With Valentine's Day right around the corner, it's impossible to avoid chocolate right now — especially those oversized, heart-shaped boxes filled with mass-produced confections. But we'll take handcrafted gourmet chocolates over mainstream brands any day. In addition to local shops dedicated to offering fine artisan chocolates, our local chocolatiers know how to turn sweet confections into real masterpieces that seem (almost) too exquisite to eat. And that goes for any time of year.
In addition to carrying an assortment of unique, handcrafted chocolates from top producers both locally and worldwide — think Vosges and bean-to-bar producers like Askinosie and Patric — the upscale grocer hosts a chocolate festival every year during the month of February. The year's festival, dubbed "The Chocolate Collection," is February 6-14. Shoppers can meet chocolate makers such as Dr. Sue, Andrea Pedraza from CocoAndre and Michael Recchuiti from Recchuiti Confections; sample chocolate on display; and participate in chocolate-themed cooking classes. Check the website for chocolate maker appearances and class schedules.
Thanks to master chocolatier Kate Weiser, this gourmet chocolate and wine shop is a Dallas go-to for everyday indulgences and special-occasion chocolates. Weiser makes art-like hand-painted bonbons, in flavors like acai berry, Black Forest bacon and rosemary caramel, as well as truffles in such flavors as dark chocolate peanut butter cup and Caribbean coconut. For Valentine's Day, along with her chocolate-dipped figs and strawberries (which you must order in advance by calling 214-252-9801), Weiser is making chocolate bonbon lips and large bonbon hearts (milk chocolate with a peanut butter filling). The lips and hearts are dusted with red and gold glitter and sell for $2.90 a piece.
Owner Andrea Pedraza was head of production for Morgen Chocolate for more 25 years before opening up shop in Oak Cliff. Pedraza and team create the raw chocolates from a cocoa butter base — a rare find in Dallas. CocoAndre specializes in European-style truffles and unique molded chocolates for special occasions. For the month of February, the chocolatier is making chocolate frog princes ($8 each), chocolate bark topped with cranberry and nut sprinkles infused with orange zest, and chocolate-covered strawberries.
Dr. Sue's Chocolate
Dr. Sue Williams is a practicing internal medicine physician with a taste for dark chocolate, and she believes that eating chocolate can be part of a healthy lifestyle. There are no preservatives, artificial sweeteners or colors, or high-fructose corn syrup in Dr. Sue's Chocolate. Most of the bark and peels are made with Valrhona and Callebaut dark chocolate, in flavors like sweet and spicy blueberry ancho chile, ginger fig, and cherry pecan. Her treats are available online and at many local retailers, including Central Market, Neiman Marcus, Whole Foods, Paper & Chocolate, Eatzi's on Oak Lawn Avenue and Bolsa Mercado.
Dude, Sweet Chocolate
Pastry chef Katherine Clapner creates unusual chocolate confections, from chocolate almond salumi and Tub of Love hazelnut chocolate spread to assorted truffles, bars and sauces. For Valentine's Day, she is making a limited number of chocolate hearts — as in the organ — made with two pounds of South American dark chocolate, waffle cone crunch, Cocoa Puffs and her now-famous chocolate crack. It takes two hours to create two hearts, which is why each one sells for $45. The Bishop Arts District location is currently taking orders, so call 214-943-5943 to place yours.
Dallas chocolatier Stephen Smith now has a home kitchen at Hey Sugar Candy Store, located in a vintage house in Roanoke. The Le Cordon Bleu culinary school graduate puts no preservatives in his creations, which include chocolate infused with ingredients like fresh mint, fresh lime juice and zest, or hand-ground Oaxacan spice. In addition to Hey Sugar, his chocolates are available at Bolsa Mercado and Scardello Cheese.
Paper & Chocolate
This gift shop at Inwood Village offers an assortment of — wait for it — paper goods and chocolates. The chocolates hail from Wiseman House in Hico, Texas; Dr. Sue in Dallas; and Fran's Chocolates in Seattle. For Valentine's Day, may we suggest some Wiseman House truffles or a box of almond toffee.
See's Candies is a reliable source for truffles, toffees, brittles, fudge and the always-dependable assorted box of chocolates for special occasions. Currently we have our eye on the Scotchmallow hearts with caramel and a honey marshmallow filling, sweet cinnamon lollypops, and strawberry truffles made with white chocolate and strawberry buttercream filling. Purchase online or visit the nearest See's Candies store, like the one at Stonebriar Centre in Frisco.
Schakolad Chocolate Factory
Co-owner Baruch Schaked began making chocolate more than 40 years ago, at his father-in-law's factory in Argentina. He opened his first shop in Florida, and now his son Edgar runs the show, with locations throughout the United States, including one in Plano, at the Shops at Legacy, and in Sundance Square in Fort Worth. Schakolad uses European techniques to create hand-dipped truffles, cake truffles, and chocolate novelties such as our favorite, the chocolate Champagne glasses. They are not just for show; you can actually fill the cups with Champagne and take a bite when you're finished toasting. Each glass sells for $4, and you can order them online or pick them up in the store.
Owner Troy Easton ditched his lawyer gig to become a full-time chocolatier. At his chocolate shop in Allen, he does bars, truffles and drinking chocolate, and he makes what he likes. That could mean honey caramel with sea salt, habañero-infused dark chocolate or milk chocolate with maple-roasted bacon. For Valentine's Day, Easton is making heart-shaped strawberry-balsamic truffles in white and dark chocolate as well as traditional bonbons, tortoises and custom chocolate bars. Every batch of chocolate takes three days to make, so we don't mind paying $2.50 for every strawberry-balsamic truffle.
For the socially conscious chocolate addict, Whole Foods is the place to go; there is even a fair trade chocolate section with chocolate from Theo Chocolate, Divine Exchange, Alter Eco and more. For fancier treats, stop by the handmade chocolate section to find chocolate covered-strawberries and assorted chocolate bark and truffles.