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We're hard-core fans of Valerie Confections. The little chocolate factory on W. First Street has been crafting distinctive petits fours, toffees and cakes we've been serving for special occasions and giving as hostess gifts for years. And now they've got new treats made especially for every day.

We're most excited about Valerie's modern interpretation of classic cookies. The Durango has milk-chocolate chips, roasted almonds and cocoa nibs, finished with a dusting of Durango hickory-smoked salt. A chewy gingersnap is made with molasses, brown sugar and crystallized ginger, while the traditional oatmeal raisin is made with the extra-sweet California goldens.

Most novel is the macadamia-and-white-chocolate cookie, which Valerie's blended with matcha, the green tea that has been a hit ingredient in petits fours. The light tea flavor balances the chocolate's intense sweetness and lends the cookie a distinctive pistachio hue.

The cookie gift set ($60) includes four boxes of six cookies apiece, nicely wrapped in Valerie's signature packaging inspired by luxury clothiers. Taste for yourself--through Saturday, the shop is holding an open house with tastings of its new cookies and other seasonal fare. Who needs lunch, anyway?

Valerie Confections, 3360 W. First St.; 213-739-8149 or

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