Valentine’s Day compels us to take a moment during the doldrums of February to show that special someone or crush that we really care. But it also happens to be a celebration of something equally important. Chocolate. And we’re not just talking about those cheesy, heart-shaped boxes of candy peddled at every Duane Reade or corner store (although we do have a certain fondness for them, too). Forget flowers. Nothing says “I’m into you” more than Chocolate Room’s Chocolate Fondue for Two (replete with homemade marshmallows), Chocolate-Chile Infused Candy Bars from Jacques Torres, and Rickshaw Dumpling’s molten Black Sesame and Chocolate Mochi Dumplings. And chocolate is an art not just sold retail. You can make a night of it at high-end dessert tastings at luxurious restaurants, like Jean-Georges, Bouley and Daniel. Looking for a few other places to satisfy a cocoa craving this Valentine’s Day? Here’s a (sweet) taste…
Not-Your-Average Sweet Shops
The Chocolate Room
Address: 86 Fifth Ave., btwn St. Marks & Prospect Pl.
Phone: (718) 783-2900
This Brooklyn café is a can’t miss where Valentine’s Day is concerned. With a name like The Chocolate Room, how could it not be? Brownie Sundaes, homemade Candy Bars, Bon-Bons, dense Chocolate Pudding, Black Bottom Butterscotch, and even Chocolate Stout will all appease the most devout choco-holic. But on Valentine’s Day, there’s nothing sweeter (or sexier) than Chocolate Fondue for Two. Take turns feeding each other homemade marshmallows, peanut butter fudge, coconut macaroons, orange cheesecake, bananas, and long stemmed strawberries, all coated in liquid swirls of warm, 61% Belgian chocolate.
Address: 203 E. 10th St. at Second Ave.
Phone: (212) 995-9511
If you’re the kind of person that would just as soon skip the meal and head straight for dessert, then ChikaLicious is the place for you. NYC’s first dessert-only restaurant, this East Village eatery is very serious about its sweets. Half the fun is watching owner and pastry chef, Chika Tillman, painstakingly prepare and plate your three-course feast from the open kitchen. You’ll start with an amuse (hope that it’s the Coconut Sorbet with Chocolate-infused Tea Gelee!) and end with an assortment of Petit Fours. Choose from a variety of sugary indulgences for your main course, including a Kiwi Tartare with Lavender on Crispy Kataifi, or Brown Sugar Panna Cotta with Grapefruit Sorbet. Of course, the Warm Chocolate Tart is a must-order on Valentine’s Day, served with a Red Wine Sauce and Pink Peppercorn Ice Cream. And go ahead and spend the eight extra dollars for a wine pairing… just like at any fine dining establishment, there’s a sommelier in house.
Rickshaw Dumpling Bar
Address: 61 West 23rd St., btwn Fifth Ave & East 23rd St.
Phone: (212) 924-9220
Asian dumplings may not spring to mind when you’re seeking a sugar-high, nevermind a place to celebrate February 14th. This inventive Flatiron eatery (co-founded by Annisa’s Anita Lo) specializes in a lot more than Peking Duck, and Szechuan Chicken stuffed Pot Stickers. The best card they’re holding is the Warm Chocolate Shanghai Soup Dumplings. Pretty genius for Valentine’s Day, no? Instead of scorching hot broth, these Black Sesame-Crusted Mochi wrappers conceal a delectable filling of molten Plugra Butter and Callebaut Chocolate — a very un-cliche way to get your chocolate fill. And don’t worry, it’s considered a badge of honor to get it all over your shirt.
Address: 167 W 74th St., btwn Columbus & Amsterdam Aves.
Phone: (212) 874-6080
This cozy little Upper West Side sweet shop keeps thing simple. Instead of extravagant French pastries and fussy Viennoiserie, they’ve concentrated on perfecting a few rustic breads (Baguette and Whole Wheat Raisin Rolls), a couple of quick cooking cakes (Sour Cream, Lemon and Pumpkin Ginger Spice), and a few tasty breakfast treats (Oatmeal Scones, Blueberry Muffins, and fantastic little jam-filled Bomboloncini). But it’s the comically oversized, dome- capped cookies that are really the specialty of the house. Levain’s signature, gooey centered Chocolate Chip Walnut cookie is possibly one of the most talked about baked creations in the city, but we head straight for their Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip cookies on Valentine’s Day. Made with extra dark French cocoa and molten, semisweet chocolate chunks, this dangerously decadent cookie puts Tollhouse and just about every other cookie known to man to shame.
To-Die-For Dessert Tastings
Address: 60 E 65th St., at Park Ave.
Phone: (212) 288-0033
You’ll already have scored major brownie points with your sweetie if you’ve booked a table at the sumptuous Daniel for Valentine’s Day. But if you didn’t snag one of those prized tables (they’re long gone), you could just pop in the bar later in the evening for a progression of Cocoa-Centric desserts (chocolate is an aphrodesiac you know). Five elaborate courses include a Warm Guanaja Chocolate Coulant, a Kenyan Coffee Ganache with Rice Krispie Chocolate Sablé, a Milk Chocolate Dacquoise with Jivara Parfait, a Chocolate Hazelnut Biscuit with Vanilla-Lime Sorbet, and a Peanut Butter Feuilletine with Carabe Mousse and Turron Ice Cream. If this is what they mean by “Death By Chocolate,” we can’t think of a sweeter way to go.
Address: 1 Central Park West at West 61st St.
Phone: (212) 299-3900
Celebrity chef Johnny Iuzzini helped shape the pastry program at Jean-Georges, making dessert not just an afterthought, but an obligatory course. Current Chef Patissier Joseph Murphy has ably followed in Iuzzini’s footsteps, executing delicious dessert tastings, like “The Orchard” (Green Apple Gelee with Tartin Compote and Crème Fraiche Quince Confit), and “Caramel” (Black Pepper Crème Caramel Tart with Salted Caramel Ice Cream). Of course, “Chocolate” is the obvious choice on Valentine’s Day, especially if you want to taste Jean-George’s oft imitated, but never replicated Molten Chocolate Cake. It arrives accompanied by a Mexican Chocolate Beignet, a Sea Salt White Chocolate Meringue, and a Bitter Chocolate Candy Bar. How sweet it is!
Address: 163 Duane St., btwn
Phone: (212) 964-2525
David Bouley’s hallmark Tribeca restaurant is already all sorts of decadent… think tapered, flickering candles, upholstered walls in the bathroom, and vaulted ceilings generously brushed with gold leaf. The menu is every bit as indulgent, featuring dishes, like Dungeness Crab Flan with Black Truffle Dashi, Sea Urchin Terrine with Osetra Caviar, and Japanese Kobe Mille Feuille with Toasted Garlic and Turmeric. So why not follow it up with an equally over the top dessert? The aptly named “Chocolate Frivolous” is actually six desserts in one. Do you really need to eat a Chocolate Brûléé, Chocolate Parfait, Hazelnut Dacquoise, Chocolate-Walnut Spiced bread, and Praline and Prune Armagnac Ice Creams all in one sitting? Of course not, but Valentine’s Day is all about giving in to your most extravagant desires.
Divine Chocolate Shops
Address: 80 Thompson St., btwn Broome & Spring Sts.
Phone: (212) 334-3284
There’s nothing wrong with hazelnut studded, chocolate ganache covered, or caramel filled truffles. Not one thing. But while each is undeniably delicious, they don’t exactly exhibit a whole lot of creativity. That’s why we really appreciate the dynamic Asian flavors Kee Ling Tong incorporates into her handmade candies at Kee’s Chocolates. Why settle for Cappuccino and Cherry Cordial Truffles when chocolate plays so unexpectedly well with ingredients, like Black Sesame, Honey Kumquat, Saffron, Jasmine, Tamarind, Thai Chili, Yuzu, Pineapple Lychee and Kaffir Lime?
Jacques Torres Chocolate
Address: 66 Water St., at Main St.
Phone: (718) 875-9772
They don’t call Jacques Torres “Mr. Chocolate” for nothing. This master chocolatier peddles his premium confections all over the city, like handcrafted Truffles, Hot Chocolate, cocoa-enrobed Cornflakes, and Ancho Chile-Infused Candy Bars. If you want to sneak a peek at the master at work, however, it’s best to visit his flagship store and workshop under the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge in DUMBO, where the cobblestone streets are perfumed with the scent of melted 75% Cacao. And in the summer, be sure to visit the scoop shop next door for to-die-for Ice Cream Sandwiches made with Torres’ Chocolate Chip Cookies.