Brooklyn has more than its fair share of chocolatey goodness. From the Mast Brothers‘ bean-to-bar operation in Williamsburg to JoMart‘s classic confections made in Marine Park since 1946, everything from super-dark, tea-infused vegan bars to milk chocolate-covered marshmallow puffs are made right here. We’ve put together a cheat sheet of Brooklyn-made chocolate recommendations for almost any Valentine. And, if chocolate just doesn’t float your boat, check out our cheese picks from Eastern District for a different sort of butterfat romance.
Just beware of too much of a good thing–the chocolate hangover is for real. Last week nine Brooklyn Based writers and editors gathered at 61 Local to taste-test all these chocolates, and the next day nearly all of us reported hangover-like symptoms: headaches, sweaty hot flashes in the night, that itchy, high-blood pressure feeling. So, practice moderation if you intend on sealing the Valentine’s deal.
To declare your undying love (or to absolutely guarantee that you’ll get laid) head straight for Nunu Chocolates. Their hand-dipped Sea Salt Caramels strike the right balance between sweet and salty, the packaging is fun but not overly precious and they’re made from really good ingredients that are sustainably grown. Nunu’s Hokey Pokey (which call to mind See’s Seafoam or the British bar called Crunchie) is a high-low delight of crunchy-honeycomb goodness covered in chocolate, and was the single most-loved item that we tasted. These are boxes of chocolate to hide a ring in.
For your funny Valentine, you know, that quirky, interesting person you’ve been spending so much time with lately, but still haven’t quite figured out, check out offbeat bars from Liddabit and Tumbador. The King Bar, Liddabit’s homage to Elvis, combines peanut butter nougat, banana ganache, brown sugar-brown butter cookies and chocolate (good for your Jailhouse Rock-loving mom, too). And the gluten-free Passion Spice Bar, with passion fruit caramel and cayenne, is unlike anything else you’ve ever tasted. Well, any chocolate at least. It was definitely reminiscent of a cannabis confection (a goo ball, to be exact) and one of our writers, Jon Reiss, reported that it “actually made me feel like I was going to hallucinate.” Tumbador‘s PB&J and spicy Dulce De Chile are equally compelling, but a little more restrained.
To veer away from the Hersey Highway, head down Salty Road with some saltwater taffy. The seasonal Raspberry Rose flavor, as well as the creamy-salty Vanilla are both winners. And, Jacques Torres makes an enormous chocolate lollipop, available in dark, milk and white chocolates, called The Spanker. It says “Love” on the front and “Spank Me” on the back. Whether you actually want the spanking or not, it’s a real conversation starter.
For a design-centric lover who is usually more turned on by an Eames chair than a bon bon, the beautifully wrapped, carefully made bars from Mast Brothers and Raaka are really the only way to go. The Mast Brothers’ Almonds & Sea Salt bar comes packages in gorgeous paper printed with crisp red and blue anchors. The Blueberry Lavender bar from Raaka looks like it was wrapped in a hand-drawn sheet of paper, fresh from an artist’s desk. Those who like a little fruit in their dark, dark chocolate will dig these bars. Be warned though, neither is classically sweet.
Raaka is also “virgin” chocolate that has never been roasted, and vegan–perfect for that health nut you’ve been hooking up with. They’re not the only ones making chocolates with love and without dairy. Fine & Raw‘s raw, organic, vegan Bon Bons are tiny explosions of dark chocolate that will leave your yogi wanting more, and their Sea Salt bar is a good choice for anyone who lists dairy as a turn-off. (But if you’re the type who can’t stand carob as a stand in for chocolate, these will likely leave you unfulfilled, and they do have a slight tendency toward a dry, make-out proof mouth.) Cacao Prieto makes nut and fruit studded bars from single origin beans at their Red Hook headquarters. The Pistachio & Apricot and Sour Cherry & Cashew bars are both standouts. And, their hand-drawn packaging, depicting the history of the Prieto family and their cacao plantation in the Domincan Republic, make them equally well suited for a design fiend beau.
To accompany a dozen roses for a classically romantic Valentine’s gift, no sea salt or bergamot required, look to JoMart. Like many old-school companies, they are all about customer service and will pack you up a customized box of their hand-dipped chocolates (including their famous chocolate covered marshmallows). JoMart chocolates are like what you always wish a box of chocolates was like–a mix of caramel, toffee, nut and candy-cream-filled delights that are all different and delicious. (With the exception of one chocolate that was filled with a bright green, marzipan-like substance that nobody liked.) Li-Lac Chocolates are better known for their West Village store than their Brooklyn factory, but that doesn’t change their classic appeal. Their assorted, heart-shaped boxed (including one embellished with a tuxedo on the front) come filled with classic flavors like praline, raspberry, mocha and nuts of all kinds. They’re so perfect and French that they almost seem cheesy–until you put one in your mouth and discover that it’s the most delicious, indulgent thing ever.
Finally, your couch Valentine. Maybe you hate Valentine’s Day, but feel compelled to give yourself a special treat. Or you take to 80s movies with a gal pal on the couch ever year. Or, you and your sweetheart prefer to kick back and hang out in a low-key style–you’ve got nothing to prove. Settle in on the sofa with An Affair to Remember or The Apartment or Say Anything and a bag of Tumbador‘s Salted Peanut Crispy Rocher. Part of their nostalgia collection, it recalls those chocolate-covered Chex and peanut clusters your mom used to make, but so, so much better. Crispy, salty, chocolatey and addictive, if you’ve been looking sideways at a friend lately, split a bag of Rocher, and if sparks don’t fly, they never will.