Alabama chocolatiers put their hearts into Valentine’s confections
Chocolate Corner and Ice Cream
200 W. Fort Morgan Rd Gulf Shores, AL
“There is too much to choose from,” a visiting beach-goer says while surveying the display case at Chocolate Corner. Other patrons smile, offering little sympathy to the customer’s confectionary indecisiveness. For there are worse problems than a day at Gulf Shores with unresolved chocolate decisions.
Chocolate Corner owner Todd Nelson reassures the visitor who walks out with mix and match goodies, freshly made hours earlier. “Making the decision is the hardest part,” he tells her. Again, another good problem to have.
Choices include over 15 flavors of chocolate barks. Molded candies with caramel and sea salt, chocolate starfish, gourmet truffles, peanut clusters, and decadent brownies are also a good start. But check in regularly because Todd and company are always researching and coming up with new innovations in chocolate offerings.
Like everything in Gulf Shores, summer is the busiest time for Chocolate Corner, but year-round customers – tourists and locals – frequent daily. And Valentine’s Day? “You call it Valentine’s,” laughs Todd. “We call it ‘Chocolate Week.’” His hand dipped strawberries have customers waiting in line and calling ahead, and are worth the wait.
42 1/2 S Section St Fairhope, AL
Since opening in 2013, Chef Jule Roach’s candy go-to has doubled its floor space. “People are impressed until I tell them we’ve gone from 200 to 400 square feet,” she smiles. But what Fairhope Chocolate lacks in size it makes up for in quality, both store-made and from Belgium with love.
For in-house: “We have our own line of FC chocolates,” says Chef Jule. “It is a high-end Swiss chocolate, and we make our own caramel in house.” Her creations come in many forms: dark and milk chocolates, white couvertures, sea salt, chocolate dipped, caramel drizzled, and with locally harvested pecans, caramel apples, Southern pralines and more.
But save room for dessert. They make onsite gelato – one scoop of Fairhope’s dark mocha will amaze. Two scoops and you’ll move to Baldwin County.
Fairhope Chocolate also carries Neuhaus of Belgium, the chocolate choice of Belgian royalty and the Kingdom of South Alabama. “It is so delicious,” adds Jule, “and only offered by a few of us in the U.S.”
Here’s a Valentine’s Day pro tip: Be there early. “Valentine’s Day is the single busiest day in our business,” Jule says. “We sell a lot of chocolate dipped strawberries but also a huge selection of boxed chocolates – store made or custom made to your order.”
Though always busy, Chef Jule acknowledges that being busy is a good thing in the business that is her passion. “I have always loved chocolate and the chocolate business.” She adds, “I love watching children’s eyes widen as they enter my chocolate shop. I also like watching adults’ eyes widen as they enter my chocolate shop.”
2211 Seminole Dr. Railroad Room #4
In Pizzelle’s, chocolate is not just made. It is sculpted, painted, and molded by artisans. Customers often ponder: Do I eat Pizzelle’s chocolates or display it in the living room? The self-argument is settled after one bite. Art becomes a delectable memory.
“We are very much into art and chocolate is our medium,” says co-owner, executive chocolatier and pastry chef Michelle Novosel. “Our chocolates are beautiful edible pieces but also taste amazing. We use very fine chocolate imported from Switzerland and we add local ingredients whenever possible.”
Located in Huntsville’s Lowe Mill District, Pizzelle’s serves many customers who are patrons of the arts with a sweet tooth. But regardless one’s art expertise – from consumers of Picasso to lovers of the Poker Playing Dogs – all love Pizzelle’s.
Chef Michelle and her co-owner – her sister, Caitlin Lyon, who’s also the general manager – work with a small group of artists, culinary experts and chocolatiers. They make magic happen.
“I can’t really tell you a customer favorite,” Michelle says. “Everyone has favorites. Yes, our chocolates are beautiful pieces of art, but the taste is amazing too.”
Pizzelle’s website and store currently feature 20 varieties of edible art – not to be confused with jewelry, which it resembles. Valentine’s Day offerings under consideration at press time include various chocolate varieties mixed and matched with passion fruit, strawberry, champagne and other flavors.
1530 McFarland Blvd. Tuscaloosa, AL
205 – 752-0211
When they moved to Tuscaloosa from Jacksonville, Florida, in 2003, Heather and husband Travis Reier learned the chocolate business, bought a franchise, and opened Peterbrooke Chocolatier in September 2007. But don’t let the word “franchise” fool you. As Heather says, “This isn’t a large corporate factory. We are a small shop, with much of our chocolate made in-house.”
It does not stay in-house long.
“Our chocolate covered popcorn is the best seller,” adds T-Town’s chocolatier, discussing the only Peterbrooke store in Alabama. “The popcorn is yellow-buttery-salty with milk chocolate dripped over it. People always ask what makes it so good.” On average, they sell about 250 bags of chocolate-bathed popcorn a week.
Other favorites include the couple’s chocolate-covered potato chips, custom made cookies, pretzel rods, molded items and of course, Valentine’s treats for the sweet.
Feb. 14 starts early. “We begin dipping strawberries at about 4 a.m.,” Heather explains about Cupid’s little helpers. “We do not dip it earlier and we do not ship it,” she continues. “We never sell chocolate covered strawberries over a day old.” Nor do they have to. On Valentine’s Day, customers are waiting at the door before the shop opens.
Acknowledging the busy day ahead, Heather smiles. “It’s a super fun business. I like to think we are small town chocolatiers with fine chocolates, European with an American flair. We make people happy with chocolate.”
Three Georges Fine Southern Chocolates
226 Dauphin St. Mobile, AL
The 1866 building that now houses Three Georges Fine Southern Chocolates was originally Harris’ Grocery. Three Georges opened later. It has only been in the chocolate business for 104 years.
In 1917 three Greek Mobilians – coincidentally, all named George – bought the building, transforming it into a candy store-soda fountain. Scott Gonzalez bought it in 1992. “I wanted to preserve the old recipes. Our old safe still has their small handwritten book, where original recipes came from.”
Original recipes are still served along with the new. “We constantly come up with new stuff,” says Scott, “and it’s all made here. We make most everything, like our own centers – the gels, nuts, and creams stuffed into bonbons and other candies.”
Three Georges has employees with 25-plus years’ experience. To answer the eternal question, how can you work in a chocolate shop and not eat everything in the store, Scott says, “I tell employees, it’s OK to occasionally taste, just don’t make a meal of it.” Easier said than done.
Valentine’s Day is huge for walk-ins and pre-orders. Every day favorites include pecan concoctions, chocolate covered cherries, chocolate bark, and heavenly hash consisting of marshmallows and pecans smothered in rich milk chocolate kissed by angels.
One of the oldest candy stores in Alabama, Three Georges lives by a creed that allowed it to survive hurricanes, two world wars, and COVID shutdowns: “Chocolate is essential.”
Indeed it is.