The gourmet cookies from San Francisco’s Salty Sweet Bakery are for the cookie-loving kid in you with tastes that are all grown up. You’ll know it from your first bite as the cookie flavors reveal themselves like a chorus line of CanCan dancers on your tongue that finishes with the ephemeral taste of real vanilla and the final flirty curtain call of salt. These sweet but not too sweet cookies tend toward the soft-baked to chewy spectrum. Each are topped with a sprinkle of delicate sea salt flakes.
For the chocolate purist, or anyone looking for the perfect corporate gift, we think Maison du Chocolat ($60 for 28 pieces) is a great premium choice. The flavors are subtle enough to really let the chocolate shine. The packaging, reminiscent of brown pebbled leather, is understated and innocuous enough to gift for professional reasons. Although these chocolates are incredibly smooth and slightly less sweet than the Michel Cluizel, the overall flavor profile isn’t quite as daring as those in the Recchiuti box and might not provide the same sensory adventure as our main pick. We also think the assortments available online are a little big for a Valentine’s gift (although you can purchase smaller boxes in their stores).
John Scharffenberger, already a big name in the wine world, decided in 1997 to try his hand at artisanal chocolate-making. Using a vintage German melangeur — a machine that slowly grinds cacao beans into a chocolate liquor — and personally sampling beans from more than 150 international cacao farms, he and partner Robert Steinberg sought to bring traditional European chocolate craftsmanship to the States, proudly emphasizing cacao content on the bars' labels — a first for American chocolatiers. The San Francisco team also became the first American bean-to-bar manufacturer in 50 years. Now a member of the Hershey family, Scharffen Berger produces a modest but exquisite selection of bars and tasting squares sold at stores like Whole Foods including a crunchy Milk Chocolate Bar with Sea Salted Almonds.
Zabar’s is as New York as it gets. Whether you’re celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas or New Years, Zabar’s bagels, deli meats, and pastries will put you in a New York state of mind. The Black and Whites are particularly fun to eat. Do you eat one side first then the other, or take an equal bite of both sides down the middle? I haven’t decided yet, so I’ll keep practicing.
#3: Great Value (Wal-Mart Generic Brand) Fudge Brownie Mix — the underdog and least expensive brownie mix killed it in the brownie mix challenge, much to the surprise of the judges. One judge even gave it a perfect score and deemed it the favorite. It consistently received a few solid 8’s, a few 9’s, and one 10. It also received a 2 and several 4’s so it wasn’t a favorite across the board. Most reviewers like the soft, chewy texture with flaky top. They enjoyed the fudgy flavor. Some thought it was slightly artificial tasting and wouldn’t eat it again. It scored well enough to nab the #3 spot. What a shocker!
The Pistachio Marzipan and Bandol Breeze (apricot pâte de fruit and marzipan) were too weak for my taste, but most of Jacques Torres’ pieces had both good non-chocolate and chocolate flavors. The Golden Espresso was another very good piece. Mom’s Chocolate Peanut Brittle did not quite work for me, but Grandma’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch was excellent, with a great roasted peanuts flavor and complementing chocolate. In spite of my few quibbles I, most of Torres’ pieces are done to near perfection, and I would class Torres with Burdick. Both are near the same quality. Burdick uses a bit more exotic flavors while Torres takes familiar flavors to great heights.
Since she was a little girl, F&W’s Kate Krader, a New York City-native, has looked forward to this classic 1923 chocolate shop’s perfect homemade milk chocolate balls, wrapped in colorful foil, and available only during the holidays. “They remind me of my childhood,” says Krader. Another nostalgic favorite is the super-rich old-fashioned fudge that’s made daily. li-lacchocolates.com
Who would think we would be singing the praises of Canadian chocolate? Soma, which began in 2003, describes itself as a place to "eat, drink, and worship chocolate". Visitors can experience their small-batch chocolate-making up close at the micro-factory on the Toronto store's premises. Their menu boasts an impressive display of mind-blowing creativity, like "Sparky" Gianduja pralines laced with Pop Rocks, Gooderham Worts Whiskey truffles and the 8-Year Aged Balsamic Vinegar truffles. Bars are available in rectangle or circle form — Soma's Chocolate Possible Worlds bars come as 200-gram oversized disks, such as the "Ruby Red" bar topped with wild cherries, cranberries, barberries and dusted with Sumac powder. O Canada!
These are so delicious! Taste like you'd expect a dark chocolate sea salt caramel to taste, but with just a hint of bourbon flavor. Highly recommend. Shipped without a cold pack in November (high has been in the 70s this week) and they arrived in great shape. Ordered as a gift for someone who was willing to share with me. She was VERY pleased as well.
Among all of the tested chocolates, the Recchiuti come in the most intriguing shapes and designs. No two chocolates are the same. Some have intricate patterns, while others look like little sculptures. This contrasted sharply with the John and Kira’s box, filled with 15 squares of the same shape, size, and texture (a little monotonous for a romantic gift).
Chocolates are ok seriously Not the best in town. A friend and I went there today and a old lady stepped up in front of my friend with questions and a special order. We had to eventually leave because our meter was going to run out. They really should put up stantions and a line for people that are ready. People that aren't can stand behind them. Could not believe that happened. There were others also ahead of her in line.
One of the few true bean-to-bar chocolatiers in America, Dandelion also sells macarons, hot chocolate, caramels, and pastries at its San Francisco shop. The single-origin brownies are a popular treat, but the brand’s single-origin chocolate bars, which ship nationwide, have a cult following, and each one feels like a special gift. 740 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA
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.”
Award-winning author and master chocolatier Paul A. Young deserves the accolades he receives for his creativity and mastery with all things chocolate. Walk into his tiny Camden Passage original chocolate shop and inhale the intoxicating aroma of fresh chocolate being made on-site. Young is one of the British chocolatiers who launched the chocolate revolution in London about 15 years ago, casting aside the overly sweet British chocolate of old for the fresh and innovative chocolate offerings that you’ll now find in at least a dozen top-notch chocolatiers in the capital city. Try his dark chocolate sea salt caramel pecan brownies—guaranteed to seduce every unsuspecting chocolate lover. Three locations in London found in Camden Passage, Royal Exchange, and Soho.
Within three weeks, the Tessieris decided that they weren’t going to buy chocolate anymore—they would make it. Cecilia apprenticed with bean-to-bar artisans around Europe. At first they bought cacao from brokers, but by 1997, Alessio had begun hunting it himself, from Ecuador to Madagascar to the Caribbean coast of Venezuela. This last region was especially rich with cacao of the first rank; a lot of money was at stake, and life could get rough. Four years ago, someone tried to murder a cacao buyer who worked with Valrhona, strafing his car with an automatic weapon and leaving him with a half-dozen gunshot wounds.
Susanna Yoon used to make the chocolates at Thomas Keller’s three-Michelin-starred Per Se, where each meal ends with a tableside buffet of bonbons. Yoon spun her craft into Stick With Me, a shop in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood. Inside a space roughly the size of one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets, she sells two dozen different types of bonbons, eight different types of soft caramel candies, and a handful of packaged brittles, toffees, nougats, and marshmallows. Each dome-shaped bonbon is a study in flavor pairings: The sunshine-like burst of yuzu against the soft sweetness of a white chocolate shell; nutty black sesame alongside tart passionfruit; or the dual-layered mint chocolate chip, with a flavor that unravels as it melts. 202A Mott Street, New York, NY
The phrase dark chocolate sea salt caramels should be a selling point in itself, but these bite-size treats also have something else going for them: they have almost 500 five-star reviews on online. And there’s a reason why. They make other salty-sweet chocolate-caramel combos seem lackluster in comparison. One reviewer said they have a “bold saltiness” that’s “not for the faint of heart” and another said, “My favorite candy ever!” The creamy, rich caramel is cooked to just the right consistency and the smooth chocolate goes perfectly with the visible salt flakes on top.
When you step into Jacques Torres Chocolate, you feel as though you’ve stepped into a small European specialty store. Many customers compare the experience to the movie Chocolat. Jacques specializes in fresh, handcrafted chocolates. Eat them there, where cafe tables encourage you to sit, sip hot chocolate, and enjoy a freshly baked pain au chocolat — or take a selection home. Visitors often can see the chocolate goodies being prepared behind large glass windows. There are five Jacques Torres Chocolate shops in the city, plus one in Harrah’s in Atlantic City.
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.
This is a delicious handmade product produced at their store in Lucerne, but you can also purchase at their store in Zurich. The chocolate here far exceeds the taste and quality of other chocolatiers in both Zurich and Lucerne. If you happen to go to Lucerne, be sure to taste the homemade ice cream only available here. While the chocolate ice cream was excellent, the cherry was my favorite.
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.