Throughout history, chocolate has been part of the passionate rituals of ancient cultures, lauded as an aphrodisiac, limited to the courts of Europe, banned by the church and has grown to be the most popular of all sweets consumed in the world.
Now the ribbons are tied, the boxes stuffed and fresh strawberries are being dipped and dressed in chocolate for one of the biggest days for chocolate sales during the year. This time is only rivaled by the Christmas and Easter seasons.
How did chocolate come to be one of the gifts of choice for Valentine’s Day?
There are many reasons, including chemical reactions, cultural bias and other influences. The best reason, however, may be that in 1868 Richard Cadbury capitalized on the Victorian Era Valentine craze by producing heart-shaped boxes, with a picture of his daughter and her kitten on the front, as a way to sell his chocolate assortment. The chocolate Valentine was born, and now Americans are expected this year to buy 36 million heart-shaped boxes and spend $1.05 billion on Valentine candy.
Valentine’s Day is just a few days away, so I decided to search Sulphur Springs for places where you can find wonderful chocolate treats for your Valentine.
First you have to decide if your Valentine is all about the box or all about the chocolate.
Do they want quantity or quality? Do they want gourmet chocolate or traditional chocolate from their childhood?
A popular choice is chocolate-dipped strawberries. Two locations in town that have these are April Showers at $22.50 per dozen and Danna’s Florist at $24.99 per dozen. Both use milk chocolate and offer double-dipped varieties as well.
Call ahead to reserve some as they usually run out quickly on Valentine’s Day.
A new trend is the chocolate-dipped cherry. Not the cherry cordials made from maraschino cherries, but fresh cherries on the stem.
They can be found at Candy Bouquet and Sulphur Springs Floral. The Candy Bouquet offers three dipped cherries in a clear gift box with a Valentine bow for $6.95. Sulphur Springs Floral sells their double-dipped cherries at three for $5.50 and has several choices of packaging to choose from.
Candy Bouquet also offers an item that combines chocolate with the traditional gift of roses for Valentine’s Day.
Chocolate roses on a long stem can be purchased as a bouquet of 12 for $89.95, in a box of 3 at $24.95 or loose in groups of three for $16.95. They are packaged to look as if real roses are being delivered.
If a decadent chocolate truffle is what calls your Valentine’s name, Sulphur Springs Floral has a wide selection from The Sweet Shoppe, a candy company that moved its production plant from Fort Worth to Mount Pleasant several years ago.
Flavors include everything from mint to caramel and coffee. The most popular truffle is the Fudge Love Truffle, a wonderful choice for the dark chocolate lover. The truffles may be purchased individually for $2.50 or combined with other items in gift baskets and other packaging.
Snack and gift baskets including chocolate are available at all of the above locations and can be found in a wide variety of price ranges. They can also be found at Flowerland Florist and Gifts as well.
All the merchants have prepared baskets on hand, but they recommend a timely call if you want something custom-made.
Don’t have time to visit any of these stores before Valentine’s Day? Will you be searching for anything chocolate come Saturday? Or maybe you would like to put together your own chocolate gift basket?
There are some great choices out there at your local retail stores. This is where you really have to decide if the packaging or the chocolate is more important to your Valentine.
If the packaging is what they want then visit the seasonal aisle and you will find a vast array of choices, including some by the higher quality chocolate makers.
If the chocolate is what is most important, and you have time to put together your own basket or gift bag, go to the regular candy aisle. Retailers have begun to stock higher-end chocolates in their normal candy selections in order to meet the demands of the developing American palette.
This week my family and I had a great time testing a few chocolates from the candy aisle. These are our recommendations:
Milk chocolate in all forms was done well, especially by Cadbury, Dove and Ghiradelli. Their bars are the best of their products with the smoothest texture and mouth feel.
Truffles by most companies had too much wax in their outer shell. The bite was too hard to reach the filling. The exceptions were Lindt Truffles, and our favorite, Hershey’s Cacao Reserve truffles and truffle crunch. They are available in both milk and dark chocolate.
Starbucks brand has a wide choice of chocolates that includes their famous coffee flavors. Their best products are the bars and the chocolate covered coffee beans. The truffles have too hard of a shell and don't melt in your mouth like they should.
My all-time favorites are the candies featuring unusual flavors such as pomegranate and papaya.
The best is the Lindt Dark Chocolate Bar infused with red chile. If you want to try something with an exotic flavor, a slight kick for your tastebuds at the end of each bite, and something that will let you experience the origins of chocolate in South America and Spain, give this confection a try.
No excuses now.
You know where to find all things chocolate in Sulphur Springs. Even if you think Valentine’s Day is just a commercial move to make you spend more money, your Valentine may not think so.
Chocolate is always good. What could it hurt?
For the past 20 years, Cindy Welch has been involved with all aspects of cooking, including formal culinary training, experience as food service director for First Baptist Church of Euless, a personal chef and owner of Cindy’s Casa Cuisine. Cindy’s favorite hobby is
“providing delicious food for the people
of Sulphur Springs.” Her columns cover all aspects of the cooking experience.
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