Bar hop 

In the words of Betty Crocker, “Above all, think chocolate.”

In 2009, I watched Blood Roses and Deadly Diamonds, a documentary from the soon-to-be defunct Current Vanguard series.

It detailed the atrocities behind the diamond and commercial rose trades of Sierra Leone and Colombia that respectively account for the bulk of American Valentine’s Day purchases.

I know diamonds should be a girl’s best friend, but blood diamonds? I doubt Marilyn would approve.

So it’s up to chocolate to save the day. That's a task chocolate handles with ease every day, and Feb. 14 is no different. Chocolate always, always comes through.

Skip the variety box of Russell Stover’s. Drop the bag of Hershey’s Kisses. Get your love a real chocolate bar, one with style and passion, a chocolate bar that makes a statement; put some thought into this, for goodness' sake. Even something as simple as a chocolate bar is a chance to show how lovably creative — and hence deserving of sexual favors — you are.

Inside Mazzaro’s Italian Market, at the end of an aisle of truffle oils and baking goods, is a section devoted entirely to chocolate. Only the best bars reside here.

My beau, Mr. Doom, and I often fawn over the eclectic selection, which ranges from classic dark chocolate to potato chip, carrot, and sweet pecan cherry pie.

Your choco-choice is no longer as simple as dark versus milk. What about spice? Fruit? Meat?

Take Chicago-based Wild Ophelia Smokehouse BBQ potato chip and dark chocolate bar. Made with chips from the Billy Goat Chip Company in St. Louis, Mo., and 70 percent cacao dark chocolate, it’s a sweet and savory combination. The chips are just spicy enough to warm up on your tongue, the dark chocolate more sweet than bitter. Look at a cross-section of the chocolate square and you will see actual bits of barbecue chips peeking through.

Somehow, the barbecue potato chips and dark chocolate work to each other’s advantage. What results is a smoky-sweet bar that makes more sense once bitten.

Vosges Haut-Chocolat takes an even more sophisticated approach to its bars. Alderwood smoked salt, burnt sugar caramel, Rogue’s chocolate stout beer in dark chocolate. Confit carrots in valencia orange juice and milk chocolate. Both are good, but I ventured east toward Asia with the Black Pearl Bar.

Green ginger and Japanese wasabi create an icy kind of heat, the kind that quickly blasts through the olfactory, leaving a brief but zesty burn in its wake. Black sesame seeds add the gentlest crunch to the dark chocolate (55 percent cacao). It’s good, really good. Like, eyes roll in the back of your skull good. More decadent than sinful, it's a great bar for someone who likes a good edible adventure but is less inclined to eat a chocolate bar made with potato chips.

If your honey is a health nut, pick up a bar of Sweetriot dark chocolate with flax seeds (it also comes in milk). Sweetriot’s fair trade and organic 70 percent dark chocolate bars are vegan, gluten-free and kosher. This bar is definitely more “medicinal” than decadent, made for those who view food almost exclusively as fuel. Flaxseeds are indeed packed with Omega-3s and add a certain crunch to the very tender chocolate squares. Be certain this special someone really loves flax; otherwise Sweetriot could miss the mark.

Chocolove’s cherries and almonds in dark chocolate was Mr. Doom’s favorite: big hunks of Michigan dark red cherries, roasted California almonds, swirled in 55 percent dark cacao. Bitter but sweet, Chocolove’s bars were definitely the most “edible” of the bunch. Every bar comes with a gift inside, too, a love poem from great writers throughout the ages. Our poem was from 16th-century poet John Donne.

For dessert, try Wild Ophelia’s Southern hibiscus peach milk chocolate bar. As a milk chocolate advocate and lover of peaches, I deemed this my favorite bar by far. A deeper milk chocolate (41 percent cacao) is mixed with hibiscus, and hunks of two kinds of California-grown organic dried peaches. The peaches aren’t sweetened with anything other than their natural sunshine-induced sweetness — pure peach and milk chocolate in every bite.


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