I have a long-standing tradition with my daughter that she is always my no. 1 Valentine, and every year I get her a few little gifts. This always includes a box of chocolates. When she was small, any box would do, but as she's gotten older her tastes have refined.

I decided this was the year to really elevate my chocolate game, so I went to the only in-house, stand-alone chocolatier in Lubbock, Chickie's Tasty Treats (4930 S Loop 289 STE 205, near Guitar Center).

The owner, Stephanie, took time out of her very busy Valentine's chocolate crafting rush to talk with me about the art and science of chocolate making. She even showed me the special equipment she uses to get her chocolates just right. She was animated, enthusiastic and it's obvious she loves her craft.

Renee Raven

Standing next to her three chocolate tempering machines (one each for dark, milk, and white), she showed me how each chocolate mold is polished to a mirrored shine, a shine that imparts itself on the finished chocolate. The molds are then painted with an array of colored cocoa butter in beautiful and whimsical designs. Then, the chocolate shell is meticulously poured into the mold at the exact right temperature and thickness to ensure that it will shrink the right amount upon cooling. Otherwise, it will never leave the mold without a vigorous cleaning and the tragedy of chocolate lost down the drain.

After the shell is ready, Stephanie chooses from her creative catalog of hand-made fillings, from caramel to champagne, mint to macadamia, and beyond. Even the room must be at the correct temperature or the chocolate will not properly set. As artful and pretty as these chocolates are, there's a tremendous amount of science and expertise that goes behind each one.

They are all gorgeous, but I do have a particular favorite: the S'more, painted to look "how you would normally eat one, under the night sky," said Stephanie. Who knew chocolate could be so poetic?

Renee Raven

Remarkably, Stephanie is self-taught at candy making and dessert baking. I asked her how she figured it all out: "I asked chocolate makers from everywhere -- Italy, France, Canada, Australia." She took their advice, bought books, and experimented until her chocolates were as beautiful and tasty as any I've ever seen or tasted.

Lubbock has always been a walk-up market, doing everything at exactly the last minute. I have never recommended this for anything, and I don't recommend this for Valentine's Day either. If you want candy, cupcakes, and macaroons that combine art and science into perfectly tasty treats, you'd better head over to Chickie's as soon as you can.

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Chocolates from Chickies Tasty Treats