It’s estimated that Americans buy a beyond impressive 58 million pounds of chocolates during Valentine’s Week. So when you go out for a romantic dinner to celebrate Cupid’s holiday, chances are your meal will end with a chocolate-y extravagance. Pastry chefs and chocolatiers spend months conceiving decadent desserts that highlight cocoa in a myriad of clever – and exceedingly delicious – ways. Here are 16 decadent chocolate desserts (including one that will set you back a cool grand!) that will melt your heart, blow your mind, and give your belly afterglow on Valentine’s Day or any day.
Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria, New York, New York
Here’s a heart-shaped boxed we’d like to be locked inside for weeks. Pastry chef Genevieve Meli forges a lid out of chocolate bark speckled with almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, and a galactic scattering of Maldon sea salt. It covers an assortment of beautiful bonbons sure to impress any date. Make a reservation at Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria.
Daniel, New York, New York
Should you share a French kiss at a restaurant? In this case, absolutely. Executive pastry chef Ghaya Oliveira created a pair of dark chocolate lips for you to share with your sweetie. One is filled with triple vanilla mousse, ruby red grapefruit jam, and rose water Turkish delight. The other boasts dark chocolate marshmallow, passion fruit caramel, and hazelnut praline. Make a reservation at Daniel.
Fire, Denver, Colorado
Goodness gracious, great ball at Fire! A globe formed with chocolate and orange mousses is doused with warm caramel to melt it into a craggy meteor of delicious proportions. We would instruct you to eat it quickly before it dissolves into a puddle of goodness, but we doubt this dessert will last three minutes after it arrives at your table. Make a reservation at Fire.
America Eats Tavern, McLean, Virginia
George was a lucky fella. Turns out Martha Washington made a killer chocolate cake. Buttermilk and coffee add fluffiness and a bit of acidity to the cake, which is interspersed with cocoa butter icing. The triple layer treat is covered in chocolate Chantilly. A big wedge of it with a bracing cup of locally roasted Compass Coffee and we’re in heaven. Make a reservation at America Eats Tavern.
Veranda, San Diego, California
There’s no flour in these chocolate cakes, but there is a whole lot of love. Pastry chef Margaret Carvallo molds dark chocolate ganache into Cupid-worthy hearts, which she enrobes with 70% chocolate glaze. Perfect for sharing with your sweetheart. Make a reservation at Veranda.
Max Brenner-Union Square, New York City
Here’s a pizza for sweet tooths. A crusty round is topped with melted milk and white chocolate chunks and two toppings, which can include crushed hazelnuts, banana rounds, peanut butter, or roasted marshmallows. And, yes, it’s absolutely acceptable to eat a cold slice of it for breakfast the next morning. Make a reservation at Max Brenner.
Aureole, New York, New York
Pastry chef Pierre Poulin took inspiration from classic love songs – including the Bangles’ “Eternal Flame,” Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses – to create his “Chocolate Mixtape Collection.” The 12-piece set showcases flavors that range from the enervating (coffee) and passionate (lychee-rose petal) to the purely decadent (foie gras). Consider it the edible soundtrack to your satisfaction. Make a reservation at Aureole.
Arnaud’s, New Orleans, Louisiana
This dessert is the bomb. A chocolate toffee bomb, to be exact. Its cookie-crisp base is topped with English toffee-chocolate mousse and a rich ganache. Goes down well with a flaming Café Brûlot perked up with brandy and Curaçao. Make a reservation at Arnaud’s.
RPM Steak, Chicago, Illinois
Spangled with 14 karat gold flakes, this chocolate cake sports some serious bling. Dig in and you’ll find both milk and dark chocolate beneath the chocolate coating. Think of it as a candy bar for the 1%. Make a reservation at RPM Steak.
Ai Fiori, New York City
You’ve never had a budino quite like this. An arrangement of spheres, squares and rectangles showcase dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and bittersweet cocoa nibs – as well as a swoosh of caramel for good measure. Make a reservation at Ai Fiori.
Geraldine’s, Austin, Texas
Ho Hos just got super classy. Miniature chocolate Swiss rolls are packed with sweet cream and dappled with crispy, crunchy chocolate balls. The dessert was dubbed the Oh Oh, presumably because you’ll be making your Oh Face after you take a bite. Yeah, we just went there. Make a reservation at Geraldine’s.
The Gander, New York, New York
Say guten abend (good evening) to the Hot German. Sitting in a pool of rich chocolate sauce, a round of Devil’s food cake is coronated with a scoop of chocolate gelato and smoked cocoa crumbles. Pastry chef Vanarin Kuch completes this primo pastry with a halo of crystallized sugar. Make a reservation at the Gander.
Umi, Atlanta, Georgia
Thor would love the Chocolate Kyu. Gracefully hammer into the chocolate sphere to find red bean pastry cream, whiskey-infused mascarpone cream, and fresh berries. Absolutely worthy of a God of Thunder such as yourself. Make a reservation at Umi.
Butcher’s Bar & Grill, Williston Park, New York
Ten layer cakes look no bigger than a cupcake when standing next to this epic 20 layer chocolate titan. Levels of cocoa-rich Devil’s food cake alternate with thick veins of fudge ganache. Best enjoyed with a cup of hot black coffee or cold milk. Make a reservation at Butcher’s Bar & Grill.
Swift & Sons, Chicago, Illinois
Chocoholics take note. This Black Bottom Pudding features dark chocolate mousse, cocoa crumble, milk chocolate pudding, and – as if that weren’t enough chocolate – white chocolate sorbet. Remember: it’s considered rude to try and lick the bottom of the glass. Make a reservation at Swift & Sons.
Sugar Factory American Brasserie, Miami, Florida
This is some Kanye-level chocolate fondue right here. Price tag: $1,000. Dark truffles are melted while you watch and presented with a luxe array of dippable edibles including gold chocolate nuggets, golden truffles, gold-dusted gummy bears, gold leaf chocolate cupcakes, and more. Oh, yeah, plus a bottle of 2002 Dom Pérignon and a glass of 50-year-old cognac. Yeezus would surely approve. Make a reservation at Sugar Factory American Brasserie.
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell.
Photo credits: Anthony Jackson (Ai Fiori). Katie Burton (The Gander);