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.
Stuart, Florida, located about 80 miles north of Fort Lauderdale, is already one charming small town to visit. Its highlight, though, is Castronovo Chocolate. This bean-to-bar small-batch chocolate shop has won several gold medals at the International Chocolate Awards for its lemon oil and lemon salt-infused white chocolate, Sierra Nevada 63 percent dark chocolate and Colombia mocha milk chocolate. The service here is attentive and as world-class as the bars themselves.
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.
Exactly when and where the first chocolate shops opened in America is uncertain, but early contenders for the honor include The Original Velatis, which set up shop selling caramels (some of them involving chocolate) in 1866 in Silver Spring, Maryland, and Govatos, which went into business in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1894 (both are still going strong; see slideshow).
We have been a Monthlyclubs.com customer since they opened their doors. Monthlyclubs.com sells only quality products and it’s always exciting to receive a shipment because we know we’ll get to experience awesome new items that have been selected by seasoned professionals. For those family & friends that are difficult to buy gifts, Monthlyclubs.com has been a lifesaver! We especially love their chocolate club which turned us on to smaller chocolatiers that we never would have found on our own. Such creative and unbelievably good chocolates each month. Whether we gift a single or multiple months, without a doubt, it’s a gift that will be enjoyed and not end up in the spring donation bin! Thank you to all the Monthlyclubs.com employees for the excellent products and service!
This line of chocolates began with an international love affair. After debuting his winning pralines at the World Fair in Brussels in 1910, Greek-American Leonidas Kestekides fell in love with a local Belgian girl and opened a tea room in Ghent. After his pralines again won gold at the Ghent World Fair in 1913, Leonidas began selling chocolates from his storefront "guillotine window," then expanded his operation to tea houses in Brussels and Blankenberge. Today Leonidas sells chocolates at over 1,500 storefronts worldwide, but the prolific brand's humble beginnings are never too far away — "democracy in chocolate" is their motto, meaning that the good stuff isn't only reserved for the rich. Purists will appreciate his Tablette Noir bar, which features 70 per cent cocoa.
The biggest drawback to Stick With Me Sweets is the price. However, this is an experience I would not want to miss, so I recommend trying a box at whatever size suits you. The web site did not offer options to choose your own pieces (just “surprise me!”, nut free, and gluten free), but you can enter requests in the special instructions section when checking out. The box came with a chart of color drawings that identified most pieces, but a few were hard to match to the drawings, and limited edition pieces may not be in the chart.
This chocolate bar from the popular cafe in Los Feliz, CA, is smooth and has just the right amount of tang. The milk chocolate melts in your mouth and offers a nice surprise with little bits of cream cheese inside. Rich flavors of warm, freshly baked cake are undeniable in the bar. They flavors create a chocolate that is sweet without being saccharine. The Alcove Red Velvet Milk Chocolate, made with 64 percent cacao, is blended with spices and other natural ingredients. The milk chocolate gives the bar a creamy, velvety texture heightened by the taste of cheesecake frosting and chocolate cake. Alcove uses no preservatives or additives and is certified kosher. Other winning flavors include Fleur de Sel, Mimosa, Chipotle Chili, Black Forest and more.
Zak’s Chocolate is a small-batch chocolate shop located in Scottsdale, Arizona. What makes them so unique? They source all their cocoa beans from a single, ethical source and roast the beans themselves, allowing Zak’s to carefully control the production of their sweets. They then turn the beans into elegantly flavored chocolates, with delicacies such as a blackberry lychee bonbons, a brownie flight and a cacao nib caramel.
Vosges’ truffles are mild. This works well in the Woolloomooloo, which delivers a macadamia flavor that is pervasive without being strong. However, the other pieces are generally too mild for my taste. You might expect the curry in the Naga or the wasabi in the Black Pearl to be prominent, but they are weak. The flavors are present, but you have to work at tasting them.
The truffles are packaged in a row, as in the above image (which unfortunately does not convey the triangular shapes well), in a triangular box. A mild drawback is that the box unfolds and opens flat, which is not convenient for holding the remaining truffles until you can eat them. I recommend trying Telluride once. The price is a bit high, although the reasonable shipping price partly compensates for that.
The 36-piece assortment I ordered from William Dean Chocolates contained a broad selection of chocolates and flavors, from the familiar peanut butter or even childhood favorite peanut butter and jelly, to fine lavender or port and plum. The Port and Plum was one of my favorites of the box. The flavors interplayed nicely and had some depth. The Mexican Mango was a very nice mango puree with a little bit of spiceness. The PB Krunch had a strong peanut flavor roasted just right. The WD 64%, a straight chocolate piece, was another of my favorites.
Our own country is the world’s biggest producer of chocolate. One thing that sets American chocolate apart? The frequent use of peanuts and almonds. There are a number of artisan chocolate shops across the country, but Hershey’s in the country’s largest producer of the candy. And of course, there’s Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania, a popular family destination for both thrill rides and all the chocolate and confections one can handle!
In 1948, Michel Cluizel took over his family's pastry business in Normandy, France, where travelers still flock to learn the secrets of chocolate-making at his "Chocolatrium." 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 (or is that Chocolatria?) are walked through the chocolate creation process and the history of the Cluizel brand, 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.
The Mom’s Apple Pie Truffle had a good apple flavor, a background of pie crust flavor, and was well accompanied by white chocolate. I did find it too playful with non-chocolate flavors to take it seriously as a chocolate piece. The Chocolaterie also has simpler and more direct flavors, such as the Epicurean Truffle and the Hawaiian Pink Sea Salt Butter Caramel.
This company was incorporated in 1852. In America, it the third-oldest chocolate company. It is one of the only chocolate companies in the United States which is in control of all aspects its own manufacturing process. Its bar version is cut into several squares and comes in many flavors which include caramel filling, caramelized almonds, salt and almonds, and peppermint bark.
Ki' Xocolatl, meaning "rich delicious chocolate" in the Mayan and Nahuatl (Aztec) languages, lives up to its name. Belgian owners collaborated with locals to cultivate beans from the heart of the Yucatán Peninsula using ancient techniques. Then artisanal chocolate meets Maya ingredients like baked corn chips, peppers, and almonds, flavored with homegrown spices. Ki' Xocolatl also presents a unique lineup of cocoa-based spa products, including chocolate shampoo, lotions, and soap, all highlighting the natural moisturizing and detoxifying qualities of cacao beans. Save time to sip traditional Mexican hot chocolate made from organic cocoa paste, natural cinnamon, and cane sugar in the art-filled Mérida café at Parque de Santa Lucía. Three retail locations in Mérida.
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.
My 2005 purchase in San Francisco was slightly underweight. The chocolate felt powdery to me. The Ground Orange Gianduja was good, with orange pervading the piece, and the Hazelnut Gianduja was okay. However, the Marzipan and Honey Crunch were lackluster, and the Buttercrunch Chip was a bit dry. The weight of my 2006 Palo Alto purchase was correct. The White Gianduja was pretty good, medium-strength hazelnut flavor with some crunch.
The Chocolaterie is a delightful find in a suburb of Atlanta. They have a variety of truffles with flavors that are both fanciful and familiar. The Cookie Dough Truffle gives a good impression of its namesake and is both enjoyable and playful. As with the Malted Milkshake Truffle, the flavor composition conveys a luxurious feel. These and several other flavors weave multiple flavor sensations without losing them in a blend.
Chocolate doesn’t get any fresher than Jouvay, perfected by the Grenada Cocoa Farmers Cooperative based at the rural Diamond Chocolate Factory. The idea was to partner with local farmers working right in the ecosystem to grow the best quality beans. While visiting the 18th-century factory inside a converted rum distillery built by French monks, see the cocoa beans drying on trays under the Caribbean sun. Growers employ a centuries-old French tradition of “walking” the beans—turning them gently by walking over the shells, which are later roasted and removed. Inside the small tasting room, sample each chocolate bar flavor, such as ginger and cocoa nibs. Factory and farm in Victoria, Grenada.
Bridgewater chocolate bars. (Big image.) Take classic chocolates, make them with good chocolate, and upgrade the design and execution a notch, and you have Bridgewater’s assorted chocolates. You can taste the quality and care that goes into these chocolates. I liked the peanut butter pieces quite a bit, as well as the Irish and almond toffees. Not all the pieces moved me, but you should try for yourself.
The LA Reader says Milk Jar Cookies are “Possibly the best fresh cookies in town.” Oh yeah? We sent our Los Angeles taster to go see. A half a dozen warm cookies later, he texted in to Eat Gift Love HQ that they were indeed fresh and really good. Well, that’s what we translated from the one word description he actually texted: “Deece!” (We apologize his description is lacking. He’s young and works for cookies. He’s not yet reached the descriptive heights of, say, an Anthony Bourdain. But we are confident in his judgment.)
There may be bars with frillier packaging and more envelope-pushing additions, but when it comes to pure, classic chocolate, Bonnat can lay claim to the crown. This family company began in 1884 and was beloved by Jackie Kennedy Onassis who gave bars to White House guests during the holidays. The Juliana bars are made from specially-grown Brazilian cacao beans, fermented, then dried in the sun slowly, over seven days. Back in France, the beans are painstakingly refined and tempered over five days. It’s an intricate process but, as Stephane Bonnat says, “In the Alps, we have time.”
Blink and passers-by could easily miss the Veruca Chocolates cafe and store in Chicago’s sleek Lincoln Park neighborhood. Pediatrician-turned-chocolatier Heather Johnston fills her glass cases with bonbons, caramels, and dipped truffles in a range of flavors every season. The house specialties include a mango and passionfruit-infused ganache bonbon, but don’t miss the almost smoky blackened sugar chocolates, or browned butter bonbons with an addictively nutty flavor. Toasted pumpkin seeds give orange-hued pumpkin caramel truffles a bit of crunch. Veruca ships nationwide. 1332 North Halsted Street, Chicago, IL — Ashok Selvam
Nobody knows for sure how many chocolate shops there are in the U.S. today, at least in part because many of them do double duty as patisseries, ice cream parlors, or gift shops. Suffice to say that there is probably not a city or a town of any size in the country that doesn’t boast at least one purveyor of specialty chocolates, and many places have more. There are at least 80 of them in New York City, for instance, and more than 30 in Los Angeles.