Bars and Truffles at Chocolopolis
This Queen Anne shop has a tremendous collection of international chocolate bars arranged geographically by origin of the cacao. Lauren Adler, Chief Chocophile, is happy to explain all about bean and bar types, and how to taste with all of your senses to find your favorites. She steered me to bars by the Toronto-based chocolate maker SOMA, which makes small batches of chocolate directly from cacao beans. The Dark Fire bar ($5.50), with Venezuelan beans, is richly dense with an initial hit of ginger and cinnamon, followed by a blaze of chili. While at the store, it’s hard to resist a box of Kathryn Taylor, Christopher Elbow, and Chocolopolis’ own truffles.
Hoji at Cafe de Lion
A block down the road from Chocolopolis is Café de Lion, where pastry chef Tomoyo Miura combines French pastry heritage with Japanese influence, making everything from scratch using all-natural ingredients. The Hoji ($6) is one of the café’s most popular desserts. Atop a simple cookie is a tower of light yet luscious chocolate mousse. Hiding within: a little layer of hoji mousse, with its subtle flavor of roasted green tea from Japan. As with all of Café de Lion’s desserts, the Hoji is not too sweet, but sweet enough to win over your Valentine.
Double Brownie and Macarons at Crumble & Flake
Crumble & Flake continues to garner rave reviews for pastries like the smoked paprika and cheddar croissant, kouign amann, and canelé, but pastry chef Neil Robertston also serves up some chocolate treats that will please on Valentine’s Day. Like Café de Lion’s Hoji, Crumble & Flake’s Double Brownie ($2.75) is just sweet enough, yet still rich with its fudge-filled brownie on the bottom and a creamy, silky mousse baked into the top. Here I’ve paired the brownies with two Macarons ($2.50 each): Milk Chocolate and Chai Tea, as well as Irish Coffee, with a white chocolate base.
Hot Cakes at Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery
For chocolate decadence, get the namesake Hot Cakes ($8.00 each) at Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery. Chocolatier Autumn Martin puts nearly an entire Theo 70% dark chocolate bar into her creation, shown here out of its mason jar and sitting unadorned. The Hot Cake is an organic take-and-bake dessert (vegan option available) that is rich and impressive on its own, but particularly with its flow of molten chocolate that oozes out of the cake. You can also dress it up with whipped cream, salted caramel (Hot Cakes sells its special version at the store), sea salt, roasted nuts, or however you please.