Valentine's Day is just around the corner, which means it's high time to head out to Walgreens to stock up on inexpensive candy that you can either bestow upon your beloved or (if you're like us) hoard for yourself. But which sugary delicacies should you select? Sarasota Magazine Candy Editors Megan McDonald and Cooper Levey-Baker rank their top five selections.
One tip from a couple of old pros: If you're buying candy for yourself, wait till Monday and gorge on half-price clearance candy. It's the most wonderful time of the year.
Drumroll, please... Here are the rankings:
Cooper Levey-Baker's Picks
5. Peeps Strawberry Creme Flavored Marshmallow Hearts
I'm not a Peeps fanatic even during the brand's Easter-season glory days, but I thought I'd give its heart-shaped strawberry puffs a try. Microwaving one for 10 seconds helped soften the texture, but it still couldn't shake the gas station berry flavor.
4. Butterfinger Heart
Who knew the bar shape was so important to a Butterfinger? The heart-shaped version just doesn't taste right, with a too-crunchy mouthfeel that obscures the profile of the iconic filling.
3. SweetTarts Hearts
For a tangy surprise, opt for these seasonal hearts, which combine the palate-scraping sourness of SweetTarts with a romantic shape and amorous messages.
2. Reese's Peanut Butter Heart
Like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, but bigger. That's basically all you need to know. I mean, this thing's so big you need a fork and knife.
Every year, other brands take their best shot at knocking off the king, but nobody has yet dethroned the classic Sweethearts conversation hearts, which are this year celebrating their 150th birthday. Yeah, that's right—these things have been around since Reconstruction. Nothing will ever top these infinitely pleasurable candies' dusty, chewy texture, nor their inimitable, corn syrup-fortified flavor.
Megan McDonald's Picks
5. Nestle Crunch Heart
Similar to the Butterfinger Heart on Cooper's list, the Nestle Crunch Heart suffers because of its shape, which throws off the ratio of chocolate to crunchy filling. Don't get me wrong—you could still put one of these away in two bites and be satisfied, but the taste just isn't the same.
4. Russell Stover Caramel Heart
Holy sugar bomb, Batman, this thing is sweet. And it's good, especially if you love the combo of chocolate and caramel, but my teeth hurt after two bites.
3. Russell Stover Assorted Chocolates
This one is great if you want a little variety and if packaging matters to you; the heart-shaped box comes with a distinctly Valentine's-y design and three different chocolates inside—one coconut flavored, one caramel-filled and one dipped in dark chocolate with a creamy chocolate filling. Real talk: The coconut one tasted like sunscreen (and not in a good way), but the other two were perfectly passable.
2. Reese's Heart
Much maligned for its misshapen Christmas trees, Reese's Valentine's Day offering isn't that much better. You wouldn't describe the heart as aesthetically pleasing. But, as the old saying goes, you can't judge a book by its cover—the taste is pure Reese's peanut butter cup goodness. Yum.
1. Solid Chocolate Man
The label on the box proclaims that this man-shaped chocolate bar is "sweet and decadently rich! Just how a man ought to be!" Another thing he is? Solid. This is no hollowed-out shell, and the chocolate is decent quality, too. Brownie points for the white chocolate boxers with red hearts and the funny packaging, too.