As Valentine’s Day draws near, you don’t have to look far for gifts of chocolate. Big-box stores and little corner shops alike are hawking heart- shaped collections of confections, or you can go online and order chocolate from California or France or Madagascar.
That said, you also can go the local route. Long Island is home to a number of small chocolatiers who craft wares on the premises and allow you to compose your own assortment—and how much fun is that? Here are six places to start.
Schwartz Candies: 169 Voice Rd., Carle Place; 516-294-2831, schwartzcandies.com
Stan Bosko presides over the business his parents and grandparents ran before him. Schwartz Candies (founded in 1939) was making artisanal marshmallows decades before they became trendy, and you could hardly do better for Valentine’s Day than buying a big heart filled with Crunchmallows (vanilla marshmallow on top of English toffee), for instance, or Schmores (on top of a graham cracker).
Emile’s Candies: 229 Merrick Rd., Oceanside; 516-766-4402, emilescandies.com
Emile’s, established in 1954, has gotten a facelift since new owners Jackie and Michael Brown took over a year ago. Renovations to the store, kitchen and website are ongoing, but nothing has changed among the creams, caramels, clusters, marshmallows, fudges and truffles that have been the bailiwick of chief confectioner Teodoro Bermudes for the past 13 years. He’s a relative newcomer next to veteran saleswomen Carol Chalavoutis (22 years) and Henrietta Cuomo (36 years).
Lazar’s Chocolate: 72 Middle Neck Rd., Great Neck; 516-829-5785 and 350 Wheatley Plaza, Greenvale; 516-484-1987 lazarschocolate.com
Lazar’s has been part of the Great Neck landscape since 1975, when Richard Lazar, a second-generation chocolatier, opened his shop. In 1992, the Greenvale location opened and now,
Richard is joined in the business by his two sons, Marc and Jeff. Lazar the elder characterized his wares as “old- fashioned European-style chocolates” singling out his caramel nut patties (pecan, walnut, almond and cashew) for special mention. Lazar’s also will print a custom chocolate-bar wrapper on demand using any digital art or even a scannable print.
North Fork Chocolate Company: 740 Main Rd., Aquebogue; 631-779-2963, northforkchocolate.com
Partners Ann Corley and Steve Amaral, head chocolatier, started out in the Calverton “incubator” kitchen run by Stony Brook University, selling their wares online. And Valentine’s Day 2019 will mark four years since North Fork Chocolate opened in Aquebogue. The fillings in their candies are imaginative and, when possible, local: toffee made with goat’s milk from Goodale Farms (just down the road), white chocolate bonbons infused with Miss Lady Root Beer (Wainscott), salted caramels with North Fork Sea Salt (Southold), ginger caramels made with ginger grown by MarGene Farms (Mattituck) and more.
Bon Bons Chocolatier: 319 Main St., Huntington; 631-549-1059, bonbonschocolatier.com
Mary Alice Meinersman took over Huntington’s Bon Bons in 1984. Ten years later, she and her daughter, Susannah Meinersman, opened this spacious and smartly appointed shop a few blocks from the original. Bon Bons does luxurious, handmade variations on mass-produced treats such as Baci, made with hazelnut butter from Oregon, and Joyfuls, with dark chocolate and coconut. Among the popular truffles are Grand Marnier, amaretto, Champagne, the Figaro (milk and dark chocolate flavored with hazelnut butter) and the dark-chocolate-lemon citron-noir.
The Sayville Chocolatier: 6 Main St., Sayville; 631-589-6713
Mary Ellen Verbarg opened this Sayville institution in 1980. Her husband, Ron, rescued the mahogany- and-glass cabinets from nearby (and long-gone) Beer’s ice cream parlor and added his own elegant woodwork. Verbarg’s signature Valentine’s Day treats are strawberries hand-dipped in dark or milk chocolate. (In the winter, she gets flavorful berries from warmer climes; in the summer, she dips local strawberries.) Also popular: cherry cordials and almond-butter crunch, jumbo dark-chocolate malted milk balls and chocolate-chipotle-covered almonds and milk chocolate–sea salt caramels. For Valentine’s Day, there are heart-shaped boxes from a half pound to five pounds to fill with whatever your beloved’s heart desires.