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For the Love of Chocolate

Fresh for Valentine's Day

Nothing says Valentine's Day like chocolate. The Bay Area's love affair with chocolate dates back to the gold rush era, long before the Golden Gate Bridge and cable cars made their debut. In fact, Ghirardelli began making chocolate at its landmark waterfront factory in 1852. But today we have many more decadent choices for indulging our sweethearts and our sweet tooth.

Just this past year or so several new chocolate emporiums have opened up. For Valentine's Day each offers unique and high quality treats to tempt you and your loved one.

Appropriately located amongst the fashion boutiques of Union Square, French chocolatier Richart is the stylish choice for those with sophisticated tastes. For Valentine's Day they offer up "Mon Amour" ballotins ($28.50 small $69 large) with a variety of dark, milk and white chocolate hearts filled with almond praline, chocolate ganache, and caramel coulis. The "A la Folie" selection ($50 small, $128 large) additionally includes larger bonbon hearts filled with ylang passionfruit, orchid passionfruit and exotic flower coulis. Could there be a better way to combine flowers and chocolate? We don't think so! Finally if you already know and love Richart chocolates you may want to indulge in the Seven Intense Days of "would you be mine?" ($69) which offers seven confections of each of the seven aromatic families (roasted, citrus, floral, etc.) All of the Valentine's gifts come with a chocolate card proclaiming love in 5 languages to ensure your message is understood.

CocoaBella is the newest chocolate shop, only open a few months, its old world charm makes it seem like it has been on Union Street for ages. Rather than carrying only one brand of chocolate, CocoaBella carries a wide variety of artisan chocolate from the US and Europe. You'll find brands you know and discover some you don't. Here you can choose the chocolates you like to create your own gift or pick the Valentine's Day box ($25) an assortment that includes the best heart shaped confections from around the world. The flavors in the assortment include, passion fruit caramel, spicy cabernet, smooth and creamy hazelnut, black currant, mint and red chile tangerine and chocolate covered cherry. Plenty of sexy flavors and mostly heart shapes will express your love most deliciously.

For chocolate made in our own backyard, Berkeley chocolate manufacturer Scharffen Berger has a retail boutique located at the San Francisco Ferry Building. Scharffen Berger known for their signature dark 70% cacao bittersweet chocolate with its strong fruity overtones has just introduced chocolate confections. This year for the first time, they offer limited edition Valentine gift boxes ($35 small, $70 large) featuring handcrafted ganache filled chocolates in flavors such as sea salt caramel, lemon, clove and star anise. This gift comes in a traditional keepsake heart-shaped red box intended to last longer than the chocolates do.