Irvine’s best “sweet shoppe” is unceremoniously located in a strip mall by the freeway, but don’t let that fool you. Even though you may only be in a typical Irvine shopping center with some grocery stores and expensive taco restaurants, walking into Sugar Rush will transport you to a whole new world.
Sugar Rush is located all the way across the parking lot from Whole Foods, with a cute, curly sign announcing its presence in bright pink. Despite the loud color, it is actually a little bit difficult to find, as the curlicue letters on the sign are not easy to read from a distance.
Once Ryan finally spotted it (I’m nearsighted, I never had a chance), we hopped out of the car and walked on in. We were immediately stunned into silence by the sheer variety of gorgeous goods on display: everything from chocolate-caramel bees to matcha Jordan almonds.
I decided to do some shopping, but it was difficult to choose. Did I want to get peanut clusters made with honey in lieu of corn syrup? What about sweet tea caramels? Oh, or a vegan ginger-rose chocolate bar?
Yes, you know how this ends. I got them all.
The friendly cashier was brand new to the job, so each transaction took a bit of time — which was no trouble at all to me, since it gave me more time to look around. The spicy chipotle caramels were tempting, but the Old Fashioned (as in, the cocktail) ones really caught my eye.
Yes, I grabbed those too. They were for presents! Cut me some slack. OK, maybe I ate a few, but I’ll be giving most of them away. Probably. While I haven’t demolished all these candies yet, I’m afraid it’s probably only a matter of time.
I also had some time to browse the marshmallow bar, which is exactly what it sounds like. For $1.29 each, large marshmallows are available for purchase from a series of glass jars. The flavors are inventive, with cinnamon sugar lined up next to sea salt caramel chocolate chip. Ryan ended up grabbing a few for later consumption, which was a great choice.
When I got to the register, I found out about Sugar Rush’s authentic Turkish delights, which the cheery employee on shift offered us a few samples of. Each one was mindblowingly good, but I opted to go with the rose delights, which have a subtly sweet flavor that I can’t wait to impress my future houseguests with.
I had never tried a Turkish delight before, but according to Ryan, it’s usually flavorless and overly sweet. I was surprised to hear this, since every flavor I tried at Sugar Rush was amazing, and had a perfect balance between salty and sweet. The one I got is particularly lovely, and doesn’t at all have the “perfume” flavor that Ryan says most rose sweets do. The ingredients are definitely high quality here, and the price tag is very fair. —Bret Kavanaugh
I’ve recently realized I might actually be from the South. My evidence boils down to two facts:
- I say “y’all”.
- I would gladly sell my soul for an endless supply of sweet tea.
Don’t worry about the first thing. The second point, however, became relevant when I noticed a table with a sign reading “sweet tea caramel.” Moving with a directness reminiscent of Mr. Bean, I nabbed three of them and brought them straight to the register. No, I couldn’t wait until I got home.
While I only expected a sweet tea flavor in the caramel itself, I discovered this element came from a rich, creamy filling protected by a sturdy yet chewy caramel shell. Rather than straight up sweet tea, however, my first bite felt like a generous gulp of the Thai iced variety (which, yes, is both sweet and a type of tea). I love Thai iced tea, though, so I’m far from complaining.
Next up, as Bret mentioned, I grabbed a few of the house marshmallows for at-home munching. First in the hot seat was the sea salt caramel chocolate chip flavor, the idea of which nearly made me drool in the store. If you thought the idea was good, though, wait till you try it for real.
While marshmallow was the dominant flavor, butterscotch notes rang through loud and clear. The chocolate provided a nice crunchy contrast, while the caramel chips offered a hit of salt along with their sweetness. Bret and I also agreed the flavor combination and consistency reminded us of a donut.
Cinnamon sugar was up next, and while I don’t have much to say, my few words are positive. It’s cinnamon and sugar. Frankly, I don’t trust anyone that needs anything more to satisfy them.
Up third, cookies and cream. This offered the biggest surprise out of my choices, which came in the form of an entire Oreo they managed to fit in the marshmallow. The flavors managed to balance out nicely as well. While it was plenty satisfying, I would recommend you get these, along with all the others, when they’re fresh and fluffy.
Lastly, the peanut butter chocolate chip variety brought us some satisfaction, but there’s room for improvement. The combination of peanut butter and chocolate made it excessively sweet, and the peanut butter chips were rather plain.
To offer a ranking, the sea salt caramel chocolate chip was the clear winner for us, with cinnamon sugar coming in second. Cookies and cream was tied for silver, and peanut butter chocolate chip rounded out the bottom of the bunch.
In conclusion, we want to remind you that the wide variety of treats we sampled made up only around 5 percent of their offerings. The lowlights beat out the best from competing confectionary shops, and the highlights set a new standard for them to aspire towards.
If you want to get an early start on Christmas, consider this your holiday shopping guide. Otherwise, we can’t think of a better place to get a physical apology for your loved ones. —Ryan Najjar