Is there any bigger romantic cliché than a box of chocolates?
To be sure, chocolate is something to be savored. But a bright red box of the stuff -- even a pricey bright red box -- suggests you haven't put a lot of thought into your sweet sentiment. What's the solution?
Think outside the box, of course.
With that in mind, we scoured the chocolate universe in search of all sorts of unusual treats, edible and nonedible. We wanted gift items that would show a degree of thoughtfulness, taste or creativity -- or better yet, all of the above. Here are a dozen chocolate alternatives we found.
As in, chocolate-covered fortune cookie. Emily's Chocolates offers these in packages reminiscent of Chinese take-out containers, adding to the cleverness of the concept. Each box comes with six (with different fortunes).
Available online or at select retailers for $4.99.
Ah, yes -- the
legend of the green M&M, rumored to be the most powerful aphrodisiac known to man (and woman). Rock stars have demanded it as part of their contract riders. Space shuttles have carried it beyond our fair planet (to quote M&M's PR folks, "astronauts wanted to keep that lovin' feeling when traveling so far away from home"). Now, you don't have to separate these potent
M&Ms from the rest. This year sees the launch of bags of the Green Ones, as they're called, for Valentine's Day (in plain or peanut). Do they taste any different from regular M&Ms? Not really, but is anyone pretending that's the point? Available nationwide.
What could be more perfect for Valentine's Day than chocolate in red? That's the charm of the red velvet cake, a Southern favorite for ages.
Carousel Cakes makes a yummy version -- it's said to be a favorite of Oprah's -- that can be ordered online for $39.95.
Tea can come in many flavors, from orange to peppermint, so why not chocolate tea? That's the idea behind TeaSpot's Bolder Breakfast tea, made from strong black teas from China, India and Sri Lanka with what's billed as "a hint of dark chocolate essence." If you're looking for a helpful way to brew it, TeaSpot has a handy Steeping Cup, too. The tea ($9.99) and cup ($15.95) are available online through
TeaSpot or at more than 450 stores (including
Keeping (Chocolate) Time
No, you can't eat the "chocolate" watches in
Omega's timepiece collection -- specifically, the
De Ville Co-Axial Chronograph (for her, $21,400) and the
De Ville Hour Vision (for him, $13,600). But you can admire them in all their chocolate-inspired glory, with such details as the red gold case, brown dial and diamonds galore (at least in the "for her" version). Available through select jewelers.
Not chocolate on rice (yuck!), but artful faux sushi pieces made from chocolate. It's the brainchild of
Suedy's Koo-Ki Sushi, which offers "dinner"-style assortments (try the Special Sushi Box for $55), individual pieces and even chocolate chopsticks. The only problem? They're too pretty to eat.
Novelties are what chocolatier
Max Brenner (aka Chocolate By the Bald Man) does best -- and his Valentine's Day offerings run the gamut from Magnet, the Secret Chocolate Egg (replete with a set of instructions for the kissing ritual that accompanies it, all for $6.50) to a Be My Valentine Chocolate Greeting Card ($6.50). Available online through Max Brenner or at Max Brenner locations in New York.
Chocolate in 24 Layers
The Strip House steakhouse chain may be best known for its prime beef and risqué décor -- the "strip" here also refers to the photos of burlesque stars on the restaurant's walls -- but its signature dessert is the real star for chocolate lovers. It's a 24-layer masterpiece: 12 layers of chocolate cake, 11 layers of chocolate filling and a top layer of semi-sweet ganache made of imported French chocolate. Available through
Neiman Marcus for $95.
Or rather, a chocolate martini mixer, courtesy of Stirrings, makers of high-quality cocktail mixers of all kinds. Add a little vodka and you're good to go. Available online
through Stirrings for $10.95 or at specialty food or liquor stores.
Chocolate With a Twist
DelightfulDeliveries.com offers twisted chocolate -- namely, chocolate-covered pretzels. They're called Dipzels and they come in varieties ranging from plain, dark and white chocolate to ones topped with sprinkles or even peanut-butter chips. An assortment in an
attractive keepsake box is available for $49.99.
Think of this as the soundtrack to Valentine's Day, but one you can eat as well: The eco- and humanitarian-minded Endangered Species Chocolate
offers a package with the Putumayo label's "Music from the Chocolate Lands" CD, featuring selections from Brazil to Belize, combined with a bag of bite-size pieces of Endangered Species' own Extreme Dark Chocolate (88% cocoa) and Supreme Dark Chocolate (72% cocoa) "sourced from a small farming community in Nigeria," according to the company. Available online through Endangered Species for $16.
Taking a Chocolate Bath
Here's living proof that chocolate is not just a foodstuff.
Me! Bath is one of a growing number of cosmetics and bath-products companies that's pushing chocolate as something good for your skin. Its line includes a Me! Bath Choco-holic Ice Cream bubble-bath ($8) and Choco-holic Shower Sherbet ($24). Available online through Me! Bath or in luxury spas.
Charles Passy is a Florida-based writer who covers food, travel, entertainment and consumer culture and products.