The Hippo


Jul 16, 2019








Courtesy of Granite State Candy Shoppe.

The chocolate touch
How to find the best box of sweets for your special someone

By Ryan Lessard

 It’s the most iconic of Valentine’s Day gifts, but how do you make a box of chocolates special, unique and thoughtful? Some local chocolate producers offer a variety of boxes containing certain styles of chocolates that might fit your partner’s style, and many also let you pick and choose the contents of the box.

The basics
Assembling a box of chocolates begins with choosing the box itself. Granite State Candy Shoppe in Concord and Manchester offers three box sizes, the largest of which holds around 30 pieces. 
At Van Otis Chocolates, there are heart-shaped boxes and square or rectangular boxes. Small boxes fit about nine to 11 pieces, mediums fit about 15 to 18 pieces and larges fit 20 to 30, according to Emily Lazzar, assistant manager at Van Otis.
They also offer 2- or 3-pound heart boxes that can double or triple the large size. 
Generally, boxes will have a base cost, plus the price calculated by the weight of the chocolate or candy inside.
While you can’t assemble your own boxes at Dancing Lion Chocolate, it offers three sizes as well; a small fits about five pieces, a medium fits eight and a large has about 15, give or take.
Richard Tango-Lowy, the owner of Dancing Lion and master chocolatier, said the large box is called a sharing box because there are two of everything — perfect for equal-opportunity sharing with your loved one.
Personal tastes
Of course, one of the most significant things to consider in buying a box of chocolates is what kind of chocolates the recipient of your gift likes to eat.
Tal Smith, general manager at Granite State Candy, said people tend to break down into certain categories based on what types of chocolate bonbons they prefer.
“It’s really about who the box is for. A lot of people have different preferences of milk chocolate, dark chocolate. Do they like soft centers [or] do they like hard and chewy?” Smith said.
If you’re not sure what they like, do a little recon work. Ask them if they prefer milk chocolate or dark chocolate, or if they prefer things that are sugary or savory. 
It might also help to ask what kinds of sweets they don’t like. Maybe they have a nut allergy or hate it when caramel gets stuck in their teeth.
Check with chocolate producers about nut allergies, since some products are not necessarily 100 percent nut safe even if there are no nuts in the bonbon itself.
Lazzar said some people only like ganaches with creamy, soft centers, especially certain elderly people. Others like a variety of caramels. Smith said some people will assemble an assortment of salted caramels, maple caramels and coffee caramels.
Some people create boxes that contain entirely one variety of chocolate that certain individuals love, like orange creams or pecan turtles, according to Lazzar. She said the Van Otis Swiss Fudge is also a popular item and people have been known to fill boxes of those as well. She said their Swiss Fudge is more like a ganache with a creamy center that melts in your mouth.
Some people prefer bonbons that are familiar and safe; others are more adventurous and like to try new things. For the most safe and familiar option, one can buy a pre-assembled box with some of the usual suspects. 
“That way, there’s something in there that they can enjoy,” Smith said.
For the more adventurous loved ones, it’s a good idea to ask chocolate producers what’s new. 
Smith said the lavender cream bonbon is an unexpected hit these days. 
Tango-Lowy at Dancing Lion specializes in more exotic varieties of chocolates and bonbons. His assortments change all the time, but they can include things like butter caramels, glossy fish mold with a matcha tea ganache, solid pieces flavored with rose blossom and blood orange or fondants that melt in your mouth.
He also makes a long, twisty-shaped ganache with Thai tea caramel on ghost chili white chocolate. It’s not “terribly hot,” Tango-Lowy said, but adding spice to chocolate mirrors love relationships, he said, since they “can have a little spice and burn” to them.
Van Otis offers around 300 pieces to choose from.
For those who prefer sweet over savory, there are options to add other types of candy at places like Granite State Candy.
Finally, the presentation of the selected chocolates shouldn’t be overlooked. Tango-Lowy takes particular pride in making sure the appearance of his chocolate boxes and the contents within are stunning and pleasing to the eye.
“We want them to be utterly beautiful when you open them up,” he said.
Tango-Lowy said he takes a Japanese approach to assembling the box, meaning every step of opening it should build anticipation. And the display inside should be a work of art.
That means some thought has to go into how the pieces are arranged, based on color and dimension. He suggests taking different styles and shapes and putting them together in a way that makes it seem harmonious.
“You’re giving them the experience,” Tango-Lowy said.
Lazzar said you want the box to look full, but not overflowing.
“When you open the box, you want to see all the chocolates, you want to see a full box, and you want to see the chocolates arranged nicely. If it’s a variety of milk and dark chocolates, you want to see a nice mixture of milk and dark. You want all the pieces to fit nicely,” Lazzar said. “They are all different shapes, so it’s kind of like a little puzzle.”

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