Just in time for Valentine's, a guide tolocal bonbon boutiques
A box of chocolates engages all five senses. First, you see the daintily decorated exterior with its tease of the treats inside. Then you hear the rustle of candies nestled in their little paper cups. Popping the top, you catch the rich scent of cocoa and your taste buds start tingling. Pick up a two-bite truffle, hold it for a moment—just long enough for a little chocolate to melt on your fingers—then take a nibble.
This sweet reward isn’t the only reason a box of chocolates is the perfect Valentine’s Day gift. Unlike flowers or a stuffed teddy bear, it has universal appeal. “It means ‘I love you,’ but in so many different ways,” says Sarah Dwyer, a Silver Spring-based chocolatier and owner of Chouquette, an online business that also sells its products at two area farmers markets. “Chocolates can be a very romantic gift exchanged by sweethearts, or they can be given by a little boy to his mother.”
Luckily for aspiring Romeos, Juliets and kids who want to show Mom how much they care on Feb. 14, there are plenty of local bonbon boutiques where they can score a chocolate fix.
You won’t be able to forget that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner when you walk into this Bethesda Row chocolateria. Bouquets of red roses sit atop tables covered with white linen, strands of red lights run along the counter, and romantic tunes fill the air.
The shelves and cases overflow with colorful collections, including Sweet Love ($12.90) and Loves Me/Loves Me Not ($11.50), each filled with an assortment of artfully decorated chocolates. The treats are made with high-end Belgian chocolate and plenty of sugar, which makes them pop on your palate.
Does your loved one want to dispense with the pretense of nibbling a sweet? Buy a Chocolate Syringe ($4.75) for a quick injection of liquid milk chocolate between the lips. Be forewarned: This indulgence may result in a trip to Chocoholics Anonymous.
7263 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda, 301-215-8305, maxbrenner.com
This master caramel maker with a shop in downtown Silver Spring has been making lovers of sweets happy since the 1850s. The candy artisan makes two types of OMG-worthy caramels.
There is the traditional, chewy type that’s crafted with a recipe passed down through several generations, and a more modern, sugary option that recalls the pralines of New Orleans’ French Quarter. Each comes in a variety of flavors, including vanilla pecan and chocolate almond (prices vary).
The limited-edition, black cherry-brandy sugary caramels, which provide equal parts boozy bliss and fruity sweetness, are a Valentine’s favorite ($21.99 a pound). These selections are supplemented by imported Belgian chocolates made in every size and shape, including roses, hearts and cherubs (prices vary).
“We try to be sure that we fit everyone’s budget,” owner Amy Servais says.
8408 B Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, 301-578-8612, velatis.com
Sarah Dwyer wanted to be a chocolatier since age 2. She was partly inspired by trips to the mall with her father and brother to pick out “the biggest, reddest, frilliest box of chocolates they had” as a Valentine’s Day gift for her mother.
Now Dwyer sells her own collections, including a box filled with 11 heart-shaped, chocolate-covered caramels in bold flavors such as vanilla sea salt, Guinness and balsamic vinegar ($28).
This year, she’s added to her repertoire with a dark bark made with Guittard
chocolate, almonds, crystallized ginger and candied rose ($6.50 for 4 ounces). “It’s warm from the ginger, crunchy from the almond and floral from the roses,” she says.
Available Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Montgomery Farm Women’s Cooperative Market, 7155 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda, and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Bethesda Central Farm Market at Bethesda Elementary School, 7600 Arlington Road, 301-651-4442, chouquette.us