Chocolates are the way into many a food lover’s heart. But how do you choose sweet treats that aren’t generic but truly show the gift is for a special someone on Valentine’s Day? Pick something equally special. Here’s a selection of delectable handmade chocolates from some of the top chocolatiers in North America, a distinction recently awarded by Dessert Professional Magazine.
Each chocolatier has infused his or her creations with a distinctive personality, so you can pick the ones that match your loved one best.
Stick With Me
Stick With Me’s bonbons are some of the most colorful and beautifully decorated chocolates you’ll ever lay eyes on. With a thin, glossy sheen, they look like shiny orbs in a box. Each one is a delightful surprise. Some reveal different textures, like the New York New York, with peanut butter praline and caramel with a chocolate-covered-pretzel center; the Speculoos S’more, a crunchy speculoos cookie with fluffy marshmallow; or the Vero, a pecan praline that’s peppered with crispy bits of wafer and topped with a layer of sea salt caramel. Fruity flavors like the Wild Strawberry, reminiscent of strawberry yogurt, and the Raspberry Rose, its delicate sweetness recalling the lychee fruit, are also charming.
Assorted bonbons (box of 12), $49.
Chuao’s Aphrodisiac Heart Bonbon Collection features decadent, oozing caramels inside heart-shaped chocolates. Salt Butter Caramel is like liquid toffee with speckles of salt, while Rosemary Salted Caramel seamlessly infuses the piney, peppery taste of the herb. The Meyer Lemon Mojito evokes a nice cool drink on a summer’s day, with a strong scent of mint.
The Love Child bonbons are chocolate-covered strawberries with an ingenious twist; the dried strawberries are encased within a port-wine-infused dark chocolate ganache.
Love Child Bonbon Collection (box of 12), $30.55; Aphrodisiac Heart Bonbon Collection (box of 16), $25.56.
This Boston-based chocolate company makes a wide variety of truffles, all subtle, not-too-sweet, and finely balanced. Tea aficionados will appreciate the Three Teas box, which features a mellow, but very citrusy Earl Grey; Masala Chai with hints of cardamom and a tinge of bitterness from black tea; and a pleasantly floral Jasmine Tea that tastes just like the drink.
The Bourbon Caramel and Honey Caramel in the Caramel Trio box are also standouts. The former incorporates the spiciness of the liquor without being too overpowering, while the latter is a chewy caramel infused with fragrant wildflower honey, sprinkled with a dash of fleur de sel to counteract the sweetness.
Three Teas (box of 12), $26.75; Caramel Trio (box of 12), $26.75.
KOHLER Original Recipe Chocolates
For a fruity, yet sophisticated take on chocolates, KOHLER has a collection of Dark Chocolate Hearts with a gooey raspberry ganache, spiced up with just a faint hint of cognac. Another winner is the Rare Facets collection, shaped like polished gems and flavored with different fruit-inflected ganaches. The Sour Cherry Rare Facet playfully prompts you to pucker up, with its dark chocolate ganache mixed with sour cherry juice concentrate from Wisconsin.
Dark Chocolate Hearts (box of 9), $18.99; Sour Cherry Rare Facets (box of 9), $18.99.
Chocolatier Christophe Toury has a gift for making creamy, smooth truffles that don’t overwhelm with sweetness, no matter the flavor. You’ll be tempted to pop one after another into your mouth, with classics like dark chocolate, peanut butter, and white chocolate ganache, or brighter flavors like raspberry and passion fruit. It’s no wonder Toury’s bonbons are so expertly done; he has been working with chocolate since he was 15 (that makes it 30 years now!).
The chocolate French bulldog, cast in both milk and dark chocolate, wins bonus points for cuteness. The dark chocolate has subtle notes of fruit, leaving a memorable aftertaste.
Assorted truffles in heart-shaped box (box of 11), $48; assorted truffles in edible chocolate box (box of 14), $64; chocolate French bulldog, $26.
These chocolates from Bushwick, Brooklyn, are for the adventurous—those who appreciate a chocolate with complex notes. The truffles are intense, with a rustic, grainy texture. They are made from organic raw cacao without added cream or sweeteners, thus retaining more of the cacao bean flavor. That primal intensity is detected throughout the unique flavor combinations, like Cappuccino Cinnamon, with bits of ground espresso bean; and Tangerine Clove, with dried orange peel that gives off a cooling sensation. Even familiar flavors like Hazelnut and Sea Salt get an intriguing twist with its coarser ganache.
Assorted truffles (box of 8), $28.
Oliver Kita Chocolates
Oliver Kita Chocolates, based in upstate New York, makes bonbons with ingredients from local farms. Kita’s quirky creations include Habanero Romantico with habanero pepper and Japanese Mermaid with seaweed and dark chocolate ganache.
Co Co. Sala
Santosh Tiptur is the executive chef, executive pastry chef, and chocolatier at Co Co. Sala in Washington, a restaurant that specializes in serving sweet and savory dishes made with chocolate. Tiptur’s signature bonbon, the Mango Lassi, takes inspiration from his heritage.
Chocolatier Adam Turoni is known for his whimsical and inventive takes on chocolate treats, from Creme Brulee Truffles made from caramelized white chocolate steeped in sugar solution for 24 hours and torched-to-order; to chocolate eggs encased inside real eggshells; and tongue-in-cheek, anti-Valentine’s Day Screw Love Truffles, made with single-origin dark chocolate from the Dominican Republic, with a plastic screw stuck in the middle.
Polska European Bakery and Chocolate
Based in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Chocolatier Slawomir Piotr Korczak’s uniquely shaped bonbons include the Heliamphora, named after a carnivorous plant with a distinct conical shape, and made with lemon, Mexican vanilla, and coffee-bean-infused ganache; and the English Tea Time, with Mexican vanilla caramel and Earl Grey ganache, resting on a delicate sablé cookie.