As Saint Valentine's Day rose in popularity, people began sending gifts of flowers, love letters, and other trinkets. Liquid chocolate drinks were understandably not convenient to mail to a sweetheart. In 1847, Joseph Fry invented chocolate you could eat by adding extracted cocoa butter back into the drinking cocoa powder, changing forever how we think of chocolate.
With four boutique locations throughout Seattle, this shop gets its name from Fran Bigelow, a master chocolatier who is renowned for her harmonious blending of textures and flavors. Find silky smooth ganache fillings in dark and milk chocolate truffles or discover tart apricots, plump figs, organic almonds and ginger in fruit and nut box collections. Plus, Fran’s various signature gold bars and gold bites combine indulgence with elegance.
French Broad: This chocolatier opened in Asheville in 2007 and does a nice job of giving the chocolate lover a big truffle for the buck. These were some of the largest truffles we tasted. Their Buddha Collection’s vegan truffle was a favorite (composed of bitter sweet chocolate and coconut cream), lending the truffle a nice exotic edge. The Lavender and honey from the signature collection box—a milk chocolate ganache around a dark chocolate ganache blended with local honey and lavender—was the a delicious riff on lavender. The mole negro—housemade mole in dark chocolate and rolled in sesame seeds—great texture and spice.
For more than 30 years, Seattle-based owner Fran Bigelow has been setting candy trends—she was selling miniature chocolate bars and elegant truffles before they became ubiquitous. Her sweets also have a very high-profile admirer: As a lover of salty-sweet desserts, one of President Obama’s favorite indulgences is Fran’s Smoked Salt Caramels ($12)—buttery caramels coated in milk chocolate and sprinkled with smoked sea salt. franschocolates.com
Michel Cluizel ($35 for 15 pieces), another favorite from our 2014 review, performed well against the new competition. Everything we said about it before still stands. It’s a very well-made chocolate, and the flavors are pretty safe. These would be a good choice for a person who likes Godiva and is interested in better quality chocolate, but is not yet ready for unorthodox flavors.
Connecticut is apparently so well known for its chocolate shops that it has a bona fide tour route for sweet confections called the Connecticut Chocolate Trail. So how does Bridgewater Chocolate in West Hartford stand apart from the crowd? Its stunning packaging, for one. But the chocolate tortels, truffles and dark chocolate-covered cherries on a milk chocolate heart are luxurious and rich.