In honor of this weekend’s Paleopalooza festival at the Academy of Natural Sciences, the brothers behind Shane Confectionery and Franklin Fountain have gone wild with fossil-inspired candy.
People attending the two-day fest will get to try huge chocolate reptile eggs, bone-shaped fondant, edible trilobites and pieces of giant cookies shaped like dinosaur jaws, plus many more paleolithic sweets.
After all, as anyone who’s visited their Old City shops knows, Ryan and Eric Berley never turn down an opportunity to commemorate the region’s past. And it turns out that fossils — of a dinosaur, specifically — played a big part in the Academy’s history.
In 1868, the Philly museum became home to the first dinosaur skeleton ever mounted for display.
The bones, of a species called Hadrosaurus foulkii, had been discovered a decade earlier in Haddonfield, NJ. They were pieced together and arranged in a lifelike pose that rose three stories from the ground — a display that more than tripled the Academy’s attendance numbers. As recounted in detail by Wharton journalist Hoag Levins, the mounted dino eventually drew such large crowds that the Academy was forced to move to a new location, its current home at 19th and Race.
Since the skull of the Hadrosaurus was not uncovered with the rest of its body, an artist sculpted one to use — and the museum still has it. For the Paleopalooza, the Berley brothers enlisted their own artist friend to construct a wire frame modeled after the original, and then covered it with chocolate.
To go along with the edible Hadro head, Shane confectioners made an assortment of edible geodes from chocolate and rock candy.
Before they’re eaten, the faux rocks will be shown beside those huge eggs, which are filled with buttercream, and giant chocolate teeth that were modeled after real fossils.
Ryan Berley played up the science theme with a collection of edible hard-candy microscope “slides” filled with real flowers and herbs. Another confectioner put together a slate of shell fossils made entirely of chocolate.
Eric Berley, meanwhile, created two kinds of fossil-inspired ice cream. One, which he calls “Herbivore,” is based on ancient herbs like lemongrass. The other, aptly called “Carnivore,” is made with lapsang souchong tea, smoked turkey and actual alligator meat.
“Apparently crocodiles used to attack dinosaurs faces when they bent down to drink water,” Eric said. “When I heard that I had to make something in tribute.”
(This is not the first time the Berleys have made meat ice cream — Billy Penn collaborated with the brothers to make scrapple ice cream.)
One of the pieces they’re most proud of producing for this weekend’s show are two big cookies shaped like the dino jaw those ancient crocs would have nipped at.
With a row of teeth dipped in chocolate, both are likely be consumed by the end of the weekend.
Most of the candy items at the museum will be offered as free samples. The Berleys will also have an assortment of (slightly smaller) fossil-themed chocolates for sale to take home.