Besides snagging a dinner reservation, finding a great present for your sweetie can be the most stressful part of Valentine's Day. But you don't have to resort to chocolates from the drugstore or Amazon.com gift cards--because you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, populated by creative people making interesting and quality items. Here are some gift ideas for your Valentine that are more personalized and thoughtful, and that help San Francisco and San Franciscans to boot. We lead with chocolate and other food groups, and since there is a little more to life than just food, we've included some non-edible homegrown gifts, too. (Oh, and about that dinner reservation: Check our list of romantic and special-occasion restaurants in San Francisco for ideas).
*VALENTINE'S DAY CHOCOLATE & OTHER GIFTS TO EAT AND DRINK
Poco Dolce Chocolates
Poco Dolce (meaning “not too sweet” in Italian) makes chocolates in small batches in its Dogpatch kitchen. Its Champagne and Strawberries Box contains a bittersweet chocolate ganache heart nestled among four Champagne truffles and four strawberry balsamic truffles ($20). The Valentine's Basket includes boxes of nine bittersweet chocolate hearts, eight chocolate tiles and a dozen sea salt caramels, plus two chocolate bars ($80).
Socola Chocolatier Truffles
The Aphrodite's Delight collection features two kinds of chocolate truffles, Hot Lava (raspberry with Champagne ganache), printed with “love,” “amore,” and the word in Chinese, Hebrew and other languages, and Burnt Baby Burnt (burnt caramel with a dash of red Hawaiian sea salt). Boxes of 4, 12 and 24 truffles are available ($9.95, $24.95 and $44.95) online or at Socola's new SoMa store (to open Feb. 10, 2014), at 535 Folsom St., San Francisco. For Valentine’s Day, there’s a win-win special on online orders: you get a 10 percent discount, and Socola donates 10 percent to Samahope, a crowd-funding nonprofit based in the Mission District that raises funds for doctors providing free medical treatments in Africa, South Asia and Latin America.
TCHO Valentine Gift Boxes
TCHO has conveniently bundled its chocolates in gift boxes with heart- and love-themed graphics made by various designers. They are available online, at TCHO's factory store on Pier 17 (on the Embarcadero at Green Street, San Francisco), and some Whole Foods outlets.
Donsuemor Madeleines & French Almond Cakes
The Alameda-based company is best known for its buttery madeleines, pound-cake-like vanilla nuggets that come plain, with lemon zest or dipped in chocolate. Its financiers, French cakes with ground almonds, are rich, too. The petite cakes are available from the Donsuemor website and at Peet’s Coffee & Tea outlets in San Francisco.
Vive La Tarte Valentine Tart
Founded by a Belgian couple, Vive La Tarte makes sweet (e.g., crème brulee, chocolate gateau, vegan strawberry) and savory (e.g., Belgian ale and four cheeses) tarts near Potrero Hill. Its limited-edition Valentine offering is a 9.5-inch chocolate raspberry mousse tart ($32)—and all profits to go Samahope, which funds medical care in impoverished countries. Order 24 hours ahead; Vive La Tarte delivers free in San Francisco on weekdays, or pick up your pie at 1661 Tennessee St., Suite 3B, San Francisco 94107.
The Republic of Tea Valentine’s Day Teas
The North Bay tea purveyor has two new romance-related gift sets, a Valentine Cuppa Chocolate Tea set ($22.95), containing tins of Strawberry and Red Velvet Cuppa Chocolate teas, and a Be Well Red Tea set ($23.95) which has an antioxidant-laden tea to benefit one’s skin and an herbal blend with roots that are said to boost the libido; both are featured in the Republic of Tea’s Valentine’s Day gift guide. Its recently released Downton-Abbey-inspired line includes English Rose Tea ($12), a blend of rose, raspberry and hibiscus that brews into a deep pink, slightly sweet tea. Order online or by phone (800 298-4832).
Numi Tea Flowering Tea
Flowering tea is like a bouquet in a teapot: Add hot water, and a nondescript wad of tea unfurls into a pretty blossom. The magic comes from hand-sewing tea leaves and flowers--such as lily, rose, chrysanthemum, lavender and jasmine--into a bundle.
For chocolate without the calories, there’s Chocolate Pu-erh, a black tea with cocoa, cocoa nibs, vanilla bean, orange peel and a touch of nutmeg. Order online or by phone (866 972-6879).
Other Food and Foodie Gifts
Our foodie gift guide is stuffed with ideas, including cookbooks, restaurant certificates, care packages, sausage-delivered-to-your-door and cooking and butchery classes.
*OTHER VALENTINE'S DAY GIFTS (NON-EDIBLES)
Back to the Roots Kits
Coffee grounds and mushrooms diverted two UC-Berkeley students on the verge of graduating into investment banking and consulting. Four years later, they now use millions of pounds of Peet’s coffee grounds for their gourmet mushroom growing kits. They’ve also developed a home aquaponics garden, a closed-loop system that simultaneously cleans your fish tank and fertilizes a mini herb garden.
Compass Rose Design Jewelry
A Marin wife-and-husband team that’s inspired by the Victorian era crafts cuff links and jewelry using antique and vintage buttons, keys, watches, typewriter keys, medals and other bits and bobs.
Crave Vibrators and Jewelry
Stylish, sleek vibrators designed, engineered and assembled in SoMa. Besides the signature Duet (the lux models of which also double as memory sticks), Crave also makes sensual jewelry.
Sora Designs Jewelry
A social-science-researcher-turned-jewelry-designer in San Francisco makes heart, astrological-sign and other lockets; chains with stars, wishbones, compasses, arrows (for Valentine’s Day, you can say they’re Cupid’s) and heart charms stamped with “X” and “O” (or other letters or numbers of your choice); and earrings with tiny cupcake and baking-pan charms.