Kids love Valentine's Day candy. Yet, there comes a point when all the conversation hearts and chocolate cupids handed out at school lead to too many meltdowns. Instead of the go-to doily-topped valentine, consider this lima bean plant that reveals an "I Love You" message when mature from Hearthsong. It's a valentine that shows its love long after Feb. 14. Plus, kids will have fun caring for their plant and watching it grow.
More than 30 million heart-shaped boxes are sold on Valentine's Day (that's around 58 million pounds of chocolate). Instead of following suit with the rest of the world, take the Valentine's Day standard to the next level by gifting a box of artisanal truffles scented with flavors like anise, rosemary, or cardamom from Oregon-based Petits Noirs. Pair these with a bottle of a rich red wine, like Bodegas Muga' Torre Muga 2006 with caramel, cinnamon, and dark chocolate notes, or the more budget-friendly Muga Reserva 2007. It's the perfect finish to a candlelit dinner featuring a hearty short rib ragù.
Is your valentine more vanilla than chocolate? Instead of the ubiquitous box of conversation hearts, profess your love with a box of hugs and kisses — all edible, of course. In their Lover's Blend box, Cookie Panache has married sinfully rich moist and fudgy chocolate chip-studded blondie and brownie hearts with X- and O-shaped cookies with a delightfully crisp, buttery texture. It's a sweet, swoon-worthy surprise that will never go forgotten.
A $60 box of chocolates isn't going to impress your crafty friend. A box of homemade truffles, made with care, is more their style — and with a container of heavy cream, good-quality dark chocolate, and the flavorings or garnishes of your choice, they're easier to make than you think with this recipe from famed chocolatier Michael Recchiuti. Plus, even if they don't look like Godiva's, you might find they taste a whole lot better.
It's hard to find a man who can say no to bacon. And when it's dipped in your choice of dark or milk chocolate? Roni-Sue's knows it's a match made in (hog) heaven. Their appropriately named Pig Candy is sweet and salty, crispy and chewy. Enjoy it alone, with a glass of dark porter, or even atop ice cream.
No box of fancy chocolates is never enough for real chocolate connoisseurs — those who turn a blind eye to ordinary dark chocolates for the 84-percent bitter bars or find adventure in trying single-origin chocolates.
For the ultimate Valentine's Day surprise, plan a long weekend trip to London for a chocolate tasting with Hotel Chocolat where you'll learn to detect the subtle nuances in flavor and texture amongst chocolates, and how the finished product is influenced by terroir and cocoa.
No single woman should be alone on Valentine's Day. Instead of staying in on the couch for a date with Ryan Gosling (in The Notebook, of course!), round up your closest friends for a night out at an old-school, swanky cocktail lounge like New York City's Bemelmans Bar or the Hotel Bel-Air's Lobby Lounge — no boys allowed.
When paired with girl talk and crisp, thick-cut potato chips (like these beauties from North Fork Chips), there is nothing like a couple of glasses of champagne to take your mind off Cupid.
Whoopie pies are a classic treat that are thought to have originated in New England, but are now popular worldwide — and they don't seem to be losing their appeal. With a heart-shaped whoopie pie pan like this, it's easy enough for young children to make their own version of the sweet sandwich in a number of flavors and colors (with adult supervision, of course). Send simple red velvet and whipped cream pies to teachers and classmates, then try something exotic like chocolate cake filled with rose-scented dark chocolate ganache for grandparents and family.
If you can't be together with your one-and-only Feb. 14, show them they're still in your thoughts by sending a Postcup filled with chocolate — perfect for the Cupid on a budget. Using the special porcelain pen, write a love letter on the outside and then bake it to ensure your words last forever. It's the perfect pairing for Allegro's single-source drinking chocolates or a box of luscious hazelnut crème-filled chocolate available from Whole Foods.
Want to have a little fun with your valentine? Show your love along with your playful side with a trio of chocolate games. Play memory with this chocolate bark from Daniel Boulud and solve a love puzzle from Jacques Torres. And should things get competitive, you might want to have one of Torres' chocolate spankers, in white, milk, or dark chocolate, handy.
When chocolate or macarons aren't enough alone, famed French chocolatier and artist Michel Cluizel has created a chocolate heart filled with a sweet surprise inside — two pink macarons. The only way in is to eat your way through the woven top emblazoned with "I Love You." Available by calling (646) 415-9126.