Chocolate is an important part of Valentine's Day - and it actually has a long history as a love food. Passion for chocolate goes all the way back to Mesoamerican history. The Mayan and Aztec upper class elites savored a drink that combined roasted cacao beans with cornmeal, vanilla, honey and chilies. Cacao beans were as valuable a commodity as gold, and were even used to pay taxes levied by Aztec rulers.
By the early 1600s, the passion for chocolate made it to Europe. In London, chocolate houses began to rival coffee houses as social gathering spots. In France, Madame de Sevigne wrote about enormous chocolate consumption throughout the court at Versailles in 1671; Louis IV drank it daily and Madame du Barry was said to use chocolate mixed with amber to stimulate her lovers.
When Marie Antoinette married Louis XVI in 1770, her retinue included a personal chocolate maker. The official “Chocolate Maker to the Queen” created such recipes as “chocolate mixed with orchid bulb for strength, chocolate with orange blossom to calm the nerves, or chocolate with sweet almond milk to aid the digestion.”
In the 19th century, chocolate crossed from being the food of royalty to mass production. Richard Cadbury, whose British family manufactured chocolate, was searching for a way to use the pure cocoa butter that was extracted from the process Cadbury had invented to make a more palatable drinking chocolate. His solution was “eating chocolates,” which he packaged in lovely boxes he designed himself. A marketing genius, Cadbury started putting the Cupids and rosebuds on heart-shaped boxes in 1861: even when the chocolates had been eaten, people could use the beautiful boxes to save such mementos as love letters. This is a marketing ploy that others have followed, ranging from the upscale Belgian company, Neuhaus to the mass brand, Whitman Samplers.
So.... you can always buy Whitman Samplers and Whitman heart shaped candy boxes at the Rite-Aid, CVS and Giant, but where do you buy really good chocolate to celebrate Valentine's Day?
Here are a few places that I like.
The Chocolate House is located in the Dupont Circle neighborhood at 1904 18th St NW. The Chocolate House has a tasting room and offers more than 300 unique chocolate bars and confections from artisan chocolate markers around the world from Switzerland to France, Italy, Peru, Lithuania and Vietnam.
Chocolate Chocolate is located at 1130 Connecticut Avenue, on the street level of an office building (where they must need and eat lots of chocolate!) Chocolate Chocolate offers chocolates from around the world, artisanal locally produced chocolates and nostalgic collections of chocolates, The nostalgic collections include chocolates from Naron of Baltimore was founded in 1905 andAsher of Pennsylvania dating back to 1892!
Selections include good old fashioned bon bons such as vanilla buttercreams, smooth mint meltaways, bursting cordial cherries, chewy vanilla caramels, sea salt caramels, peanut butter smoothies, raspberry creams & jellies, orange jellies, coconut clusters, peanut clusters, and double dipped mints. Probably the best reason to go to the Chocolate Chocolate store is to buy a piece of their Monuments collection. Do you want a Washington Monument in chocolate - or perhaps a Capitol building or a Lincoln Memorial. Chocolate Chocolate can set you up with a chocolate version of any of the major Washington DC icons!
Bethesda Chocolates located at 8003 Woodmont Avenue offers a range of house-made confections created from fair-trade chocolate, including dark, milk and white chocolate. You can get molded hears and champagne bottles, chocolate dipped Oreos, hot chili ganache and made from scratch hot chocolate.
Bethesda Row offers a sweet little Neuhaus shop with lots of choices from the Belgian candy maker. If you want to buy chocolate in Friendship Heights, be sure to check out the Kron chocolate shop in Friendship Heights.
Fleurir is located at 110 South Payne St in Alexandria. The Washingtonian Magazine described this chocolatier as a picture-perfect chocolate boutique in Alexandria, which sells chocolates in many flavors, including truffle flavors ranging from classic salted caramel to more exotic, like wildflower honey caramel. This year, Fleurir’s signature Valentine’s Day treat comes in the form of chocolate-dipped strawberry marshmallow hearts. Want something a little more specific? Try the regionally-themed chocolate bars, such as DC that features dried cherries and Tahitian vanilla coffee in a play on the famous cherry blossoms.
Artisan Confections is located at 1025 N. Filmore St., Arlington and 2910 District Ave., Fairfax. Chocolatier Chelsea Freet’s elegant French chocolate confections are hand-made in small batches with ingredients like Maryland-grown mint, or locally-sourced spirits and liqueurs. Look for bonbons with interesting flavors such salted butter-caramel or orange blossom-honey. The lemon almond, a treat crafted specially for Valentine’s Day, features caramelized white chocolate with citrus zest, and house-made almond paste.
The wonderful thing about chocolates is that there is a chocolate for every taste. I like dark chocolates with spicy chili while my daughter likes white chocolate - which isn't really chocolate at all - and my husband said his favorite chocolates were Almond Joys. What about you? What is your favorite? Are you giving a chocolate box for Valentine's Day?
If you don't like chocolate, and are looking for some romantic things to do in the DC area, just click here! Whether it is a trip to a museum or a Potomac boat cruise, there are lots of romanatic things to do in the DC area this year.