I am an avowed supporter of Valentine’s Day — not because I have a particularly rosy-eyed view of love and friendships, although I am also pro those things. It is 95 percent because of the candy, specifically chocolate.
I enjoy eating chocolate all year round, but on Valentine’s Day, it deservedly takes pride of place, conversation hearts and flower arrangements notwithstanding. And Valentine’s Day, unlike the other festive occasions where chocolate is a mere background player, is the time to request and give really fancy chocolate, the kind of chocolate that immediately telegraphs luxury and decadence. There’s nothing that fits that bill quite like bonbons.
Traditionally, bonbons are made with molds and contain a wide variety of fillings, from fruits and nuts to caramel and marzipans (unlike truffles, which generally contain ganache). They are a canvas for a chocolatier’s creativity both on the inside and on the chocolate shelled exteriors, which are often painted to resemble glistening gemstones. While any box of chocolates can make for a fine romantic gesture or clichéd apology, bonbons are always a celebration. Here, a list of confectioners from across the country to prove my point (they all ship nationwide).
This is the place that convinced me there’s absolutely nothing wrong with sitting around and eating bonbons all day. In fact, it’s a delightful thing to do. At the New York City shop, Susanna Yoon manages to pack all the flavors of other elaborate desserts — like calamansi meringue pie or black forest cake — into a beautiful package. You can’t select individual flavors when you order to ship online, but trust, they won’t disappoint.
New Jersey-based Vesta Chocolate is a bean-to-bonbon chocolate factory, meaning chocolatiers Roger Rodriguez and Julia Choi Rodriguez start the chocolate-making process with whole cacao beans which they then process to form the basis of confections ranging from hot chocolate to bars to bonbons. Those bonbons are available to ship in boxes of six or 12 surprise flavors, but all of them are gluten- and nut-free.
In Miami, bean-to-bonbon Exquisito Chocolates prides itself on ethical sourcing. You can see exactly how chocolate maker Carolina Quijano turns cacao into chocolate on this episode of Eater’s “Handmade.” And for Valentine’s Day, you can pre-order boxes of three or 32 bonbons in classic heart-shaped boxes.
Eater SF called Topotgato San Francisco’s “most audacious online chocolate shop.” The hand-painted confections from pastry chef Simon Brown and designer Beau Monroe contain flavor combinations like pistachio marzipan with hibiscus jelly and pear jam with chamomile tea and a white wine ganache. Topogato also sells artwork by Monroe; this “rosebud” print would make a sweet addition to a Valentine’s Day gift of chocolates.
Elle Lei makes bonbons in small batches out of Chicago; they sell out fast. Sugoi partnered with fellow Chicago small business Aya Pastry on festive Halloween bonbons and is doing the same for Valentine’s Day. That collaboration is available for local pickup and delivery, but stay tuned for more options available directly from Sugoi, and in the meantime, peruse the usual offerings in flavors like beer pretzel, Chicago corn, and cotton candy pop rock, all decorated with bright pops of color.
Houston-based Cacao and Cardamom recognizes the jewel-like appeal of the bonbon, which here come in a variety of shapes, packaged in gold-lined boxes. As the shop’s name implies, spices take a starring role in chocolatier Annie Rupani’s flavors: there’s strawberry szechuan peppercorn, garam masala pistachio, five spice praline, and cardamom rose, just to name a few.
The Valentine’s Day offerings at Dallas-based chocolatier Kate Weiser combine my desire for quality, fancy chocolate with the gaudy Valentine’s Day imagery I unironically love. Just look at those pink hearts!
In Tucson, Monsoon Chocolate puts together boxes of bonbons that showcase a variety of aesthetic styles with flavors that reflect the southwestern setting, such as chiltepín pepper, prickly pear caramel, and Sonoran sea salt dark chocolate. Like Exquisito Chocolate and Vesta Chocolate, Monsoon is a bean-to-bar operation.
Atlanta-based Jardí Chocolates is particularly well suited to the fruit lover. For Valentine’s Day, pastry chef Jocelyn Gragg is putting together a four-piece set of bonbons; flavors include liquid cherry cordial, piña colada, passionfruit and vanilla marshmallow, and a heart-shaped blood orange caramel.
At And Sons in Los Angeles, second-generation chocolate makers carry on the family tradition with elegant bonbons and other chocolate confections. If you’re looking to give chocolate hearts for Valentine’s Day, look no further. In fact, And Sons makes a giant heart-shaped bonbon (giant, at three inches) filled with cinnamon hazelnut gianduja, salted vanilla caramel, and hazelnut praline, along with smaller heart-shaped bonbons.
Bon Bon Bon’s bonbons might not have the typical domed shape, but the flavors take full advantage of the anything-goes spirit of the bonbon. The Detroit shop’s Valentine’s Day collection is especially, um, spirited, including flavors with names like cherry pop (candied Luxardo cherry confiture, toasted poppy seed ganache, and dried Michigan cherries), family jewels (banana ganache, hazelnut praline ganache, hazelnut croquant, and pearl sugar), and S&M (strawberry and mascarpone). And while the Valentine’s Day pre-orders are sold out, mystery boxes-o-bons are available and likely just as fun.