Chocolate was first introduced to Cortes by the court of Montezuma in 1519; it was a carefully guarded Spanish secret for almost 100 years before its introduction to the rest of Europe. But Europe is guilty of guarding its own sweet secret until just recently: the regal richness of Gartner Chocolates, made in Belgium since I946. Now Dallas is the proud purveyor of the only US. outlet for these confections. The creamy, pure-chocolate flavor and smooth texture of the candies is due to the Gartner dedication to using only natural ingredients. Since no preservatives are used, store owners Gillian and Guy Thornton have their stock of fresh-cream chocolates flown in from Belgium at least once a week. Tasting is believing, and after one bite you’ll know why we call them bonbons: They’re trés bon! Chocolates $30 per pound at Gartner Chocolates, 303 Valley View Center. Mon-Sat 10-9.934-3335.
From Cleopatra to Sarah Bern-hardt, women have always been swayed by the charms of beautiful jewelry. And here’s something to impress women with the beauty of charms. A far cry from the clunky bracelets we donned in high school, these pendants are individually made from delicately shaped pieces of copper, brass, bronze, silver and semiprecious stones. Influenced by their study of the artistic cultures of Spain, Italy, Greece and Egypt, artists Bob and Rose Ann Place use the age-old technique of repoussé to create tiny talismans inspired by natural forms: birds, shells, planets. Go ahead; tell the woman you love that you’ll give her the moon and the stars. With this bewitching adornment, you can. It’s $45 at Human Arts Gallery, 2800 Routh in the Quadrangle. Mon-Sat 10-5:30. 748-3948.
The Lone Star State is known for offering the biggest and best of everything. In keeping with this Texas tradition, a new store in Fort Worth boasts a collection of the friendliest, furriest, funnest critters to be found in any parts: Boogie Bears. But the folks at Boogie Bear aren’t toying around; they’re committed to creating an enduring plaything that will be loved for years by members of every generation. Each bear is handmade out of the finest materials (the plush fur is imported from Germany) and has its own registration number; costumes may be custom-ordered. Cuddle up to this animal, and one thing’s certain: You won’t be able to bear walking out the door without one. Bears $150 (costumes additional) at Boogie Bear in Sundance Square, 115 W. Second St., Fort Worth. Mon-Sat 9-5:30. (817) 284-9103.
Hunting for that special gift for dear old Dad can be a formidable task. There’s the tried-and-true (another paisley tie) and the shot in the dark (a set of Day-Glo golf balls), but if those just don’t seem to be on target this year, here’s an alternative to help holiday shopping progress swimmingly: a do-it-yourself duck decoy. Packaged in kits, “Do A Duck” includes a precarved duck model made of pine and a set of 12 paints. It’s one gift that’ll be a real feather in your cap: Not only will the sportsman in your life have a fun way to while away foul-weather weekend afternoons, but, when completed, the decoy stands ready for display or actual use. As everybody knows, one in the hand is worth two in the bush. It’s $40 at Hunter Bradlee Co., 4025 Northwest Parkway in Preston Center East. Mon-Thur 9-6:30, Fri & Sat 9-5:30. 363-9213.