Sweet Disposition

Who doesn't love a sweet surprise around Valentine’s Day? When trying to garner Cupid's favor, an assortment of hand-selected goodies from the neighborhood candy shop usually hits the mark.

There are approximately 20 Peterbrooke Chocolatier locations scattered around the region and a few Southern states, with the original San Marco shop still in operation right where it opened its doors back in 1983. Among the earliest branch outlets established is the Avondale store (3554 St. Johns Ave., 387-38270), a petite, one-room retail space that brims with chocolate-covered treats from floor to ceiling. A rich scent of chocolate fills the air and the room blossoms with bright blue gift bags and pink tissue paper. Peterbrooke sells a variety of different packaged confections, but the business prefers selling quality over sheer quantity. One wall is lined with neatly wrapped packages of chocolate-covered pretzels and cookies and other decadent treats (in dark, milk and white chocolate). In fact, if one can dip or slather it in chocolate, Peterbrooke probably has—graham crackers, almonds, potato chips, Nutter Butter cookies, peanuts and more. Near the back is a self-serve gadget for bulk candies. A small selection of ice cream is kept inside the freezer case near the register. Classic bite-sized cordials and caramels are offered, as well. It's easy to leave with the wallet $20 or more lighter; a large bucket of the chocolatier's legendary chocolate-covered popcorn is about $50. You'll have to decide whether or not it's worth it. It shouldn't be a difficult choice.

The bistro tables at 3 Sisters Chocolate Bar & Bakery (9965 San Jose Blvd., 262-9122) make it an inviting spot for a dessert date. Chocolate-covered cookies, pretzels, popcorn, strawberries and Rice Krispie treats are top sellers, along with a unique selection of truffles that fills two glass display cases—a few of the more exotic options include Key lime, amaretto, ginger lemon and mango chili, sold by the pound. The bakery rolls out a wide range of cakes (including custom wedding cakes), brownies and cupcakes, too; try a gourmet Oreo-filled cupcake for a twist on the popular dessert. Picking up a few delicacies to go? Snag a bag of the bakery's own coffee beans on your way out. The store also offers delivery and shipping services.

If the classic board game Candy Land were real, it would probably look and smell a lot like Sweet Pete's (1922 Pearl St., 376-7161). The house-turned-candy-shop in Springfield is the brainchild of Pete Behringer (he's the “Peter” in the Peterbrooke chocolatier family), and he bills his candies, ice cream and chocolates as “pure, simple sweets” that are made without high fructose corn syrup, preservatives and artificial flavors. A small display case of truffles and chocolates serves treats like chocolate-covered sea salt caramels and cordial cherries, but there's an entire room of bite-sized chocolate-dipped treats and other sugary confections. Several of the candies are kosher, vegan-friendly and gluten-free, and they're just as decadent as any other candy sold in the brightly-colored house. Truffle-making classes make a fun, hands-on date, and the entire top floor is devoted to hosting parties of all sizes and occasions.