My Own True Love
Our love affair began years ago. It was never one of those civilized, time-consuming “Harry Meets Sally” things, with platonic friendship origins, the inevitable glance, date, and eventually, relationship. No, ours has been a white-hot smolder that has yet to simmer down. To this day, from the moment we are together, which is pretty often in the winter, until our parting hour, there is no limit to the passion we share.
I’m speaking, of course, of chocolate. (What’d you think, I was talking about a man?) Or chocolat as the French satinly refer to it. That exquisite by-product of cacao seeds that has wended its way through three millennia as an aphrodisiac, a warming drink, and what we have today: A melange of flavors and artistry assigned to just about all holidays (Easter being no exception).
But chocolate’s most common ally in our culture is love, and what better time to pay homage to the global drug of choice than in the month of lovers? As Valentine’s Day draws near, the RI region is virtually dripping with chocolate-themed events, and rich with cacao-inspired treats to heat up the palate and boil the blood in the coldest point of the season. Here is our lovingly selected guide to all things chocolate, no lover required (because then you’d have to share).
Events in the Region
Leave it to the Berkshires to devote an entire month to chocolate. Chocolate Berkshires has fast become a staple for warding off the winter blues and features events from Vermont to Great Barrington, all devoted to playing up the cocoa strengths of the county. The month finds its epicenter at Chocolate Springs in Lenox. Bring your sweet tooth and feel free to drool (delicately, of course) over specialty chocolates from master chocolatier Joshua Needleman. Not that you need any prompting, but there are some heaven-sent desserts to choose from as always. (I highly recommend the Chocolate Raspberry Brandy Mousse Cake.)
A Bean By Any Other Name: A Gluttonous Gift Guide
Of course, there is the whole business of gift-giving that comes with the Valentine’s Day territory. Even for the most skeptical and jaded at heart, a little chocolate goes a long way (maybe all the way to the boudoir), and if you happen to be living with the object of your affection, well, it’s a free-for-all…in the name of love. Put down the four piece Whitman’s sampler, get the hell out of Rite-Aid, and do chocolate (and your love) some justice with, for starters, a blood red tin of Harney & Sons Valentine’s Blend chocolate tea infused with roses. You can order online or visit their Millerton store for an olfactory epiphany (and some gorgeous gift ideas).
Tea whets the palate nicely, in preparation for the glory ahead. That glory could arrive in the form of a juicy classic — chocolate covered strawberries from Catherine’s Chocolates in Great Barrington — or a wild, worldly adventure — Chocolate Bark in Ginger Thai, Peppery Cashew, and other mouth-watering flavors courtesy of Your Spice of Life in Hillsdale (order online, and soon!). Either way, the chase is on for chocolate, and as Hemingway pointed out on several occasions, there is nothing quite like the chase. Sometimes a quickie is worth a thousand elaborate courtships, and it’s, well, quicker. Pop in to Rubi’s in Great Barrington for a rich, black-as-night bouchon, and chase that down with a latte if you like to linger.
Speaking of linger, most of us would like the culinary libations of the love season to last, ultimately, forever. Or at least through the year. There’s beer-of-the-month, jelly-of-the-month, even bacon-of-the-month, so let there be chocolate. Verdigris Tea and Chocolate Bar in Hudson offers a sumptuous (it may even be deemed as indulgent and gluttonous) Chocolate of the Month Club that includes mouth-watering confections like latte cups, chocolate-dipped caramels, artisan chocolate mini-pears, and gorgeous chocolate pyramids. Cleopatra and Eve would’ve fainted on the spot…
And while you are licking your teeth clean from all of this decadence, make sure you look good. Jane Iredale Mineral Cosmetics says you can have your cacao and wear it, too. The Chocoholicks compact contains four shades and flavors — Blood Orange, Espresso, Very Berry, and Chili Pepper — of super juicy lip gloss for a lip-smacking good time. You may want to be a little selective about when and where you wear the chili pepper. Some like it hot, but not too hot! —Nichole Dupont