Man About Town: Valentine's candyland at Sweet! Hollywood

I'm in my traditional Cupidian buying frenzy leading up to Valentine's Day, my major organs bursting with good intentions, not knowing quite where to turn, getting a little angry about it actually — the frustrations of unbridled romance, bordering on malice, verging on angina.

Is this what they call lovesick?

Or is it that wad-nut of food still stuck in my gullet from the Super Bowl party? During the power outage, I washed down the perfect barbecue sandwich with a double dose of chili, chased by teriyaki meatballs and fistfuls of Lebanese chicken, topped by about 50 oatmeal cookies.

Candy store: In the Feb. 9 Saturday section, a column about the Sweet! Hollywood candy store misspelled candy maker Craig Montgomery's first name as Greg. Also, the caption for a photo with the column said that the columnist and Montgomery were making taffy. They were making hard candy. —

Doctors have a term for this: concrete.

They can zap it with lasers, or they can just sit around and watch me writhe, which is what my health plan recommends.

So I'm in perfect shape for my favorite holiday. The list goes like this: Valentine's, D-day, Boxing Day, Bill Murray's birthday. They are really the only holidays worth celebrating.

And I don't hold nothin' back.


"To be in love is merely to be in a state of perceptual anesthesia."

H.L. Mencken


What can I say about love that hasn't already been said two dozen trillion times, except that it's responsible for global warming, global cooling and way too much sappy alto sax music?

Almost 50 years later, I'm still getting over my divorce from Marilyn Monroe. We were married when I was 4, which is a little young. I caught her in a weak moment between Miller and DiMaggio and JFK and RFK. I think all she wanted was someone to hold her.

She taught me that when it comes to love, there are no boundaries, except the legal and moral ones. And the economic ones.

So off I go to Hollywood to pick up Valentine's gifts that are (like she was) a little blowzy and over the top.

At Hollywood & Highland, I find the Beyoncé of candy stores. Sweet! Hollywood is the name, which requires you to put an exclamation mark after the first word, a confusing confection all by itself.

This is only slightly more annoying than those mash-up names, such as NBCUniversal or Herbalife. As if doing something cute with a corporate name can substitute for value or customer service.

But Sweet! Hollywood is pretty irresistible. The place is 28,000 square feet of candy of every brand and flavor. There's even a gum ball race track where part of the course runs through an actual Ferrari.

It's a fetching centerpiece to a stunning store, the gum ball course snaking into one exhaust pipe and out the other, in a sort of candy-oscopy.

You've probably never heard of this mega-candy shop, for it's just opened and resides in this vault-like Hollywood & Highland mall that is so difficult to access they may as well surround it with a moat.

But drive down Highland Avenue and into the parking garage that is like five layers of hell.

Sweet! Hollywood is worth this small agony, the first destination candy store I have ever seen, smelled, tasted, massaged.

That's right, massaged. Because ultimately, romance is a hands-on experience.


"Love is a grave mental disease."

— Plato


I'm up to my elbows in hot sugar, adding some coloring, flipping the big candy glob when it gets too cool on one side.

Candy maker Craig Montgomery is letting me lend a hand, a perk not usually offered. But customers get a firsthand view of his candy work. If you can dream it, Montgomery can make it. Off to the side are candy tulips that look like stained glass from the Renaissance.

That's just one of the novelty stations at this store, which also features a window where you pick the fillings for your custom chocolate bar: marshmallow, toffee, even Baco-Bits.

"Dark chocolate is like the spoiled brat of chocolate," a counter girl says as I muff my first bar in another backstage foray. "It needs extra care."

Don't all of us.

So take this little bit of advice: Whisk your Valentine down to the boulevard for a little dinner at some overpriced trattoria, then cap the evening off with a stroll through this half-acre candyland.

Let him or her fill a bag with goodies, from the marshmallow room, or the truffles room or one of the 1,200 styles of lollipops in stock.

If you don't get lucky, at least a little, it's time to move on.

Love's like that — sometimes forever, sometimes catch and release.

At least that's what my Marilyn used to say.

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