For Valentine’s Day, consider spreading some love not just to those near and dear, but also to Houston’s local economy. The Bayou City is home to talented chocolatiers, great pastry chefs and excellent retailers who make and sell outstanding treats. Here’s a list of where to buy beautiful, tasty Valentine’s gifts made right here in Houston.
Phoenicia Specialty Foods, 12141 Westheimer and 1001 Austin
Phoenicia Specialty Foods and MKT Bar, the in-store restaurant at the downtown location, are pulling out all the stops for Valentine’s Day this year. They’re calling it “Valentine’s Cuddle Fest 2016,” and it includes special treats, events and meals. We were enchanted with the adorable mini-pastries pictured above (a surprise delivery to several members of the local food media). The perfect, bite-size sweets allow for indulgence without blowing anyone’s diet — unless someone eats the whole box, which is very tempting.
For those who don’t indulge, Phoenicia has also come up with a very smart gift guide with suggestions for everyone from kids to wine lovers. See the PDF of the guide below.
If you have kids, check out the special heart-shaped pizza and decorate-your-own-cookies meal available at MKT Bar. See the full list of events, meals and specials on the press release page. There really is something for everyone.
Hugs & Donuts, 1901 North Shepherd
Here’s a novel idea: Valentine’s doughnuts! Hugs & Donuts in the Heights is making some gorgeous ones and they’d be great to take to the office or have as a breakfast treat on Valentine’s morning. Six of the special beauties cost $14. The “X” shape is chocolate-covered glaze with sprinkles, the heart is filled with berry compote and there’s also a chocolate-dipped strawberry donut. Owner Jason Hill says they’re going to attempt one covered in candy conversation hearts, too.
Cacao & Cardamom, 5000 Westheimer, #602
Cacao & Cardamom is well-known for its gorgeous filled chocolates, and a special set of them have been created for the most romantic day of the year. There are seven inspired flavors, including red rose-shaped chocolates with pistachio ganache, raspberry pâte de fruit and pistachio nougatine; hot lips filled with strawberry butter ganache and Pop Rocks as well as several heart-shaped truffles in equally creative incarnations.
A five-piece box is $12. Heart-shaped boxes cost $18 for the small and $36 for the large. If you really love someone, treat them to a big, one-pound box for $58.
Kegg’s Candies, 8168 A Westpark Drive and 4934 Beechnut
The Keggs family has been making chocolates, caramels and more in Houston since 1946. The chocolate factory on Westpark sports a retail shop and ice cream parlor and their other retail outlet is the Beechnut location. This year, just as in years past, they’ve made a special selection of confections just for Valentine’s Day. Drop by and load up on chocolate covered strawberries or get a classic heart-shaped box filled with the chocolates of your choice.
Tejas Chocolate, 200 North Elm, Tomball
Tejas Chocolate is one of the few chocolatiers in the area that actually roast and grind their own cacao beans. The process is called “bean to bar” and the resulting fresh flavor and texture is incredible. For Valentine’s Day, a four-pack of handmade chocolate truffles is $12, and a 12-pack is $46 plus tax.
If it seems too far to drive to Tomball, visit Central Market or the Post Oak and Montrose locations of Whole Foods. Normally people can also order online, but the shop reports it has received so many orders that it is doing only in-person sales until it gets caught up.
(By the way, Tejas Chocolate recently started making barbecue also, and it is already getting some rave reviews. As J.C. Reid, barbecue columnist for the Houston Chronicle, recently said: beer, barbecue and chocolate? Count me in.)
Chocolat d’Arte, 281-989-6464 (phone orders only)
Nancy Rawson of Chocolat d’Arte might be Houston’s most under-the-radar and underrated candy maker. Her beautiful, molded chocolates are often gilded or glittered — and they are huge. One filled chocolate might be three bites — which means a box lasts longer than might be expected.
That said, her chocolates have zero preservatives and should be consumed fresh. For Valentine’s Day, her X-rated Kama Sutra series (definitely NSFW) are a top seller. Tamer options include boxes of filled chocolates in the shapes of hearts and kisses as well as chocolate-covered Oreos. The inventive flavors include absinthe with violet and chocolate with red-hot cinnamon. Order by phone at 281-989-6464.
Ooh La La, multiple locations
Ooh La La's three locations in Katy and in west Houston are easy stops to pick up a wide variety of gorgeous baked goods. Among the festively decorated treats are jumbo cupcakes, petite-sized "truffle cupcakes," shortbread cookies, French macarons, red velvet cake, cheesecake and éclairs. Most can be purchased either individually or by the dozen.
Do you know of some other outstanding, Houston-made treats for Valentine's Day? Leave it in the comments below.