Top 8: Valentine's Day chocolates tried and tasted 

Buy a more adventurous chocolate for your Valentine. Here are eight options that passed our taste test
Top 8: Valentine's Day chocolates tried and tasted 

Celebrate Valentine's Day with these tasty treats.

Buying for Valentine’s Day unearthed sensuous treats as I sought mainly Irish made, top quality chocolate. There are plenty of chocolates in supermarkets from well-established labels, and they will serve those who like to stick with what they know. However, I urge you to be more adventurous with your lover, your friend, your person of interest.

Look for the finest of tastes, take a bite and let it melt on the tongue before chewing and moving it across the palate for all the taste receptors to appreciate. For texture, there’s a snap and creaminess. The best chocolate has both.

It all starts with good quality cocoa and has to be handled carefully going through the correct process of tempering – heating and cooling it while moving across a slab with a palette knife.

This is time consuming and time sensitive, so let’s appreciate chocolate makers and enjoy a few moments of pleasure. And, to add to the many pluses, dark chocolate (with the highest amount of cocoa solids) has health properties: fibre, iron, magnesium, copper, potassium, zinc, and as many antioxidants as some fruits.

Feeling better? Happy Valentine’s Day.

Grá Chocolates Box of 12 hearts €30-€35

Award-winning former pastry chef Gráinne Mullins could be a contestant on The Great Pottery Throw Down, applying colour to her chocolates like a fine artist. Flavours are intensely fruity (try the Morello cherry) or nutty, salty, but most importantly these hearts deliver a refined chocolate taste and texture which cracks perfectly. If the chocolate hearts have run out when you read this, buy the bonbons. A loving treat in any shape. Online: Grachocolates.com.

Áine Prosecco and Strawberry Milk Chocolate Heart €3.75

This 100g solid chocolate heart is good value for quality with 34% cocoa solids and a well-balanced, creamy flavour with a hint of vanilla, topped with freeze-dried raspberries. The prosecco isn’t noticeable but perhaps adds to the richness. There are solid, 300g plain hearts for €10, and gift hamper boxes include different sized hearts and a hot chocolate swirl stick (€25 and €50). Gluten free. Delicious. Made in Co Cavan by Ann Rudden. Online: www.chocolates.ie

Chocolate Shop Heart box €8.50

This delicious collection comes from a choice of over 100 chocolates which can be placed in different sized ribboned boxes and bags. Irish producers Skelligs, Lorge, Wilkies, French producers Cluizel & Valrhona and a variety of Belgian chocolatiers include vegan and gluten-free options. Works out at about €1 per chocolate. Luxurious filled boxes and hampers can include superb nougats. At English Market stall, Cork, click and collect, or order online: chocolate.ie

Marks & Spencer From Truffles with Love €15

This attractive box has 40 truffles flavoured with raspberry, strawberry, marc de Champagne, salted caramel in quite chunky Belgian milk chocolate orbs, and are made In Ireland. Even more delicious is a black and yellow tub of vanilla and cocoa dusted almonds (€7.30) and a particularly fine Swiss after-dinner selection (€7.30), not to mention a trio of rich Love Whips (€2.30) for the pillow. Made in Ireland at Lir Chocolates.

Chocolatey Clare €24.50

For the vegan in your life, these bars are made in Dublin by Clare Tait. In an attractive, compostable gift box they are gluten and dairy free with 54%-57% organic cocoa solids, with less creamy organic coconut milk instead of dairy milk. Crispy additions of flavours include lemon, strawberry, raspberry, mint, ginger, salted peanut (you can order without the latter). Available in 37 retail outlets around Ireland, such as the Old Bank House in Kinsale and Ode to Earth Killarney, and as well online (chocolateyclare.com) where delivery takes up to three days. 

KoKo Kinsale Red heart €15

A comprehensively priced range includes the word LOVE in solid chocolate (€6), passionfruit and raspberry hearts (€7.50), milk chocolate hearts (€6) and this heart half coated in red, polished cocoa butter filled with hearts. The chocolate is silky smooth and has that essential clean snap loved by chocolate aficionados. Good value for top quality. Made in Kinsale by Frank Keane. Buy at Pier Road, Kinsale with takeaway coffee. On line: kokokinsale.com.

Cocoa Truffle Box €10

Beautifully crafted, thin couverture with a good snap, encloses rich fillings with well-defined flavours in these truffles which are a treat. Now open for takeaway coffee/hot chocolate in Winthrop Arcade, Cork, chef Brendan Cashman’s chocolates and other treats are consistently good. These are his passion, and it shows. Great value for top quality. Online too at cocoacork.ie.

Chocolate & Love €14.88

This pretty tin of Neapolitans will appeal to those who appreciate organic and Fairtrade, and prefer flowers to hearts. Thirty individually wrapped mini bars have three flavours – 71% cocoa solids, 65% cocoa solids with rich orange flavour and sea salt of 55% cocoa solids with crunchy caramel and sea salt. Fine, well-balanced flavours. Good value for top quality, made in Switzerland. I bought in Quay Co-Op, Ballincollig, Cork. For nationwide shops: chocolateandlove.com.

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