Allison’s Gourmet is super popular among the vegan crowd, and rightly so. Their award-winning chocolate is fair trade, organic and, for what it’s worth, what we’ve tried we’ve really liked. Because we’re fans of things both refreshing and fruity, we recently sampled Allison’s Peppermint Crème Patties and Raspberry Blush Hearts. The former gives York a run for their cruelty ― and chemical-laden money. The latter features “milk” chocolate infused with flecks of our favorite berry, melting easily on the tongue and producing a velvety mouthfeel. Wrapped in fuchsia foil, these babies are V-Day approved, though Allison’s has more going for it than just that. Peruse the entire selection here.
It isn’t lost on us that this piece is brimming with praise for these sweets, to the point one might deign to say we’re prone to hyperbole. But, the truth is, we’re quite satisfied with everything we got to try. Not the least of which is Amore di Mona, which is a top pick. Featuring dark chocolate bars and caramela squares in sets of three, these make for a flawless Valentines treat. They are fair trade, kosher, vegan, low-glycemic, allergy- and diabetic-friendly, gluten-free, non-GMO, soy-free, dairy-free, tree- and peanut-free, preservative- and artificial-ingredient free. Whew. That’s a whole lot to love. But, above all, Amore di Mona chocolate is truly transcendent. We found ourselves head-over-heels for their Caramela + Cherries and their Dark Chocolate + Crunchy Coffee Beans. Both are complex and borderline addictive. As they say on their site, “Essential for some, enjoyable by all.” With a tagline like that, who wouldn’t seize an opportunity to sample? We recommend you do so soon.
Ah, the virtues of Antidote Chocolate. There’s no denying the caliber of these vegan, organic, gluten-free, fair trade dark and partially raw chocolate bars; they’re a sustainable superfood fit for a king…or queen. Either way, they’re potent, packed with antioxidants and invigorating without the added fats and loads of sugar. As far as taste, consider the extraordinary flavor combinations, such as Banana + Cayenne and Almond + Fennel. As a loved one indulges in this nutritious and delicious mood-boosting snack, consider the five A’s Antidote enumerates on their site: Antioxidant, Antidepressant, Anti-stress, Appetite suppressant and Aphrodisiac. In other words, give liberally and get busy!
Have your health and eat it, too! Bixby Bars are nutritious, yet rich and creamy at the same time. But, prepare yourself, as these suckers are astringent! The Maine-based company makes six different flavor combinations, all natural, artisanal, organic, GMO-free, gluten-free, fair trade and kosher. Three of the six are vegan. Comprising 72% dark chocolate, each features a unique ingredient list. Heart’s Delight contains almonds, strawberries and Ceylon cinnamon. Birdie contains hazelnuts, black currents and fleur de sel. Whippersnapper contains walnuts, wild Maine blueberries and Tellicherry black pepper. Wowza! These bars bring bite, but also big benefits, exotic flavors and interesting textures. What we enjoy the most are the gift crates (available in both large and small sizes), tied up in thick cut red ribbon. Are you thinking what we’re thinking? It’s almost time to surprise your health-conscious honey…
Well known among savvy foodies in NYC for their locally-sourced and organic cuisine, this plant-based catering company — run by two talented vegan lovebirds, Danielle Ricciardi and Daniel Strong — can be found around town peddling their made-to-order eats at the Brooklyn Flea, Smorgasburg and Pine Box Rock Shop’s Vegan Shop-Up. But, beyond their fresh fare and eclectic truffles, they also mix up a mean batch of Mexican hot cocoa that is wonderful for the winter months. Packaged for your purchasing pleasure, throw it on the stove with some almond milk and you and yours will be tastefully toasty in no time. With a motto like “peace on a plate,” we can hardly deny we’re smitten with these kindhearted kittens. Bottoms up!
Endangered Species Chocolate is all about animals. (Though their milk chocolate bars imply perhaps cows don’t count…) Anyway, each year, ESC donates 10% of net profits to environmental nonprofits focused on wildlife conservation, habitat preservation and humanitarian efforts. For the do-gooder man or woman who’s captured your heart, ESC’s dark chocolate bars might just be the best present ever. Not only are they heart healthy, but each bar features a different at-risk animal, from puffins (Dark Chocolate + Cherries) to grizzly bears (Dark Chocolate + Raspberries) to owls (Dark Chocolate + Sea Salt + Almonds), which are afforded additional attention on the inside of each wrapper. You can feel good grabbing these for your sweetheart, as they’re not only working towards saving the world, they’re also fair trade and tasty. Also offered is a strictly organic collection of bars and bites, which we suggest supporting.
Located in Sedona, Arizona, Lulu’s Chocolate Love is handcrafted from 100% fair trade, organic and raw chocolate. They offer a range of flavors, from Pure Vanilla Bean to Smoked Sea Salt + Almond, and folks have been known to rave about the Maca Buttercups, which taste a little bit like chocolate-covered malt balls, only these are actually good for you. Further, Lulu’s sweetens their chocolate with low-glycemic coconut sugar, which means even those ordinarily hampered by restricted diets can enjoy. Oh, and they sell edible body butter, dubbed on their site a “tantric treat.” ’Nuf said.
Another BK-based purveyor of craft chocolate is Mast Brothers, for the discerning lover in your life. While the chocolate is impressive, let’s start with the sheath. These chocolate bars are dressed to the nines, wrapped in beautifully patterned paper. From delicate cherry red anchors against a navy blue background (Dark Chocolate + Almonds) to motorcycle print against crimson (Dark Chocolate + Stumptown Coffee), these treats are nothing if not attractive. Thus, they make for excellent gifts. An understated stack of bars tied with ribbon will have your dude or dame swooning. Just wait until they try what’s inside! From Crown Maple to Black Truffle to Vanilla + Smoke, there’s no shortage of nuance amid the Mast Brothers’ collection. Go for the dark bars and thank us later.
If dangerously dark chocolate, which can sometimes be a bit bitter, isn’t so much your lover’s speed and you’re looking for a lighter type, we cannot recommend Nicobella Organics enough. These delightful bites are melt-in-your-mouth silky smooth and, believe it or not, half the calories and half the sugar compared to traditional truffles! Fair trade, vegan, free of added oils, flavorings, soy, processed sugar and sugar alcohols, Nicobella boasts high antioxidant ingredients, no cholesterol and is suitable for diabetics and the carbohydrate-conscious. Many items are even gluten-free. We’re partial to the Nicobella Sampler, which includes six assorted truffles (you choose) and all three of their protein-packed, chocolate-drenched munch. Sounds silly but tastes terrific. We especially love the Maple Nut Munch. Snag the Sampler here. Receive 15% off your order through March 31st using discount code THEDAILYMEAL at checkout.
While not a 100% vegan venture, Brooklyn-based Nunu Chocolates is hip to the lactose-intolerant, offering among their options some plant-based boxes. We dig the salty-meets-sweet (meets crumbly crunchy) Chocolate Covered Grahams, the Hokey Pokey — candy made from golden syrup smothered in dark chocolate and the Beer Box, ideal for happy hour enthusiasts. All kidding aside, their goods are great. For the “day of dates,” we recommend their Solid Dark Chocolate Lollipop which is simultaneouslysimple and decadent.
Something we really appreciate about Premium Chocolatiers is the fact that they make milk chocolate…without the milk. Or, more accurately, without milk that came from a cow. In addition to this, their entire product line is nut-free, gluten-free, egg-free, and kosher certified. For that fussy beau who’s allergic to everything except soy, this brand may be their next best friend. Premium has holiday-specific sweets just in time for V-Day. Think adorable Love Teddy Bears, whimsical Love Frogs and kitschy Long Stem Chocolate Roses. Pictured here are the Strawberry Heart Creams, for the romantic-meets-sophisticated date.
Butterfinger fanatics, this is where it’s at. Rescue Chocolate’s Peanut Butter Pit Bull (which consists of dark chocolate with crispy peanut butter) is without a doubt the most stellar analogue we’ve ever had the pleasure of devouring. (Melts in your mouth! So scrumptious!) Founded in 2010 and headquartered in Brooklyn, this charitable chocolatier donates net profits to animal rescue organizations across the country. 2014’s beneficiary is the No Kill Advocacy Center. All Rescue Chocolate products are made from fair trade, organic, vegan and kosher ingredients, including their V-Day-appropriate set of heart-shaped dark chocolates filled with raspberry ganache, dubbed Wild at Heart. You can peruse all their offerings here.
Fran Costigan’s ‘Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious & Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts’ is a cookbook rather than a sweet you can immediately eat. Longtime pastry chef and confectioner Fran Costigan, of New York, was always being complimented on her craft, astounding people everywhere with her delectable desserts. So, last year she published the ultimate how-to for any chocolate lover. If the title alone doesn’t entice, perhaps this appetizing instructional video (of the cover recipe, a Sachertorte) will. Regarded as the authority on cruelty-free chocolate anything and everything, Costigan’s baking book (bible?), with its myriad tips and tricks, is not to be missed. Superbly suited to any Valentine who knows — or hopes to know — his or her way around a kitchen. Given what we’ve learned about chocolate being an aphrodisiac, there’s no better time than February 14th to wrap this in a bow and share it with someone you’re intimate with.
Manhattan’s Upper East Side boasts an outpost of the highest order — a vegan bakery. Adored by everyone from Alicia Silverstone to Bethenny Frankel, Vegan Divas delivers with their animal-free foods. From quiche to chocolate mousse, corn bread to chocolate layer cake, owner Fernanda Capobianco has veganized pretty much everything you can think of. 15 years vegan and going strong, Capobianco translated her expertise into recipes accessible to all when recently she released 'The Vegan Divas Cookbook: Delicious Desserts, Plates & Treats.' Partnered with Divas’ gluten-free Valentine’s chocolate cake, which ships in a red, heart-shaped gift tin, the two together make for one thoughtful present for the girl or guy with a sweet tooth or an affinity for creating confections from scratch. Chocolate chip cookies are also available in a themed tin.
To every other company noted in this roundup, please forgive us as we shout from rooftops the following: Vegan Treats takes the cake! Like, no joke, they make some serious sweets. Based in Pa., this brick-and-mortar bakery creates the most elaborate confections, artfully crafted for any occasion. However, the best thing we’ve tasted so far — and we’ve tried a LOT— is their cannoli. Handmade and hand-rolled, these prove a proper homage to the classic Italian pastry; apart from the fact that they far exceed any non-vegan version we’ve ever eaten. Ditch the dairy and give ’em a shot. Did we mention they’re also available gluten-free? Indeed! All of this said, if you want to give a more traditional gift, albeit a little left of center, spring for their Fatally Yours Gourmet Chocolate Box. It’s hauntingly lovely. Additional options — like the ULTIMATE Valentine's Day Chocolate Box — abound. Peep the entire selection here.