All the while, I’d been looking at the red heart-shaped objects that were floating in the two big jars. I kept thinking about the Aztecs. At last I asked Alessio what they were. “Cacao pods,” he said. “In formaldehyde so they do not dry up.” The one off in a corner behind the door was a unique Venezuelan variety called Porcelana. The other, placed on a low table next to all the trays of chocolate, gleamed and glistened like a trophy. That one was Venezuelan too, Alessio said with a smile. It came from Chuao.
SpagNVola husband-and-wife owners Eric and Crisoire Reid oversee entire chocolate process from farm to store, delivering unadulterated chocolate perfection. First they grow cacao at their farm perched on mountain slopes in their homeland of the Dominican Republic. The cacao pods are handpicked, then roasted and refined in their Gaithersburg, Maryland, factory. Take the free tour to learn about the origins of their chocolate and watch the kitchen’s magic. The award-winning 70 percent and 80 percent pure chocolate bars paint the clearest picture of quality, but don’t miss the boxed sets of olive oil truffles or caramel bonbons. Boutique at National Harbor and factory in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
There is something for everyone on this list of chocolate companies. Whether you prefer indie chocolatiers like La Maison Du Chocolate in New York and Norman Love Confections in Naples, FL; European chocolate makers with a rich history like Teuscher in Zurich, Switzerland; more recently popular brands like Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker in Berkeley, CA, or tried-and-true standbys like Hershey's and Godiva, it's hard to go wrong with any of the chocolate makers on this list. Which company makes your favorite chocolates?
Curate the ideal luxury haut-chocolat tower for your lucky gift recipient or stock up on your favorites. Anchored by a 16-piece truffle collection of your choice, a salty-sweet comfort food selection and Exotic Caramels are stacked on top and hand-tied with a our signature purple bow. With over twenty different combinations, you can satisfy every chocolate chocolate desire.
This is a box of confections for an adventurous chocolate lover. Every piece is memorable. The sesame nougat was the first one we tried and it still sticks out as one of my favorites. It has the perfect texture of chewy caramel, a little crunch from toasted sesame seeds and the snap of perfectly tempered dark chocolate. The Star Anise & Pink Peppercorn starts with the licorice-like star anise and finishes with the pink peppercorn, the flavors unfolding on the tongue like a sensory short story. While I don’t think any of the flavors would be offensive, some people might be scared off by the esoteric flavor combos. (Those palates will be happy with our well-made runner up.)
First time there we tried a few chocolate candies. We started eating them as soon as we left the shop and could not stop! They were so good, we kept walking and eating and didn't pay attention to where we were going. In Venice that can really get you lost! After finding our way back to the shop we bought more candy. This time enough to get us through the rest of the trip.
Because they’re meant to be gifted, I presented the chocolates in their boxes, but without the brand names showing. We felt that the presentation should be a factor in judging. We had a very strict rule against calling out a brand to the rest of the group if someone recognized the packaging. Luckily, it wasn’t an issue—no one had a clue about what was what during the tasting.
To narrow down the chocolates we wanted to try, we read reviews of chocolates in Consumer Reports, polled colleagues and friends in the business, and sought advice from Mark Bitterman, owner of The Meadow. For our first review, we took into account availability and usability of online stores: For example, Kee’s Chocolates from New York City came highly recommended from colleagues and editorial publications, but isn’t available online, and our goal was to find something that is accessible to most people. Overall, we came to a well-edited list of 11 of the most highly rated samples to put in front of a panel of nine friends and food experts for a blind tasting.
Chloé Doutre-Roussel, the author of The Chocolate Connoisseur and one of the world’s leading authorities on fine chocolate, uses another word to describe what came next: vendetta. “Everything Alessio does, he does with intensity,” Doutre-Roussel says. “So this revenge became his focus. He put everything—the family money, even his sister—on this project.”
I recommend Bridgewater’s assorted chocolates, including the toffees, which you can buy separately. However, their marzipan, truffles, and bars do not impress me the same way, although nothing is particularly wrong with them. The truffles had an airy mousse-like filling. The orange truffle was pleasant, but the hazelnut and raspberry were distant in those truffles. The bars with bits of various fruits, nuts, or other items had a more appealing chocolate flavor than most chocolatiers’ bars. The fruits added a bit to the flavor but were a minority portion. The marzipan was standard.
French Broad Chocolate is a must-try shop located in Asheville, North Carolina. It has chocolates that have won numerous awards at the International Chocolate Awards and Good Food Awards. The confections, which range from single-source bars to vegan lemongrass and ginger truffles, are made with local ingredients and sustainable, wholesome cacao beans.
Unlike many of the boxed chocolates we've tried, the Recchiuti offer a full sensory experience, which is part of the reason to give boxed chocolates in the first place. The flavors really set this selection apart from the competition. Classic concoctions, such as Burnt Caramel and Piedmont Hazelnut, offer just the right balance of sweet and bitter, while more adventurous flavors, such as Tarragon Grapefruit and Star Anise & Pink Peppercorn, are never overpowering (a problem we've found with most other flavored chocolates). And the black-on-black packaging—sexy, but not over the top or too obvious—looks and feels much more elegant than offerings from every other brand we looked at. Inside, the jewel box holds shapes and textures far more intriguing than the monotonous square candies in most other assortments. Overall, these bonbons are far more well-rounded than others we've tried.
Cecilia Tessieri — one of the world’s few female chocolatiers — makes some of the most expensive chocolate in the world. Since opening its doors in 1990, the Tuscany-based brand Amedei has contributed to a $27,000 cupcake in Dubai and a $1,000 sundae at New York’s Serendipity. Tessieri also makes an eclectic line of pralines, and excellent bars such as the Cru Madagascar Extra Dark Chocolate (70 percent) or Chuao Bar (70 percent). We like the limited-edition Porcelana bar, which you can get for around $25.
Review: Dove chocolates are simple and they opted to stick to what they know for this Valentine's Day heart. The chocolates come in an assortment of milk chocolate peanut butter, dark chocolate truffle, and creamy caramel. The flavors aren't revolutionary but the soft suppleness of the chocolate is totally worth. This is the perfect box for someone who wants to skip the frills and just enjoys chocolate of the melt-in-your-mouth variety.
K’s 5-star review: If your a fan of praline or gianduja (or belgium milk chocolate), this the chocolate shop to stop. A few favorite pieces: Cornet d'Oré, Sapho, Caprice, Pagode, Astrid, Passion Amande, Tentation, Plasir, Bourbon 13, Mephisto, Coeur Praline, Louise, Suzanne, Jean, Adeison, Galerie, Fredric, Prestige, Millenaire, Milk Napoléonette, 1857 ... and more, but those are the ones I can pull off the top of my head. Yeah. They're that memorable. It is a small shop, almost walked right over it if I didn't have a rip-tide radar for Neuhaus. Staff was helpful and readily introduced me to the new chocolate assortments on the wall and chatted with me about the selection in the case. I was able to make a 25ish piece selection for about $44ish and they packed it in a nice sturdy box with a bow (points for presentation and travel-safe arrangements). Compared to other ny shops, the bang for your buck is noticeable: the pieces are three times the size of (let's say) La Maison and a better price. Be prepared to be impressed by the praline, gianduja or creams. Go to Teuscher if you're in the hung-ho for champagne truffles. I have not tried the liquor filled chocolates (though they're on my list). Looking forward to the Easter eggs in the Spring.
Christopher Elbow Chocolates is a Kansas City, Missouri, shop that takes the phrase “artisanal chocolates” to the next level. Each and every piece of candy is painted by hand, making these more like tiny, edible pieces of art than an after-dinner treat. The creativity extends beyond looks; these chocolates come in inventive flavors such as rosemary, Japanese yuzu and calamansi lime as well as an ever-rotating list of limited-edition flavors.
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For $260, in late 2014, you could've gotten yourself a To’ak 2014 Rain Harvest 50s gram Chocolate Bar. It was Fair-Trade, USDA certified, 81% dark chocolate and came in a box made from Spanish Elm engraved with the specific bar number, as only 574 were made. There was also a 116 page booklet included, so you could read it and remind yourself why you spent $260 on a chocolate bar. The only ingredients, by the way, were cocoa and cane sugar.