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Keep the love local 

Keep the love local this Valentine's Day by supporting new homegrown businesses. Alison Collins and Jimmy VerVaecke launched South Durham Confection Company ( last month out of their home kitchen. Beer nerds with a creative palate, the couple pairs craft beer with savory cookies, with recommendations of beer pairings on each paper bag (four servings for $9).

The Blue Cheese and Rosemary cookie picks up piney notes in a pale ale, for example, while lending a buttery tanginess, plus dried cranberry, to rich stouts. The Toasted Sesame, Collins' favorite, is the sweetest, paired best with brown ales. Made with toasted sesame seeds, sesame oil and tahini, the speckled cookie is reminiscent of the Middle Eastern halva sweet. The Madras and Chili Powder, made with a homemade curry blend, packs heat after a gulp of IPA.

"I try to make the basic recipes as different as I can from each other. Texturally they are all different," says Collins. "And with a good variety of beer pairing, too," VerVeacke adds. (He won a gold medal in the National Homebrew Competition 2009 for his English Special Bitter.) "Right. We're not making these to go with Budweiser," Collins says.

Last week, South Durham Confection Company partnered with Fullsteam Brewery (726 Rigsbee Ave., 682-BEER, at Sam's Quik Shop in Durham to launch the First Frost persimmon beer, served with a limited-edition chewy persimmon cookie.

For a taste of South America, try Durham-based Mistti ( Liliana Valle, born in Peru and raised in Miami, says the name—Quechua for "mestizo" or "a person of mixed origin"—signifies a blend of cultures. She and her business partner, Randy Delgado, create a version of Peruvian alfajores, traditional shortbread sandwich cookies filled with dulce de leche. The modern Mistti takes are dubbed alfies. The company launched last Valentine's Day and offers four main flavors: pecan or chocolate chunk cookie with dulce de leche filling and traditional shortbread or chocolate cookie with chocolate-infused dulce de leche. You can find them locally at Copa Vida and Six Plates in Durham and at A Southern Season in Chapel Hill. Or order online, with an expected minimum of two-day shipping. A box of 12 petite alfies are $15; four for $6. Four-month subscriptions are also available.

Rawclates–Superfood Raw Chocolates ( is the home-based chocolate shop of chef Hadara Slok. Formerly the chef at Weaver Street Market and now a wellness specialist there, Slok blends raw cacao with organic spices for a sweet packed with a punch of antioxidants and health benefits. "Chocolate is an aphrodisiac to awaken the senses," she says. Check out her etsy shop online for an eye-catching peek. Her favorites: chai turmeric caramel and mocha anise. For local orders, e-mail her at She'll save you the cost of shipping and meet you for pickup in the Chapel Hill or Hillsborough vicinity.

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