Unabashedly rich and irresistible, few foods bring on such giddy cravings as chocolate. Love is sweet, but it’s much sweeter with chocolate. Its phenylethylamine is the same chemical that our brains produce when we fall in love. Quality chocolate stirs the same emotions and is positively addictive this close to Valentine’s Day in Tampa Bay. Charge up your appetite, and your wallet, with some luscious choices from candy land.
William Dean Chocolates
These gorgeous, glossy chocolates are stunning to the eye and tempting to the taste buds. A litany of flavor profiles, such as passion fruit, port, plum and fig, and seven kinds of caramels, add to its inventiveness. The company is the brainchild of Bill Brown, who honored his father, William, and grandfather, Dean, to name his venture. His chocolate making began after an Alton Brown “Good Eats” cocoa episode when he made his own truffles for co-workers. Then he learned to airbrush and paint artisan chocolates and studied under several master chocolatiers. He decided to forge ahead with his own sweets. On a trip to Kansas City, Mo., he wowed the Dean and Deluca buyer. He quit a career in the corporate world and opened his shop. The results are a sublime, edible artistry that is as beautiful as a fine piece of jewelry.
William Dean Chocolates; 2790 West Bay Dr.; Belleair Bluffs, FL; (727) 593-0656. Website
Let Them Eat Cake
Michael Baugh, chocolate chef extraordinaire and owner, could hold the title of the Frank Lloyd Wright of chocolate. He purrs about his inventive creations such as his recreation of Salvador Dalí’s “Persistence of Memory” made from dreamy swirls of chocolate. His windblown sails, atop a three-foot chocolate mast of an intricate, 150-serving, Buccaneer pirate ship, made for a rare Gasparilla treat. Chocolate is his crayon and he goes through 300 pounds of Callebaut chocolate in just a week.
“Jewelry is a little expensive, and flowers aren’t going to last long, but chocolate is a gift you’ll always remember,” he said while dipping chocolate-coated berries and handmade chocolate roses (more than one suitor has the chef attach an engagement ring).
Let Them Eat Cake, 3805 S. West Shore Blvd., Tampa, FL; (813) 837-6888. Website
Schakolad Chocolate Factory
Don’t let the spelling of this Chocolate Factory (shaq-oh-LAD) scare you. Baruch Schaked used a combination of his name and “chocolate” to identify his business, back in 1969. His two chocolate shops in Tampa Bay use a three-generation, European-style recipe that puts Schakolad in a league of its own. The menu is oh, so, sweet. Just standing in the shop makes you smile. Schakolad also sells online.
408 S Howard Ave, Tampa, FL; (813) 259-1099;
401 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, FL; (727) 892-2400. Website
The Original Leena’s Chocolates
Leena Caligiure puts her own spin on sweet delicacies and hopes people haven’t seen anything like hers elsewhere. Thirteen years ago in New York, Leena took a chocolate course because she couldn’t find unique (and affordable) party favors for her son’s birthday. Soon, the corporate banking executive turned her nights into creating chocolates for birthdays, weddings and Sweet 16 parties. Years later, and after two more children, she got back into the sweets and opened a retail store. Leena’s edible chocolate shoes and boxes have delicious, fun fillings.
The Original Leena’s Chocolates; 1048 E. Bloomingdale Ave; Valrico, FL; (813) 643-8500. Website
You’ll also find little luxuries at these places:
- Chocolates by Michelle
Gulf View Square Mall, Port Richey, FL; toll-free 1-877-849-2626. Website
- Debbie’s Chocolate Delights
2086 W. Busch Blvd, Tampa, FL (813) 933-7377. Website
- Godiva Chocolatier, (also through online retailers)
2223 N. Westshore Blvd., International Plaza, Tampa, FL; (813) 354-7788. Website
- Toffee to Go
3251 W. Bay to Bay Blvd., Tampa (813) 831-6247. Website [Editor's note: Taylor orders these from California]
- Qachbal’s Chocolatier
615 Channelside Dr., Tampa, FL; (813) 223-5919. Website
Tampa Bay Restaurant News:
The wheels on the bus come off, off, off: The famed Taco Bus is going bricks and mortar and moved into a downtown Tampa location yesterday. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn cut the ribbon for the opening party. Today’s special is chicken in red Mole sauce. Or, try the Burrito Prenado with shredded beef, rice, beans and veggies. Find it at 505 Franklin St., Tampa, FL; (813) 397-2800; http://tampatacobus.com/