Walking into Grabham’s Candies in Cuyahoga Falls is like entering a mini version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
The small 60-year-old shop boasts a retro feel. Some 80 varieties of chocolate treats — creams, truffles, coconut haystacks, nut clusters, caramels and more — tempt from wood and gleaming glass display cases.
Dozens of chocolate molds — metal ones from the 1950s and some from the turn of the century — adorn shelves lining the walls. There’s a duck with a hat, a rocket and a bunny.
Make no mistake, though, the old-timey look doesn’t mean the shop is staid.
“I like to try new flavors,” said Christine Liston, the 33-year-old great-grandaughter of the shop’s founder, the late Harry Grabham.
Indeed, Liston and her mother, Janene Pierce, who run the shop, have been busy ramping up two off-the-wall chocolate treats featuring ramps. Yes, ramps, wild leeks, for this Saturday’s second Ramp Up Peninsula festival.
“It has dried ramp blended in the nougat (sugar, egg whites, nuts and dried fruit) that is dipped in milk chocolate. It has an oniony, sweet and salty taste … they’re good,” Liston said of the sweets she named Rampenstein Nougats.
This confection — with sea salt and dried ramps sprinkled on top — debuted at last year’s inaugural Ramp Up fest. The event, as the name suggests, celebrates the pungent plant that is native to North America. (See box for festival details.)
And this year, Pierce is adding Bloody Mary cordials. Pierce is concocting this sweet-salty morsel by hand pouring Bloody Mary ingredients — mixed with fondant and dried ramps — into milk chocolate shells.
“When you bite into it, it will be a gooey, tomatoey, Bloody Mary mess,” Liston said, “A hot mess.”
The shop at 4301 State Road gets its name from Harry Grabham, who started the business in 1954 on an off-the-beaten path stretch of State Road, north of State 8 Motorcycles.
Liston said her great-grandfather got into making candy as a way to have a steady supply of quality treats for purchase at his Cuyahoga Falls barber shop. One of the shop’s most popular candies is the Nutty Bunny, which Harry Grabham invented.
Today, customers may not realize that just behind the retail area, with the display cases, is the charmingly low-tech production area. A few days before Easter, it boasted racks and racks of chocolate bunnies. An employee hand-dipped candies, using a small “enrober” machine with a tank that holds melted chocolate. The shop employs a handful of part-time workers.
Along with ramping up chocolate offerings, Christine Liston is focusing on growing the business.
She’d like to get back into wholesaling treats to restaurants. She’s beefing up the shop’s website (www.grabhamscandies.com), with an eye toward selling more online.
Liston said of her mother, Pierce: “She wants to tell me to slow down.”
Pierce has helped to run the shop for more than 30 years — much of that with her husband, Jim Pierce, who died in 2011. Jim Pierce took over the business from his mother, Betty Pierce.
Janene Pierce said her daughter Christine is energizing the place. “I think, OK, I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to do that … She wants to carry on the business, so that’s what we’re going to do.”
Food truck first
Here’s another sign that winter, really, is over.
Organizers say the first-ever food truck rally in Copley Township will run from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot on the west side of Copley High School, 3797 Ridgewood Road.
The event — a fundraiser for the high-school and middle-school band and choir programs — will feature at least a dozen food trucks. The mobile eateries will donate a portion of their proceeds to the nonprofit Copley Music Boosters.
Mark McManus, president of the music boosters, said the rally also “is the first large food truck rally for the season” in the Akron area.
“We’re hoping that all the food truck groupies that like to follow the food trucks will come around.”
Trucks expected to be on site include such Akron-area vehicles as Orange Trük, Stone Pelican Rolling Cafe, Mobile Sushi Bar and Get Stuffed, as well as trucks that roll from the Cleveland-area, including Krav and 216 Bistro. The Donut Lab truck, a mini doughnut kitchen from Cleveland, also will set up, as will the Swensons food truck, offering burgers, fries and shakes from the longtime Akron-based chain of drive-ins.
Entertainment will include performances by the high school’s jazz band and wind ensemble, which will play Disney-themed tunes. The boosters will sell baked goods and soft drinks in the stadium’s concession stand. (The trucks will not be offering beverages.)
Organizers note that thousands of folks went to last summer’s food truck round-up in Fairlawn. Akron City Council last year created a committee to look into easing the city’s ban on food trucks operating on public property.
Yanko’s on a truck
Speaking of food trucks, a new one — with historic roots — is joining the area’s mobile food scene.
Kendra St. Charles will soon be rolling out her Beachcomber Truck. That name will ring a bell for many area foodies.
The Beachcomber was the name of a popular sandwich served for decades at the former Yanko’s restaurant. (The last version of the Yanko’s eatery was at Fairlawn Town Centre and closed in the early 1990s.)
St. Charles is the granddaughter of the late family patriarch Nick Yanko, and she plans to take her grandfather’s recipes to Northeast Ohio streets.
The Beachcomber was a spicy sub-shaped patty on a toasted roll, served with a pepper sauce or relish and pilaf. From her food truck, St. Charles will serve a smaller version of the Beachcomber, as well as the pepper sauce. The original sandwich weighed in at a hefty 7 ounces. She also will serve rice pilaf made with the family’s recipe.
Jeff Winer, formerly with the Orange Trük, is helping St. Charles launch her food truck. Watch this space for more details.
• West Point Market has dubbed its wine tasting set for Friday “The Thrill of the Grill.”
The evening will feature tastings of 20 wines picked by West Point staffers to accompany summertime eats, and light appetizers from West Point’s kitchen.
Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door. Order at www.westpointmarket.com or call 330-864-2151, ext. 129. West Point Market is at 1711 W. Market St., Akron.
• D’Agnese’s at White Pond in Akron will offer a five-course “Spring Wine Dinner” with Vintage Wines at 6 p.m. May 7.
The first pour will be at 6 p.m. with dinner beginning at 6:15 p.m. The courses include a bruschetta tasting trio; salad of roasted brussels sprouts, cauliflower with crispy bacon, capers, arugula and lemon; and roasted walleye with potato gnocchi and lobster butter.
Tickets are $40, plus tax and tip. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 234-678-3612.
New vintages released
Myrddin Winery of Berlin Center, with a tasting room overlooking Lake Milton, has released new wines, introducing its Chardonell (dry white) and Vivien Blend (semi-sweet dark blush). More releases are planned.
The homey winery, in the woods along with the lake, can be tough to find, so check out a map, or use your GPS. It’s at 3020 Scenic Ave., tucked off Southeast River Road, south of Interstate 76 and west of state Route 534.
The winery’s hours and other information is available at www.myrddinwine.com.
Send local food news to Katie Byard at 330-996-3781 or email@example.com.