Chocophiles certainly don’t need an excuse to indulge their passion, but if they did, Valentine’s Day just might be it. More chocolate is consumed on February 14 than any other day of the year according to the National Confectioner’s Association, the Virginia-based trade organization for the candy industry. If you’re going to splurge, though, you may as well have a total, all-encompassing chocolate experience. The five establishments below are literally shrines to chocolate, places where it’s all about chocolate all the time.
Ethel’s Chocolate Lounge
At this pile of chocolate bliss, chocophiles relax on plush couches and chairs and order from a menu that includes a personalized chocolate fondue — a pot of melted premium chocolate served with your choice of dipper, which might be a pretzel, a marshmallow, a slice of pound cake, or a piece of fresh fruit. The lengthy beverage menu has a mudslide mocha latté and hot chocolate so decadent that it tastes like melted high-quality candy bars. There is also a tea-and-truffle pairing in which 10 truffles are paired with a selection of matching teas. Single pieces are handmade and served on bone-white china plates. Some popular flavors are almond toffee crisp, coconut samba, and the “Etheltini,” which boasts a martini-flavored filling. Individual pieces are $4 and desserts average $8. www.ethelschocolate.com. There are 10 lounges in the Chicago area.
The Chocolate Room
Visiting the Chocolate Room is about experiencing your favorite childhood desserts. The restaurant is reminiscent of a cozy French café with its small tables, brick walls, flickering candles, and oversize paintings. An amuse-bouche of Valrhona chocolate sorbet starts off your adventure. Move on to the main course, which might be the sublime chocolate layer cake or the creamy old-fashioned chocolate pudding. Each indulgence has a suggested alcohol pairing such as black-bottom chocolate custard with Madeira wine, and there are always at least four special desserts. Individual confections include crunchy chocolate-covered cornflakes and a peanut butter cup so good that you’ll never eat a Reese’s again. Desserts average $7, individual pieces average $2. www.thechocolateroombrooklyn.com. 86 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn.
Jean-Paul Hevin is among the most famous of French chocolatiers, and this elegant chocolate café with wood paneled walls and tables offers lucky visitors a peek inside the mind of a genius. Besides the usual hazelnut and pistachio delicacies, Hevin has unique inventions like cheese-flavored chocolate appetizers that include goat cheese and hazelnuts drenched in a dark chocolate ganache. For health nuts, there are even chocolate energy bars. The winter menu has warm beverages such as spiced hot chocolate, and summer brings handmade ice-creams. A menu of pastries includes the Marquise, a chocolate mousse cake soaked with cognac and rum, and a chocolate éclair. There’s also a small menu of non-chocolate desserts, but when you’re in a chocolate haven like this, why bother? Average bill is $15 per person. www.jphevin.com. 23 rue Saint-Honoré
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Bittersweet — A Chocolate Café,
This cheerful 60-seat salon has 120 brands of chocolate bars from all over the world, including some of the best from Domori and Askinosie. Desserts include cinnamon hot chocolate cake, a chocolate nib scone, a chocolate dulce de leche pudding, and a pear chocolate ginger muffin. There are also more refined versions of classics such as chocolate-chip cookies and dark-chocolate brownies. The long beverage menu includes Thai chocolate iced tea and the White Chocolate Dream — Venezuelan white chocolate infused with cardamom and spices. For those who want to deepen their chocolate education, the café also has tastings of various cacao percentages and cacao beans from plantations around the world. Chocolate bars average $5, desserts $8. www.bittersweetcafe.com. 2123 Fillmore St.
Choco Cult has become something of an institution here since it opened two years ago. The contemporary space with stainless-steel light fixtures and eclectic artwork is a three-story temple to chocolate. The first level features a gelateria with at least 10 flavors that are all a riff on chocolate — think chocolate with lemon zest, chocolate with cherry, and dark chocolate basil. The bar level has pairings of the sweet stuff with alcohol such as milk-chocolate bonbons with champagne while a more formal seating area serves up desserts such as molten-chocolate cake and chocolate-infused tea. Chocolate bars, chocolate sauces, and books about chocolate can all be purchased at the retail level. Gelato is around $4, larger desserts average $10. www.chococult.it. Via Buonarroti 7.