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Valentine’s Day without chocolate is like St. Patrick’s Day without beer—you just gotta have it. Looking for alternatives to the standard sampler, we found everything from hand-painted truffles to one-pound ganache-filled hearts. And for those of you that are bored to tears by a nine-piece box of candy, we discovered that chocolate comes in many forms, including body paint and shower bars. It’s up to you how you decide to taste it.
1529C 14th St., NW; 202-387-2626; 2003-A Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria; 703-635-7917; artfullychocolate.com
At these two “cocoa galleries,” you’ll find chocolate with a wild streak. The DC location stocks everything from chocolate massage oils and shower bars to wild-cherry body frosting. The more conservative might opt for chocolatier Rob Kingsbury’s chocolate bar with dried strawberries ($6.50) or some of the nearly 60 flavors of truffles (boxes range from two pieces for $4.25 to 24 for $46) available at both shops.
4815-B Lee Hwy., Arlington; 703-239-0616; artisanconfections.com
In this sunny shop, pastry chef Jason Andelman makes chocolates that are as beautiful as many of them are delicious. Andelman combines his art-history background and culinary degree to come up with delicately painted creations—some with designs by local artists—such as lemon-hazelnut with milk chocolate and lavender-fig with bittersweet chocolate. The red-ribboned packaging is pretty, too. Regulars know to ask for the salted butter caramel, a gold dome oozing with a salty-sweet flavor. Four truffles $8; nine truffles $17; 15 truffles $25 (includes one of every flavor); 30 truffles $46.
Biagio Fine Chocolate
1904 18th St., NW; 202-328-1506; biagiochocolate.com
This shoebox-size store, at the lower end of Adams Morgan, carries more than 300 varieties of chocolate bars. You’ll find confections from Madagascar and Hawaii plus the creations of five local chocolatiers. Last year, Valentine’s Day shoppers snapped up the prepackaged boxes of Kansas City’s Christopher Elbow confections; the strawberry-balsamic flavor was the most popular. Gifts of all types range from $10 to $100.
901 Slaters La., Alexandria; 703-600-2899; buzzonslaters.com
At this funky bakery/coffeehouse/lounge, pastry chef Josh Short is turning out a number of Valentine’s Day specials including handmade chocolates ($1.50 each), hand-dipped sugar cookies ($2.25 each), miniature cupcakes ($25 for 12 in a heart-shaped box), and chocolate-dipped fruit ($1.95 to $2.50). You can also channel your inner Picasso: This year, Short created three flavors of body paint ($17.95).
Cacao Fine European Chocolates
7129 Bethesda La., Bethesda; 301-215-6945; chocolatebycacao.com
For Valentine’s Day, this small Bethesda shop is making heart-shaped truffles ($1.50 per piece) in flavors such as white-chocolate-raspberry and passion fruit, while a dome-shaped variety combines milk chocolate with coconut and dark chocolate with Champagne. (box of two truffles $3.75; box of four $5.50; box of ten $13).
1130 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-466-2190; chocolatechocolatedc.com
For Valentine’s Day, this 25-year-old store—which recently moved to a new location not far from the original—stocks prepackaged holiday-themed assortments from every one of its chocolate brands. An eight-piece box from the store’s newest line, Laderach, a Swiss company, goes for $12.95. You can also count on chocolate-covered strawberries (about $30 for six), which the owners get from a Fredericksburg candy maker. The bulk candy section includes unique sweets such as chipotle/dark-chocolate-covered almonds and mint malt balls.
1743 L St., NW; 202-463-0992; chocolatemoosedc.com
Sweet tooths visit this crowded downtown DC gift shop for everything from gummy worms to high-end chocolate. On Valentine’s Day, pick up a chocolate-and-cashew “turtle” housed in a red Chinese takeout container (around $18) or a box of Baltimore-based Naron chocolates ($18 a pound). If you’re looking beyond chocolate, opt for the excellent sea-salt-topped Fran’s Caramels ($12 for six), one of President Obama’s favorites.
1781 Florida Ave., NW; 202-518-2570; belgiumlocolat.com
The Valentine’s Day specialty at this Belgian-themed Adams Morgan cafe is a whopping chocolate heart (it weighs almost a pound) filled with an assortment of chocolate truffles and topped with a customized message ($38 to $45). Individual filled chocolates and truffles, both handmade, come in flavors such as mojito and hazelnut. We like the almond truffles and the banana with vanilla ganache best.
4611 Sangamore Rd., Bethesda; 301-229-8180
At this neighborhood bakery and bistro, you can custom-design a box of handmade truffles ($1.75 each) and flavored chocolates ($1.15 each). For Valentine’s Day, owner Susan Limb cuts out heart-shaped French macaroons with a raspberry filling ($1.50 each).
Schakolad Chocolate Factory
2461 S. Clark St., Arlington; 703-418-2000; schakolad.com
More than 70 truffles and ganaches ($32 a pound) are made right in front of you at this Crystal City storefront, where you can ask for help in putting together a custom Valentine’s Day box. Popular flavors include cheesecake, Jamaican rum, and cappuccino. You’ll also find long-stem chocolate roses ($4.75), fresh-dipped strawberries ($2.50 to $3), and chocolate body paint ($13.50).
→ Budget Gift Guide: Under $20
→ Gift Guide for Her
→ Gift Guide for Him
→ Gifts to Warm Your Home
→ Valentine’s Day: Beyond Red Roses
→ Tables for Two: Valentine’s Day Menus in Washington
→ Looking for Valentine’s Chocolate? How About a Mojito Truffle
→ Beyond Chocolates and Roses: Ten Quirky Things to Do on Valentine’s Day
→ Heart-to-Heart Getaways: Valentine’s Day Hotel Packages
→ Valentine's Romance at Home