It’s hard enough trying to find the right card that says I love you and the perfect gift that says I know you. Let us take the pressure off by recommending these superb boxes of chocolate that say, “It’s time for a little self-indulgence.”
Grand gestures generally go one of two ways: They either sail effortlessly into success or suffer a grueling failure. Jean-Philippe Khodara created zChocolat as a grand gesture for the woman he loved, who had a fondness for chocolates. The two would eventually marry, and the brand would flourish. Now, 19 years later, zChocolat and its world-renowned pastry chef and chocolatier Pascal Caffet have polished its 26 recipes and superb techniques.
Utilizing 100 percent pure cocoa butter, low sugar, no alcohol, and no preservatives, the silky chocolates are handcrafted in France and feature creative flavor combinations like caramel mixed into a bright and tangy passion fruit, coconut, and mango purée, which is then wrapped in decadent 70 percent Venezuelan dark chocolate. It is absolute perfection.
“The Iranian pistachio is a slightly sweet but subtler version of marzipan, with a smooth texture to the filling,” says Jeremy Repanich, Robb Report’s culinary editor. “Really great combination of flavors in each chocolate I tried.”
Home design editor Arianne Nardo says, “Piedmont hazelnuts and 40 percent Ivory Coast milk chocolate should be together forever. Every bite was exciting and delicious.”
And zChocolat doesn’t overlook any details along the way. A beautifully hand-carved mahogany box gets a touch of gold accents for the Valentine’s Day Ruby box ($162). Filled with 27 chocolates—with a 12-heart assortment and a 15-piece traditional assortment—zChocolat goes a step further by offering personalized engravings, image choices for the box’s interior, and an array of accessories. If that’s not enough, every box is sprinkled with rose petals inside. This was Robb Report’s clear favorite during all of our testing.
Stick With Me Sweets
A delicate shell. A rich filling so creamy it not only melts in your mouth, it fills it with powerful punches of flavor. A lingering aftertaste so smooth you’ll swear you’ve been transported to a jazz club.
This is just a taste of what head chef and cofounder Susanna Yoon brings to Stick With Me Sweets in New York City. A former chocolatier at Thomas Keller’s three-Michelin-starred Per Se, Yoon’s handcrafted marbleized bonbons are made in small batches with fillings that are sourced locally or ethically sourced from around the world. This year’s sensational limited-quantity Valentine’s Day box ($95) comes in an elegant coffee-table-book-style case in a vibrant shade of coral. The interior showcases a piece of artwork that pictures busy pastry chefs hustling around the kitchen to put together their alluring confections, while the colorful chocolates are displayed in a heart shape.
“I tried the chocolate with Kalamansi lemon and meringue covered in white chocolate, and it was literally like biting into a pie. I could clearly see all the layers, and as I chewed, I slowly got more acidity from the lemon. It was amazing,” says copy editor Diane Mooshoolzadeh.
The 22-piece box is a glamorous gift where robust flavors like guava passion fruit, yuzu, s’more, Champagne, bananas foster, and Matcha green tea are exquisitely balanced with the delicate chocolate. That’s no easy feat.
Los Angeles–based chocolatier Ococoa is the up-and-comer you want to know. Spearheaded by founder and chocolatier Diana Malouf, the brand’s signature butter-cup collection dazzles with flavor combinations like sesame fig, macadamia guava, marzipan truffle, and the classic peanut butter.
Grab a bottle of wine, and pair the butter cups with a box of the charming Valentine’s Sweet Hearts—complete with heart dimples—which features three delectable fillings: raspberry shrub with white chocolate ganache, cinnamon ganache with almond praline, and a rich guanaja noir ganache that is 70 percent dark chocolate.
“Rich and slightly fruity,” says Carolyn Meers, our jewelry editor. “Perfect amount of dark-chocolate bitterness. Also, love the heart shape.”
Malouf’s handcrafted creations are creamy, not overly sweet, and draped in a shell of perfectly tempered chocolate. The Valentine’s Sweet Hearts come in a box of nine ($22), and the Sweet Hearts Gift Tower features a nine-piece box of hearts and a 16-piece selection of butter cups ($65). Mix and match as you wish.
“The chocolate shell gives way to a smooth filling with a strong cinnamon taste. The cinnamon is a smidge overpowering compared to the chocolate, but I still really enjoyed it,” says real estate editor Rebekah Bell.
There are many universal truths in life, and one of these truths is that the Belgians know their chocolate. Celebrated for their confections’ velvety-smooth texture and gourmet pralines, Neuhaus introduces a delightful new Valentine’s collection titled Infinite Love. Intertwining hearts decorate this season’s lusciously pink boxes, while berries and spices embrace in a rather unexpected way for Neuhaus’ three bold new flavors.
The red heart is divided between a strawberry ganache and an almond praline infused with gingerbread herbs, all packed within a white chocolate shell. It’s like biting into a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie with a spiced crust. The milk chocolate heart gets a raspberry compote, and the almond/hazelnut praline receives a dash of pink pepper from Serbia, while the dark-chocolate-and-cherry heart has a hint of anise seed.
“The mix of crisp dark chocolate and velvety-light whipped vanilla cream from Madagascar is divine,” says Phoebe Neuman, fashion and travel assistant editor, about the Orfeo chocolate. “I’ll take two, please.”
The Infinite Love boxes come in an assortment of sizes; however, we highly recommend going for the 43-piece ($90) or the whopping 82-piece ($172) heart. Go big, or go home.
The bald man wants you to try his chocolates. Based in New York City, Max Brenner has become known for its chocolate-bar cafés where cocoa beans are available by the crate, chocolate comes in bricks, the fondue is a must, s’mores take the form of a pizza, waffles are swimming in liquid chocolate, and pralines can be found by the handful. New this Valentine’s Day is its ChocoDesire circular tin ($60) filled with cocoa cookies rolled in hazelnut praline and white chocolate; milk chocolate drops with caramel and sea salt; and crunchy cereal balls rolled in dark chocolate, hazelnut praline, and cocoa powder.
My personal favorite? Try the milk chocolate cubes filled with espresso-flavored hazelnut praline. The rich chocolate melts in your mouth, while the espresso and hazelnut mingle on the back of the tongue for a quiet but pleasing aftertaste.