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
I was delighted with Artisan du Chocolat’s Couture chocolates. You would do well to make Artisan your first stop in London. The flavors range across fruits, nuts, herbs, and spices and are very well done. My favorites were the softy and crunch Feuillantine and smooth Honey, followed closely by the cooperating flavors in the Coriander Praline and the Banana and Thyme and the slightly piquant Sea Salted Caramel. The collection also shines with the Orange Blossom, Passion Fruit, Lavender, and other pieces.
If Chicago is famous for its scenic and culinary treats then it would be totally unfair to overlook Vosges Haut-Chocolat. The chocolatier stands at the no. 2 position with the virtue of its unparalleled chocolate flavours, variety and essence. If you are in Chicago, you can find the best French confectionery treat here. Apart from the rich quality regular chocolate recipes, you can discover a range of experimental recipes as well using various flowers and spices.
Richart’s Intense Valentine Gourmet Chocolates are $77 for a box of 49 chocolates. The real frustration here is that it's 49, not 50, so those of us with a strong sense of symmetry will have to eat them quickly just to cope. However, they are legitimate French Chocolates, each one having one of seven fancy flavors / aromas - floral, spicy, citrus, balsm, roasted, fruity, or herbal. The box also comes with a dark chocolate plaque for your valentine, so maybe that's piece 50.
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.
The Wild Strawberry was also strong, very nice for strawberry. Some pieces were classics like the House Dark and some were playful like the PB & Jelly or the Speculous S’more, and they were all well done, not a false note among them. My biggest flavor criticism might be that the Gianduja Hazelnut was a little sharp for hazelnut, whereas I prefer a broader, smoother flavor.
It is National Chocolate Day, the perfect occasion on which to suggest a line-up of the 15 best chocolate bars in the whole world. This is a personal choice and it is en extremely subjective topic. But as a judge at the International Chocolate Awards and a Grand Jury judge at the Academy of Chocolate awards I have tasted a lot of chocolate - and these are my favourites, in reverse order of my opinion of their deliciousness.