“Cooking is like love. It should entered into with abandon or not at all.” Such delicious, true words from Harriet Van Horne, who first penned this line for Vogue magazine in 1956. In the spirit of channeling Ms. Harriet, we hope that wild abandon flies out the proverbial window this Valentine’s Day and that you can enjoy some new culinary experiences and delights with your honey. Love is food for the soul and we want your soul overflowing!
Here are 12 gift ideas to entice and treat, from sweets to beers to bling...
Railroad Place, Westport www.bonjocoffee.com
Talk about convenience and no excuses for commuters...hop off of the train, hop into Bonjo, score yourself a great cup of Bon”joe” and score your love a box of artistic and unique chocolates. While the outside is just a plain ol’ building, the inside is a little bit of glam and a little bit of rustic chic that combine to make a welcoming space. Head to the boutique-y side room for several cases of hand-painted, luxurious chocolates. Sold individually or in boxes of 5 to 32, you will have a hard time deciding on a flavor, the stock of which changes a bit about every two weeks. Painted, sparkled, splattered and striped, choose from flavors such as passion fruit, cinnamon caramel (so good and gooey!), vanilla mocha, salted caramel, marzipan. They even have one that resembles a mini Tiffany’s box so can indulge your honey without totally killing your wallet.
We all know that prix-fixe holiday menus often can result in tepid, uninteresting, overpriced meals. So, ditch this x-factor and surprise your Valentine with something much more fun and totally personal. Let a Book-a-Cook private chef customize a special menu just for you! Book-a-Cook gives you direct access to the some of the areas top chefs who will come to your home and cook a 100% customized (and stress-free) meal. Their carefully curated team of chefs boast resumes featuring experience at leading local restaurants, nationally recognized restaurants and with celebrity chefs including Martha Stewart, Jacques Pepin, Emeril, and Tyler Florence (to name a few). No need to worry, you will not be disappointed-they’ve got this! A few of their holiday favorite offerings are Seared Long Island Duck Breast with cherries and port sauce, Pan-toasted Halibut over Tomato Panzanella Salad, Grilled Porterhouse Steak with Pink Peppercorn Butter, Chocolate Ganache Cake with Pomegranates and Almonds....we can see you licking your lips...
292 Post Road East, Westport www.jlrocks.com
Tucked away in a quiet corner of downtown Westport you will find this beloved treasure chest of artisanal and designer jewelry. Housed with a unique blend of branded, private label and cutting-edge pieces, this local favorite has been the faithful hot spot for fashionable customers who are looking for that perfect statement piece of jewelry. The store might be small in size, but its wares throw a big punch. Designer pieces are mixed and assimilated with other prized artists, with the store feeling like a dream walk-in closet. The displays tempts and tease! Lucky shoppers need only take a short walk down the block to find a signature exclusive line that JL Rocks’ curates specifically to complement the chic home decor gallery, Bungalow (4 Sconset Square, Westport). For fifteen years, JL Rocks and Bungalow proudly have melded their sophisticated fashion- forward edge to create a sought-after fine jewelry collection. Please contact Dori at Dori@jlrocks.com to talk about the perfect piece for your Valentine!
Browne and Co.
865 Boston Post Road, Darien www.dianebrowne.com
“Eat Shop Entertain” at Browne and Co.-you can do a bit of each here at this quaint, stocked-to-the-gills store. Grab a cup of Zumbach’s coffee, choose from a wide variety of gift and home decor items-each prettier than the next!-and top it off with some Valentine red and pink rose-frosted cupcakes, heart-shaped sugar cookies or a chocolate pound cake with a hidden Valentine inside. See, true love does come from deep within (...a shell of luscious pound cake-hee)! From hostessy Valentine’s cocktail napkins and quotable drinking glasses to bracelets, lush scarves and jewelry holders (eh-HEM, please fill), all are sure to make the recipient swoon and any price point can find you something unique and fun.
133 Washington St., South Norwalk
Newly located on bustling Washington Street, this space is cozier and a little more industrial chic than their former space around the corner. Graffiti adorns the main wall in the cafe, but Chocopologie’s vintage touches still abound-white windowpanes afford a view of the kitchen area, coffee sacks cover chair seats and several glass cases overflow with truffles of all shape and flavor-ancho chili, Turkish coffee (personal fave), white chocolate balsamic, green tea and elderberry are some to tempt your sweetie’s palate. Stop by and enjoy white or dark chocolate fondue, tabletop S’mores (your own personal campfire minus the camping) or a decadent dessert called Chocolate Love-chocolate ice cream, a mini molten cake, and a chocolate cheesecake pop. Valentine’s special: with every $50 purchase, receive a four piece box of truffles and like them on Facebook and get 15% off and a chance to win a box of truffles.
Divine Treasures Belgian Chocolates
404 Middle Turnpike West, Manchester www.dtchocolates.com
Give your beloved a box o’ Buddhas! They will be rubbing their belly with delight after a taste of a Buddha’s Blessing chocolate (mango and coconut with a dash of spicy red pepper) or one of DT’s “Divine Layers” (sounds like the best band name ever, doesn’t it?) of Celtic Coffee and Turona, which has a coconut and almond flour base topped with a truffle layer and chocolate on top of that. Divine Treasures chocolates are organic, vegan and gluten-free and each one is hand made and one-of-a-kind. They also pride themselves on using locally sourced ingredients. DT chocolates are free of refined sugars, corn syrup. Ah, talk about contentment and peace...
89 Elm Street, New Canaan www.earthgardenflowers.com
Despite the cliche, Valentine’s Day does, of course, call for flowers. And, yes, a red rose can be so beautiful (we hear you, Robert Burns) but try springing forth from the expected and gather a bouquet of unusual colors and textures for your love. Earth Garden will assemble an arrangement that calls nature’s beauty into the spotlight with mixed romantic florals such as tulips, ranunculus, anemone, sweet peas, lilacs, hyacinth. A garden awaits! Interested a sleeker design? An orchid creation, with colors of white or burgundy, blushy pink or chartreuse will make hearts bloom. Flowers speak their own language, so go ahead and make it a beautiful message.
Kent Coffee and Chocolate
8 North Main Street, Kent, CT www.kentcoffee.com
On a cute, little Main Street in a cute, little town there is a cute, little shop. And what is in this cute, little shop, you ask? Many, many chocolates with big, big flavors. There is usually a big line in this little shop on weekends, too, as folks flock to enjoy these treasures. So many truffles...Mudslide (Kahlua and Irish Cream), Hawaiian Nights (dark chocolate with dark chocolate ganache and pineapple-my favorite there!), Masala Chai (Indian influenced spicy sweet), Maple...oh lordy. There are barks and turtles, toffees and immense peanut butter cups. All handmade, of course. And for Valentine’s Day, they are cooking up Lemon Cheesecake truffles and Red Hot Cinnamon truffles that you can pile into an edible chocolate heart box, large or small, depending on the scope of your love. Or your love of truffles.
Harry’s Wine and Liquor Market, 2094 Post Rd., Fairfield,
Total Wine, 380 Main Ave., Norwalk
You just really want this beer to be brewed by the former members of the band Loverboy, don’t you? Well, too bad, the Italians are in on the game with this one. Forget the bubbly and the pink Cosmos, grab these Italian beers instead. Birrificio Loverbeer uses locally sourced Italian ingredients (the hills surrounding Turin! grapes from Alba!) and they partner with area farmers to combine historic brewing methods with modern technology. From ale brewed with wine grapes or plums from the Valley Bronda to ebony beers hinting at coffee and saffron, Cupid will score a hit with these Italian libations.
Milk House Chocolates
Thorncrest Farm in Goshen, CT pride themselves on being a true family farm. Located in picturesque Litchfield County, this farm prioritizes excellence in animal care and farming and when it comes to their chocolates, they believe that “the magic is in their milk”. You’ve heard of single-malt scotch and single-origin honey, now how about single-cow origin chocolates? The thought of this is seriously adorable. If you take hay and natural feed and love, you are rewarded with happy cows that give delicious milk, which then in turn makes tantalizing chocolates. Never thought of that chain, did you? With truffles in flavors such as Earl Gray, Dark Chocolate Lavender, Lime Licorice, Cabernet Sauvignon, Ginger Creme and Mr. Ives’ Mint (made with real mint from their fields, no fake flavoring here!) to white chocolate valentine “postcards”, you will gain a whole new respect for Bessie and Clover.
Russian Diamond Vodka
Bottlerocket, 1790 Post Road East, Westport
Valley Fine Wines, 828 Hopmeadow St., Simsbury
Coastal Wine and Spirits, 103 North Main St., Branford
Sparkly things and Valentine’s Day generally go hand-in-hand and, in this case, a glass of this in your hand will make your Valentine’s Day sparkle. This is an honest-to-goodness Russian-made in Moscow-vodka made with wheat, rye and water from the deep-down Mytishchi spring. It is crisp and lightly mineral-y tasting and goes through a whopping 57 filtrations. Needless to say, it is sure to compliment a romantic evening. The bottle is swished with vodka before being filled and is cut to resemble the facets of a gem. Rather serious business. From Russia...with love.
Tschudin Chocolates and Confections
258 Main St., Middletown http://www.tschocolates.com/Home.html
Most women love shoes. Most women love chocolate. What woman, then, would not love a chocolate shoe?? Fabulous footwear has been translated into divinely decorated confections at this chocolate company that was a winner on Food Network’s reWrapped. High heels, flip flops, ballet slippers, running shoes...satiate your shoe fetish with a unique spin on a treat made with coverture grade (translation: the top 2% of the world supply) chocolate. A shoe made of chocolate. Just think about that for a moment. Addictions are colliding! If you want to keep things more above the leg, Tschudin also makes bonbons, truffles, brittles, caramels and pastries. I think it’s safe to say, though...you had us at “chocolate shoe”.