If you buy your love anything for Valentine’s Day, I say go for where it counts – the stomach. Culinary gifts are universally adored, right? We’re lucky to have chocolate makers right here in our community – artisans who make everything by hand. Every year, I write about these chocolate makers hoping that more people will eschew bags of commercial kisses for ribbon-clad boxes of locally made truffles. Read on.
Johnson Candy Company
Where: 924 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, 253-272-8504
Rows and rows of hand-made truffles are available for as little as a buck, but $10 will buy you a fair supply for your sweetie. There also are prepackaged heart-shaped boxes of handmade chocolates for sale – from small boxes, to one pound or bigger. This is a classic chocolate shop with a factory upstairs. Worth a visit for any special occasion requiring chocolate. Tip: They sell candy fit for a kid, too. I’ve sailed in the day before Valentine’s Day and left with plenty of chocolate – they’re well stocked.
Affairs Chocolates and Cafe
Where: 2811 Bridgeport Way W., University Place, 253-565-8604, affairs-chocolate.com
What’s full of chocolate awesome? Enormous handmade truffles. At Affairs, you’ll find a nice variety – all larger than a golf ball – in 20 flavors (a list is available at their website). And they’ll even wrap them up in a pretty gold box. You get to pick the ribbon. Warning: They run out early, call ahead to ask about the selection.
The French Hen Bistro and Sonsie Chocolatier
Where: 3810 Steilacoom Blvd. S.W., Lakewood; 253-983-1313, frenchhenbistro.com
The French Hen Bistro is a charming place that’s unexpectedly nestled just off a Korean eating district. The cafe serves light fare for lunch and has a side business - Sonsie Chocolatier – which makes bite-sized truffles painted with pretty designs and flavors like chai, port wine, lemongrass, ginger, banana and salted dark. You’ll find traditional favorites, too: Kahlua, Grand Marnier, raspberry, cherry and mint. Truffles start around $1.40 each. Choose your own selection and the counter workers will wrap them in plastic boxes with a bow. This is a small shop – be sure to call ahead to check the truffle selection. Here’s a fun way to enjoy the bistro’s chocolates - Pint Defiance, a bottle shop near Tacoma Community College, will have an all-day chocolate-beer pairing on Feb. 14 featuring French Hen truffles. $10 buys four beer pours with truffles to match. From owner Barry Watson, who runs the beer store with wife Renee, “We will be pairing four delicious beers with decadent locally made chocolate truffles from Sonsie Chocolatier. Pairings will include: lemon-white chocolate truffle with pink peppercorns with a Belgian style golden wit, spicy cinnamon truffle with a German doppelbock, salted dark truffle with a smoked porter and blackberry wine truffle with a chocolate stout.” Find Pint Defiance at 2049 Mildred St. W., Tacoma, 253-302-4240. Facebook here.
South Sound has some sweet finds beyond truffles. Also worth a visit:
Great Northwest Popcorn
Where: 1948 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253-779-5676 or greatnorthwestpopcorn.com
Don’t think of Great Northwest Popcorn as just a destination for flavored popcorn, although they’re good for that. You’ll find hand-made chocolates in the display case up front. Do get the chocolate turtles.
Brown & Haley retail stores
Where: In Tacoma and Fife, check addresses here
At the factory retail stores, shoppers will find tins of the regular Roca for which Brown & Haley is famous, the signature Mountain Bars and the various Roca flavors in almond and mocha.
Fingerprint Confections makes caramel that won’t stick to your teeth and will please your palate with flavors that range from sea salt to lavender. The company is from Tacoma couple Clay Richart and Holly Burton Richart. Read my recent Q&A with them here. Find their caramels and caramel sauces at Dwelling and the newly opened Cafe Brosseau in North Tacoma.