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February is National Chocolate Month: Maryland Chocolatiers Sweeten Valentine’s Day

heartboxes_175x175BALTIMORE- February is National Chocolate Month, and the Maryland Office of Tourism encourages you to visit at any of Maryland’s artisan chocolate shops. You’ll find a variety of chocolatiers who treat chocolate as an art form. They can sweeten your visits across the state, especially en route to a Valentine’s Day weekend getaway.

During the 16 th century chocolate in any form was an indulgence that only nobility or the very, very rich could afford. Hundreds of years later, chocolate candy at all price-points has become a traditional gift signifying love and affection in nearly every culture around the world.

In Maryland, top selling creams, caramels and nut-filled chocolates are sold by companies named Mary Sue, Rheb, Roberts, Olympia, Kirchmayr, Wockenfuss and Moore. One of the earliest established confectioners still in business today, Rheb’s Homemade Candies in Baltimore, began in 1917. Louis and Esther Rheb made fudge and hand-dipped caramels at their home, which they then sold at stands in Baltimore’s Belair and Hollins markets. Today, the company sells from the storefront opened in 1950 at the couple’s original home on Wilkens Avenue.

“Many of Maryland’s chocolate shops are multi-generational family businesses,” says Christian Johansson, Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Business and Economic Development. “Their longevity is attributed to quality products backed by excellent customer service, a hallmark of Maryland’s specialty retailers.”

New traditions in gourmet chocolate are also being formed in Maryland. Parfections, located in Hunt Valley, was started in 2004. The company specializes in small-batch, hand-made truffles using only natural ingredients. In addition to offering more than 30 unique truffle flavors, Parfections sells chocolate barks and fresh strawberries dipped in creamy chocolate.

“Maryland’s chocolatiers deliver time-tested recipes as well as trending flavors – chocolate combined with exotic spices, salts and seasonal fruits,” adds Margot Amelia, executive director of the state’s tourism office. “We encourage you to taste-test your way across Maryland to find your favorite.”

Here’s a sampling of other shops from each region of Maryland where you’ll find delectable trays of hand-made chocolate containing delicious treats ready to take home:

Central Maryland: Bomboy’s Homemade Candy ‘s top seller is a 2-pound box called “The General” consisting of mixed milk and dark chocolates made fresh daily from recipes handed down for generations. Visitors to Havre de Grace are also encouraged to visit Bomboy’s home-made ice cream store across the street from the chocolate shop.

Capital Region: The Perfect Truffle is tucked away in the Everedy Square collection of shops in historic downtown Frederick. Here you’ll discover truffles made from fine chocolate imported from Belgium, France and Switzerland then infused with espresso, Irish whiskey, passion fruit or key lime juice among other exotic flavor combinations. Candy Kitchen in downtown Frederick is another family business with a long history of tradition and delicious treats.

Southern Maryland: Sweet Dreams Candy Shoppe in St. Leonard offers hand-made, hand-wrapped chocolates and fudge as well as favorite candies from your childhood. They also sell coffee, hot chocolate and old-fashioned bottled sodas and encourage customers to relax in their community gathering room.

Western Maryland – Opened in 1944 in Frostburg, McFarland Candies prides itself on using the freshest cream, butter and nuts in their candies. Visitors to their store can observe chocolates being prepared through a sliding glass door that separates the manufacturing section from the retail side.

Eastern Shore – Located next to Route 50 in Stevensville, Chesapeake Chocolates features shaped chocolates representing the best of life on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Dark and milk chocolate crabs, ducks, lighthouses and sailboats are for sale. There’s even chocolate in the shape of the state of Maryland. Candy Kitchens in Ocean City are a family candy business with a long history of candymaking, and also check out “Oh My Chocolate” in Chester MD where you can get a chocolate covered Twinkie and many other yummy treats.

To receive free Maryland travel information – Destination Maryland , Maryland Calendar of Events and a state highway map – by mail, call 800-719-5900. More information is available on the tourism office’s web site, VisitMaryland.org.

Pictured: heart shaped candy box from Chesapeake Chocolates.

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