Where to find a Valentine’s gift for your sweet-toothed sweetheart
Alison Nelson’s Chocolate Bar: For those not in the know, Alison Nelson is one of New York’s ‘it’ chocolate shops. Housed in the super-suave Souk Al Bahar, the NYC-based brand specialises in artsy bar with flavours that are both retro and funky. Its graffiti bars (Dhs20) with wrappers designed by the Big Apple’s most esteemed graffiti artists, are ever popular. We personally love the pieces in the atomic collection – homemade digestive biscuits topped with marshmallow and dark chocolate – or the moreish clusters (giant balls of chocolate wrapped in your favourite classics – pretzels, peanut butter, etc). The Dubai Mall (04 330 8576).
Al Nassma: Al Nassma is without a doubt the UAE’s most original chocolate concept. Basically, it is the only company in the world to specialise in camel milk chocolate. Though some may find the idea off-putting, camel milk is as a whole lot healthier than cow’s milk: it has five times more vitamin C and contains less fat, less lactose and more insulin, making it a good option for diabetics and the lactose intolerant. But Al Nassma’s no one trick pony – there is a large range of products, from Arabia chocolate bars flavoured with cardamom and cumin, to caramel-filled, camel-shaped truffles. If nothing else, Al Nassma makes a unique gift to friends and family abroad. Near the Dubai Outlet Mall (04 223 9289).
Cacao Sampaka: This avant-garde, Barcelona-based chocolate company is one of the few that is involved in every part of the chocolate-making process, from selecting the cocoa bean through to manufacturing the product. As a result, Cocoa Sampaka understands the nuances of the different beans, and brings its understanding to the consumer in the form of the Major Cacao Origins collection, which assembles chocolates from the main chocolate-producing countries in the world, including Venezuela, Grenada and the Ivory Coast. For something truly unusual, try the curry chocolate truffles, or indulge by sitting in the café while sipping on a cup full of the city’s richest hot chocolate. For true decadence, pair it off with a chocolate sandwich (Spain’s breakfast of champions). The Dubai Mall (04 434 1427).
Candylicious: The world’s biggest candy store, perfect for Dubai’s biggest kids! Candylicious has everything a sweet-tooth could possibly desire, and is well worth a look. Highlights include the world’s biggest Hershey’s chocolate bar, a large section dedicated to gourmet chocolate and the full range of Jelly Belly goodies. And it’s right in front of the Dubai Aquarium, so munch on your newly purchased sweets as you watch huge sharks swimming past shoppers. The Dubai Mall (04 330 8700).
Chocoa: Combining the best of Western and Eastern sweets, Chocoa’s Belgian chocolate-covered dates and dried apricots are heaped in toothsome piles in the showroom near the Mall of the Emirates. Baskets, boxes, platters and trays are all crammed with delicious treats, which make for excellent, if elaborate, gifts. The milk and dark chocolates are also tasty and come in either solid blocks or with a wide variety of fillings. We particularly like the hazelnut chocolates and the pralines, which are smooth and delicious. Al Barsha, behind Mall of the Emirates (04 340 9092).
Forrey & Galland: The brainchild of two French chocolatiers, all the products at Forrey & Galland (a revival of a renowned, but defunct, Parisian label) are handmade, hand-picked and custom packaged in the UAE. The chocolates marry French and Middle-Eastern flavours and, though the practice sounds dubious, the results are to die for. The rose-petal chocolates – a mix of white chocolate and rose water – make for a luxurious and elegant edible. In keeping with the Arabic theme, Forrey & Galland also produce amazing chocolates with halwa and saffron, along with airy macaroons and rich truffles every bit as good as what you’d find in France. The Dubai Mall (04 339 8850).
Ghraoui: Ghraoui, Syria’s leading chocolate company has been a household name in Damascus since 1805. The company has more than 100 varieties of chocolate in its repertoire, from dark chocolate with Turkish delight and pistachios, to its Mediterranean shells of white chocolate and praline. The Dubai Mall, Lower Ground Level, (04 339 8264); Dubai Festival City (04 232 6133).
Galler Chocolatiers: Along with their divine white, dark and milk chocolates, these Belgian chocolatiers also offer creamy, smooth pastes, chocolate bars, cocoa powder, butter biscuits and ice cream. For a more personal touch, they can brand each chocolate individually – perfect for parties or gifts. Mall of the Emirates (04 341 6218); Marina Mall (04 399 7816; www.galler.com).
Hershey’s Chocolate World: They have Hershey’s Kisses in 10 different varieties, from cherry flavoured to almond-studded, a green screen in the corner where customers can have their pic taken to be superimposed on Hershey’s merchandise (everything from a piggy bank to a chocolate bar), loads of kids’ merchandise and a few fuddy-duddy items in store for grown-ups or die-hard chocoholics, such as collectable tins and baking products. You can also put personalised messages on chocolate bars or giant Kisses (maybe we’ll see a Hershey’s wedding proposal in future?). The Dubai Mall (04 339 8113).
Hotel Chocolat: Don’t be fooled by the fancy French-sounding name - this is a very British brand, with 55 stores in the UK. The company is known for being the only company in the United Kingdom to grow cocoa on its own plantation. In 2010, Hotel Chocolat opened its first store in Mirdif City Centre as well as branching out into Bahrain and Kuwait. Try the iconic half-kilo giant slabs, in flavours from Mississippi mud pie to caramel and white chocolate cookies, or the delightfully named praline puddles. Mirdif City Centre (04 284 0108).
Jeff de Bruges: Dubai’s chocolate-loving residents openly worship Jeff de Bruges’ scrumptious offerings. With the finest Belgian chocolates on sale this side of Wallonia, the shop is chock-full of truffles, marzipan, fruit jellies, ganaches and pralines. It’s a great place for buying gifts for special occasions: their tailor-made wedding gifts are particularly impressive. Mall of the Emirates (04 341 0960).
Patchi: Favoured by UAE nationals for its selection of high-quality products, Patchi, a Lebanese brand, is undoubtedly the Elie Saab of chocolates. The wondrous chocs are grouped into ‘classic’ and ‘deluxe’ ranges; both of which are splendidly appetising. In the former category try the perfetto with raisins, orange and hazelnuts. Chocoholics of a more adventurous bent will also appreciate the cocoa-dusted chocolate espresso beans, pistachios and raisins. Patchi also sells a huge quantity of vases, dolls, cutlery, and gaudy gift sets replete with teddy bears. For a chocolate quick fix, they’ll also let you pick ‘n’ mix from the counter. The Dubai Mall (04 434 1530). Souk Madinat Jumeirah (04 368 6101); Mercato (04 349 6662); Wafi (04 324 4030).
Vivel Patisserie: This international patisserie stocks rich French truffles, imported strawberry macaroons, Arabian, Persian and European sweets, and some top-notch coffee. But when it comes to tasting Scandinavian candy, it’s truly in a league of its own. Those with an adventurous palate might be tempted to try djungelvral from Sweden (salt liquorice) or the fiery tyrkisk peber (extra hot liquorice) from Finland. You can also buy tiny, perfectly sculpted cookies by the kilo – absolutely delicious. Souk Madinat Jumeirah (04 368 6006); Jumeirah (04 344 3232).
Chocolat: The UAE isn’t known for its chocolates, but may soon change, thanks to two Swiss chocolatiers who have set up shop in Ras Al Khaimah. Their chocolates are arguably among the country’s best. Chocolat uses the freshest ingredients, many of which are produced in the UAE. It also doesn’t use any chemicals or preservatives, and it’s a difference that’s easy to taste. The simple raspberry truffle is a revelation, as is the Earl Grey truffle. But, then again, we’re pretty much in love with everything Chocolat produces. Available at the Gourmet Station, Oasis Centre (04 515 4050).
Moka: Moka is heaven for chocolate lovers, stocking mountains of luxury brand Godiva. From gift baskets to golf ball-shaped treats, sweet teeth are spoilt for choice. The glass cabinet houses over 100 variations, from coffee creams to caramels, which can be bought by the bucket load or in a Dhs135 box. The Dubai Mall (04 434 0368), Ground floor, Wafi (04 324 1755); Moka Jumeirah Centre (04 349 3800).