Larry Burdick makes exquisite delicious chocolate pieces at Burdick Chocolate, a small manufacturer at the western edge of New Hampshire, northwest of Keene and 70 miles from Nashua. Burdick does a great job of making a variety of ornate fine chocolates and presenting them well. The pieces in his assortment differ from each other well, so that one is entertained by the changes in flavor, style, and shape. The flavors range from intense chocolate to balanced to strong non-chocolate flavors, and the sweetness ranges from bitter to very sweet. Some flavors are familiar, and some are exotic.
You can’t go wrong with anything at Vande Walle’s Candies in Appleton, Wisconsin; the chocolate is so high-quality and delicious that everything is great. This local candy shop is best known for its angelfood candies, with a light, airy center that melts in your mouth. Their truffle chocolate bars, with a classic chocolate outside and smooth, velvety interior, are also a highlight.
Fittingly, the chocolate takes center stage from the onset, not a more familiar dense semi-dark chocolate but rather, almost exactly as another has put it, like milk chocolate cocoa powder, somehow at the very intersection of sweet and dry. It's plenty sweet but not over the top, and the sharpness of the cocoa powder is somehow there. Another similar analogous experience is the smell of a milk chocolate bar when first being unwrapped. A brilliant capture by Sarah.
If you want a truly unique chocolate experience, this American chocolatier with Venezuelan roots has created a flavor assortment with more varieties than any other. Thirty-six mini-bars come in twelve flavors – Firecracker, Honeycomb, Baconluxious Chocolate, Potato Chip, Caramel Apple Crush, Salted Chocolate Crush, Totally Tangy Mango, Cheeky Cheeky Churro, Spicy Maya, Pop Corn Pop, Oeange-a-go-go, Sweet and Salty, Strawberry Waffle Wild, and Cinnamon Cereal Smooch. At just over a dollar a bar, it’s a great way to try a wide range of flavors, but the company also offers an eight-count sampler for those on a budget.
Famous in New York and internationally as an uncompromising chocolatier, Jaques Torres makes gourmet chocolate chip cookies that are an elegant and rich version of everyone’s favorite cookie. Each cookie measures 5 inches in diameter. Jacques uses his rich, house blend 60% dark chocolate baking discs, which means this cookie skews to the adult tastes, or kids with a discerning palate.
In 2012, Cluizel opened a second Chocolatrium; in West Berlin, New Jersey. (The only other American outlet is their Manhattan storefront.) Visitors to the European and American Chocolatriums are walked through the chocolate creation process and history of the Cluizel brand. They are offered a sneak peek into the Cluizel workshop, then feast on fanciful bonbons like caramel mushrooms, “cappuccinos” filled with coffee ganache and macarolats — macaroons with different flavored coatings and fillings.
Chef Willem DeGroot’s amaretto truffle made my head spin. The amaretto flavor works very well with the large amount of alcohol in the truffle, and I recommend it highly. However, the hazelnut truffle is too much liqueur and not enough hazelnut. The Black Tulip truffle has a startling appearance; it is covered with sharp tufts of chocolate. Its strong cognac flavor is not to my taste.
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.
Quirky and delicious with a nod to your favorite tastes of childhood best describes the colossal and craggy cookies served up by Milk Bar, the sister bakery to the Momofuku Restaurants. Corn flakes, Lucky Charms, Fruity Pebbles, Cap’n Crunch—all have made appearances in Momofuku Milk Bar cookies. Or maybe you’ll enjoy the chocolate and butterscotch chips, potato chips and pretzels in their famous Compost Cookies. (Here’s the recipe compliments of head baker Christina Tosi if you’re interested.) These are the perfect cookies to order for the kid in all of us.
Enter the shop and you are instantly hit by the smell of the chocolate, as you look at a counter full of truffles, behind which there lies a kitchen. The truffles are large, and there are also other chocolate options (such as half orange slices, drops, etc) in boxes to the side. All that I have tasted warent the reviews people give for this temple to cocoa.
The story of how Amedei eloped with Chuao and sent the wedding pictures to Tain l’Hermitage isn’t exactly a vision of sugar plums, but the chocolate industry has a long history of wars, most of them far more brutal. Steve DeVries, a bean-to-bar chocolate maker from Denver, used to say that the Spanish arrived in Mexico and threatened, “Give us your cacao or we’ll shoot you.” Hunting beans in Mexico, DeVries repeated the remark to an anthropologist. “No, no, no,” the anthropologist said. “Before that, the Aztecs came down and said ’Give us your cacao or we’ll cut your hearts out.’”
Elbow’s pieces are mostly square ganaches or round caramels. Many of the caramels were dominated by a sweet fruit caramel, with chocolate from the crisp shell playing a lesser role. The chocolate was a little stronger in the Fleur de Sel, which was wonderful to bite into. The Bananas Foster is also notable because four flavors, chocolate, banana, caramel, and rum, are each noticeable and distinct, working together but not diminshing each other.
Molly is a freelance journalist and social media consultant with degrees in international affairs and public relations. As social media consultant to the Western Balkans over the past four years, Molly divides her time between the American South and Zagreb, Croatia. She has written for OZY, Fodor's Travel, Lonely Planet and Teen Vogue among others while reporting from North America, Europe and the Middle East. Her work can be found at www.mmollyharris.com.
You can’t really make a bad choice at Boise’s The Chocolat Bar. Since 2004, this shop has been using local and organic products to allow the lusciousness of chocolate shine through. The top highlight at this shop is the Nipples of Venus truffle, which features dark chocolate ganache topped with white chocolate and Madagascar vanilla with a tiny dot of white chocolate on top. The barks are also worth traveling to Idaho for, with unique combinations like red chili pistachio and lemon lavender almond.
Dilettante claims confectionary descendance from Julius Rudolph Franzen, pastry chef to Franz Josef, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary. I have only their truffles to judge them by. Unfortunately, I prefer other pieces with a greater variety of components and expression. Truffles are too often an overdose of chocolate and cream. Dilettante may move up on my list when I have more experience with their products, such as their gift box assortment.
You'll pay a little more at Ethel M, even compared with other hand-crafted chocolatiers. For example, the least expensive design-your-own box is $39.99 plus shipping. Standard shipping will cost you $9.99 unless you're ordering $100+. The good news is that their "standard" shipping is 2-day and includes insulated mini-coolers with cold packs, to keep your chocolates unmelted.
While these chocolates had dustings of flavors that run the gamut from wild fennel pollen to Hungarian paprika on their outer shell, the insides “taste like a blast of dark, straight-ahead chocolate,” said Krader. She noted that the truffles themselves, while tasty, were not necessarily a go-to for chocolate purists: “They use flavorings as an exclamation mark; I'd recommend these for people who pride themselves on their unconventional fashion stylings."
In Hawaiian, “manoa” means deep and solid, and those are the flavors you’ll find in the chocolate at bean-to-bar factory Manoa Chocolate Hawaii. All of the beans are grown in Hawaii, making this Kailua shop a true local spot. That commitment to local farm-to-chocolate production continues in their bars’ flavors, which are infused with local coffee, sea salt and lavender.
The Tessieris did not set out to make chocolate. In the beginning, like the rest of the Chocolate Valley, they made candy. Their parents owned a business in Pontedera that sold pastry ingredients to bakers. Alessio and Cecilia went off on their own, but they didn’t stray far. They rented a small room in town and began to experiment with what they call pralines and we call filled chocolates. Soon enough, they wanted to move to a higher grade—the highest grade they knew. So the brother and sister, who were still in their 20s, went to visit a chocolate maker they greatly admired.
For their new chocolate line, che Thomas Keller and olive oil icon Armando Manni are ratcheting up the intrinsic health benefits of cocoa beans and EVOO. The chocolate is made according to the same "live" principles Manni designed for his cultish oils--a method developed with the University of Florence to minimize heat exposure and retain antioxidants throughout processing. The two tapped former pastry chef Chi Bui (Daniel, Le Bernardin) to perfect the blockbuster bars, which double down on the antioxidant power with a finishing hit of Manni oil. The first release includes three bars, from Madagascar, Peru and Ecuador ($14.95); the latter is our favorite--uniquely floral, with a lush, velvety texture. williams-sonoma.com
American consumers are expected to spend an astonishing $1.8 billion-plus on candy for the holiday this year, and about 75% of that will be on chocolate. Mass-market confectioners like Russell Stover, in business since 1923, will account for most of the sales. (The company, which also owns the Whitman’s brand, is the largest boxed-candy manufacturer in America.) Most smaller chocolate shops prepare special Valentine’s Day assortments and/or other chocolate-related gifts, though, and these tend to offer greater variety and utilize better-quality chocolate.