Candy is dandy in the Valley, but pizza is pizza

The other day, I was talking to my mom on the phone, and she told me my dad was beginning one of his favorite annual traditions: combing the city for Brach’s cinnamon hearts.

My dad is a cinnamon heart junkie, and weeks before Valentine’s Day his eyes begin to gleam with a ravenous light, not unlike the dad in “A Christmas Story.” One year, I got him a giant glass jar, which he tries to fill with these sweet red candies before they disappear. And they do. I went to every CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens in four towns one year looking for them, because it HAS to be Brach’s – the other kind is yucky. They somehow sell out long before Valentine’s Day, even online. But cinnamon heart mania knows no bounds.

This is not a good area to live in if you want to avoid sweets. Between Daffin’s and Gorant’s there is no shortage of good chocolates and candies around. The sweet-toothed are not safe. From childhood, kids are taken on field trips to Daffin’s Chocolate Kingdom to indoctrinate them into future chocoholics. Skip forward 30 years, and some poor soul might be tackled by chocolate factory security guards (who should theoretically be Oompa Loompas) for trying to steal a 300-pound chocolate turtle from the Chocolate Kingdom.

Not that there’s anything wrong with candy. Candy is dandy. I like candy. I, from time to time, even want candy, like the song says. I have a few Hershey Kisses rolling around my desk drawers. But I don’t necessarily need a big jar of M&Ms (orange ones ONLY, rock star-style) on my desk or emergency candy bars on hand. My Christmas bag of M&Ms often lasts until the red and green colors are way past appropriate. Maybe it was all that dentist guilt as a child. The dentist (and three years of braces) can really mold your life – like he molds your teeth.

I was a Halloween maniac, like any other kid. Me and my brother would carefully organize our giant heaps of sugary loot, swapping the worst and saving the best. My favorites were the hard-to-find flavored Tootsie Rolls and Crackles, which you only ever find in miniature form. But anything is better than getting a penny. Or a pencil. Or a popcorn ball. Those things were as hard as real baseballs.

I have some favorite candies. I recently rediscovered the beauty of Rolos, which have that odd trapezoidal shape and are filled with rich caramel. Zero bars utilize one of my favorite sweets – white chocolate – into a weird yet delicious concoction involving nougat. (What IS nougat, anyway?) I am all about Toblerones, partially because it comes in a triangular tube. Whatchamacalits are crispy and crunchy and peanut-buttery, like some lesser candy bar that shall remain nameless. Skittles and Starbursts can brighten any day.

All of this candy talk makes me want to go visit the Touch the Moon Candy Saloon, a charming penny-candy-type store in downtown Youngstown. They have the elusive flavored Tootsie Rolls, a whole bag of them for a quarter. You can also get Sugar Daddies (and Sugar Babies if you’re into the whole brevity thing), Lik-M-Stix, Mary Janes, Cow Tails, and all the other weird and wonderful sugary treats from your youth. And all the proceeds go to a good cause, too.

But, when it comes down to tasty treats that are terribly unhealthy, I will always be partial to pizza. Sorry, candy, but pizza’s cheesy and saucy ways have a hold on me. Wait, you say there’s such a thing as chocolate pizza? I don’t know what to think anymore.

What’s your favorite sweet treat? Talk candy with me at or comment on this story at