Valentine’s Day began long before the creation of the first heart-shaped box of chocolates by one Mr. Richard Cadbury in 1861. In ancient Rome, during the mid-February festival Lupercalia, men sacrificed dogs and goats and rampaged through the city, naked and drunk, smacking willing young women with the bloody hides—an experience believed to enhance fertility.
When Christianized, the holiday became wedded to Saint Valentine and the gore of the Roman ritual was left behind. There were actually two martyrs named Valentine in the 3rd century AD. The best-known was executed for performing marriage ceremonies when Emperor Claudius II had forbidden them for soldiers.
There’s something to be said for a holiday that blends a touch of libertinism with a touch of war resistance, lightened and sweetened by hearts, flowers, and delicious candy. And while cacao may not grow on the slopes of our verdant valley, when it comes to the chocolate, Hudson Valley artisans pursue their craft with a passion. Here, then, are some terrific local chocolate shops to get your sweetie some sweets for Valentine’s Day.
25 North Front Street, New Paltz, NY 12561
Lagusta’s Luscious crafts “heartbreakingly delicious” organic, vegan goodies made from local and Fair Trade ingredients, which are molded into mind-blowing designs. Eschewing the soppy heart-shapes of mainstream Valentine’s day, Lagusta’s leans into the punk side of love with offerings like its Chocolate Skulls, Intense Anatomical Heart, and dark chocolate bars with earl gray and preserved orange.
Alps Sweet Shop
269 Main Street, Beacon, New York 12508
1054 Main Street, Fishkill, NY
Alps Sweet Shop is a third-generation family business meticulously hand-crafting small-batch goodness from fresh ingredients in Dutchess County since 1922. Try some Heaven and Earth Truffles or their legendary butter crunch, or chocolate covered potato chips. Alps has over 100 time-tested different recipes in all, so you’re sure to find something your honey likes.
18 West Market Street, Rhinebeck, New York 12572
Award-winning chocolatier Oliver Kita has perfected his artisanal confections on two continents, driven by a passion for the perfect blend of perfume and flavor. His joie de vivre finds its expression in organic, fair trade and vegan offerings ranging from solid dark chocolate Love Buddhas to hand-painted bon-bons in an artist-designed pink orchid box.
41 South Partition Street, Saugerties, NY 12477
2 Church Street, New Paltz, NY 12561
6423 Montgomery Street, Suite #9, Rhinebeck, NY 12572
Krause's Chocolates have been hand-dipped in the Hudson Valley for 90 years and voted Hudson Valley’s Best for the past 13. Using Grandpa’s recipes, Karl Krause crafts over 50 varieties of chocolate. There are all sorts of molded hearts and cherubs for Valentine’s Day traditionalists, or Sour Smoochie Lips if that’s how you roll.
480-482 Broadway, Newburgh, NY
Commodore Chocolatier has been a beloved Hudson Valley fixture for nearly 100 years, serving up timeless classics like chocolate-covered strawberries and old-fashioned ribbon candy in a pristine, gorgeous shop that’s all dark wood and sugary aromas. Stop in for the very latest designs in heart-shaped samplers.
3091 State Route 28, Shokan, New York 12481
17 Tinker Street, Woodstock, NY 12498
Fruition Chocolate founder Bryan Graham has been perfecting his art since age 16. He was the Bear Cafe’s pastry chef at 18 before he studied at the Culinary Institute. Nowadays, he imports organic, ethically sourced cocoa beans, slow-roasts them and crafts indulgent wonders from brown butter milk to Peruvian dark chocolate. The line of addictive dark chocolate-coated caramels includes brown butter bourbon and passion fruit.
Hudson Valley Chocolates
Remember that movie Chocolat? Well Stephanie Glaisek-Moisson is the real life Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche). Born in France, Glaisek-Moisson began training under the famous chocolatier Henri Le Roux at age 17. She went on to work at patisseries and chocolateries in France before immigrating to New York in 2000, where she worked as a pastry chef. She returned to her love of chocolate making as a hobby, creating confections for friends and family during the holidays. When demand grew, she launched Hudson Valley Chocolates. Her handcrafted selection ranges from dark chocolate bars to chocolate-covered Oreos, coffee truffles, and a whole line of caramels.
462 Main Street, Beacon, NY 12508
Acclaimed Swedish chocolatier Håkan Mårtensson brings his sweet, sweet craft to Beacon with Hakan Chocolatier, where he makes everything from bite-sized bonbons to elaborate cocoa sculptures, in flavors from familiar (think milk-chocolate salted caramel) to exotic (tamarind cardamom, anyone?). For Valentine’s day, pick up the Love Elixirs box, which includes nine colorful heart-shaped bonbons in three flavors: sakura and Japanese whiskey, tequila sunrise, and vanilla and pear cognac. The 16-piece box comes with an extra variation: the dark and stormy. Or try a light romantic bar like the white chocolate with hazelnut and fig.
EJ Bonbons and Confections
2 Old Forge Road, Woodstock, NY 12498
Woodstock native Emily Kellogg and French chef Pierre Pouplard team up at EJ Bonbons and Confections to create decadent chocolates in interesting flavors like lychee rose, passionfruit, and dark chocolate raspberry. Like abstract, Modernist works of art, each flavor has a colorful exterior with splashes and swirls. If you’re looking to really wow someone, order the 72-piece bonbon box. Or try dark chocolate-covered nuts, pate de fruit, caramels, and nougat.
Samuel’s Sweet Shop
42 East Market Street, Rhinebeck, New York
While they are known nationally for their roles on the silver screen, locally, actors Hilarie Burton, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Paul Rudd are better known as the proprietors of the beloved Rhinebeck confectionary Samuel’s Sweet Shop, where the motto is “Everything Delicious!” While not a chocolatier technically, Samuel’s is lined with floor-to-ceiling shelves of every type of sweet and treat imaginable, and it’d be remiss of us not to include them. Looking for a big treat to say “I love you”? Try the Hudson Valley Sampler pack (think apple cider caramel and handmade dark chocolate bark), the Nostalgic Favorites, or the Gummi Feast. With tons of offerings online and even more in store, you can let your Willie Wonka imagination run wild.
EJ Bonbons & Confectionary2 Old Forge Road, Woodstock
After almost a decade in Michelin-starred restaurants including Per Se, Woodstock native Emily Kellogg and her husband, Pierre Pouplard, moved back to her hometown and opened EJ Bonbons & Confections, an ode to the artistry of chocolate. At the center of the shop, a display case shows off neat rows of colorful bonbons and a small array of other confections, including wrapped soft caramels in flavors such as simple sea salt and tangy passion fruit, chocolate-covered almonds and hazelnuts, and pâte de fruit, a traditional French fruit paste.