B.T. McElrath chocolates, photo by Jason DeRusha
I’m not sure why Valentine’s Day always means chocolates. I mean, why can’t it mean ice cream? Or muesli? I don’t make the rules. The truth is, chocolate and candy is a big deal. Americans are expected to spend $20 billion for Valentine’s Day in 2016, and half of Americans buy candy.
You can do better than a heart-shaped box of chocolate, though. Surdyk’s Cheese Shop in northeast Minneapolis is one of my favorite spots to buy chocolate. I asked Mary Richter, the culinary director and head chocolate/candy buyer to help me put together a list of the top five chocolate gifts for Valentine’s Day.
Susan Brown used to be an art museum curator, now she creates a different type of art. I profiled her company on WCCO last year. She gets honey from rooftops in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and creates gorgeous chocolates and inventive flavors. ($14.99 for 8-piece gift box, Surdyk’s)
Brian McElrath is a local legend in artisan chocolate, and one of the first to bring a chef-driven approach to the food. The Salty Dog bar is delicious, the Super Red as well, but the box of Epicurean truffles is a great gift—nine pieces, including passion fruit, balsamic-zinfandel, chile-limon, among others, will not disappoint. ($19 for truffles, Surdyk’s)
(B.T. McElrath merged with Minnesota’s Annie B’s this year. Owner Amanda Henke is holding pop-up shops with boxes of caramels and truffles at Flirt Boutique in St. Paul on Feb. 11 from 5-8 p.m., Feb. 13 from 12-4 p.m., and at Fleur de Lis Flower Shop on Feb. 12 from 12:30-5 p.m., and Feb. 13 from 9-5 p.m.)
Colin Gasko started producing his chocolate bars in Minneapolis, now he’s in Massachusetts—close enough to be one of us. Experience a variety of fresh, high quality flavor, with the beans coming straight from farmers and producers. I love the Jamaica bar. They’re expensive, but worth it. ($14, Kopplin’s Coffee in St. Paul)
Not Local, But Still Good:
From San Francisco, the elegant and beautifully packaged chocolate morsels were made to impress. Selections include champagne truffles, Fleur de Sel caramels, and a whole lot more. “Recchiuti’s red wine and whiskey pairing truffles are typical sell outs here in the shop,” said Richter. ($25/box, Surdyk’s)
Yes, this is from Tennessee. The duck fat caramel is a combo of caramelized cane sugar and duck fat! Crazy! A Muzzleloader is a classic southern treat: it’s a dark chocolate shell with a liquid salted bourbon caramel inside. ($19 duck fat caramels, $18 Muzzleloaders, Surdyk’s)
If you insist on the classic heart shapes, at least skip the tacky heart-shaped box. Located in Portland, Alma creates beautiful single-estate dark chocolates filled with hazelnut praline, salted caramel, or passion fruit caramel. And yes, they’re heart-shaped. ($14, Sugar Sugar Candy)
Surdyk’s, 303 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, 612-379-3232, surdyks.com
Kopplin’s Coffee, 2038 Marshall Ave., St. Paul, 651-698-0457, kopplinscoffee.com
Sugar Sugar Candy, 3803 Grand Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-823-0261, sugarsugar-candy.com