Valentine's Day: It's a fake holiday, a commercial sham, a day for singles to wallow in their singleness or couples to nauseate said singles with their lovey-doveyness, but most importantly, it's a socially acceptable excuse to eat copious chocolate. If expensive artisan truffles for your main squeeze (or yourself) aren't in the budget this year, don't feel bad about heading to the drugstore for your fix – it is possible to score decent sweets for less scratch. Our tasting notes should help you avoid the losers ... candy-wise, anyway.
Russell Stover Assorted Fine Chocolates
Uncomplicated, straight-ahead milk chocolate. Smooth melt on the tongue with a short finish and notes of light-roast coffee. The three-pack offers the three best truffles – a chewy caramel-filled square, a chocolate ganache and a coconut cup.
Whitman's Sampler Assorted Chocolates
Not much on the nose, but a buttery, nutty bite with a creamy mouthfeel and a long finish. Let the chocolate-covered caramel come to room temp before eating; it's very viscous. Sampler contains a unique solid milk chocolate bar.
Hershey's Pot of Gold Premium Chocolates
Combination of milk and dark chocolate truffles, plus an almond cluster, which, unfortunately, carries a "stale nut" flavor and nose. Dark chocolate has slight bitterness to differentiate from milk. Caramel filling is super-soft and trails that signature string on the bite.
Ghirardelli Squares Valentine's Dark & Strawberry
Signature NoCal dark chocolate has a decent snap at the bite. Berry notes on the nose, but the syrupy, artificially tart "jam" in the middle turns the finish unpleasant. After the first taste, it's not worth another.
Lindt Lindor Caramel Truffles
Distinct coconut notes on the nose. Silky-smooth shell that gives way easily to reveal caramel-flavored (not actual caramel) ganache. Filling is buttery, but has none of the complexity actual caramel would afford. High fat content is immediately apparent by the instant, decadent melt on the tongue.
Reese's Peanut Butter Heart
Heavy, one-third-pound solid heart filled with signature Reese's "peanut butter." Oil on the wrapper portends the richness to come. Everything you love about peanut butter cups (that salty-sweet combo) and everything you don't (gritty peanut butter and cheap chocolate).
What's great: the textures – creamy chocolate, chewy caramel, crunchy pecans. What's not great: pretty much flavorless until the very end, when the pecans' nuttiness finally comes through.
Godiva Valentine's Day Message Truffles
Dark chocolate and milk chocolate both have an excellent snap with appropriately smooth, long finishes. (This was the only dark chocolate tested that had decent bitter notes.) White chocolate truffle is buttery and rich, filled with white ganache sporting visible vanilla-bean flecks and a long, luxuriant finish.
Brach's Tiny Conversation Hearts
Powdery, but not chalky, on the bite. Each color boasts a softly distinct "candied fruit" scent and flavor. If you're not into it, keep a beverage handy – the compressed fine sugar and its accompanying flavors aren't coming out of your teeth any time soon.
Queen Anne Artificially Flavored Cordial Cherries
Boozy on the nose, reminiscent of kirsch or cheap cherry vodka. Each cordial is very heavy, with cherry-creme syrup and a whole maraschino inside. Chocolate is the lipstick on the pig: syrup and interior maraschino cherry are at first simply sweet, but the sweetness gives way to a sickly cough-syrup finish.
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