Best Local Chocolates for Valentine’s Day

| January 22, 2013

Handmade chocolates by small businesses

Nothing says Valentine’s Day like a heart-shaped box of chocolates — more than 36 million are sold every year, according to the National Confectioners Association. But if you’re looking for something beyond the usual cherry-filled or vanilla cream, you’re in luck: There’s a growing trend in independent, small-batch chocolatiers that specialize in everything from nontraditional chocolate pairings to vegan truffles.

Read on for a sampling of chocolate shops around the country where you can buy handcrafted sweets for your sweetheart this February 14. And to round out your Valentine’s Day plans, let Dex help you find florists and restaurants in your hometown.

Albuquerque, N.M.

Stephen Whitman of Albuquerque-based Choco Canyon blends high-quality chocolate with unexpected ingredients like green chiles and absinthe. His menu of artisan truffles includes the playful Bad Monkey, a banana-rum ganache rolled in toasted coconut and lightly drizzled with caramel, and the Limoncello, a dark chocolate shell filled with a lemon liquor and white chocolate ganache. You can purchase Choco Canyon products at various retailers around town or order them online.

Boise, Idaho

Husband-and-wife team Chris Preston and Kristi Echols-Preston were drawn to Boise for its thriving culinary scene and community support for local businesses. In 2004 they opened The Chocolat Bar, where Kristi and her staff create delectable confections with premium, organic and local ingredients. Sample their goodies this Valentine’s Day with the Valentine Half-Pound Gift Box assortment of chocolate almond bark, chocolate cranberry hazelnut clusters and more. If you don’t live nearby, you can purchase online.

Chicago

Located on Howard Street on Chicago’s far north side, Mayana Chocolate has received numerous accolades since opening in 2008, including Best Chocolates in Chicago by the Chicago Reader. Chef Daniel Herskovic crafts edible works of art like the Mayan Spice, a dark chocolate ganache blended with cayenne, chile and cinnamon and hand-painted with colored buttercream. The shop specializes in corporate gifts and chocolate tables for weddings and other events. Call to reserve an order for pickup or shop online.

Denver

After a distinguished career in the Navy and the technology sector, Robin Autorino came to realize that food was her true calling. Her culinary studies took her to apprenticeships in France and at landmark restaurants around the country. On Valentine’s Day in 2008, she launched Robin Chocolates, first selling her confections through other vendors and later opening her own shop. Her award-winning truffles include the Mexican Molé Caramel, a blend of caramel, molé spice and habanero chili encased in dark chocolate. Stop in at her Longmont, Colo., shop, purchase her creations at retailers throughout the Denver area or shop online.

Orlando, Fla.

Chef David Ramirez is no stranger to the spotlight with appearances on the Food Network and induction into the Orlando Magazine Culinary Hall of Fame. He opened his signature shop in 2011 as Cocoa Latte and renamed it a year later to David Ramirez Chocolates. He creates and sells artisan confections and LaVazza coffee, his products are distributed by ABC Fine Wine & Spirits in Orlando, and you can buy his confections online.

Phoenix

Locally known as the “chocolatier to the stars,” pastry chef Julia Baker owns and operates Julia Baker Confections, which opened its flagship boutique last November at the Biltmore Fashion Park in Phoenix. Julia develops her own recipes and uses high-quality ingredients without preservatives or artificial ingredients. Indulge in chocolate and wine pairings at her boutique or visit her website to order corporate gifts and boxed assortments.

Seattle

Michel and Valerie Brotman’s Chocolate Box showcases local artisan chocolatiers, including Fran’s Chocolates, Chuao Chocolatier and Carter Chocolates, among many others. You’ll find much more than truffles here — a dizzying array of chocolate toppings, coffees and ground chocolate will tempt you as well. Stop in at the shop on Pine Street in Seattle or browse their delectable offerings online.

To celebrate your chocolate passion this Valentine’s Day, try a local wine and chocolate tasting or truffle-making class with your partner. Dex can help you find events in your area to plan a memorable evening.

Follow our Valentine’s Day Pinterest board!

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Category: Valentine's Day

About the Author ()

Katy is a Chicago-based journalist with an eclectic background in print publishing, web design and paralegal work. She's been writing and editing web content full time since 2010.