Self-respecting San Francisco residents should know that the words "Russell Stover" and "Whitman's Sampler" really have nothing to do with real chocolate, but many might be able to use some guidelines beyond that for Valentine's Day. Fortunately, we have some of the country's finest chocolatiers in the area, and they're sufficiently armed for their favorite holiday.
Charles Chocolates in Emeryville (6529 Hollis) offers several heart-shaped boxes for V-Day, but we're craving the heck out of the nuts, pralines and caramel assortment ($34). The box features distinctive pieces from imagineer Chuck Siegel, including his incomparable peanut butterflies, Poire William caramels and his refreshing marzipan--enticing even for folks who don't necessarily enjoy marzipan.
Among the holiday specials from Recchiuti (1 Ferry Bldg.) is this charming Valentine Motif Box ($26). It's easy to find Valentine's chocolates that look cute, but much harder to locate ones that have more than visual appeal. These actually taste better than they look, with dark chocolate enrobed over Michael Recchiuti's signature burnt caramel ganache.
Celebrate tech geek love with a visit to the beta store of TCHO (Pier 17), the brainchild of Wired founder Louis Rossetto and former NASA software developer Timothy Childs. We recommend picking up a box of their new "Chocolatey" hearts ($9), made with the single-origin dark creation of the same name. TCHO also has several enticing Valentine's options, including some very cute tins with lovey quotables from Shakespeare, Naruda and Browning, among others.