| Danielle Eaton
GREATER SPRINGFIELD – While the origin of Valentine’s Day is a little murky, one thing is certain: over the years it has evolved into a day to show love to your significant other. Chocolates, flowers and stuffed animals are often among popular gifts and treats often given out on the day, but gifts also often include nice dinner dates, champagne and chocolate covered strawberries.
Whether you decide to splurge on your significant other or treat yourself this Valentine’s Day, here are a few places you can pick up some goodies while supporting area businesses:
Maureen’s Sweet Shop
This shop in East Longmeadow is known for their handmade chocolates. They offer a variety of flavors including caramels, chocolate roses, nonpareils, toffee, truffles, chocolate dipped pretzels and chocolate dipped fruit. They also offer gift boxes, seasonal items such as hot cocoa sticks and even customizable items. Additionally, they were voted as the Reader Raves winner for the best candy store in 2018, 2019 and 2020. You can visit the shop at 6 Center Sq. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. More information and some offerings can also be found online at maureenssweetshoppe.com.
The Reminder Publishing staff tried Maureen’s ultimate Oreo’s and raspberry truffles. Both were decadent and delicious. The raspberry flavor in the truffle was subtle, yet present and was even beautiful to look at. The Oreo’s, with caramel, M&M’s and chocolate, were a favorite of many staff members – myself included. It was something I’d never seen done with an Oreo before, and while it was sweet, it wasn’t overly sweet.
Another East Longmeadow favorite is Pete’s Sweets at 32 Shaker Rd. The sweets shop offers a variety of chocolates such as salted chocolate caramels, chocolate mousse, maple creams and other flavors. The shop is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday and 12 p.m to 4 p.m. on Sunday. More information can also be found online at www.freewebs.com/petessweets/candies-chocolate.
While Pete’s doesn’t make their own chocolate, our staff found it to be delicious and commented that the chocolate mousse tasted like the popular Three Musketeers Bar. The salted chocolate caramels were also delicious, and perfect for those who love a sweet and salty combination.
Pop’s Biscotti and Chocolate
Pop’s Biscotti and Chocolate are another longtime area favorites for chocolate connoisseurs. The store is based in the Wilbraham Shops at 2341 Boston Rd., but also sells their chocolates in additional locations across Western Massachusetts. Locations include Hidden Treasures in Agawam, Randall’s Farm in Ludlow, Peachwave Frozen Yogurt in Longmeadow, Armata’s in Longmeadow, Village Food Mart in Hampden and Durochers Flowers in West Springfield. Pop’s offers a wide variety of chocolates including turtles, peanut butter pyramids and Ancho Chile chocolates. The Wilbraham store is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
We tried the peanut butter pyramids and Ancho Chile chocolates. The pyramids were hands down one of the most popular items tried that day. The homemade peanut butter on the inside was incredibly creamy, and rivals Reese’s in both taste and flavor. The chocolate shell on the outside was sturdy enough to not melt in my hand, but not too hard. Another favorite chocolate of the day was Pop’s Chile chocolates. Shaped like a chili and topped with a few pumpkin seeds, the chocolate isn’t initially spicy upon the first bite. However, as you continue to eat the heat builds, but doesn’t overwhelm. We were all impressed with the flavor profile of this chocolate.
Cerrato’s Pastry Shop
Cerrato’s Pastry Shop in West Springfield is also home to homemade chocolate confections. While the shop is known for their Italian pastries, they also make their own chocolates including decorated chocolate shoes. On Valentine’s Day they’ll have an assortment of chocolate cover strawberries, boxes of chocolates, mini chocolate mousse hearts and other seasonal items available for purchase. You can find more information online at cerratos.com or by visiting the store at 255 Elm St.
While we didn’t get a chance to purchase any of Cerrato’s chocolates, the shop is well known in the area and boasts hundreds of positive reviews on their Facebook page. Year-round, the shop creates beautiful cakes, pastries and decadent desserts.
Theme Cakes by Joelene
While this Wilbraham shop is known for it’s incredible cake creations and delicious cupcakes, owner Joelene also makes her own chocolates. One of her most notable – and delicious –chocolate creations is a chocolate shoe filled with chocolate covered strawberries. Jolene assured us that the night before Valentine’s Day, and the day of the holiday, her display cases would be packed with an assortment of chocolates. If you’re not interested in chocolate, there is always a variety of cupcake flavors ready and waiting for you here. And while we didn’t get a chance to try any of the chocolates, we can vouch for the tastiness of the cupcakes! Joelene’s is located at 2341 Boston Rd. in Wilbraham. They are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays.