There is no bad time to give (or receive) chocolate—its sweet and slightly sinful personality has been forever linked to love and seduction. But during the holiday devoted to passion, it is a perfect emblem of one’s true love. The root of chocolate as a symbol of “l’amour” goes way back in history. In the times of the Aztecs, chocolate was seen as an aphrodisiac and savored as a drink. During the 1600s, the yen for chocolate was prominent across Europe—gathering spots in London for chocolate consumption rivaled coffee houses. The court of Versailles in the late 1600s favored a hot chocolate drink and Marie Antoinette kicked it up a notch in 1770 with her chocolate maker who combined chocolate with orange blossom and sweet almonds. But it was during the 19th century with factories and mass production that the rest of us folks became infatuated with the sweet stuff.
But there is value in seeking out masters of chocolate, especially for one’s true love, rather than opting for mediocre chocolate that comes in a typical red heart box. A group of artisanal chocolate makers in New Mexico are devoted to the craft of high-quality creative chocolates –and offer an abundance of sweet treats that are especially welcome on Valentine’s Day. These chocolate wizards take a variety of approaches—from embracing Mesoamerican traditions to emulating European models of mastery to lovingly incorporating New Mexican flavors such as piñon and chile. But they all understand and respect the deep devotion their customers have to a rich experience that heightens daily life. According to Charles Weck, owner of Albuquerque’s Theobroma Chocolatiers, “Chocolate is the best gift for the holiday. People will not buy it for themselves, but if you give it to them—they love you for it!” Read on to find out more.
ChocGlitz and Cream
This nearly four-year-old northwest Albuquerque confectioner is committed to fresh ingredients as well as selling chocolate that is certified “fair trade,” which means the cocoa farmers they buy from are paid a fair price for their crop and there is no exploitation of labor involved in production. Voted “Best of the City” for the past three years, the company offers a wide selection of delectable treats like handmade fudge, dipped chocolates, truffles, cannoli, and assorted boxes of chocolates. “Our most popular item for Valentine’s Day is our Hand Dipped Chocolate Covered Strawberries,” says owner Celeste Davis. “Our berries are dipped fresh every day!”
On Central Ave. in Nob Hill in Albuquerque, Chocolate Dude offers a “groovy” chocolate experience with nut clusters, truffles, barks, fudge, novelties, and boxed assortments. They offer turtles that they have nicknamed “lobos,” in honor of UNM’s mascot. And a spokesperson for the company confided that one of their top-sellers for the Valentine’s holiday is chocolate dipped strawberries.
The Chocolate Lady
The Chocolate Lady is located on the plaza in historic old Mesilla, NM (Las Cruces), and creates premier chocolates in the tradition of European candy makers. The owner is dedicated to only using pure, fresh, and natural ingredients. Known for its pecan turtles that use locally grown pecans, they also have a limited supply of coveted chocolate-covered strawberries.
Located in Santa Fe at the gateway to downtown, this tiny chocolate maker is one of the city’s finest chocolate destinations known for its chocolate barks. One fun Valentine Day option is the Day of the Dead-Love Never Dies tin—a collectible tin created by local Santa Fe artists that includes chocolate barks with premium ingredients such as organic espresso, tamari-roasted almonds, New Mexico green and red chile roasted pistachios, and fresh lavender. (The special item is priced at $31.)
Wife and husband Grace and Troy Lapsys run their operation in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque where they combine classical chocolates and confectionery French training with local flavors. They offer superb truffles, bon bons, and customized chocolate sculptures, along with a dessert and wine bar and chocolate workshops. One whimsical Valentine’s Day gift is their Chocolate High Heel Shoe with Pink Champagne Truffles ($55). Yes indeed the shoe is chocolate (a fine French kind) the equivalent of a size 5—filled with decadent truffles. Another honorable mention is the Edible Chocolate Heart Box Truffle and Bon Bon Collection ($55)—although it looks like a velvet heart box it is a fine French chocolate exterior filled with truffle jewels. Be sure to check out the website for information on classes such as Wine and Chocolate 101 (Feb. 9) and Chocolate Truffle Decorating (Feb. 17).
Kakawa Chocolate House
This specialty chocolate company located in Santa Fe near the State Capitol is known for authentic drinking chocolate elixirs, which include recipes reminiscent of Pre-Columbian , Mesoamerican, Mayan, Aztec, colonial American, and colonial Mexican times. Company information dates the historic recipes from 1000 BC to mid 1900s. The company’s outstanding attention to quality and dedication to small batches with fresh, seasonal ingredients also fuels its truffles, agave caramels, and other sweet offerings. One great idea for the holiday is its Chocolate For Two Set ($75) featuring a variety of Kakawa elixirs, sea salt chocolate caramels, truffles, and two hand-painted cups and saucers from Oaxaca, Mexico.
This long-time chocolate maker (established in 1971) with three locations in Santa Fe and an outlet at Buffalo Thunder Resort has been a leader in Santa Fe culinary sweets—sticking to well honored traditional cooking methods. Its toffees, brittles, caramels and fudges are hand-stirred in cooper kettles to ensure high standards. The company also uses local ingredients when possible. Its Vintage Affair Flocked Heart with Twin Peaks is a holiday favorite with roasted almonds perched on a mountain of creamy caramel then dipped half-way into dark chocolate. Valentine’s Day boxes start at $18.99.
Located in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights, the company’s philosophy is to make savory chocolate confections that are not only aesthetically creative but also provide a unique experience for the senses. Their Valentine Baskets are packed with some of their specialties like Cortez Crunch, Chaco Pops, and Chocolate y Maiz (chocolate blended with a crisp corn crunch). Or choose a Valentine Assortment with hand dipped macadamia nuts, buttery caramel filled milk chocolate hearts, chocolates filled with Grand Marnier, and more. “Chocolate strawberries dipped in our milk, dark, or white Swiss style chocolate are popular as well as velvet heart boxes filled with assorted chocolates,” says Charles Weck, owner.
Todos Santos Chocolates
Todos Santos Chocolates is tucked into the picturesque Sena Plaza in downtown Santa Fe—with mouthwatering and artistic creations such as whimsical chocolate Milagros—and is dedicated to a special French dark chocolate called Valrhona. Owner Heyward Simoneaux says that Valentine’s Day is just behind Christmas in terms of sales volume for his business. “We have a great selection of boxed assortments that are elaborately wrapped that make the perfect gift—priced from $14 to $150.” He also says that some of the chocolates include their Signature golf-leaf decoration—quite beautiful and unique.
Wishing you a holiday rich with love and chocolate! XO