Mossback’s Northwest: Revisiting a classic Seattle candy

Frederick & Nelson showed Washingtonians that during the holidays, it takes two to Frango.

This is our second “Upon Further Review” episode of Mossback’s Northwest – something new we’re trying for our seventh season, in which we update an older episode based on what we heard from viewers and what we learned after it was released. These will take the form of a conversation between host Knute Berger and former longtime Mossback’s Northwest producer Stephen Hegg.

The episode “The Food That Made Seattle,” from November 2018, included this nugget: “We need to top [our survey] off with a treat, a locally made treat: The Frango. Frango is delicious chocolate candy … invented in Seattle in 1918. This is chocolate before chocolate was, like, cool.”

Mossback’s Northwest got a lot of response about this little candy. “I hardly mentioned it, but we got a lot of emails,” Berger says. “And they pointed out a mistake … the Frango was not invented in 1918, which is what I said. It was trademarked in 1918, but the candy wasn’t invented until the late 1920s at Frederick & Nelson’s department store.

“It started out as a frozen dessert – apparently, a very rich frozen dessert that they served in the Frederick & Nelson Tea Room … [Then] in the 1920s, they hired a guy named Ray Alden … an experienced candy guy [who] invented this chocolate truffle, a mint chocolate truffle. And they named it the Frango.”

Classic Mint Frangos. (Wikipedia)

Chocolate mint was the signature flavor, followed by hazelnut, rum and mocha, and the candies became particularly popular around the holidays – a magical time for grand downtown department stores, Hegg remembers; “quasi-Disneyland,” he calls it. And the Frango itself became a kind of avatar of these warm, sparkly memories, Berger says:

“It calls to mind Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, this epic memoir that was triggered by a petite madeleine, [a] little mini-cake. And I think Frangos are like that for people. They bring so much back. There’s even a book about Frangos by Robert Spector.”

A young Knute Berger (Mossback) getting to know Santa at Frederick & Nelson. (Knute Berger)

“There’s just something about sweet confections,” Berger reminisces. “Frangos, Almond Roca, Nanaimo bars … We think of these things as relatively trivial, but the memories evoked can be powerful.”

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About the Authors & Contributors

Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.

Stephen Hegg

Stephen Hegg

Stephen is formerly a senior video producer at Crosscut and KCTS 9. He specialized in arts and culture.