Buffalo’s artisan chocolatiers brush up their palettes for Valentine’s Day 

By Michelle Kearns

Published on

Five unique local tastes to try

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Buffalo, known for its plethora of abundant and good sponge candy makers, has a growing constituency of artisan chocolatiers experimenting with recipes and debuting new delicacies for this February’s season of love.  

Think sweet thoughts and take a bite of chocolate bark made of pink buffalos, cashews, pretzels and sponge candy for $10 a box at Littles Chocolate. 

Make dream creation come true with help and get something like the banana dipped in peanut butter, then chocolate, that one man had specially made by Nikki’s Chocolates for his Valentine. 

Sample a tartly sweet heart made with the passionfruit chocolate combination that led two entrepreneurs to open their Sweet Whisk bonbon shop.  

Pick from Dark Forest Chocolate’s assortment whiskey, caramel and gingersnap flavors, good enough to hide and reserve for a post-holiday craving. 

Photo: Blue Table Chocolates

For the owner of Blue Table Chocolates (bluetablechocolates.com) February is the season for the annual Valentine’s Day challenge that comes with the chocolate craft: “Say the fundamentally old thing in a new fashion,” said Ben Johnson. “We’re always looking to find new first bites: You’ve never tried this before and you’re not going to find it somewhere else.”  

At his newly reopened storefront at 799 Seneca Street, in the Larkinville district, the $45 breakable chocolate heart, complete with tiny hammer, is a confection to try with a filling of treats like chewy black berry rolls, peppermint coins and chocolate coated cherries with a sprinkling of Chinese 5 spice.  

Other Blue Table options include a collection of flavors for the Valentine cynic. This year their black tea crème brulee with lemon jelly is intended to scream, “Don’t tell me how or when to express love!” Can’t decide? Get a mixed box and include some of their deliberately romantic “black forest” cherry marshmallow dark chocolate hearts. “If you don’t want to send too strong of a message,” advised Johnson, “just say everything.”  

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Chocolate artisans @ Chandler Street  

Johnson’s colleagues in the artisan field have come up with unique answers to the demands of the holiday. 

From within the doorways of food purveyors in the old brick building at 27 Chandler Street, two specialize in chocolate treats. Jannell Nikki Eason, owner of Nikki’s Chocolates (nikkischocolateswny.com), has breakable hearts filled with chewy candies, truffles, red velvet cupcakes, chocolate covered strawberries and an interest in custom orders. 

Photo: Nikki’s Chocolates

“If you have an idea, give me a call and I’m able to personalize it,” she said. So far, Eason has a peanut butter and chocolate covered banana waiting for the client who plans to surprise his wife with a dressed up version of the snack she usually makes for herself.  

“We have fun,” said Eason. “It takes away the monotony.” 

Her Chandler neighbor has infused Valentine’s offerings with a passionfruit combination that led her and her partner into the business. 


Unboxing our Sweetheart Valentine’s Box. ❤️💐 Link in bio to order. Nationwide shipping. 😘

♬ Flowers – Miley Cyrus

Amanda Page and Kenny Williams opened Sweet Whisk (thesweetwhiskboutique.com) on Feb. 14, 2019, after learning the chocolate trade from the Brooklyn kitchens of the French Valrhona chocolate brand. Their $40 “Valentines Sweetheart” box has a dark chocolate berry bar and bonbons and truffles that include a caramel with passion fruit, coconut and guava.  

It is the passionfruit-chocolate combination, also available as a $10 heart, that helps define the business’s beginnings. The secret ingredient: cream and a passionfruit puree with fruit pulp. “It’s like a surprise,” Page said. “It’s kind of how I fell in love with chocolate.”  

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Artisan chocolatiers to the east 

Dark Forest owners, JoAnne & Dan Sundell / Photo: Dark Forest

At Dark Forest (darkforestchocolate.com) chocolate headquarters at 11 Main Street in Lancaster, co-owner Dan Sundell sorted cocoa beans as he spoke by phone. He and his wife buy from farms in Peru, Tanzania, Madagascar, Ghana and Uganda to make chocolate from scratch.  

This year, they added gingersnap truffles and white chocolate strawberry mint and whiskey-infused bonbons to their lineup of chocolate bars that have been winning awards, especially for their milk-dark chocolate combination.  

“People come in and love having a bar of dark chocolate. They also end up hiding it from their spouse,” said Sundell. His wife had this insight about Dark Forest’s appeal: “The dark-milk chocolate is unique and more universally loved. Deep down we all love milk chocolate better,” said JoAnne Sundell with a smile in her voice. “Admit it.” 

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Chocolate maker reopens a historically sweet space 

At Littles Chocolate (littleschocolate.com), the new name for Choco-Logo after that business sold to the current owners, Valentine bark and classic salted chocolate turtles are being made and sold wholesale and by mail order at the long shuttered, former Parkside Candies storefront at 2304 Main St. at the corner of Oakwood Place, near St. Mary’s School for the Deaf. 

Photo: Littles Chocolate

This year, Bob Little and his business co-owner Kristina Lajewski will reveal a glimpse of the intact, original circa-1930s soda fountain: The classic store, where a scene in “The Natural” with Robert Redford was filmed, will be open to the public as people come to pick up the orders that must be first be placed online for options like $20 boxes of assorted caramels and truffles and $10 boxes of chocolate bark with pink buffalos, sponge candy, toffee and pretzels: Pick up orders from 10 a.m. to 4p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11, and 1 to 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 13.  

Little who got into the chocolate business after leaving his job as a corporate lawyer has no regrets. 

“It’s just something that people enjoy so it brings me joy to bring that to the community,” he said. “You start talking about it and it brings a smile. It just seems to be something everyone can relate to. And I just really enjoy being a part of that.” 

Michelle Kearns headshot

Michelle Kearns

As a former Buffalo News Reporter, teacher & member of a university communications team, I love sharing stories about Buffalo & the unexpected people, places & happenings here. It is a thrill to make new discoveries, and take in the city - & the Cheerios air! - as VBN's new communications manager.