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The pure pleasure of great chocolate
Valentine's day means premium chocolate, and our suggestions for a great ganache are in.
February 11, 2005: 1:10 PM EST
By Katie Benner, CNN/Money staff writer
Photo gallerylaunchSee more photos

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - One recent workday, product designer Przmek Godycki was among the early-morning bonbon buyers at premium chocolate shop Jacques Torres in Manhattan.

Although Godycki usually boycotts Valentine's Day, this year he wanted something extra special for his girlfriend.

"I love her, and the chocolate's just a token," he said. "And I love this chocolate."

Whether walking the streets with a sweetheart in tow or watching movies alone in bed, on Valentine's Day everyone wants a little TLC -- and at least one sensual experience that won't disappoint.

Enter a top-notch ganache, a smooth, creamy, nutritionally empty, rich and indulgent chocolate filling. This is the drug of choice for a holiday whose history includes martyred saints, co-opted pagan cleansing festivals, longing and more than enough adolescent rejection.

Americans have discovered that a luxury bite is a salve to make lips tremble and hearts beat faster. As a result, gourmet chocolate sales are booming, rising faster than other chocolate categories, according to market research firm Packaged Facts.

The finest chocolatiers have created enough special offerings to keep us sinning long after Valentine's Day is over. High-end artistes are filling the market with treat-filled heart-shaped boxes made of thick couverture, passion fruit- and vanilla-infused goodies and gift sets named for lovers like Gatsby and Daisy.

"I want to promote the art of chocolate making more than just the products I create," said chocolate master Jacques Torres. "This is a creation that should be truly appreciated."

On the day Godycki broke down to shop for his girlfriend, customers sauntered through Torres' shop, dazed and satisfied. They clutched paper cups and truffle boxes, surrounded by the lush scent of roasted cocoa beans and thick piles of chocolate bark.

"I came early to avoid the lines," said Jonathan Selzer, a Manhattan doctor buying for his secretary, his mother and his lover. "Chocolate is perfect for the holiday because it's an aphrodisiac...and it's sinful and decadent."

Luxe comfort food

Chocolate doesn't have to be crafted by masters for it to ease the soul. After Hershey mass-marketed the first bar in 1900, U.S. chocolate sales skyrocketed during WWII as soldiers were sent off to war with a gun over their shoulder and a chocolate bar in their pocket.

But premium cocoa does offer a uniquely sensual experience. Rebecca Masson, chocolate aficionado and pastry chef at the Red Cat in Manhattan, called the experience of eating chocolate in its purest form in Paris, "magical."

Masson said it was at L'Etoile d'Or, the Star of Gold, where she "experienced the full richness and yumminess of chocolate in its purest form."

The tasters for this story were not untouched by chocolate's transformative powers, which filled the newsroom with moans and grins as some crammed bonbons into their maws and others let small bites melt on the tongue. And no corporate scandal story has ever elicited newsroom cries like "heavenly," "incredible" and "orgasmic."

"I happened past a pink-and-red candy display and it made me want to shred the bags and shove the contents into my mouth," said Annaliese Griffin, a freelance writer in New York.

While Griffin's enthusiasm is shared by pastry chefs and purveyors alike, they recommend a more refined approach to ingestion.

"I think the bon-bon is a great way to enjoy chocolate," said Masson. "You have in front of you a finely created box of chocolates, beautiful in shape, size and color. And unless you have been provided with a 'map' of the chocolates, you will be going on an adventure."  Top of page

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