Sweetness Personified


 You can learn a lot about a person by looking at their candy profile.

Take the Cute Gardener for instance. In life he is rather pointed about what he ingests and what he surrounds himself with. He is balanced and non-indulgent. He likes to maintain a cadre of regularly cherished things that have been tried and are true and give him delight. This lends itself to his cabinet of specialty bourbon, his repetitive varieties of produce in the garden, and his love of high caliber dark chocolate and cacao nibs. Waxy grocery store chocolate will never find its way into his grocery cart and he can smell upon entering a candy boutique whether they are using cheap ingredients or not. For him, his candy profile is direct but not simple, narrowly fixated in high class, not overly fatty and slightly bitter, much like him.

Then there was my Grandmother Jeanne. Her home throughout my childhood always maintained the presence of floral shaped crystal dishes on every tabletop in the living room or den that held candy. The candies were mostly hard, translucent and bright like glassy jewels. Not much more than colored sugar individually wrapped in noisy cellophane (impossible to sneak by my greedy little hands without waking the whole household). On Sundays after church she would give us butterscotch gems from her pocket for the car ride home, which she had already enjoyed herself, sucking on one piece slowly during the psalms and hymns. Startlingly, when I saw a psychic in my late 30s, he mentioned the presence of a black-haired woman who watched over me in heaven, who was perpetually taking hard candies from her apron to stick between her pink Max Factor lips and I knew this was Jeanne. She was clear, super sweet, savoring of life and slightly rigid, just like her ever-present candies. She was also a prolific oil painter, which complemented her desire to have bowls as palettes holding the various hues of sweets in her immediate environment.

For me, candy has become an occasional event embraced with gusto. I am more in touch with the inviting in of joy and pleasure into my life as a regular occurrence yet as an adult who has learned that balance is the key to all things, for a hedonist like me, this means I need to be careful with abundance. Whether we are talking about my hips, my relationships, or my well being … I have accumulated the habits of one who knows that delving into too much of a good thing isn’t always the best thing for me. So my relationship with candy is a special thing, like going out to dinner for my birthday, which I set up and plan for in advance and enjoy for a brief moment in time.

Three or four times a year, I get the itch to visit Sugarfina, which, as I have written about before, offers a treasure chest of delights to a girl like me. When I enter the clear glass jewelry box in Beverly Hills that is its home, I feel like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. And in fact, the walls of this illustrious candy palace are indeed the same shade of Tiffany blue. Yes, the tiny clear boxes only hold 5-20 small candies per each. Yes, those boxes range anywhere from $7 to $12 a piece. I know that is an exorbitant amount to spend on candy. But I don’t care because it is a rare and celebrated encounter. There are candies from all over the world, chosen for their unique beauty and attributes, and I like to dabble in such a broad selection. As for my sugar profile, what this says about me, is that when I am being bad I want to be bad with only the utmost quality of sin and I am willing to pay big bucks for it so that I don’t take advantage of my treats or treat the occasion as if it is something that can become a regular thing. These are all careful barriers I put up between me and my love of the sugar rush to ensure I appreciate it while it lasts but am cautious not to partake of all too often.

As for my actual choices—they range. They spotlight my fickleness, spontaneity and sense of adventure. They also denote other smaller idiosyncrasies of my personality and tastes such as a constant desire to try new things. On my most recent visit I stocked up on Jamaican Rum Snowballs and Scotch Cordials-each filled with real liquor to satisfy my current love of dessert and booze combinations like the cocktails Brandy Alexander and White Russian. A box of matcha covered caramels matches my interest in traditional Chinese medicine and the healing elixir of green tea. A cube of dinosaur egg-reminiscent Dionysus Dark Chocolate Covered Walnuts piques the lover of Greek god/goddess culture in me with its fortifying nuts imported from the place that boasts the birth of knowledge and my inner mourning for the lost library of Alexandria.The soft outer layer of the Toffee Peanut Butter Truffles reminds me of the basic flour and peanut butter balls stuck in the center with an M&M that I used to make in preschool. It was a primal snack made with messy fingers and fun and now this adult version comes stuck in the middle with surprising bits of chewy gourmet toffee. The Acai Dark Chocolate Covered Blueberries make me feel as if I am incorporating superfoods into my decadence and along with the Dark Chocolate Covered Bananas, fulfill my cravings for small, sweet bites to accompany my morning or afternoon tea time.

It is very ceremonial how I set up these beautiful little boxes under the coffee table vowing to have one piece a day until they are gone. Then the boxes get relegated to the LEGO collection where they become transparent containers to separate parts. In actuality, what ends up happening is that I use this functional need for the LEGOs as an excuse to make the candies disappear a little more quickly than intended and my Sugarfina affair slowly dissipates over the course of a week or two.

And then I become a normal human again, content to ignore the leftover Mounds bars in the hallway bowl leftover from Halloween.

Sugar Rush for Adults

IMG_1399They had me at the chocolate typewriter …

I admit that I am a true blue snob when it comes to my sweet tooth. For example, I have been telling the Cute Gardener for the past two years that I love candy but he’s yet to see me eat anything other than dark chocolate Valrhona baking squares from the upscale foodie warehouse sales we frequent twice a year, which basically provide the mainstays for dessert in our household.  I have no desire to purchase waxy, tasteless candy bars or jelly beans at the grocery store but I am always on the look out for good quality marzipan, caramels, honeycomb and watermelon or grapefruit slice sweet and sour gummies. In Los Angeles, I have only found good varieties of this on a whim at Bottega Louie. I simply can’t find good candy so I never buy it even though I am a self-admitted sugar addict. Maybe this rarity of quality is a good thing.

IMG_1389All of that went out the window when I was invited to a party at Sugarfina in Beverly Hills, which touts itself as a candy store for adults. At the front door we were greeted by a smiling woman holding a tray of black cherry centered balls and fruit loop reminiscent crunchies and told that the back room had Champagne and whiskey waiting for us. I think I, along with all the other ladies in the room, released a communal swoon.

IMG_1391But seriously, as far as candy stores go, this one has the chops to back up its overwhelmingly Tiffany-blue, girlie bling on-site seduction. The store’s periphery is lined with shelves carrying multiple varieties of all things sugar that you can buy on average for $7 or $14 bucks a pop in a see-through, toy-like box. A high price to pay for dollops of sweet stuff? Not when it’s good and it was. There were so many things to choose from but the immediate objects of my affection were tiny lemon-infused, white chocolate covered marzipan ovals called Lemon Cakes; crystal sugar-coated brown gum drops that tasted exactly like apple pie and gummies that swirled flavors of Bourbon and Coke onto the tongue. I was also itching to try the various forms of licorice from fruity to sweet to salty as well as the many forms of small chewy balls covered in flavored chocolate like green tea and cinnamon.

IMG_1390The owner Rosie O’Neill explained that the inspiration for the store came on her third date with her co-owner and husband while they were watching Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. They wanted to create a candy store for adults.


On that note the CG and I went home, broke out the honey whiskey, Bourbon and LEGOs and enjoyed an R-rated evening with Sugarfina’s candy while creating our own individual versions of Pasadena’s Gamble House.