Since Valentine's Day is ostensibly a holiday about passion, I guess it makes sense that people feel strongly about their V-Day candy. Take, for instance, this e-mail I received last week: "Russell Stover has terrorized enough Valentine's Days. He MUST BE STOPPED!" And then I heard a parade of protesters marching down the street: "Hey hey, ho ho, Russell Stover's got to go!" (OK, that didn't really happen.) But I figured it might be time to do a taste test of popular Valentine's candies, to get a sense of how good, bad and romantically effective they are.
But before we start, a word on getting the "right" candy. Because let's face it: When it comes to getting a sexytime gift to your sexytime friend, there's 1) never really a bad time and 2) a pretty easy way of going about this -- you drop some real coin. You get truffles from the heavy hitters: Jacques Torres, Francois Payard, Gail Ambrosius, and if you're really fancy, La Maison du Chocolat or Oriol Balaguer. There are dozens more chocolate makers I could name here, because when it comes down to it, you're not going to go very wrong if you're buying from serious people. Yes, some are better than others, but what you're giving is a luxury, an indulgence, and is your honeypie ever really going to say, "Well, baby, I like these jasmine truffles from Kee's Chocolates, but it would've been better if you got me the more floral and complex cacao notes from Torres"? Because that person is no fun to have sexytime with anyway.
(Caveat: Whatever you do, don't spend your money on Godiva truffles. They're crazy. They cost more than many of these serious, handmade chocolatiers, and they're just glorified factory chocolates, too sweet and dull-flavored. It's a love gift, people! Make sure the chocolate is made with love.)
But the decision-making gets harder in the middle of the pack, when we're dealing with readily available pre-packaged candies. So, to help separate the rough from the smooch, here is our very unscientific guide to the great chocolate lake. Our esteemed panel of judges (OK, Salon staffers and interns) were asked to taste these candies and examine the packaging, to determine how delicious and romantically effective these gifts would be.