The Santa Barbara Spot prawns we picked up recently at Santa Monica Seafood, inspired by Michael Cimarusti's salt cooking technique, set us back $13.95. For two. Not exactly a cost-cutting shopping stop, though they were fantastic (and our luck, still in season). The bargain consolation prize: A $4.99, 1-pound bag of assorted salt water taffy parked inconspicuously by the check-out counter.

Actually, those 71 candies (we counted) are the reason we regularly stop by to the fish market. Because we're supposed to eat more healthy seafood, right?

On a recent visit, we asked if the taffy was locally made, more out of habit than anything else. “Isn't it great?” said our check-out clerk, smiling and spurning a conversation about what other classic candies we liked (candied camote was a mutual winner). “It's from Salt Lake City.”

Pineapple Taffy (top); Credit: JGarbee

Pineapple Taffy (top); Credit: JGarbee

That's probably a good thing, as otherwise the taffy likely would have set us back five times as much. Custom-designed labels and local “artisanal” guarantees tend to do that sort of thing to old-school candies.

Here, in fact, there is no label, just a pile of candy in an unlabeled plastic bag that the seafood market likely buys in bulk. The chocolate is the best version in chewy salt water taffy form we've tasted, a tricky medium for an ingredient that tends to prefer snappy bars and silky custards. Judging by the colors and patterns on the taffy, we're betting Santa Monica Seafood orders theirs from Sweet's Candy.

But we really don't want to know. We're quite happy with our anonymous, 7-cents-a-piece pineapple candy. It's too intensely yellow and green to be naturally colored, and certainly not corn syrup-sustainable or healthy by any taffy pulling stretch. All the more reason to buy your taffy at a local, sustainable seafood market –you've already got those dinner table angles covered by the (salt water) fish.

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