It’s no secret that at Salt & Straw, we’re passionate about chocolate. And we’re not the only ones–every day, chocolatiers from all over the world pioneer revolutionary techniques and uncover new levels of chocolate-making mastery. Over the years, we’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the most brilliant chocolate artists in the industry, determined to explore a brand new world of chocolate ice cream– and we’re taking this mission to the next level for our  Chocolatiers Series. This year, we partnered with some of the most innovative minds working in chocolate to create the most intriguing chocolate flavors imaginable. With the help of 5 extraordinary chocolatiers from each market we serve ice cream, we set out to reinvent the iconic heart-shaped box of Valentine’s Day chocolates.

Our journey begins with our friends at Compartés–a Los Angeles-based chocolate shop with a mission to create art and share joy through chocolate. Originally founded in 1950 and recently reinvented by chocolate prodigy Jonathan Grahm, Compartés is LA’s hippest and most trendsetting chocolate shop. Compartés has created some of the most iconic treats in the SoCal dessert scene. From their perfectly painted truffles, to their signature Love Nuts–pecans caramelized in Tahitian vanilla, lightly salted, and coated in 14 layers of chocolate –that inspired our West-Coast Classic, Coffee & Love Nuts. For this month's partnership, we created Compartés Cake Batter Chocolate Fudge –a dazzingly decadent cake batter ice cream, liberally rainbow-sprinkled with love, brown butter fudge, and vanilla bean.

Next, our adventure takes us to The Bay Area. Founded by Todd Masonis and Cameron Ring, San Francisco’s Dandelion Chocolate is a bean-to-bar chocolate shop with a mission to showcase the delicious power of ethically-sourced cocoa beans. With a focus on bringing out the nuances of quality cocoa, Dandelion creates their chocolate using only two ingredients: cocoa beans and organic sugar. As a tribute to Dandelion’s minimalist approach, we use their stunning roasted cocoa nibs from Tumaco, Colombia to create a rich cocoa-flavored ice cream base. Then, we candy the nibs in an almond-y dark chocolate and toss them right back into the ice cream for double the roasted cocoa power. A ribbon of candied almond frangipane elevates the deep notes of the cocoa, delivering a spoonful of absolute luxury. Dandelion Cocoa Nibs & Frangipane is an ice cream so extravagant, it will have you believing in love at first bite.

Now off to Miami, where Exquisito founder Carolina Quijano and her crew of expert chocolatiers spend their days crafting handmade chocolates from sustainably-produced cocoa beans. Exquisito strives to honor the natural flavor of cocoa beans in their handcrafted treats, and shows off their talent for doing so through their larger-than-life collection of exquisite chocolate products. Inspired by their dedication to maintaining the purity of their ethically-sourced ingredients, we joined forces with the team at Exquisito to create Exquisito Chocolate's Passionfruit Truffles (v)– a simple vanilla coconut cream mingling ecstatically with intense canary yellow passionfruit coconut cream, all studded with shards of Exquisito chocolate truffles and stracciatella. The 70% dark single-origin Lachua chocolate is exquisite indeed, and the 50-50 coconut creams are 100% vegan.  

At last, we return to our home turf to work with the chocolate artisans at Portland’s Cloudforest. Founder Sebastian Cisneros created Cloudforest Chocolate with the goal of exploring unconventional chocolate flavor combinations and celebrating his Ecuadorian heritage through chocolate. Keeping with his mission, we worked with the team at Cloudforest to create a love letter to Oregon in the form of Cloudforest's Cocoa Hazelnut Magic Shell Sebastian grinds single-origin Ecuadorian chocolate together with perfect Oregon hazelnuts to create his "magic sauce". We give it just a touch of Frangelico and ribbon it throughout light chocolate ice cream conjured from Cloudforest's single-origin cocoa powder, along with a handful of candied hazelnuts for good measure.    
Our chocolate epic ends in rainy Seattle, Washington: home of the iconic Fran’s Chocolates. Founded in 1982 by master chocolatier Fran Bigelow, Fran’s represents the gold standard for chocolate. Their signature Almond Gold Bar– toasted almonds and buttery caramel wrapped in a rich dark chocolate coating– is undoubtedly the star of their indulgent lineup. As a tribute to this celebrated treat, we teamed up with the folks at Fran’s to reimagine the Almond Gold Bar as an ice cream. We found that a salted vanilla ice cream lovingly adorned with ribbons of hand-burned caramel and dark chocolate stracciatella was the best way to enhance the varying textures in Almond Gold Bars, and set out to churn this oh-so-special flavor into existence. Sweet and sentimental, our Fran's Almond Gold Bar flavor is sure to unlock memories of candy exchanges at classroom Valentine’s Day parties.

With our cross-country chocolate journey reaching its romantic conclusion, our reimagined box of Valentine’s Day chocolates is finally ready to unveil. In collaboration with some of the most brilliant minds working in chocolate today, we created five remarkable flavors inspired by the fuzzy feeling that comes at this dreamy time of year. We’re honored to have partnered with such legendary artisans for this magical menu, and we can’t wait for you to experience our tribute to the most extraordinary ingredient: chocolate.