Just in time for Valentine’s Day, a whirlwind tour of Reno’s purveyors of nature’s perfect food: chocolate
Despite what well-meaning morons on park benches might tell you, though life may be like a box of chocolates, when buying chocolates, you should know what you’re getting. For Valentine’s Day, every good wooer knows that nothing says “love” quite like the pure pleasure rush of chocolate—a pleasure with which every lover should want to be associated. Good chocolates provide the only perfect, G-rated sensual pleasure (though, as we shall soon see, there are X-rated chocolate indulgences), and, like all great pleasures, it’s best when shared—a virtual guarantee that the gift-giver will have delicious returns on his or her investment. My girlfriend, Danielle, and I decided to do our Valentine’s Day chocolate shopping together. Here’s our quick tour of some of the local chocolate shops.
Sweets Handmade Candies
4991 S. Virginia St., 827-8270
This is a great all-around shop and a good default choice for the casual chocolate enthusiast. There are two locations: in Truckee, at 10118 Donner Pass Road, and the one we visited in south Reno. The voluptuous chocolates are handmade on-site with rich, imported Belgian chocolate. They’re moderately priced (individual chocolates cost between $1.50 and $2), there are nice gift boxes, and the selection, though not vast, covers all the bases. There’s a wide variety of sugar-free candies for those concerned with such matters.
We had a German-chocolate-cake truffle, which was quite good, and some dark-chocolate-dipped cherries. The flavor combination of fresh, sweet cherries and rich, dark chocolate is frigging delicious. We also picked up, as a last-minute whim (because we were eating chocolates instead of lunch) a relatively healthful choice, a caramel apple with nuts ($4.24).
Ethel M. Chocolates
2001 E. Plumb Lane, 322-9596
The M. here stands for Mars, as in Mars Inc., the candy bar company. Ethel M. is based in Clark County, and the sole Reno location is in the airport, right across from the very loud and very obnoxious Beverly Hillbillies slot machine. Fortunately, you don’t need to go through airport security in order to visit the store. The selection isn’t spectacular, but the presentation and gift-box packaging are very nice. Ethel M. is more for discerning gift buyers than avowed chocolate aficionados.
Most of the chocolates are $1 apiece, including a tasty, peanut-shaped, peanut butter chocolate, and there are gift boxes ranging from 3-ounce ($7) to enormous, 5-pound, 4-ounce boxes ($120). We also picked up a plump, surprisingly fresh strawberry ($4) that had been decorated with white chocolate and milk chocolate so as to look like it was wearing a tuxedo—very cute.
3882-A Mayberry Drive, 348-6161
This is a posh little gift shop and florist that just happens to have some of the most delectable chocolates around. Its primary clientele appears to be ladies accustomed to the finer things in life, judging by the intricate bouquets, Klimt replica jewelry boxes, expensive skin care products and, of course, imported Swiss Laderach truffles. These chocolates are small and, for their size, rather expensive ($5.95 for four), but though they may be diminutive in size, they are not so in taste. Their full, rich flavors (champagne and cappuccino are two favorites) fill your head from the tip of your lips to the back of your skull with undulating waves of pleasure.
These chocolates will leave you wide-eyed and lowing in ecstasy. If an elegant collection of fine, imported chocolates is what you’re looking for, it doesn’t get much better than this.
The Chocolate Walrus
160 Grove St., 825-2267
For an insightful investigation into the full range of chocolate pleasures, try visiting Devonwoods and The Chocolate Walrus back to back. Devonwoods for delicious elegance, The Chocolate Walrus for bawdy chocolate fun. Despite the name, The Chocolate Walrus isn’t so much a chocolate shop as a sex shop with lingerie, fetish gear, vibrators, movies, sex books, games and more. But it also sells chocolate body spreads and makes some distinctive chocolate treats on-site—including a chocolate-and-almond confection intended to resemble fecal matter and a wide variety of chocolate genitalia. I picked out a large, erect, apparently cream-filled and rather graphically overflowing red-headed penis. In a further display of puerile confectioners’ humor, the figurative nuts contain literal ones.
I bought the candy schlong and the doo-doo dessert for Danielle, but she has not yet, for whatever reason, eaten either. As I was making my purchase, the woman behind the counter told me, “We’re working on our Valentine’s special, a little chocolate cupid with his little penis hanging out.”
205 E. Moana Lane, 829-8444
Another option ambitious romantics might want to consider is making their own chocolates (as we’ve all no doubt been inspired by the innovations of The Chocolate Walrus). For the wannabe confectioner, there’s Candy Connection. It has all the books and supplies needed for candy-making, and if you need a cake pan shaped like Fred Flintstone or Tweety Bird, you can get it at the same stop.
The store has holiday-themed, miniature chocolate houses and, if your romantic yearnings become exceptional this year, Candy Connection makes wedding cakes. Handmade chocolate haystacks, turtles and nut clusters are priced at an exceptional 30 to 40 cents, but you get what you pay for. There’s also fudge, including a startling orange-popsicle flavor.
U.S. Highway 395, Washoe Valley, 849-0841
This is the mother lode, the chocoholic’s rural mecca. There are two locations, both between Reno and Carson City: Washoe Valley and 56 State Route 341, in fabulous Mound House. Both are marvelous candy wonderlands. One would be hard-pressed to come up with a sweet treat not available at the Chocolate Nugget, and most of it is made on site. There are innumerable flavors of taffy, ice cream, fudge and, of course, chocolates.
Chocolate Nugget has chocolate boxes ranging from $7.25 for 8-ounce boxes to 5 pounds for $67.95. We picked out a variety of chocolates, including a coffee-cream truffle (a gush of coffee flavor wrapped in dark chocolate), a dark-chocolate caramel (sticky and chewy like a good caramel should be) and a chocolate pretzel (a satisfying, sweet-and-salty combination).
This is a sentimental favorite for Danielle and me because we stopped here once early on in our relationship and bought some chocolates for a road trip. Our destination found the chocolates melted and me ravenously licking the melted chocolate from the sides of the plastic bag, much to Danielle’s disgust and amusement.
Such are the romantic moments that Valentine’s Day memories should be made of. This year, after our chocolate city tour, exhausted from all our sweet devouring, Danielle said to me, "Can we go home and eat some vegetables? Please? I’m serious."