In the Victorian era, flowers, and indeed much of life, symbolized something. With the right dictionary, one could read the flowers and colors of a bouquet like a book. OK, it’s a nice thought, but since everyone interpreted the symbols differently, it didn’t really work out.

Some symbolism has endured, though. Yellow roses are associated with friendship (and not deception, as in some Victorian systems), pink with love, white with pure love and red with passion.

Artichokes & Pomegranates owner Fred Palmer explains all this when asked about Valentine's Day. "We're trying to encourage different colors [of roses]," he says, "because we found out that most women aren't necessarily fond of red roses because they're too common."

A&P is a small, artsy nook on the first floor of the Design Center. Posters and vintage photographs hang on the walls; vases stand here and there. Besides Palmer, the shop sports two other workers, Melissa Paquin and Sarah Nolf, as well as deliveryman Shea Keller.

Of course, roses aren't the only offerings. For Valentine's Day, the group is putting together a series of romantic bouquets—a few roses, lilies, anemones and more. Customers are also encouraged to suggest a favorite flower or color, around which the staff can arrange the bouquet.

"It's like painting," Palmer says, "where you have your design elements and your shapes and your colors and your lines and your textures, so all of that is definitely put into it."

Unlike many places, Nolf explains, A&P's designers don't use a lot of filler. They eschew baby's breath in favor of greenery, fragrant flowers, and even fruits and vegetables.

"We all have a different style, which is so great," Paquin says. "Fred lets us have our own creative voice here, which is really wonderful. He lets us kind of do our own thing."

Artichokes & Pomegranates
Design Center, 418 Cerrillos Road, 820-0044


"I'm going to make you a hot chocolate," Chuck Higgins, the owner of CG Higgins chocolate boutique and Chuck's Nuts Originals, tells me immediately after shaking my hand, "if you'd like."

I think about saying no, whether for the purposes of journalistic integrity or because I think he's trying to sweet talk me (pun intended) I'm unsure. After a moment, though, I agree; I'm supposed to be evaluating his shop, I reason.

He turns to the coffee bar and arranges his ingredients: crushed almonds and vanilla beans, milk, real chocolate—not cocoa, he emphasizes. He mixes them in a beaker and steams the decoction on the espresso machine. Then he procures a glass and, with the aid of a fine strainer, removes the particles of nut and bean as he pours.

"This is a sipping chocolate," he says. "It's not Swiss Miss."

Cautious, I lift the glass to my lips and take the tiniest, wine-tasting-worthy sip I can manage.

When I come to my senses, less than a second has passed, but my brain thinks there's an explosion of golden sunlight in my mouth. I can't tell if I'm having an out-of-body experience or if I've digressed to full-on synesthetic shock.

"What is this?" I ask inanely. "It's really good!"

I end up sampling a lot. There are chocolate-dipped cherries and mock-petroglyph-stamped fudge, macadamia nut brittle, green chile pistachio bark and preorder-only chocolate-covered strawberries for Valentine's Day.

"I joke that the ingredients are all easy to pronounce," Higgins says. "I don't do artificial—and I try to keep it as authentic and old-fashioned as possible."

CG Higgins Confections
847 Ninita St., 820-1315

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