Monday, December 17, 2012

Frango Mints

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Winter holidays are great for food. I grew up baking Pfeffernüsse, stollen, and gingerbread. Now I live on the East Coast and holidays come with pizzelles, panetonne, and cannoli. Nothing symbolizes a holiday like food.

Even in Philly, one of my holdout Christmas traditions from my family roots in Wisconsin is that there must be a holiday plate of Frango chocolate meltaway mints. Just the name... Frango... sounds festive.

If you're not from the Midwest or Pacific Northwest, you may not be familiar with Frango mints. The luscious chocolate candies were a hallmark of the old Marshall Field's department store chain that had its flagship store in Chicago. And what a store it was! Until 1999 hordes of Milwaukeeans made annual Christmas treks to the Magnificent Mile and the Marshall Field's store there. For kids and grownups alike, one of the favorite stops was the 13th floor, where we could watch Frango mints being made behind the big glass windows.

Manda from
There were other Marshall Field's stores, of course, including a couple in the Milwaukee area. Eventually, though, as economic hard times took their toll, there was just one. It was still a great store with top quality merchandise—and, of course, our beloved Frango mints. All the years my kids were growing up, we had a few boxes at hand. Just ask the boys sometime and they'll tell you they remember the Frangos. Even when I moved out to Philadelphia and married again, I would go back to Milwaukee to visit and return with my luggage full of Frango mints for myself and for gifts.

And then in 2005, Marshall Field's was gone, bought out by the chain that owns Macy’s, and the remnants turned into Macy’s stores. I was sad, but also hopeful. Philadelphia had no Marshall Field's stores—in my opinion this made the region sadly lacking—but we do have Macy's. Surely Macy's would now stock Frango mints! I would be able to buy them on a whim, just because, as a gift for a friend I was visiting, just as I had done in Milwaukee. And, especially, I would be able to buy them simply for the nostalgic joy of it at Christmas.

Macy's turned out to be a Grinch. Though the candies are still made (ironically, they are now made in Pennsylvania by Gertrude Hawk), they are not sold in Philadelphia area stores. I can buy them online, but that's simply not much fun and the shipping cost makes me grumble. The mints are still carried by the Milwaukee Macy's, however. Aisles of the candies happily beckon and I happily go on my annual Frango hunt. I fly to Milwaukee, visit Mom and my siblings, my son who still lives in Wisconsin, and a few friends. Sometimes we all pile over to Macy's and buy shopping bags full of Frango mints.

This year on my return trip my carryon luggage held a second pair of jeans, a sweater, pajamas, some socks and underwear... and ten boxes of Frango mints. I gave one box to my dentist, who sometimes charges me nothing for visits, I think because I bring him Frangos. One of my husband's 94 year old Italian aunts looks forward to her box every year since I started bringing them in 2001 hoping to ingratiate myself with the family. But I save the bulk of the Frangos for myself and my house.

Because Christmas isn't Christmas without holiday-decorated Frango mints on the table.

So what's your favorite Christmas candy?


Also, this is the last post for which comments also count toward my giveaway drawing for the Purrfectly Giftastic Blog Hop! Have a joyous holiday.


  1. Mine isn't something I could buy. My favorite Christmas candy was the melt-in-your-mouth fudge my ex-MIL made every year at Christmas and only then. It was the perfect blend of bitter and sweet chocolate that was never too gooey or too hard. She put walnut pieced in it that were chopped down to a sixteenth of an inch square, and I know she used a little bit of marshmallow cream but it was mixed so well you never ever saw it in the finished product. Sadly, she died last April, and even though we have the recipe, my tries at making her fudge have this side of a disaster compared to hers.

  2. Hmmm... Favorite holiday candy? I don't have one. The only thing candy-related we ever do for Christmas is put candycanes on the tree, and, sometimes, if we have enough money that year, we make candy wreaths. I like scraping the edge of teh scissors along the bottom of the strings to make them curly after it gets tired onto the wire hanger. :)