Find out which sweets to get your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day! Self-proclaimed chocolate lover Sonja Hansen will review three local shops leading up to Feb. 14.
The first time I visited Candy Heaven (1201 Front St), I was in fourth grade. My class had taken a field trip to a colonial-style boat that was anchored at a dock in Old Sac across from Candy Heaven.
At the end of the tour, a Candy Heaven employee was waiting on the dock with coupons for free taffy samples.
My classmates and I rushed to the worker and ran across the street to Candy Heaven. Bursting into the store, I found dozens of barrels filled to the brim with taffy.
I suddenly realized that none of my classmates had followed me, so I looked back. At the doorway, my classmates were wide-eyed and petrified. I had been so excited about my free candy that I didn’t fully take in my surroundings until then.
I looked across the store and saw two horrifying clown mannequins with ghoulish grins. One of the nightmare-inducing clown mannequins held a sign that read “Free Hugs.”
It was the perfect picture of a candy hell instead of a Candy Heaven. I screeched and ran outside.
So for six years, I held a grudge against the Candy Heaven worker who had lured us into the infernal shop with free samples.
Needless to say, I was worried about returning to this place, but it was time to toughen up and claim my right to try some of the taffy I had been promised six years ago.
As soon as we walked in, I saw the same old clowns that had absolutely terrified me, but this time one was sitting on a box that shook his body like he was constantly in the midst of a stroke.
I was so transfixed by the clown having an eternal seizure that I didn’t even notice the friendly clerk instructing us on the layout of the store.
Customers can try a few samples of taffy from any of the few dozens of barrels with blue labels, but the employees are pretty easygoing, so we got away with trying several.
If you can work up enough courage to face these menacing clowns for your sweetheart, skip the taffy.
We tried Coca Cola, caramel, watermelon, pomegranate, spearmint, chicken and waffles, red velvet cake and chocolate, and I spit each one out. The taffy was like putty dipped in sugar and garbage and then wrapped in wax paper. Sophomores Molly Gherini and Carlos Nunez said they thought the taffy was okay, but the sticky sweets are definitely an acquired taste. Taffy is sold in bulk ($4.35 per half-pound).
To rinse the wretched taste from my mouth, we bought a Sprecher root beer ($1). Molly drank about half of the bottle before we had even bought it. She said that a couple Sprechers and some sweet-and-sour candy would make a perfect Valentine’s Day for her.
Candy Heaven has lots of joke candy. The edible liquid boogers ($1.50), worm lollies ($2.50), chocolate-covered insects ($3.50) and Harry Potter-themed treats ($3.50) show that the store doesn’t take itself as seriously as the sophisticated Le Grand Confectionary, which I visited recently.
I was particularly drawn to the wall of candy chapsticks ($3.50) with flavors such as chocolate frosting, frosted cinnamon roll, chocolate chip cookies, French toast and Fruit Gushers.
I tried a peppermint chapstick and a Betty Crocker Molten Chocolate Cake chapstick. The peppermint smelled like strong Vicks vapor rub.
But if you’re planning on giving some smooches on Valentine’s Day, I’d recommend using some chocolate cake chapstick. It was just like a bite of fresh, moist chocolate cake.
In one corner of the store, there is a glass display case with hundreds of plain-looking chocolates and one thick, colorful stack of chocolate- and sprinkle-dipped pretzels. Molly ran over and pressed her nose up against the glass to get a better look at the fat pretzels with sprinkles.
After inspecting the sprinkle-covered delicacies she whipped around and asked if we could get some. I agreed.
We also selected several truffles from the wide range of available flavors.
A man put the pretzels and a selection of truffles in one bag, so it was hard to determine what kind of chocolate it was without biting into it. Chocolate is also sold in bulk ($4.35 per half-pound).
Candy Heaven sells mini peanut butter cups, which are about the size of a quarter, and large peanut butter cups, which are fist-sized. We chose the minis, which had a thick top layer of chocolate. The peanut butter was much more appetizing.
Candy Heaven minis make Reese’s taste bland.
My favorite chocolate was the milk chocolate marshmallow. The candy is kind of crisp and tastes like vanilla.
But the mint milk chocolate truffle was disappointing. It’s like a disappointing burst of sweet toothpaste.
If none of Candy Heaven’s homemade sweets are satisfactory, there are also big-brand candies like Kit Kats, Nerds, Sour Patch Kids and Twix.
Before checking out, we passed a display of candy lingerie tucked away on a high shelf. I dared Molly to buy either a bra ($15), g-string ($15), garter ($10), or pair of handcuffs ($10), but she had to decline after realizing that she had no money.
And I couldn’t muster up enough courage to face the judgmental stares from the clowns and employees to buy one.
Check back for the next review on Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates!
—By Sonja Hansen