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

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.

chris.erskine@latimes.com

twitter.com/erskinetimes

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