Ahhh, love. That warm rush of anticipation, the butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling of early passion that eventually yields to the steadier glow of a growing union.
Once a year we pause to pay homage to love with cards and gifts celebrating Valentine’s Day, a festival that dates back to ancient Rome. Flowers and jewelry are certainly popular, but perhaps no present can provoke more euphoria than chocolate.
Why? Chocolate, it seems, contains more than 300 chemicals, several of which affect the brain. Eating chocolate increases levels of endorphins, serotonin and phenylethylamine in the brain, all of which produce euphoric feelings. Indeed, phenylethylamine is called the "love drug" because it causes pulse rates to quicken.
Chocolate has become increasingly sophisticated in the 21st century. Gourmet chocolatiers offer scrumptious selections sure to warm the heart of any recipient. Here is a short selection of some of the best confectioners in western Massachusetts and Connecticut:
Chocolate Springs Café has a cozy café purveying fine European-style chocolates. Proprietor Joshua Needleman, with decades of experience in crafting handmade bonbons from natural ingredients, has created a destination for locals and tourists alike who gather to drink his award-winning hot chocolate, coffee and espresso while enjoying velvety mousse cakes or sorbet.
For Valentine’s Day Chocolate Springs Café is featuring such goodies as heart pops, a “bear hug” in the form of a chocolate bear, collections of chocolates and “sweet hearts” crafted of chocolate.
Phone 413-637-9820; firstname.lastname@example.org.
GREAT BARRINGTON MA
Catherine’s Chocolates is a family tradition that began in the 1920s when Catherine Keresztes’ grandfather, Emile, went into the confectionery business in Buffalo. Keresztes followed her grandfather into the confectioner’s trade. In 1954 she chose to move the family business to Great Barrington, where it has continued ever since.
The chocolate shop is now owned and operated by her nephew, Matthew Sinico, who will share stories of his family’s business when the Great Barrington Historical Society honors the business on its 60th anniversary. Thursday evening 7PM at the Teague Senior Center, 917 South Main Street.
With the Valentine’s celebration only days away, it is a fitting time to take note of the business, which is offering special treats for the holidays. Chocolate covered pretzels, sour lips, flirtation hearts, a delectable Valentine Bear, and hand-dipped cordial cherries, covered in milk and bittersweet chocolate, are all available, as well as handsomely packaged boxes of chocolates.
Phone 800-345-2462; email@example.com
Thorncrest Farm’s Milk House Chocolates where making chocolates is personal. The farm’s cows are treasured members of the chocolate-making team with diets closely monitored and adjusted to make sure the taste is exactly that desired by confectioner Kimberly Thorn. Thus, Karissma—the big black sleek matriarch in the second box stall on the right—is given equal billing with Thorn for the excellence of their signature Cabernet Sauvignon Dark Chocolate Truffles.”
“I blend Karissma's milk in other chocolates, but I have found that her flavor, texture and profile reaches a new level when combined with this Cabernet Sauvignon,” writes Thorn. Karissma’s naturally sweet, thick cream is blended with dark chocolate and a Cabernet from the Napa Valley, then each truffle is hand dipped in dark chocolate and dusted with cocoa powder.
As might be expected, Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest periods at the farm and special candies have been prepared, ranging from petite “Gold Boxes,” with two candies nestled inside, to one pound of chocolates in a white and gold box with an embossed red rose. Unique to the farm are chocolate “envelopes” made one at a time using a 1939 European chocolate mold. On one side it looks just like a closed envelope while the other side carries a Valentine message.
Phone 860-309-2545; firstname.lastname@example.org
Kent Coffee & Chocolate has been an institution on Kent’s Main Street for a quarter of a century since chef Sandra Champlain opened the door on July 4, 1991. An instant success, the store finds morning patrons filling tables to enjoy rich cups of coffee and pastries while in the back of the shop staff works to create the chocolate truffles, hand-dipped chocolates, cookies and muffins.
You can find chocolate roses here for your Valentine, or can fill a box with an assortment of traditional sweets—but how about bringing a smile to his/her lips with something more whimsical? Chocolate alligators, anyone? Or maybe three funky, jelly-bean-bearing monkeys? How about some brightly colored chocolate peanut butter “bugs.”
They will all be a sweet nod to the world’s oldest paean to love.
Phone 860-927-1445; email@example.com