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Hot Chocolate

Go dark, spicy and exotic for Valentine's without breaking the bank.

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Not everyone likes dark chocolate; some relegate it to the occasional baking foray, and that's fine. You will miss some of the most amazing flavor combinations, however, as formulated by the Vosges chocolate company. A Red Fire Bar slowly simmers away in the back of the throat with ancho and chipotle peppers surprisingly complemented by cinnamon. Their Black Pearl Bar has a different kind of flame with the addition of wasabi; ginger and black sesame seeds adding a gentle snap. But it's the Barcelona Bar that will win you over with its dark milk chocolate, smoked almonds and unexpected crunches of savory gray sea salt. Each bar is addictive in its own way, but this last salty-sweet treat wins hands down for originality and sheer eatability. For the Love of Chocolate, $5.99 each.

The British really know how to make candy, and it's no longer necessary to wait for that too-infrequent overseas trip to find two of my favorite candy bars, Chocolate Flake and the Crunchie by Cadbury. The Crunchie is a crazy combination of a honeycombed and honey-flavored center surrounded by smooth milk chocolate. Chocolate Flake is harder to describe: think of lots of thin sheets of silky chocolate rolled tightly together so that each bite subtly crunches and then instantly melts all over the inside of your mouth to maximize the round bouquet of the chocolate. World Market, $1.79 each.

For those who eat only American, those geniuses at Lake Champlain have created what can easily trump the rest with their Five Star hazelnut bar, a combination of all the rich decadence of a truffle with the solid satisfaction of the humble candy bar. $2.69 at Joe's

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