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).
Stick With Me Sweets A 24-piece box from Stick With Me Sweets. Stick With Me Sweets
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.
Vesta Chocolate Vesta’s Valentine’s LOVE Jewel bonbons. Vesta Chocolate
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;