Known for iconic brands like Godiva Chocolatier and home to two of the world's largest chocolate factories, Callebaut and Puratos, Belgium has a rich chocolate history. Flanders, the Flemish region, is often called the "capital of chocolate," though the country at large holds more than 320 chocolate shops. Production began as early as 1635 when Belgium was occupied by the Spanish who introduced the New World product to the country.
If you think chocolate all tastes the same around the world, Kyya Chocolate in Springdale, Arkansas, will prove you wrong. This bean-to-bar chocolate shop makes a variety of single-origin dark chocolate treats, allowing customers to taste the subtle differences between offerings from Uganda, Ecuador, Madagascar, and beyond. There’s nothing artificial in this shop, just pure, beautiful flavors.
A mural of Milton S. Hershey adorns The Hershey Story Museum, which tells the story of Hershey’s rise to become one of the top chocolatiers in the world. Born on a Pennsylvania farm in 1857, Hershey eventually turned to chocolates and used fresh farm milk to mass-produce milk chocolate, which was until then a luxury confection. Wendy Pramik for USA TODAY
If you are either passionate about chocolate or just like trying new and different chocolates, this is definitely the way to go. My wife is a self-proclaimed “Chocaholic” and for years I would have to scour the depths of malls or online searching to find her new chocolates, until I bought her this gift one year. Monthly you receive top quality chocolates from around the world and enjoy learning about the different chocolatiers, ingredients, etc. The fun for us is not just the chocolate (which is always amazing), but discovering new producers and ingredient combinations. It’s a great program that has even turned this non sweet-tooth person into someone who can truly appreciate the incredible variety and nuances of fine chocolate (ok, maybe even a “chocaholic”). And thankfully I no longer have search, someone else has done that for me and I can truthfully say that I trust their judgment on what is a fine chocolate way better than my previous guess work.
Why they're cool: They've been making chocolate since their first store opened in California in 1921, almost 100 years ago (omg)! They also offer over 100 varieties of chocolate for all different occasions like Valentine's Day, game day, gift boxes, and custom mixes! To top it off they offer a variety of yummy lollypops everyone (including me) is obsessed with!
I've been a customer of MonthlyClubs.com for over 15 years and I keep coming back for more. When I need a gift that will be appreciated, savored and remembered, this is where I turn. It's very fun to give a gift that keeps on giving -- each month a tasty new surprise shows up on the doorstep. I have several friends that still remind me of how fun it was to get a new package each month. The selection (beer, wine, chocolate -- you name it) is always unique and thoughtful. Although I'm always sending a few months to my friends and family, I love receiving even more than giving! And I really like reading the newsletter -- it makes it even more enjoyable as you start to understand the subtleties of each selection.
Anna Shea Chocolates is an experience not to be missed. The flavors, ingredients, technique, and artistry are excellent, including an excellent color chart and playful names. The assortment includes a variety of flavors including fruit, cinnamon, liqueurs, and some playful flavors like red velvet and birthday cake. The assortment was light on nut flavors, which tend to be my favorites.
A new prize given by our founding partners, Maricel Presilla, Martin Christy and Monica Meschini. The Triple MMM (or Mmm…) prize represents products chosen by the founders and Grand Jury because of a personal appreciation of a product tasted during judging. This prize reflects personal enjoyment of the product awarded and is not based on the competition scores.
Chef Michael Cappelli talks about his 40 years as a Hershey employee inside the Bear’s Den sports-themed restaurant in Hershey Lodge. Cappelli, who also runs Fire & Grain in Hershey Lodge, works the company’s signature chocolate into many food items such as scallops, barbecue sauce and salad dressing. “We’re constantly looking for new ways to incorporate chocolate into our menu,” he says. Wendy Pramik for USA TODAY
Probably the most compelling reason to buy from the Ghirardelli website, as opposed to shopping in person, is the frequent promotional discounts. If you click on the Promotion FAQs link at the bottom of the page, you can see if there are any current offers at the time of your order as well as any discounts they've offered in the past few months. For example, we found discounts of 20% on all caramel-filled chocolates, expedited shipping for certain holidays, and discounts of up to 25% on orders over $150.
Patchi's mouthwatering chocolate features premium and all-natural ingredients, including the finest cocoa and fresh milk. The incredible packaging makes it even more irresistible. The company's chocolate menu features more than 50 varieties that incorporate roasted hazelnuts, pistachios, and almonds as well as orange peel and dried strawberry. The chocolate also comes in flavors like cheesecake, peanut butter, and cotton candy.
With five café locations—including one at their factory—this chocolate company handcrafts signature treats that taste exquisite but also look exceptional. Their assortment of bars pep up traditional milk or dark choices with options like a Milk Chocolate Crispy Orange Brulee Bar, Dark Chocolate Espresso Bean, or even the Dark Chocolate Raspberry and Fennel Bark. The gourmet dark, milk and ivory truffles feature fun sweets like the Strawberry or Raspberry Love Bug and Cookies and Cream Cone. Caramels and toffees are touched with sea salt or vanilla, and gourmet hot cocoa mixes go from simple to spicy. A specialty line of liqueur truffles are derived from Oregon’s finest craft distillers. Plus, their tumbled chocolate balls taste of blueberry, hazelnuts, sea salt caramel and even a German roasted malted wheat berry used in beer making.
Chocolatier Kee Ling Tong opened her flagship store in New York City’s Soho in 2002 as a combination flower and chocolate shop. Today she has three locations, offering superb handmade chocolates in 40 flavors, including F&W’s Tina Ujlaki and Kate Krader favorite, pyramid-shaped Champagne truffles, made with dark chocolate ganache and Champagne. keeschocolates.com
Olive & Sinclair isn’t just Nashville’s first bean-to-bar chocolate shop, it’s the first such store in all of Tennessee. This small-batch shop does everything in-house, from stone-grinding their cocoa to finishing up the ethically sourced, organic confections. The results are scrumptious, of course, and include signature Tennessee items like bourbon brittle and caramels alongside duck fat caramels that simply melt in your mouth.
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Along with the Chocolate Chip cookies, you can choose from the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt (a brownie-like cookie made with Valrhona dark cocoa and Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips. It delivers a subtle and delightful “ting” of salt on the tongue), the clever Lemon Blueberry White Chocolate Chip, the White Chocolate Cherry Chip which is baked with tart Montmorency dried cherries, and a hefty Oatmeal Raisin.
Chocolate making in general is often referred to as an art, but at Dancing Lion in Manchester, New Hampshire, they really are making art. They sell stunning chocolate sculptures that almost look like stonework. You’ll also find beautiful and uniquely flavored chocolate bars such as The Blues, a beautiful blue bar with dark chocolate, blueberries and toasted pecans.
Woodhouse Chocolate has some very nice pieces; you should definitely visit when in St. Helena or even Napa. However, not every piece lives up to their price level, so be selective about your assortment. I found the shifting flavors of orange, cream, marzipan, and chocolate in the Fiori di Sicilia made it a fun experience, although its chocolate is a minor player. I particularly recommend the Pecan Caramel for an excellent pecan flavor, which mixes well with the chocolate, and the Peanut Croquant, again for a good medium-strong peanut flavor that mixes well with chocolate.
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.
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.
“Wow,” said Krader, biting into one of the company’s flat, square truffles. “This is definitely the chocolate with the most distinct point of view.” By that, she meant that it had perhaps the most unusual flavor of the bunch, with distinctly fruity notes. “This is from someone who’s redefining what truffles can be,” she said. “The flavorings don't punch you in the face, and it tastes like it was just made.” In other words: advanced chocolatiering. “There’s a sophistication about them,” she said. “Truffle neophytes might want something more general.”