Beautiful chocolate art is available across the state. If you know where to look, you can find local chocolatiers who source the finest cocoa and work with the highest-quality ingredients to craft incredible bonbons, truffles, bars and even sculptures.
For craft chocolatiers, February is survival month. With specialized production techniques and small teams, these skilled artisans work tirelessly from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day to meet the demand for gifts of handcrafted chocolates. Many specialty items sell out ahead of the holiday, so stop soon at one of the shops to talk with a local chocolatier and taste test their creations. Plan to place your orders two to four weeks in advance of the big day to ensure you have gifts in hand to share.
Dancing Lion Chocolate
917 Elm St., Manchester
Best for: To surprise and delight, memorable in-store experiences, and gifts for special moments
Dancing Lion specializes in surprising flavor combinations and ever-changing items centering on variety, imagination and craft. Richard Tango-Lowry, master chocolatier, seeks out rare heirloom cocoa beans and deals directly with small-scale cocoa farmers to understand how to bring out the nuanced flavors of each bean.
Tango-Lowry, a trained physicist and master chocolatier, brings experimentation into each new batch and specializes in small-batch creations. Varieties are available for limited runs and, once something runs out, it’s gone. He hopes you’ll fall in love for a moment, indulge in the present and be all right with the realization you may never experience a specific flavor again.
As is the nature of the freshest ingredients, Dancing Lion chocolates have shorter shelf lives than commercially produced chocolates. Order a box of bonbons around the time you plan to give them. To splurge, commission a creation. Work with Dancing Lion Chocolates to design an edible sculpture — if you can imagine a design, their team can build it out of chocolate.
La Cascade du Chocolat
109 Water St., Exeter
214 State St., Portsmouth
Best for: Cheerful holiday items, melting away stress, expressions of affections, and gorgeous host(ess) gifts
La Cascade du Chocolat specializes in fine chocolates made with premium ingredients. Hand-painted chocolate art is a signature item here along with bonbons, truffles and chocolate bars. To truly express your love with chocolate, work with the chocolatiers to design a chocolate card — a note written in chocolate. Each one is a beautiful, hand-painted, edible “love letter.”
The Chocolatier’s Choice BonBon Box includes seasonal flavors handmade and chosen by the shop’s master chocolatiers. Check in each season to catch holiday specialties like the cheerful and sweet hand-painted penguin or white chocolate snowman. Or gift a winter’s supply of the Old World Style Hot Chocolate Mix or the Single Serve Hot Cocoa Discs to make it convenient to warm up by drinking rich and creamy chocolate during the cold months.
33 S. Main St., Hanover
Best for: Desserts for a crowd and for creating a new tradition
A brigadeiro is a ball of soft chocolate slightly thicker, creamier and denser than caramel. A treat popular in Brazil, they are now available in Hanover. Paula Fernandes, owner and founder of My Brigadeiro, makes her desserts with organic and all-natural ingredients sourced within driving distance from suppliers in Vermont and New Hampshire.
The bakery specializes in brigadieros and also produces cupcakes, cakes, cheesecakes and a large selection of freshly baked pastries. For winter gatherings, a cupcake tower or a special ordered cake would feed a group. For special celebrations, gifts of gratitude or romance, consider the bespoke box of brigadeiros. Holiday flavors include gingerbread, peppermint and eggnog. More classic options include chocolate varieties.
252 Willow St., Manchester
Best for: For the conscious chocolate lover, allergen-friendly gifting, and gift basket items
Consider Loon Chocolates for the person in your life who struggles with food allergies. All of the products are gluten-free, some are vegan and dairy-free, and there are soy-free options as well, and each bar is clearly labeled. Feel confident knowing you’ve found a high-quality, locally made chocolate bar that you can share without concern. Scott Watson, owner and founder of Loon Chocolates, believes in offering small-batch chocolate bars sourced ethically from producers around the world.
If you’re planning to create a gift basket, Loon Chocolate bars are a great alternative to gifting bonbons and truffles as the bars have longer shelf lives. Loon Chocolates currently offers 12 varieties: five single-origin chocolate bars and seven flavored bars with additions such as nuts, dried fruit, coffee, and sea salt, to the more imaginative rainbow cereal and ghost pepper.