Valentine's Day in Paris is not nearly as frenzied as Easter. Perhaps because the French are such experts at expressing affection, chocolate seems superfluous. Also, in this land of patisseries, it's less of a novelty. But for the rest of us, chocolate remains a potent aphrodisiac. So regardless of whether you're in the City of Light on Thursday, keep this list of top stops for your next visit. Even if romance isn't the goal, a tablette de chocolat makes a lovely token of friendship.
Debauve & Gallais
This brand dates back to 1800, when Sulpice Debauve created chocolate discs for Marie Antoinette as a way to mask the taste of her medicine. She dubbed them pistoles and they are still offered in various percentages of cocoa. But stock up on bars of Sao-Tome, which refers to the island off the west coast of Africa where the cocoa beans originated. With the unctuousness of milk chocolate and a deep, full-bodied flavour, they will please all palates. Also, try the rocher; its pure praline centre and almond-crusted shell deliver a perfect balance of smoothness and crunch. $19 (€14) per 100 grams; 30, rue des Saint-Pères, plus one other location
Patrick Roger, who once received the distinction of Meilleur Ouvrier de France (best craftsman), applies a rebellious spirit to classic chocolate-making techniques. Some of his ganaches are extroverts (fragrant basil, or mint and citronella), while others prove subtler (creamy oat). Another specialty: colourful caramels that look like marbles sliced in half. Roger's latest shop has an edge, too: his love of motorcycles plays out in its design, which boasts high-gloss surfaces and an undulating installation that evokes exhaust pipes. $14.60 (€10.80) per 100 g; 3, place de la Madeleine, plus four other locations
This shop draws a certain breed of discerning, aristocratic Parisian who wouldn't dare set foot in one of the trendier stores. Fouquet began as a jam maker in 1852 before introducing chocolate and candy in 1900. Perhaps that's why the chocolate-covered ginger is the best around: It perfectly marries both worlds. Particularly addictive is the croustillant, a crispy gingerbread-style wafer enrobed in chocolate. $13.50 (€10) per 100 g; 22, rue François 1er, plus one other location
Les Marquis de Ladurée
Devotees of the famous macarons will be pleased to know that the brand recently opened a shop devoted to chocolate. Sure, the rococo design feels a bit Marie Antoinette (the Sofia Coppola version). But surrender to the kitsch with a milk-chocolate-covered coconut macaron biscuit with a passion-fruit centre. And don't skip the double pain au chocolat, in which the dough itself is chocolatey. Then go pass out. $15 (€11.10) per 100 g; 4, rue Castiglione
As one of the few chocolatiers that produces its confections on premises, this boutique emits an intoxicating scent that no rose can match. A Sancho pepper chocolate seems innocent enough at first; the tingly sensation hits upon swallowing. While I'm partial to the pistachio-studded bar, the entire range features a chic crocodile stamp – and who can resist a "croco-choco"? $13.75 (€10.20) per 100 g; 16, rue d'Assas
One last bite
One week from now, French chef Alain Ducasse will reveal the Manufacture, his foray into chocolate with pastry chef Nicolas Berger. I sampled a bar of 75-per-cent single origin chocolate from Peru, and its fruity notes were delicately balanced by a hint of fleur de sel. Let's just say the duo has aroused … my curiosity.