Candy Crushed

Sweet disasters that stick in the memory.

Roberto Gonzalez

As we assembled this month’s package on sweets, I was reminded of my first experience as a candymaker at age 11. I had decided to take my mom’s recipe for chocolate oatmeal candy and make a batch for her birthday. What could go wrong? It was all on paper in front of me: butter, cocoa, sugar, milk, oatmeal and vanilla.

Oh, and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Which my fifth-grade brain somehow read as a quarter-cup.

Later, after gargling with a quarter-cup of Listerine and watching Mom scrape the warm pot of chocolaty glop into the trashcan, I made a subconscious decision to strike “confectioner’’ off my list of career choices. And I’ve rarely attempted to make candy or cookies since.

Consuming them is another story. And speaking of stories, dining critic Joseph Hayes has dozens of sugary tales in this issue as he explores the world of local sweets and the experts who make them. Included are ice cream and cake makers, cookie and pie bakers—and yes, people who really know how to make chocolates. A special treat: international sweets, including the incredible Ferrero Choco Brick Toast on our cover, made by Krungthep Tea Time in Winter Park. All of this is just in time for Valentine’s Day so you can treat your beloved to some out-of-this-world concoctions like the 24-scoop, bring-the-friends ice cream sundae at Sugar Factory. Or a peanut butter satin pie at Sister Honey’s. Or a selection of chocolates crafted so beautifully, you’d rather look at them than eat them. Well, almost.

Of course, columnist Greg Dawson would have you settle for a box of cheap candy and a single rose procured from the grocery store, but by his own admission he’s a bull in a china shop when it comes to romance. Read Greg’s confessions in his “Extra Pulp’’ column, along with his take on the sticky challenges that schools face on Valentine’s Day.

Elsewhere in this issue, Mary Ann DeSantis relates her fascinating journey to Cuba, where limited travel has started again after the restoration of diplomatic relations with the U.S. It’s definitely a bucket-list trip. And in our Body & Soul section, Loraine O’Connell has some tips from allergists about how to keep sneezes under control this spring.

Finally, here’s an update on my quest outlined in October to eat all 11 of the multi-deck calorie bombs in our Burger Issue within 11 months. I chickened out. I did finish the great O-Mag Burger from Beth’s Burger Bar but then had my annual physical and…well, let’s just say that I’ve extended the time period to 11 years. So, reluctantly, I’ll make no written promises about sweets—yes, my dare-to-eat-everything-in-the-issue days are over. However, we are here to help you cope with the enormous sweet tooth you’re about to have:

Our annual Top Dentists issue is in March.

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