It’s that time of year again, when you cannot sidestep all of the fire engine red, Pepto-pink, proliferation of hearts and the cunning cupids. But there is one redeeming quality about all of the Valentine’s Day hype: chocolate. Serious amounts of chocolate. It also doesn’t hurt that chocolate’s perceived status as an aphrodisiac makes it a perfect gift for Hallmark’s customer appreciation day. Especially since when that chocolate is gifted, it tastes all the better.
So if you’re thinking of giving your sweetie some sweets this Feb. 14th, here are some of Boulder’s leading chocolaterias.
Robin Chocolates in Longmont is nationally recognized, and its owner, Robin Autorino, has received no shortage of accolades for her small edible pieces of art.
“If it doesn’t look good,” says Autorino, “we’re probably not going to enjoy it as much. It’s true that we eat with our eyes first.”
The visual artistry of Robin Chocolates’ special molds, swirls, drizzles, sprinkles of sea salt and brushstrokes of edible gold dazzle the eye before the chocolate even comes out of the case. The true excitement of luxe chocolate always begins there. The cocoa butter is what gives high-quality chocolates their gleam, which makes them all the more attractive.
Autorino’s Mexican Mole Caramel, Orange Spice, Chocolate Caramel Fleur de Sel, Pomegranate, Raspberry Heart, Lavender and Lemon Souffle molded truffles have all won awards. Autorino’s Dulce Blond won for both molded truffle and Grand Champion at the 2013 Holiday Chocolate Festival, held at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.
It’s impressive to see such a long list of award-winning chocolates coming out of one shop, and this list would be a good place to start when selecting your own for your personal stash, or for gifting. Or both.
It’s all the more impressive considering Autorino, the brains behind the recipes, grew up allergic to chocolate, had a Navy career, and then worked in the tech industry for more than a decade after that before pursuing a formal education in pastry. While in pastry school, she discovered in the process of tasting things that her allergy had waned, a development that worked out well for everyone.
Autorino opened Robin Chocolates in 2008, adding a retail store in the fall of 2011.
Autorino’s chocolates are now so well-loved people drive from Denver to get their hands on them, and some drive from as far as Colorado Springs.
Autorino uses the French luxury chocolate Valrhona as her base. She also uses high-fat cream and butter, top shelf liquors and, when possible, locally sourced products, like Lyons’ Spirit Hound Distillery’s coffee liqueur.
“I like my flavors simple. When someone eats my chocolate — raspberry for example — it tastes like raspberry,” she says. “A lot of chocolatiers get too complicated with their flavors, but the simpler it is, the more the main flavors can shine.”
Brothers Rick and Neil Levine were Boulder high-end chocolate producers for years, operating as Seth Ellis Chocolates (a name derived from their middle names) before a Boulder County resident came to them with a request that they produce a “peanut” butter cup his peanut-allergic son could eat.
With the help of their other partner, Swiss-trained chef and now only remaining founder, David Lurie, they came up with a recipe they were happy with, and Sun Cups was created. Sun Cups is actually a registered trademark of Seth Ellis Chocolates, LLC, but to most, both locally and nationally, it’s thought of and recognized as a completely separate entity.
The all-natural treats are nut-free, gluten-free, organic, Certified Kosher and, most recently, non-GMO Project verified. Sun Cups are also allergen-free of seven of the top food allergies, with the only remaining being dairy. Using cacao from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms, they do good for the Earth also. These are rare products, making them an important option for chocolate lovers in Boulder County and across the country who deal with all kinds of food allergies.
In 2009, Sun Cups introduced milk chocolate cups and dark chocolate cups, and two years later, their milk chocolate caramel cups as well as their dark chocolate mint cups. These chocolate treats may be considered more of an everyday snack, but their goodness and flavor can stand up to any Valentine’s Day chocolate giving, especially for those chocoholics averse to nuts and eggs. They’re also launching their new chocolate bars exclusively through their website in time for Valentine’s Day, which you can find at www.suncups.com. Sun Cups is also running a large online sale through Feb. 10.
PIECE, LOVE AND CHOCOLATE
At Piece, Love and Chocolate, founder and owner Sarah Amorese — coincidence the root of her name is Amore? — creates all of the housemade recipes that she and her kitchen manager, Genevieve Fetherston, supply for the sweet tooths in Boulder and beyond. In Amorese’s charming shop on the historic West End of Pearl Street, they sell everything from rows and rows of chocolate truffles lined up like small, scintillating soldiers, to a large variety of cakes — by the slice or whole. They also source luxury chocolate bars from around the world, as well as offer chocolate-themed gift items. It’s a true chocolate-lover’s dream.
With house-made flavors like basil — using only fresh and organic basil — and S’mores, here you can find bites of chocolate that are inventive and fun.
Piece, Love and Chocolate also does classes on a range of chocolate-related topics, and you can find their current class schedule on their website — www.pieceloveandchocolate.com.
They will have special Valentine’s hours on both Thursday, Feb. 13, and Friday, Feb. 14, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and as a special holiday treat, they’ll have chocolate fountains flowing from 5 to 8 p.m. each of these evenings, with fresh strawberries provided.