchikanots other than professing my love for them both. I absolutely love the confections here, especially the chocolates. My favorite chocolates by far is the collection filled with dried fruit and nuts.

Clockwise from top left: apricot/walnut, fig/walnut, peach/almond, plum/almond

Whether it's a dried apricot topped with a walnut, a dried peach paired with an almond, a dried fig partnered with a walnut, or a dried plum stuffed with an almond, all of which are then draped with dark chocolate, these creations are extraordinary. They are some of my favorite chocolates I've ever had. Local fruits and nuts, along with locally processed cocoa beans make these truly special. I bring them back as gifts for my friends, and they always fall in love just as I have.

Clockwise from top left: apricot/walnut, fig/walnut, peach/almond, plum/almond

In addition for my chocolate love, the ponchiks at the Ponchikanots also keep bringing me back. With greasy, sugary fingers, I tear apart these hot custard-filled donuts faster than you can say "ponchik." They are naughty and decadent.

Although the original vanilla custard-filled version is truly a classic, I also love the rich chocolate filled version. I didn't get a chance to try their fall flavor of the moment, featuring an apple filling, but it looked quite scrumptious as well.

I'm so thrilled to have shared with you the delicious history of Armenia's own Grand Candy. I know what I'll be enjoying this Halloween ;)

Grand Candy
54 Mesrob Mashtots Street
Yerevan, Armenia
(374 10) 532926

Colorful interior of the Ponchikanots matches similar colorful decor in all the Grand Candy stores


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