Dear Glutton: Halloween Eats

Where to find spooky snacks for a Halloween party

Big Top Candy Shop
Big Top Candy Shop (Photo by John Anderson)

Dear Glutton,

My roommates and I are planning to host our annual haunted house, and I'm looking for ideas for spooky snacks to share with our guests that actually taste good.

– Seeking horrors d'oeuvres


Hey ghoul hey! It's boo-tiful that you want to be so generous to all your fiends. You sound like a hell of a dame (Get it? Get it?). All of this juvenilia and punishment aside (Get it? OK, I'm done now, I promise.), there really is something about Halloween that lets us get in touch with our true selves, whether that means dressing up like a sexy bee (Seriously, what is it with the perennial popularity of sexy insect costumes?), spending all weekend violating your HOA by turning your front yard into a mock graveyard, or, in my case, retreating into immaturity and getting really into terrible spooky wordplay and fancy candy. Which is why I love the idea that you, a full-grown adult with no children to indulge, devote enough thought, time, and energy to your annual haunted house that you're writing me, a weird stranger, for additional tips. This is a beautiful thing, and I salute you for it.

It might be kind of fun to make all the traditional haunted house gross-out foods, but make them delicious and, you know, actually edible. For your spaghetti "guts" you could do a nice marinara, making a bunch of little meatballs with olives stuck in to look like eyes. For the classic grape eyeballs, I suppose you could make one of those Cool Whip and grape monstrosities, although I find them gross enough to qualify as an actual item of non-ironic terror. And of course, there's the classic dry ice in the punch trick, fancied up with blood-red Campari instead of vodka and Kool-Aid. But I've laid my biases out for you, and now you know how I feel about Halloween; it's all about the candy, baby, and don't you forget it.

I don't know if you realize this, because I didn't before, but there are so many good independent candy stores in Austin! So many. People always talk about our record stores, our thriving community of independent book shops, our slew of cute little vintage boutiques, but no one ever says anything about how many places there are in this town for a self-respecting adult to spend half their paycheck on sugar and sugar byproducts. There are fancy chocolatiers, bakeries where you can buy apple cider toffee and sea salt caramels, and pralines – nothing but pralines of all sizes and description as far as the eye can see. There are retro markets where you can stock up on wax lips and those weird little sugar dots that come on long strips of receipt paper. There's even a food truck specializing in organic candy, which is pretty much the most Austin thing I've ever heard of.

But, for my money, the best candy store in town is Big Top Candy Shop, on South Congress. Not only is it seasonally appropriate for those of us who are afraid of clowns (i.e., everyone, I'm pretty sure, who has access to the internet lately), they have bulk bins, so you can buy little scoops of everything before deciding what variety of saltwater taffy you should buy by the metric ton, and, according to a very nice man I spoke to on the phone earlier, over two thousand different types of candy in stock. Two thousand! That's two thousand sugar rushes, two thousand afternoon pick-me-ups, two thousand moments of pure, childlike delight. I say that you get one of each and let your guests figure out the rest.

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