Sweet Eats: Local Chocolatiers

Sweet Eats:  Local Chocolatiers

Boxes of chocolates for Valentine’s Day might strike you as a cliche, but one thing is certain: It’s still a good idea. Light, dark, or white; cream-filled, caramelly, or coconutty; smooth, chewy, or crunchy—it’s a gift that will delight practically any recipient.

And while it’s easy to grab a pre-selected box or two off the shelf, it’s nearly as easy to put your personal spin on it by visiting one of the Lehigh Valley’s chocolatiers. Each treat maker offers a little pizzazz that sets it apart from the rest.

Josh Early Candies

Now in its fifth generation of family ownership, the company is still committed to doing things the old-fashioned way.

“All of our candy is handmade,” co-owner Barry Dobil says. “That gives it a look and texture that you can’t duplicate in a mass-production setting.” He adds that the company once invested in what was supposed to be some labor-saving machinery, “but it didn’t work the way we’d expected. The rep told us that we simply needed to change our old family recipes to accommodate the machine. “No way were we going to do that. We went back to hand-production right away.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without chocolate-covered strawberries. “Our strawberries have no shelf life,” he says. “We make them fresh daily, and they sell out the day we make them.”

Josh Early’s flexibility can be a boon to procrastinating shoppers who nevertheless don’t want the same old thing. 

“Guys often wait until the last minute,” Barry says, “and then they want to dash in and dash out. But we can still make it special. Just pick out a box that you like, and we’ll fill it any way you want it.”

It’s still a male-oriented market, he notes, but women are starting to give Valentine’s Day candies as well. That’s why the store stocks heart-shaped boxes decorated with shirt-and-tie or tuxedo motifs.

4640 Tilghman St, Allentown  | 610.395.4321
3620 Nazareth Pike, Bethlehem  | 610.865.0580

Chocolates on Broadway

This charming little shop, open only between October and Easter, is in a building that’s over a century old.

“It’s been some sort of candy store since it was founded in the early 1900s by a local Greek family, supposedly with a loan from Whitman Chocolates and Milton Hershey,” says co-owner
Christal Bussenger.

Inside, you’ll find the original tin ceiling, stained glass windows, glazed tile walls, and marble counters. Many of the store’s candy recipes are of the same vintage, Christal says. “They are written on little pieces of paper and kept in files, almost like an old family recipe book.”

Among the house specialties are Jordan crackers and crushed peanut clusters. Christal explains that the rather plain cigar-shaped nibblers are utterly transformed when dipped in the shop’s own light or dark chocolate. And the clusters contain carefully ground peanuts that are evenly distributed throughout the binding chocolate, resulting in a distinctive texture.

Chocolates on Broadway puts a twist on the heart-shaped box too. Instead of simple printed decorations, their boxes are covered in various fabrics and festooned with satin bows, silk flowers, and other embellishments. Some even have various occupational themes, such as nursing or military service.

60 Broadway, Bangor | 610.588.9060

The Shoppes of Premise Maid

Originally selling just fine chocolate, it’s really become a must-try for lovers of all sweet treats.

Premise Maid produces milk and dark chocolates, brittles, nuts and chews; nonpareils and many other candies; mouthwatering baked goods; and over 40 flavors of ice cream—all of which are, well, made on the premises.

Everything is based on old family recipes, and CEO Joe Damiano is especially proud of their peanut butter meltaway candy. “It’s our best seller, and the recipe hasn’t changed since my dad developed it about 40 years ago,” he says.

But those luscious tastes aren’t limited to candies. “We took many of our candy flavors and turned them into cakes and ice creams,” Joe says.

And that presents loads of options for Valentine’s Day gifts, far beyond the usual box of chocolates—think ice cream cake that tastes like your loved one’s favorite candy or a sundae with a wonderful mix of flavors.

The candy mecca also boasts heart-shaped cakes, nonpareils with red and white beads, special wrappers for hard candies, and custom assortments in special boxes.

10860 Hamilton Blvd, Breinigsville | 610.395.3221

Chocolate Works

Step into the Chocolate Works facility and you’ll get up close and personal with the candy-making process. Much of the production machinery is right out front, and each visitor gets a free sample.

It’s a wonderful introduction to the store’s assorted truffles, barks, caramels, cordial cherries, dipped cookies, pretzels, fruits, and so much more.

If you’re looking for a unique Valentine’s Day gift, Pat and his crew can create chocolate-dipped wine bottles. “It’s a multi-step process,” he explains. “First, we shrink-wrap the bottle to create a smooth, uncontaminated surface. Next, we dip and re-dip the bottle into light or dark chocolate in order to build up a shell.”

(And not just a thin coating, either. Pat boasts that about a full pound of chocolate is layered onto each bottle.) Afterward, the shell can be hand-decorated.

You can also order long-stem dipped strawberries, “which we can customize to various levels. For example, we can drizzle them with certain colors—such as red or pink—or we can write messages on the berries, provided that we have enough lead time. We consider each order individually,” he says. “If it’s realistically possible, we’ll do it for you.”

4773 Freemansburg Ave, Easton  |  610.419.1132

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