Romantic chocoholics melt for St Valentine's Day
Sipping a bittersweet cocoa drink as you overlook a sunny winter sky is an instant way to warm heart and soul as Valentine’s Day creeps closer.
Over the last decade, Seoul has been transformed from a chocolate desert into an oasis of handmade bonbons.
In the plush Apgujeong and Cheongdam districts in southern Seoul, where luxury boutiques compete with trend-setting eateries, you’ll see more chocolate shops than ever before.
If you want to feel hip as you sip, try Dear Chocolate in Cheongdam-dong. Recommendations here include Pure Chocolate, which is made of Italian chocolate that is 24 percent cocoa; Brandy Classic Chocolate made in Germany with 70 percent cocoa and Bitter Chocolate made of 85 percent cocoa, plus other delights available in raspberry, mint or cinnamon flavors.
Each drink costs between 9,000 won ($9.55) to 11,000 won and comes with a small slice of handmade chocolate.
Debauve et Gallais, also in the Cheongdam area, has been the appointed chocolate maker of the kings of France for the past two centuries. Here you can buy Le Livre, a set of 35 assorted French chocolates packaged in a book-shaped leather case and priced at 450,000 won.
For Valentine’s Day, Kim Hee-jin, a public relations officer at Debauve et Gallais, recommends Boite 1800, which consists of 44 handmade dark chocolate candies in a gift box design first used 150 years ago at Debauve et Gallais’ Paris store.
Kim also recommends Carre chocolates, which go well with coffee and spirits, she said. The 24-piece box set costs 45,000 won and the 56-piece box, 95,000 won.
Garu is a chocolate and cake boutique in Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul. This store has been popular with Seoul’s most ardent chocolate lovers since it opened in 2000.
The Valentine’s Day gift box here consists of 16 individually wrapped assorted chocolates and costs 30,000 won per box.
Chocolate shops are also becoming popular north of the Han River. Cocoa Boom in Hongdae, the artsy area around Hongik University in western Seoul, was originally famed for its hot chocolates.
Angelic is a mild drink with a soft layer of foam and a pinch of cocoa powder. For stronger tastes, the shop offers Original and Devilish, which is as thick as an espresso shot.
All three drinks come with extra chocolate leaves for stronger flavors.
For Valentine’s Day, Cocoa Boom is offering gift boxes of assorted truffles, creams, barks and caramels, each artfully wrapped in brown baking cups. Their grand Valentine Box is a 49-piece set that includes heart-shaped Belgian chocolates engraved with romantic messages.
Chocolate Yum, also in Hongdae, started as an online shop before it opened as a store in March. Trademark items include a large puppy-shaped chocolate block. The shop will write personalized messages using white chocolate icing when you order a chocolate card in advance.
Passion 5, a dessert cafe in Itaewon, offers a deluxe chocolate section that starts from 1,800 won a piece.
For its Valentine’s Day theme, the shop is offering a limited edition of pastries and puddings called Chocolate Feast. The shop is adding chocolate to its roll cakes and Baumkuchen, a layered cake that is popular in Europe. There are also chocolate puddings and 20 handmade chocolate varieties.
Hotels and cooking schools are pushing to get into the Valentine’s Day spirit.
Le Cordon Bleu is organizing a one-day pastry class tomorrow from 5 to 8 p.m.
Participants can bring their own chocolate bars to make gourmet chocolates under a chef’s guidance.
Kitchen Pantry at W Seoul Walkerhill is holding an extravagant Chocolate Affair through Sunday.
It offers a special Valentine’s Day menu that includes hot chocolate fondue, white chocolate and lemongrass creme brulee and other chocolate-based desserts.
The Pantry is also known for its sesame chocolates, which mix white chocolate with sesame seeds.
The Deli at the Grand Hyatt Seoul has put together Valentine’s Day gift items and hampers that include a selection of gourmet chocolates and heart-shaped cakes on which you can inscribe personalized messages.
You can also get a Laurent Chocolate Strawberry, chocolate-dipped strawberries dressed with bowtie and buttons.
If you’re still hot for chocolate once Valentine’s Day is over but you you don’t want to gorge more calories, you can satisfy your cravings with a chocolate spa.
For 200,000 won, Will Spa (02-545-9545) offers a complete chocolate spa package including body scrubs and a body massage using chocolate extract.
GARU (02) 444-0768 Sinsa-dong
DEAR CHOCOLATE (02) 3446-7251 Cheongdam-dong
DEBAUVE ET GALLAIS (02) 3446-3726 Cheongdam-dong
CACAO BOOM (02) 3141-4663 Hongdae
PASSION FIVE (02) 2071-9505 Itaewon
W SEOUL WALKERHILL (02) 2022-0000 Gwangjang-dong
CHOCOLAUM (02) 337-1027 Hongdae
THE DELI (02) 799-8277 Mount Nam
By Park Soo-mee, Ser Myo-ja Staff Reporters [firstname.lastname@example.org]