By Laura Medina
Sure Cirque du Soliel's "Iris" may be departing Hollywood and Highland media/shopping complex next month. How's that for a New Year?
But something "sweet" has landed in its place...the world's biggest candy store, "Sweet!" A 30,000 square foot candy store, huge enough to have four satellite candy boutiques then it took over a hotel suite at the nearby Lowes Hotel.
What used to be exclusively a brand relaunch of the Willy Wonka Chocolate brand has exploded into a candy department store a.k.a. a candy wonderland.
It arrived just in time for the holidays. If you study the window displays longer and closer, each window display describes an episode or an adventure in Willy Wonka's life, discovering the chocolates from all five courses of the world...even diving underwater for new flavors and textures.
There's a hard candy display window then there's a volcano spewing hot chili chocolate lava. Turn around, there's Mr. Wonka directing a chocolate children's choir.
For a more down-to-earth instructional but entertaining experience, Sweet! has a real-life chocolate bar factory, the Chocolate Lab (a brown Labrador is the factory's mascot) that makes customized chocolate bar based on a customer's picks and choices of dark or milk chocolate shell, marshmallow or Nutella fillings, different picks of nuts and wacky bits ranging from Cheerios to poprocks to bacon bits.
The really cool part was watching the chocolatiers mold, fill, sprinkle, pour, and scrape then send the two bars down a cooling rack.
The more intense experience was watching old-fashion hard candy and lollipops being pour out on a cooling tables like hot, molten sugar lava at Sticky!, Sweet!'s hard candy lab.
Watching the hot but sweet guys pound, stretch, and pull large gobs of molten sugar into crystallized artwork is very impressed.
It's amazing watching these young men roll and pull bundles of taffy-like soften sugar into complex but fun candy art like these monkey hard candies.
There's always a crowd at Sticky! watching confectioners pull and tug molten sugar into amazing feats that you'll be munching on later.
Sweet! caters to almost every sweet-tooth in the spectrum.
For the bold and adventurous or those with a strong sense of humor, there's Yucky!
For the little and big bad boy or tomboy or that frat house initiation, this scribe can't think of a better place to go for a dare.
Pixy Sugar pouring out of an urinal, decorated with a fake roach. Barrels of dried and roasted bugs and larvae encased in snack boxes and lollipops. If gross and sweet are your taste, then Yucky! is it.
For the nostalgic, there's Route 66, a homage to Americana and American regional flavors. Housed in a retro American gas station, these former station snacks are now lovingly revered, ranging from Goo-Goo marshmallow patties and Goldberg caramel and peanuts chews (precursor to the Snickers Bar) to California's Abba Zabba taffies.
Europe may lay claim to wine and beer but it got nothing on all-American soda pops. If the home-grown candies makes your great or grandparents wink a smile then these rare and regional sodas will make them weep with joy.
Ok, Sweet! is for the kid-at-heart, here's Willy Wonka posing next to a Ferrari that "farts" gumballs out of its exhaust tailpipe.
Unlike most candy stores, Sweet! does pay attention to the weight and sugar-conscious big kids.
These Skinny Cow sculpture is especially made for the store's Skinny Cow candy stand.
To the left of it, is the gourmet sugar-free candies stand so diabetics wouldn't feel left out.
You gotta love Sweet!'s sense of humor, the Ferrari that farts gumballs then this interactive Crunch pad that "crunches" whenever you walk over it.
Remember, this sprung from the brain of Willy Wonka (actually Nestle), his "Inventing Room" boutique is the gourmand arm of the Sweet! Candy Department Store. The beautiful truffles came from recipes concocted by Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka books. Sneak around the corner, there is bookcase of re-issued Willy Wonka books and "James & the Giant Peach." Since Willy is British, he retro-fitted British phone booths, painted them silver in candy display cases.
Sweet! spreads out across the hallway that opens out to Mann's Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, where its sub-boutiques specializes even more.
Peace of Candy houses candies spanning the globe, from Israel to China. The nougat selection is yummy.
Stay Puft boutique caters to a particular set of candy-connoisseur, the marshmallow lover with marshallows in wide array of flavors.
Can't forget the licorice lovers, they have their own boutique too, Rick o' Lish Licorice Boutique.
For the celebration-challenged, the adjoining Forever Valentine's boutique is for the last-minute dude while "As If...Store for Spoiled Girls already hosts birthday parties.
In the evening, there's a light show in the hallway.
Sweet! is huge enough to spread the holiday joys by taking over a Lowes Hotel suite...or as in Lowes Hotel "Sweet!"
Until January 3rd, for $409 per a night, a family of three or four can gorge themselves crazy on the peppermint Christmas trees, the hand-crafted lollipops, and hard candies decorated in Lowes Hotel's blue and white motif colors.
Shoot, even the parents can dig in. Great for the stressed-out mom where all she has to do is rent the suite for a night, have the kids devour the suite clean as a gift then she can relax and be a kid herself then enjoy the kiddy of childhood.
Part of the suite package is a tour and access to Sweet!
This suite is already booked for the holidays.
If your sweet-tooth is jarring right now, you can use Sweet! decorating ideas to dress your own living room, bedroom or make the guest room sweeter by dotting the landscape with buckets of gumballs and jars of fruity Tootsie Rolls and Jelly Bellies.
You'll never know. You might get more decoration and gourmand options when you eventually make it to Sweet! A candy wonderland for little kids and big kids.