Guest Author - Deborah Markus
I happen to be extremely happy with typical Valentine's Day fare. I have fond memories of stealing chocolate-covered creams from the puffy taffeta-covered box my mother tried so hard to hide from her daughters, and am still excited about the fact that I now have a chocolate box of my very own every year (and only one son to fend off).
But for anyone who'd like to give something a little different to their favorite chocolate lover on this most cocoa-scented holiday, here are some treats that will fit the bill without breaking the budget.
Chocolove bars are charming and do a lot of the work for you, giftwise. Not only is the present part taken care of once you've made your selection, but every bar is wrapped in a love poem.
Chocolove has a wide variety of flavors available, but the chocolate is always the main event. I treated myself to a bar of their Orange Peel in Dark, and the orange didn't make much of an appearance except to make the texture rather unusual.
Fortunately, Chocolove bars are fairly widely available, and their web site can help you find a location near you to buy their goods. They grudgingly allow you to order directly from them, but you have to mail your order form in and they don't take credit cards.
Hagensborg chocolate goods are another treat you'll have to try to find in an actual retail shop. Their web site is charming, and happy to help you find someone who'll sell you their chocolate, but they won't actually ship to you.
They're worth the hunt, though. I wouldn't give my Valentine one of their "Truffle Pig" bars, but only because the name might give the wrong idea to my sweetheart. I never thought I'd use the word "adorable" about a chocolate bar, but there it is -- the bar is a carefully-molded row of smiling, flirting milk chocolate pigs, hiding a smooth truffle center.
So keep those piggies to yourself, and buy your dearest a box of "Kiss Me" frog-shaped truffles instead. The box alone is worth the price -- this company is serious about its wonderfully humorous art, and the box of frogs sports an appealing line drawing of a well-dressed frog, politely extending his hand as if to belie the name of the candy and insist upon the purity of his intentions.
Hagensborg chocolate truffles are excellent, but very much milk chocolate; if your sweetheart lives on the dark side, don't offer these. But any milk lover would welcome them.
For fine milk or dark chocolate, Lake Champlain is a name you should know if you don't already. Their chocolate has body, texture, and just the right melt-in-the-mouth point. And if you can't find their products near you, they do sell from their web site. They offer truffles, filled chocolates, and just plain chocolate specifically for the Valentine shopper.
I especially enjoyed their milk and dark chocolate "Conversation Squares." The wrappers have Valentine messages -- "Be Mine," "My Sweet" -- just like the ones chiseled on those chalky little candies grade-school children give one another. These are infinitely more elegant.
The packaging is pleasantly reminiscent of childhood, though. Hot pink and orange hearts dominate each gift box, and that may not sound like a winning color scheme, but it really works. And what could better brighten up a day in February than an eye-opening flash of color around a rich row of chocolate?