Saturday, February 16, 2008

Jacques Torres Chocolate: The Ultimate Valentine's Day Gift

My husband knows me, and he knows that chocolate is the one thing I dream of for Valentine's Day.

Yeah, Vosges is all the rage in some quarters -- but to me, that's just chocolate gussied up as an attention-seeking, paparazzi-dodging celebrity. Kalamata olives and olive oil? They belong on the focaccia, people, not in the chocolate.

And I'm a sucker for MarieBelle's Aztec Hot Chocolate, as you may know. The chocolates are OK, but in my experience, they're more colorful and pretty.

So for chocolates, there's no contest. The super-smooth, perfectly balanced truffles from Jacques Torres are just the best. The hazelnut concoctions he and his people make are a deliciously nutty explosion, the perfect balance of sugar and chocolate and nuts that puts Nutella to shame.

I'm something of a purist when it comes to chocolates, but these little Lovebugs are even delicious - and they're white chocolate and key lime. It puts every key lime pie I've ever tasted to shame.

A few years ago one June day, a friend and I popped into his store in Soho. Or, his chocolate manufactory, I should say. It was a wonderland where cocoa beans come to meet their match.

We arrived long before the store opened, and a vent from the store pumped out the magical scent of chocolate along the desolate street. We headed off for some breakfast and a couple of hours later, meandered back.

After assembling a couple of boxes of treats to take home, we decide on a frozen hot chocolate. And Jacques is behind the bar, ribbing his employees good-naturedly, whipping up frozen drinks including his wicked frozen hot chocolate.

He's just really, really excited about getting people turned onto his chocolate. He obviously works hard at his craft and it shows.

And I like to reward that enthusiasm by patronizing his business and encouraging others to do so. So if you or someone you know is in need of a bit of chocolate decadence, go shopping.

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