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No ordinary box of candy

The 5 best chocolate treats in Houston: For Valentine's Day — or any day

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Wedding food trends, February 2013, Araya chocolates
Araya chocolates Photo courtesy of Araya Chocolates
Wedding food trends, February 2013, Master Brothers chocolate, coffee
A sampling from Master Brothers Photo courtesy of Master Brothers
Wedding food trends, February 2013, White Chocolate w Lavender by Johnny Sweetcakes
White chocolate with lavender by Johnny Sweetcakes Photo courtesy of Johnny Sweetcakes
Wedding food trends, February 2013, Fluffernutters by Fluff Bake Bar
Fluffernutters by Fluff Bake Bar Fluff Bake Bar/Facebook
Wedding food trends, February 2013, CD Gourmet box of chocolates
Box of chocolates from CD Gourmet Photo courtesy CD Gourmet
Wedding food trends, February 2013, Araya chocolates
Wedding food trends, February 2013, Master Brothers chocolate, coffee
Wedding food trends, February 2013, White Chocolate w Lavender by Johnny Sweetcakes
Wedding food trends, February 2013, Fluffernutters by Fluff Bake Bar
Wedding food trends, February 2013, CD Gourmet box of chocolates
Araya Artisan Chocolate
Get Directions - 2013 West Gray Houston

Yes, Valentine’s Day means candy and that can be a fabulous thing — or a not-so-fabulous thing depending on what your Valentine chooses. Consider some delicious, savvy options this year or feel free to be your own Valentine with a decadent chocolate gift for yourself!

Here is a chocolate gift guide:

1). Araya Artisan Chocolate on West Gray creates some of the most visually stunning and luscious fresh-made chocolates anywhere, made with high-quality Venezuelan chocolate in varying cacao percentages. The “Valentine’s Collection” includes fillings like strawberry-balsamic; cherry-cognac, acai-pomegranate; cinnamon walnuts and strawberry champagne.

It’s available in six, 12 or 24-piece boxes. The multi-layer gift box includes nine assorted French macarons, 16 assorted chocolates, 16 assorted truffles and 18 sampler gourmet bars for $85. Whoa.

2). CD Gourmet makes some of the most delicious treats — chocolate and otherwise, you'll find anywhere. Houston transplants Dragana Harris and Chantal Duvall create scrumptious European truffles, along with spicy nut "brittles" and some insanely delicious espresso fudge hearts and even chocolate “salami” — a powder-sugar dusted log of nuts, spice and chocolate.

Beautifully packaged; you’ll come out a winner if you show up with any of these. Order via email at cdgourmethouston.com.

3). Pastry chef Johnny Wesley is known for his delectable desserts at Killen’s Steakhouse, where he also creates exquisite chocolates to the delight of the steak-loving diners. He’s received so many requests, he now has his own chocolate biz — Johnny Sweet Cakes.

In addition to edible chocolate body paint (yeah, baby!), he’s offering dark chocolate selections — one with dark chocolate raspberry ganache and the other with a decadent smoked peanut butter filling. For milk chocolate, the filling will be a Sichuan peppercorn ganache and a coffee ganache (from Pearland Coffee Roasters). There’s also an orange-cardamom enrobed in white chocolate (yes, please) as well as white chocolate with a lavender filling.

They’re boxed in fours so you can mix and match. I’m thinking a stack of them wrapped in ribbon would be just about perfect. The website is still in its infancy, but you can email Johnny from there with your order preferences and he will coordinate with you from there.

4). Mast Brothers Chocolate is one of my very favorite chocolate bar brands. Based in Brooklyn, they create small batches of craft chocolate bars from single-origin, single-harvest beans from the most sought-after choco-centric regions of the world (plain chocolate as well as combos like Almonds & Sea Salt; Pecan & Maple; Vanilla & Smoke and Black Truffle).

Each bar is distinctive with major aromatic qualities and wrapped in gorgeous paper. I was already a huge mail order fan when Central Market began carrying them (yes, it’s a problem).

If you have a real chocoholic on your hands, get a stack of these babies and tie with a ribbon for major points.

5). Pastry chef Rebecca Masson is doing a Valentine’s bake sale with 40 percent of sales benefiting Lucky Dog Rescue.

There’s a “Sweet Treat” box with four cupcakes (your choice — red velvet, vanilla or devil’s food with salted caramel frosting); four cookies (your choice) and four Valrhona brownies. Adorable decorative boxes containing a dozen French macarons (a mix of rhubarb, vanilla and cherry-covered chocolate) are a classic as well as a gift sleeve of her famous Fluffernutters or maybe a dozen Valrhona Brownies or “Sunken kisses” — chewy peanut butter cookies with a chocolate kiss in the center.

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