Just in time for Valentine's, a guide tolocal bonbon boutiques
“Chocolate is my medium,” says chocolatier Eric Johnson of Alexandria, Va., who sells his creations Saturdays at the Kensington Farmers Market. “This candy is my art.” One of his most striking custom-made pieces, produced for a private event, was Nicolette, a life-size nude female torso cast in bittersweet chocolate and covered in edible gold leaf. For Valentine’s Day, he focuses on romance rather than titillation.
One popular line of miniature masterpieces showcases truffles made with high-end Michel Cluizel chocolate and infused with hibiscus, rose and local lavender ($3 each). Buy these and you’ll have covered both flowers and chocolates for your loved one.
Johnson’s “O Collection”—named for a friend’s one-word reaction after her first bite of his candy—features decadent combinations, such as perky espresso caramel buttercreams enrobed with rich chocolate and dotted with crunchy, toasted cacao nibs ($18-$48 for six pieces). These will leave you marveling at Johnson’s tasty artworks one bite at a time.
Available Saturdays from 8 a.m. until noon at the Kensington Farmers Market, 3710 Mitchell St., Kensington, 571-357-8337, krishon.com
Whether you’re just window-shopping at Chevy Chase Pavilion or stopping at Range to dine, it’s nearly impossible to saunter past the candy counter in chef Bryan Voltaggio’s epic eatery without being tempted.
Pastry chef John Miele goes all out for Cupid’s favorite day, packing the shelves with a colorful array of lavishly decorated luxe treats that may be the best in the area. There are boozy bonbons, such as lavender mescal and passion fruit champagne chocolates; tongue-tingling, red-hot chocolate caramels; sweet and citrusy, blood-orange bleeding hearts; and über-indulgent chocolate-raspberry doughnuts (prices vary).
If you can’t settle on just one option (and why would you hold back on a holiday that celebrates splurging on your beloved?), you can mix and match chocolates to fill a box ($14 for five pieces).
5335 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Suite 201, Washington, D.C., 202-803-8020, voltrange.com
This Belgian sweets maker has been setting the gold standard for chocolate shops since founder and chocolatier Joseph Draps opened the first boutique in Brussels in 1926. When you see one of Godiva’s iconic gilded gift boxes, you know you’re in for a treat.
Godiva chocolates have a remarkably luxuriant smoothness and richness, which has earned the brand a fervent following.
There are now 450 shops in 80 countries, including one in Bethesda’s Westfield Montgomery mall. District manager Rachel Francois says Valentine’s Day is the second biggest holiday of the year for Godiva—right behind Christmas—so the local store is stocked from floor to ceiling. The most popular items are the strawberries, hand-dipped in chocolate (milk, dark or white), at the mouth-dropping price of $42 for six.
Chocoholics can opt to fill a heart-shaped box covered in red satin with a personalized selection of truffles ($18 for eight). These come in extravagant flavors, some inspired by decadent desserts such as red velvet cake, crème brûlée and tiramisu.
“One customer has been bringing the same box back to the store for the past 10 years,” Francois says. “He keeps refilling it with chocolates for his wife. It’s a great tradition.”
Westfield Montgomery, 7101 Democracy Blvd., Bethesda, 301-365-4183, godiva.com
Remember that old saying, “You’re so cute, I could just eat you up”? The phrase takes a literal turn at this international chocolate chain’s shop in Bethesda’s Westfield Montgomery mall, where you can have sweet photographs of you and your loved one (or a romantic message) printed on a variety of chocolate items.
Choose a large, heart-shaped chocolate to top off a bouquet of truffles ($59.99-$79.99) or have a romantic snapshot emblazoned onto a chocolate picture frame in the center of a box of dark, milk and white chocolate truffles ($64.99). There are even heart-shaped lollipops that can be edible billboards for your affections ($3.89 each; minimum order of 20). This may not be the best chocolate in the world, but you can’t beat the novelty factor.
Westfield Montgomery, 7101 Democracy Blvd., Bethesda, 301-202-9255, tastyimage.com.
Nevin Martell frequently writes about food from Washington, D.C., and is the author of The Founding Farmers Cookbook: 100 Recipes for True Food & Drink from the Restaurant Owned by American Family Farmers (Andrews McMeel, 2013). To comment on this story, email firstname.lastname@example.org.