Unless you want to spend Valentine’s night on the couch with the dog, bypass the supermarket and drugstore candy aisles and head for one of these top-notch candy purveyors.  Gifts from any one of these places will show that you put some thought into the holiday this year, and who knows?  Your sweetie might even share.

Hours: Mon –Thurs: 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Fri-Sat: 11:30 a.m. – 1 a.m.; Sun: 9 a.m. – 11 p.m.

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For something truly unique, thinks outside the (heart-shaped) box. Max Brenner, Chocolate by the Bald Man, offers up unparalleled chocolate bonbons printed with hearts and words of love. You can also get the “addiction:” milk chocolate cubes filled with praline cream and caramelized pieces of pecan, in a clever box – no velvet flocking and faux roses here. To make an even bigger impression, Max Brenner’s also has a restaurant with a full menu; not to be missed is Max’s hot chocolate drinking ceremony, which uses a specially-designed Hug Mug.  Buy a Hug Mug (or two) to take home to really score some points.

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Hours: Mon – Fri: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sat & Sun: Closed

(credit: loreschocolates.com)

Smack-dab in the center of all things historical in Philadelphia sits a sweet institution. Lore’s Chocolates has been producing fine confections for almost 50 years. There are so many choices in this shop, you’ll be hard pressed to pick just one. The assortment boxes are always a hit, as are the chocolate covered pretzels, caramels, marshmallows and butter creams.  Lore’s also does impeccable hand-molded chocolates in all kinds of shapes, letters and numbers.  And if your sweetie needs to stay away from sugar, this shop has just the right prescription: sugar-free almond bark, vanilla and chocolate caramels, cashew turtles and almond butter crunch.

Recently, Lore’s began doing children’s parties and won Philadelphia magazine’s Best of Philly Kids Parties for 2011. Those celebrating this sweet holiday with the little ones can let them become a junior chocolatier for the day. They’ll learn how candy is made, make their own and even get to bring it home (if it makes it through the car ride!).

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Hours: Mon – Sat: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Sun: Noon – 6 p.m.

(credit: marcieblaine.com)

Stashed away inside Verde, a sweet boutique on Philly’s transformed 13th street, you may find Chef Marcie Turney in her workshop, crafting simple yet eclectic and scrumptious chocolates.  Among others, you’ll find a Prosecco-infused truffle, a perfect Fleur de Sel caramel, and the Love Park, a raspberry ganache-filled chocolate with an image of Philly’s iconic LOVE statue transferred, silkscreen-style, onto it. These treats are hip, funky and made with pure ingredients straight from Lancaster county.

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Take a stroll along 13th Street to stop at one of Turney’s and her partner Valerie Safran’s restaurants: Lolita, Jamonera or Barbuzzo. Or drop into one of their shops: Grocery or Open House. End at Verde for some decadent chocolates for the perfect Valentine’s Day date.

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Hours: Mon – Sat: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sun: noon – 5 p.m.

(credit: teuscherphiladelphia.com)

“The best champagne truffles on the planet.” That’s a pretty bold statement, made by Amy McIntosh of the Zagat Guide, and scores of fans agree (Oprah among them). Available in either milk or dark chocolate, the champagne goodies are the signature chocolate of Tuescher. Filled with Dom Perginon crème and surrounded by ganache and milk or dark chocolate (with a light dusting of confectioner’s sugar), these little bites of heaven would make anyone’s Valentine’s Day perfect. And for those craving something a little different, there’s the wildly popular Pink Pepper, made with mild dark chocolate and Madagascar pink peppercorns.  As expected for Valentine’s Day, Tuescher’s packages its treats in gorgeous red heart boxes–the quintessential lover’s present.

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Hours: Mon – Fri: 10 a.m. -6 p.m.; Sat: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sun: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Whether your Valentine is a med student, biology teacher or just has a weird sense of humor, you can’t go wrong at Chocolate by Mueller in the Reading Terminal Market. The Mueller family makes a dazzling array of bizarre chocolate molds, such as ears, rats, lungs, noses (as in, a dozen long-stemmed NOSES!) and their world famous, the anatomically correct heart.  That’s right, this delicious pump is the right size and has all the yucky vessels and aorta and comes in white, milk and dark chocolate.  Don’t panic if you don’t think your lover would get the joke: this shop is chock-full of just about every other kid of sweet.  You can pretty much get anything covered in chocolate here (the handmade pretzels coated in chocolate are amazing), as well as old-fashioned candies and fancy-schmancy truffles.

If you can’t get out to do your holiday shopping, all of these sweet shops sell their goodies online, so there’s no excuse not to gift your loved one with some delectable confections.

Trish Deitemyer is a freelance writer living in Philadelphia. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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