Especially around Valentine’s Day, Fort Collins is a really sweet place. Sweet, as in sweetheart; sweet as can be; sweet as sugar; sweetie pie. You know, sweet!
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Sweet gifts for special sweeties are ubiquitous this time of year. Three local businesses, however, each offer uniquely delicious temptations designed to win that special someone’s sweet heart.
Before you even get through the front door of Nuance Chocolate at 214 Pine Street you can tell your day is about to become much finer.
Co-owners and founders Toby and Alix Gadd turned an all-consuming family hobby into a true bean-to-bar chocolate making company, one of only 40 in the country that craft their chocolate totally from scratch.
Now more than eight years later, Nuance offers customers the largest selection of single-origin chocolate produced by any maker in the world, said Toby. He scoffs at the notion that all chocolate is created equal.
“Thinking all chocolate has to taste like what we all grew up with is like thinking all cheese must taste like cheap sandwich cheese!”
The Gadds bring in beans from 24 regions, including Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Papua New Guinea and Belize. They add flavors ranging from Habanero Chili to Sea Salt to Crystalized Orange; and more. Their cacao beans and other ingredients are responsibly and ethically sourced, taking into consideration the people who produce them and the lands they’re grown on.
And, nobody knows the truffles they’ve seen! These scrumptious delights, which are are free from preservatives, fillers and artificial ingredients, are all hand-rolled, hand-enrobed and hand-decorated. Nuance partners with local craft businesses such as beekeepers, coffee roasters and distillers to create specialized truffle flavors.
Some choco-licious treats can be imbibed: French style, sipping chocolate, brewing chocolate and hot cocoa to warm the heart as well as the tummy. All can be savored right at Nuance, or purchased for home use.
All these wondrous indulgences and more are crafted by the Gadds and nine employees who operate machinery 24-hours a day (it takes a full week to go from bean-to-bar). Of course, the retail shop isn’t open 24-hours/day, just the factory two blocks away on Oak Street. Call for store hours, 970 484-2330.
VERN’S TOFFEE HOUSE
Anyone who’s been around Northern Colorado for any length of time at all likely recognizes the name Vern’s Toffee House. Established in 1976 by family patriarch Vern Hackbarth with the help of his wife, Gert, Vern’s original secret toffee recipe is still in use today. And, don’t mess with success— it’s still in its original location!
Hackbarth relied on old-school Midwestern values of frugal economics and use of good, fresh food throughout his career at Heinz Foods and later as founder of a popular Fort Collins restaurant. Following retirement at age 59, he experimented until he settled on a toffee recipe that satisfied his demanding taste. He sold the result to friends and former restaurant customers, who shared it with friends and associates locally and countrywide. Word-of-mouth (and mouth-watering reviews) propelled the toffee into a successful, now 43-year-old business.
The golden richness of Vern’s butter almond toffee is obtained by use of only the finest and freshest ingredients, patiently hand-blended and stirred, and without any artificial preservatives.
Now owned and run by family members Patrick and Stefanie O’Neill, Vern’s offers sweet-tooth lovers traditional milk chocolate almond toffee in a myriad of presentations.
Stefanie O’Neill advised that boxes from 1/2-lb. to 2-lbs. can all be decorated for Valentine’s Day or other occasions. A longtime favorite, Toffee Tingles, have been re-introduced this year as a component of the Chocolate Lovers’ Basket. Other fanciful Vern’s items are Salty-Sweet Almonds, Colossal Cashews and Deluxe Mixed Nuts.
Patrick O’Neill reiterated that, as always, Vern’s products are hand-crafted by the family. He and Stefanie are 3rd generation owners who, with just one employee (expanded to 13 during the Christmas holiday season) give personalized attention to all their products and to each customer.
Even though Vern’s is a local company, all their products can be shipped worldwide and ordered by fax at 970 493-2368; by phone at 970 493-7770; E-mail email@example.com . Their website is www.vernstoffee.com . Or, for that old-fashioned service and satisfaction, walk right in and order in-person at 444 S. Link Lane!
Its tagline, “Sweet in every sense since 1947” sums up Kilwins, a longtime franchise that began in Northern Michigan. Its Fort Collins franchise at 114 S. College Avenue has been in its location since 1996, luring patrons with the same quality and variety available since the company’s mid-century inception.
Current owner Nora Hill and Manager Amelia Aronson are proud of Kilwins‘ original ice cream recipe and flavors. This time of year, however, it’s their fudge that rises to the top of the sugary food pyramid.
Always made in-store, the special feature of the product is the kitchen located in the shop’s front window. Patrons and browsers alike are fascinated watching the Mackinaw Isle-style fudge being created on large marble tables.
Aronson noted that it takes 1½-hours to make a 40-pound double batch and that Kilwins sold 1000 pounds of the chocolaty sensation in December 2018.
The most popular two flavors, Sea Salt Caramel and Signature Turtle, and many more can be pre-boxed in a variety of heart-shaped containers, or customized out of the display cases.
Chocolate-dipped strawberries anyone? Got your attention! These “Will You Be Mine?” fruits have a short shelf life, reminded Aronson, so they are sold only by special advanced order or in-store the week of Valentine’s Day in milk, white or dark chocolate. Call Kilwins for hours and more product information, 970 221-9444.