Candy is Dandy (But Liquor is Quicker)
Our mother sewed our Halloween costumes. Come mid-September, my brothers and I piled into the way back of the Caprice Classic and headed over to JoAnn Fabrics. Together we sifted through rectangular envelopes of patterns from Simplicity or McCall’s. Mom studied our choices, and together we agreed upon which ones she could sew. Some were quite elaborate. She made a costume for each child in the family, including my dad.
One year, I was a dapper Peter Pan, cloaked in varied shades of green. Another year, Dad and I were angels. Our costumes had gold foil wings. We both donned crooked halos. Dad even had a left-breast pocket, trimmed in gold ricrac, for his soft-pack of Marlboros. My brother tagged along in an adorable devil costume, complete with horns, a tail and a pitchfork. Was Mom a clairvoyant?
How times have changed. Modern Halloween costumes reek of plastic or rubber and are ordered from Amazon in one careless click. I don’t know if the shock and horror I feel when I open the front door to a tribe of trick-or-treaters is due to my bewilderment over a six-year-old flesh-eating-zombie, or a sixteen-year-old Sexy Elmo. What first-grader is allowed to watch The Walking Dead? Regardless, there’s a remedy for what ails us: happy hour.
Certainly, we tipple by enjoying Cabernet with steak dinners, or Pinot Grigio with our rockfish and Chincoteagues. A mountain of hot, crusty jimmies looks a little lonesome without a few cold beers on the table.
But what does one pair with their children’s stolen Halloween candy? After all, it’s a staple of the parental diet every night between October 31 and sometime after Thanksgiving, when we switch to cookies and candy canes.
Devon Harvey, the wine buyer at Hair O’ the Dog in Easton, did not judge when I snuck into her shop with a bag from the candy aisle at Acme.
“Do you know about pairing?” I asked her.
“Sure! What are you having?”
I dumped my stash before her. Intrigued, she examined my loot.
“Cool!” she said, picking up a Kit Kat.
I was dumbfounded by her graciousness. I’m twice her age, and she knew everything about drinks that I enjoy regularly but know nothing about. And she was excited about my pairing project.
“I don’t understand wine snobs,” she said. “There’s so much out there to know about wine. No one can know everything. Wine is timeless. It’s ancient. It’s available all over the world. So many cultures enjoy it.”
“And you can have it with candy,” I offered.
“Why not?” she said.
First up, she took on the Reese’s Cup: a favorite that parents sneak into the back of the freezer to be enjoyed as a stale surprise, when discovered around mid-March. Doesn’t matter. We’re gonna eat it anyway. She brought out a six pack of local brewery DuClaw’s Sweet Baby Jesus Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter. The brew has peanut on the nose, she said, but beer lovers will still know it’s a porter.
“It’s not overly sweet, but the Reese’s will bring out those chocolate and peanut butter flavors.”
To complement a Mounds bar (sweetened coconut covered in dark chocolate), Harvey presented a turquoise bottle of Blue Chair Bay’s Pineapple Rum Cream. Think Baileys, but tropical, instead of coffee. The cream can be mixed with rum and strained cold into a martini glass, or it can be enjoyed on its own over ice.
Harvey presented a Maury Sec appellation red called Chateau Saint Roch to pair with a Kit Kat. This variety, made with dessert grapes, but vinified in a dry style, has a richness that gives the wine a chocolaty feel. She cautions that it’s not a dessert wine — it’s dry, but with chocolate notes and darker fruit flavors.
I would not eat any of that candy if there’s a Heath bar to be had. Usually I pick around my filthified, stolen best pillow cases and find one mini-Heath per year. This discovery is cause for much celebrating among the family, as we all seem to forget that full-sized bars are sold at the grocery check-out every day of the week. Harvey brought out a 2015 Bench Russian River Chardonnay to sip with my prize.
“It has some nice creaminess that will bring out the buttery notes of the toffee, yet it still has some nice acidity to it as well.”
I have to admit I was embarrassed to present Harvey my final treats: the gelled food group of Halloween candy, Swedish fish and gummy bears, my husband’s favorites. No matter how ridiculous this seems, I am not, in fact, married to a seven-year-old. Devon remained nonjudgmental and found a complement for the cavity culprits.
“These are really fun,” she said, thunking a chilled four-pack of canned beverages on the counter. A company called Can-Can makes these premixed cocktails in fun flavors. Jenny and The Mule is a riff on Oprah’s favorite, a Moscow Mule. There’s also Raspberry Fizz and White Linen, which tastes of cucumber, elderflower and lemon. And the cans have cool, original artwork on them in case you’d like to appreciate some fine art while you munch on your Sour Patch Kids.
Halloween traditions will continue to change, and my feelings about the holiday will too. I’m glad I still have a few teenagers that will go out, even though they are probably too old for it. When our trick-or-treating days come to an end, I’ll sit by the door and wait for a second-grader with a toy chainsaw adhered to his neck, or the babysitter dressed as the St. Pauli girl, and toast the memories, and what’s to come, with a Heath bar I bought at the Giant and a chilled glass of chardonnay.