The Sweet Side of February

While chocolate is obviously available year-round, there’s something sweeter about savoring it in February. Maybe it is because love is in the air—with Valentine’s Day and all. Or, maybe it has something to do with the way it warms us up during the cold winter season. No matter why you love chocolate, here are some events and shops you’ll want to check out this month (and beyond).

1. Big Screen Cuisine: Like Water for Chocolate – Grand Rapids: February 14. Join the Downtown Market and the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts for a truly immersive food-movie experience. The evening (for those 21+) begins at the UICA for a special screening of the classic movie “Like Water for Chocolate”—a romantic movie about a young woman forbidden to marry her true love and instead she turns her passion toward cooking. Afterward, the movie is brought to life in the dining room of the market, where chefs will prepare a fabulous 6-course dinner made with dishes from the movie—complete with drink pairings. The cost is $75 per person.

2. Taste the Passion – Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail: February 6-7. Love is in the air along the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail, during this annual celebration of wine and chocolate. Indulge on delicious food and wine pairings, while partaking in optional winter activities. Tickets are $35 per person and include a souvenir wine glass and samplings of wines and sweet or savory small plates.

3. MSU Museum Chocolate Party – East Lansing: February 28. Culinary competitors create their elaborate and edible masterpieces inspired this year by the movie Minions. In addition, the MSU Museum features exhibits showcasing a number of artifacts and specimens from the science and culture collections—a representing the wonders of the natural and cultural world. Proceeds from the annual Chocolate Party Benefit fund proper care of the Museum’s collections.

4. Chocoholic Frolic – Petoskey: February 12. Tour the downtown stores and be treated to chocolate treats wherever you go. If you visit all participating stores and enter into a drawing for a Chocoholic Gift Basket.

Chocolate Covered Boyne5. Chocolate Covered Boyne – Boyne City: February 12-13. This small Northern Michigan town, located along the shoreline of Lake Charlevoix, celebrates everything chocolate and winter over Valentine’s weekend. Events include s’mores and hot chocolate, a chocolate dessert contest featuring ultimate chocolate creations from area restaurants and a chili cook-off, as well as kids’ activities, horse-drawn wagon rides, snowshoeing and more.

6. Harvest Dinner Series: Root Vegetables & Chocolate – Suttons Bay: February 13. Experience the extraordinary Harvest Dinner Series at the Inn at Black Star Farms. The creative farmstead menu incorporates root vegetables and chocolate into each of the six courses, paired with Black Star Farms wines.

7. Love, Wine & Chocolate – Grand Rapids: February 13. Spend the Saturday of Valentine’s weekend at Robinette’s Apple Haus & Winery where special tastings of wine and chocolate are offered, for $12 per couple.

8. Chocolate Cooking Class – Traverse City: February 6. Chateau Chantal Winery, on the Old Mission Peninsula, focuses on chocolate during this special class featuring Mindo Chocolates from Dexter. Learn how to make chocolate, from bean to bar, with Arriba Nacional cacao. It will be the sweetest class you’ve ever taken!

9. Wine & Chocolate Weekend – Jackson: February 13-14. The wineries along the Pioneer Wine Trail invite you out to sample different chocolates at each of their tasting rooms during this self-guided weekend.

Beer Chocolate10. Old Town Chocolate Walk – Lansing: February 11. Explore some of Old Town’s businesses, shops and restaurants while picking up some gourmet chocolate along the way. Each ticket for this event receives a two-pound box to fill with chocolate, a punch card and a map of participating businesses. This year, a warming station at the Old Town Marquee has been added, where you can warm up with hot chocolate from Confectionately Yours. Tickets are $20 per person.

11. Beer Studies: Beer & Chocolate – Bay City: February 15. Lumber Barons Brewery invites you for pairings of beer and chocolate, with their friends from St. Laurent Brothers nuts and chocolates. The cost is $20 per person.

12. Chocolate Extravaganza – Chelsea: February 6. Eat chocolate and shop ‘til you drop in this historic downtown. Chocolate is in its infinite varieties will be at the heart of the day’s activities. Sample chocolate treats and fine sales on chocolate-themed merchandise. Door prizes and other family-friendly activities at more than 30 local shops, restaurants, cafes and galleries are also planned from 10am to 5pm.

Women's Winter Tour

13. Women’s Winter Tour – Traverse City: February 7. The Women’s Winter Tour is a grassroots event dedicated to celebrating the sassiness of women, winter, and a most beloved treat – chocolate. The Tour began in 1999 to promote skiing and fitness, the Vasa Trail, promote Timber Ridge Nordic Center and encourage women to participate in the North American Vasa ski race. Armed with the belief that the right atmosphere AND chocolate can lure anyone outdoors, the organization embodies a passion for fitness and fun. This year’s event will be held at Timber Ridge RV Resort.

14. Wine, Women & Chocolate – Burton: February 6. This unique women’s-only event is held at Brookwood Golf & Banquet Center and features a 5K snowshoe, cross country ski and walking race with hospitality tents set up along the course featuring hot chocolate and assorted treats. Afterward, relax with mini massages, manicures, make-up tips, hair fluffs and more, compliments of Escape salon. The day ends with a delicious wine tasting, with chocolates and other sweet treats. Participants must be 21 years of age to attend; advanced reservations are required.

15. The Local Epicurean – Grand Rapids. Learn the secrets to making perfect chocolate truffles during classes offered Fridays and Saturdays at 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm. Classes are $59 per person and reservations are required.

JW Spa16. The Love Spell Package – Grand Rapids: February 8-21. Treat your sweet to a day of indulgence at The Spa at the JW Marriott or the Spa & Salon at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. An array of rose petals awaits as you enjoy the Valentine’s Couple Massage ($243). Relax with a 50-minute couples massage, chocolate covered strawberries and a glass of champagne. The Love Spell Package ($159) allows you to choose three of the following 25-minute champagne and rose services: a body polish, massage, manicure or pedicure. Rose petals, champagne and chocolate covered strawberries can be added to this package as well, for an added cost. These packages are available February 8-21 and are based on availability. To schedule an appointment, call The Spa at the JW Marriott at (616) 242-1475 or the Spa & Salon at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel at (616) 776-6498.

Both Kilwin’s in Petoskey and Sander’s Fine Chocolates in Detroit offer tours of their factories, for a unique behind-the-scenes look into this mouth-watering industry.

Looking for a sweet-themed get-away? The Cocoa Cottage B&B built in 1912 in Whitehall is an Arts and Crafts Bungalow that offers a quiet escape with personal touches and chocolate indulgences. The rooms even have sweet sounding names like Godiva, Hershey, Cadbury and the popular Ghirardelli Suite.

And, finally, mark your calendar for the Traverse City Chocolate Festival, coming up April 17 at the City Opera House.

If you’re simply looking for a place to purchase sweet treats, check out these chocolate shops:

Chocolate Garden1. The Chocolate Garden in Coloma
2. Grocer’s Daughter in Empire
3. Patricia’s Chocolates in Grand Haven
4. Alpine Chocolat Haus in Gaylord
5. Just Good Chocolate in Lake Leelanau
6. Mary Ann’s Chocolates in Grand Rapids
7. Schakolad Chocolate Factory in Ann Arbor & Birmingham
8. Gayle’s Chocolates in Royal Oak
9. Chocolates by Grimaldi in Grand Haven
10. Detroit Chocolat in Detroit
11. Chocolate Exotica in Traverse City
12. Gilbert Chocolates in Jackson
13. Drost’s Chocolates in Indian River
14. 45th Parallel’s Candy World in Suttons Bay
15. Champagne Chocolates in Mount Clemens
16. Veni’s Sweet Shop in Niles.

What is YOUR favorite #PureMichigan chocolate shop? #MiChocolate