Sweets for Your Sweetie
Story and photos by Tom Long and Stacy Milbouer
Fiddlehead Contributing Editor
Valentine’s Day is coming and if your honey has a sweet tooth, you’re in luck. Local chocolatiers are creating confections that are bound to make hearts flutter.
Granite State Candy Shoppe in Concord (also with a shop in Manchester) has been handcrafting sweets since Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic. The little shop a block from Main Street is redolent of cacao and has big glass display cases filled chocolate bars, chocolates with fruits and nuts, dark chocolate turkeys, even chocolate-covered pretzels. You can even spell out “I love you” or “Be my valentine” using their chocolate letters.
Van Otis Chocolates in Manchester has been around since 1935 and is famous for its Swiss fudge. There are chocolates of all description, and if you (or your valentine) has a favorite, say coffee or toffee, you can get a whole box. There is also a good selection of sugar-free chocolates.
At Dancing Lion Chocolate in Manchester Richard Tango-Lowy celebrates chocolate as an art with top-shelf bars and bonbons, even pictures fashioned out of the confection. The Mayan drinking chocolate he serves in his little café is the perfect warmup for a cold winter day.
Vicuña Chocolate in Peterborough is a bean-to-bar operation with cacao and organic sugar the only ingredients. According to the shop’s website: “When you experience Vicuña chocolates, you’ll realize the brands you thought you loved were just a flirtation. This is the real thing.”
Ava Marie Handmade Chocolates in Peterborough features milk and dark chocolate turtles, and hand-painted chocolates. It’s motto? “Life is too short for ordinary chocolate.”
At La Cascade du Chocolat in Exeter, chocolatiers Samantha Brown and Thomas Nash create custom bars, bonbons, truffles and other confections. You can drop in for a box of their beauties and a hot chocolate at their mall café on Water Street.
The Chocolatier, also on Water Street in Exeter, has hand-crafted chocolates, almond and cashew barks, turtles and even chocolate-covered potato chips.
And let’s not forget Lindt & Sprungli, the eminent Swiss chocolatier which has been creating and selling sweets in Zurich since 1845 and opened a factory in Stratham since 1993. Their truffles, chocolates and bars are available at outlets in Nashua, Manchester, Merrimack, Portsmouth and Stratham.
It’s been a year since Nancy Feraco left her job at an air quality monitoring company and took over a local confection dynasty when she purchased Nelson’s Candy and Music in Wilton. And she’s learned a lot about chocolate since then.
Previous owner, Doug Nelson, has stayed on to make candy and to teach Feraco his family’s 100-year-old recipes, including those for fudge and chocolate clusters. But Feraco not only learned how to make candies and chocolates using these traditional methods, she also learned about the importance chocolate plays in the lives of people.
“Last winter, after Valentine’s Day, there was a day when a blizzard was supposed to hit,” she said. “I figured there would be very little business but that I’d go in and get some work done. But we were busy with customers who not only had run out to get milk and bread before the storm, but they came in to stock up on chocolate for the storm.”
Feraco also picked up on language of chocoholics she’d never noticed before.
“Instead of people coming and saying, ‘I would like a dozen cherry cordials or four truffles,’ they say, ‘I need a dozen cherry cordials or four truffles,’” she explained.
Feraco also continued the tradition of the music portion of the business with attached and intimate music venue at the shop.
Before each performance, she invites performers to have “a kid in a candy shop experience” by picking out whatever they like from the cases — an experience which inspired at least one of the musicians.
During a recent performance, blues guitarist Dave Fields performed his song, “Rockin’ Down at Nelson’s Candy,” and sang, “I got a big chocolate lollipop waitin’ for me.”
There’s more to Weirs Beach than water sports. Just up the hill from the beach, Kellerhaus, which is open year-round, has been making chocolate-covered cherries and chocolate fudge since Teddy Roosevelt was president.
Martha’s Exchange and Sweet Shoppe in Nashua has been boxing chocolates since the Great Depression in 1936. There is a restaurant and brewpub, too, for multi-tasking shoppers.
Just a block or two away from Martha’s, is City Moose Café and Catering, not a chocolatier, but they make giant chocolate moose lollies that would make Bullwinkle blush.
And, speaking of bulbous-nosed ungulates, Chocolate Moose in Salem has a good selection of handmade confections as does Sama Chocolatier, also in Salem.
In Walpole, L.A. Burdick Chocolates makes gourmet, European-inspired chocolates using natural ingredients without artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. The wide variety of Valentine’s Day assortments includes its popular chocolate mice and penguins.
My Brigadeiro in Hanover specializes in its namesake: the brigadeiro, a Brazillian sweet treat of handcrafted chocolate balls, similar to a truffle, made from local ingredients and quality chocolate. Flavors include marshmallow, wicked hot, Nutella and cherry valentine.