A sweet solution for Valentine’s Day

They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but chocolate is just as good.

The 11th Annual Chocolate Show New York took place at Pier 94 last November. A bigger venue than its predecessor, the Metropolitan Pavilion, it was liberating to have free range of the show and explore each stand without bumping into or elbowing people. Since most vendors were generous with their samples, I set out to find unusual chocolates that one might consider giving as a gift for Valentine’s Day. Here they are in alphabetical order:

Christopher Norman Chocolates is an artisanal chocolate company that creates chocolates by hand for discerning taste buds. A piece of dark chocolate infused with star anise was like eating a chocolate covered licorice – if you love licorice in any form, then this is right up your alley.
The Christopher Norman Factory & Gallery Shop is located in New York City at 60 New Street, Tel. 212.402.1243.

Chuao Chocolate is a Venezuelan artisanal chocolate company based in the U.S. that creates chocolates with a punch. Their well-known “firecracker” chocolate is not for the faint-hearted. It’s actually dark chocolate with chipotle, salt and popping candy. One bite will slowly set your mouth on fire. Make sure to have a glass of milk handy to put out the flames! If you and your “hottie” can stand the heat, give it a try.
Chuao Chocolatier and Chocolate Café locations are located in Southern California and Miami. For store hours, go to http://www.chuaochocolatier.com/cafes.html.

Lillie Belle Farms is another artisanal chocolate company based in Oregon, who uses its farm-grown ingredients to create interesting flavor combinations for their truffles. One of these is an unusual pairing of Smokey Blue Cheese and chocolate. The flavor is a nutty chocolate with a subtle hint of blue cheese. If you cannot afford to buy jewelry in a particular blue box, this is the next best thing.
Go to the Lillie Belle Farms Web site to buy the Smokey Blue Truffles.

Lily O’Briens is an Irish chocolate company named after owner Mary Ann’s daughter. From that love, Mary Ann has created delicious chocolates with an Irish flair. One of their best sellers was the sticky toffee chocolate, which has a tasty blend of milk and dark chocolate encasing a liquid caramel center. The chocolate has a fresh creamy taste to it and the sweet caramel contains buttery bits of toffee. A box of these treats will have your sweetie melt in your arms.
Shop on the Web at the Lily O’Briens online store.

Romanicos Chocolate – It is hard to believe that the Romanicos Original Sin truffles are only 38 calories apiece. These guilt-free truffles are made without preservatives, sugar or butter, yet are somehow absolutely rich and decadent without adding inches to your waistline. They make a perfect gift for someone who is watching what they eat.
Romanicos is based in Miami and the store is located at 1801 Coral Way, Suite 116, Tel. 305.854.9936.

Roni Sue’s Chocolates is based out of the Essex Street Market in New York City. Owner Rhonda Kave creates unique chocolates for the adventurous chocolate lover. During the Chocolate Show, she sampled her Pig Candy. A chocolate-covered bacon creation, this is not a chocolate bar with miniscule bits of bacon but a healthy dose of bacon chunks enrobed in either dark or milk chocolate. Your bacon lover will squeal with delight when you give them a gift of bacon chocolate.
The Essex Street Market is located at 120 Essex St. in New York City, Tel. 212.260.0421.