Chuao Chocolatier: (pronounced chew-wow) This company specializes in textural surprise. The whiz kid behind the firecracker truffle (chipotle caramel fudge with sea salt and popping candy) likes to thread in a secret layer of heat that doesn’t hit until the finish so you get the full-on rich chocolaty pleasure with a spank of fun at the end. The other favorite in this tasting was the Salted Chocolate Crunch with toasted panko breadcrumbs, olive oil ganache and a dusting of sea salt—a truly devilish bit. Owners (and brothers) Michael and Richard Antonorsi. also hail from Venezuela.
Traditionally, giving Chocolate as a gift can be a time consuming process. Driving to the local grocery or chocolate store, searching the limited selection, bringing it home, wrapping up the item, and then getting back in your car again to drive to the local Fed Ex or UPS Store to make the delivery actually happen - it can all be a time-consuming and frustrating challenge for anyone.
The love for chocolate does not discriminate. No matter how old you are, where you are from, how much money you have, or what your social status is, chances are there is some kind of chocolate that you can't say no to. There is a reason why chocolate is loved by people around the world -- it actually causes a chemical reaction in the brain that makes you happy.
The Brownie Taste Test was around the corner, so the first thing I needed to do was to purchase the brownie mixes. I went to four stores, ensuring that I was getting a good feel for what was readily available at grocery stores around the country. I didn’t want to get specific kinds that some people couldn’t find in their local market. I wanted to test the most popular and recognizable brands.
Chef Michael Cappelli talks about his 40 years as a Hershey employee inside the Bear’s Den sports-themed restaurant in Hershey Lodge. Cappelli, who also runs Fire & Grain in Hershey Lodge, works the company’s signature chocolate into many food items such as scallops, barbecue sauce and salad dressing. “We’re constantly looking for new ways to incorporate chocolate into our menu,” he says. Wendy Pramik for USA TODAY
Lindt is one of the most experienced companies you will ever come across today. They produce premium quality products, and this has made customers to love them day by day. One of Lindt’s products is the 4.9 oz Swiss Luxury Selection, which comes in a sophisticated and elegantly designed collection. It is a tasty chocolate that contains 14 European-style praline pieces. Plus it is dark and white and made with premium Lindt milk, which makes it tastier. The Lindt 4.9 oz Swiss Luxury Selection makes a great gift idea for any chocolate lover.
Blue’s Chocolates (formerly Chocolatier Blue) features fine chocolates of diverse flavors. One of my favorites was the Sweet Potato Casserole, for its novel flavor. The sweet potato flavor was well presented and balanced with the chocolate. The Hazelnut was also excellent. Hazelnut is a traditional flavor in chocolates, but the natural hazelnut flavor shone in this piece without being bitter. Other favorites included 75% Dark, Lemon, Pistachio, Passion Fruit Caramel, Candy Cane, and Pear. The PB Crunch was crunchy and had a nice peanut flavor with a pleasant tang.
Another Swiss chocolate brand you might know is Milka, thanks to its logo featuring a purple cow with a bell around its neck. Milka sells its chocolate in a variety of packages and flavors. Some of its chocolate bar flavors include milk chocolate, milk chocolate with Oreo, strawberry yogurt, caramel, white chocolate, white coconut, and whole hazelnut.
Bartender Drew Scott pours a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Martini at Fire & Grain inside Hershey Lodge. The cocktail combines Castries Peanut Rum Crème, 360 Double Chocolate Vodka and Marie Brizard Chocolat Royal liqueur. Hershey offers several chocolate-themed cocktails at various bars inside the lodge and The Hotel Hershey. Wendy Pramik for USA TODAY
My wife and I purchased a Chocolate of the Month Club for her Grandmother who lived in another state. It was a great gift, easy and convenient for us, and as a chocolate lover, she was thrilled. The best part was that every month, when she would receive her next shipment, she would call us and tell us all about it, and it gave us a chance to talk, catch up on her life, and stay connected. We hadn't anticipated the extra benefit of choosing that gift, but we truly appreciated it.
The lucky residents of Sacramento have a treasure in Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates. The Hazelnut Praline was excellent, with evocative hazelnut. The Almond Rocher had a great texture. Its almond was well balanced with the choolate although it could have been stronger. The Peanut Butter Croquant also had an excellent balance with the flavors brought out well, including a little zip to the peanut butter.
The Tessieris work about 40 miles west of Florence, close to the Arno, and not far from Pisa; the Italian wine and food magazine Gambero Rosso has called this region the Chocolate Valley because of the concentration of chocolatiers who work there—among them Paul de Bondt, Roberto Catinari and Luca Mannori. The Chocolate Valley is not nearly as famous as other parts of Tuscany. For me, this only increased its allure. While other tourists inched through the vineyards of Chianti staring at the exhaust pipe of the rental car just ahead, I would be lazily bobbing along in a rowboat, dipping pieces of bread over the side into the world’s biggest fondue.
Amedei sits just outside Pontedera, where they build those stylish Vespa scooters that make even old Italians look young. Amedei’s factory, a low brick structure, used to be an iron foundry. Alessio and Cecilia met me inside a tasting room, where a table was set with linen tablecloths and silver chargers. Two large jars were prominently displayed; filled with what looked like water, each held a large, red, heart-shaped object. Cecilia wore a severe suit of charcoal gray, a no-nonsense expression, and a red scarf; the factory was cold that day. Alessio’s face was round and rosy, and his rimless eyeglasses made him look more like a graduate student than a chocolate baron.
Chocolat Céleste is a mixed bag; I have enjoyed some pieces but not all (relative to experienced expected for the price), and prices have escalated. I suggest the Grand Cru collection. Although pricey, $139/lb. in 2012, it is a rare opportunity to taste criollo (a type of cacao, from which chocolate is made). I enjoyed the criollo pieces in the collection. They should be approached as a tasting experience: Cleanse your palate with water, smell, taste, let the chocolate dissolve, and take the time to experience it. The collection also has non-criollo pieces that I found a bit flat and dry compared to the criollo.
It is one of the oldest and most popular chocolatiers in the world. It’s pretty tough to resist oneself in the streets of France with a view of Valrhona store in front of the eyes. Valrhona found its inception in 1922 in France. The founder of the chocolate production company belongs from Rhone Valley. At Valrhona, you can explore a wide array of premium chocolate recipes created with sheer excellence and care by the expert professionals. This is a great place to try some incredibly high-quality chocolates grown in a hygienic environment. When you visit Valrhona, don’t hesitate to pull out few more bucks to experience the world-class chocolates.
See’s ($18 for 1 pound, available nationwide) was one of the value picks in our tasting lineup. Their chocolates tend to be bigger, enough for two bites instead of one, with a mix of dark and milk chocolate, around old-fashioned nougat and nut caramel fillings. While it got three strikes against it, it also got one third place vote. The assortment may be a nostalgic standby for devotees, but it can’t compete with the more boutique chocolates out there. Still, they were far and away better than Russell Stover.
This Italian chocolatier specializes in hazelnut-flavored chocolate pralines, combining a hazelnut chocolate cream and a whole hazelnut with a crisp chocolate shell in either milk or dark chocolate. It’s a decadent chocolate experience, but with a complexity and mild bitterness from the hazelnut that makes it a more adult experience. Perfect for nut lovers.
Xocolatti’s globally-inspired truffles and slates (very thin versions of chocolate bark ($28) with layers that recall slate rock) come in seven exotic flavors like mango and paprika with white chocolate. “In India, we usually eat fruit with spices on it, and one of the most popular combinations is mangos with paprika on top,” says founder Shaineal Shah. xocolatti.com
The most famous Venezuelan cacao of all comes from Chuao. The trees of Chuao are shielded by mountains from all but the warm Caribbean breezes; the soil is naturally irrigated by three cascading rivers. Doutre-Roussel calls the region “one of the jewels of the earth.” Besides the microclimate, Chuao has centuries-old traditions of harvesting and preparing cacao. First it’s fermented to develop the compounds that will later blossom into rich aromatics, then it’s laid out on the parvis in front of the village church to dry slowly in the sun. Because the farmers worked together as a cooperative, Chuao is one of the only places where a chocolate maker could buy, at one stroke, 9 to 10 tons of uniformly excellent cacao. Until recently, that chocolate maker was Valrhona. Today every last kilo of cacao from Chuao goes to Amedei.
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
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.
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.
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Both gluten-free and kosher, this 24-ounce box of American chocolate includes 60 pieces, all made with real milk or dark chocolate. You'll get an assortment of chocolate with nuts, chewy centers, and (of course) classic cherry-centered chocolates. Made in the USA, this is a classic American box of chocolates that's been around for ages and may inspire major nostalgic feelings.
This South American country may not be the first to come to mind when you think about the world's best chocolate, but it should be. Research suggests that cocoa originated in Ecuador, where it was cultivated and eaten over 5,000 years ago. The most flavorful chocolate produced today comes from aromatic "arriba cacao," from which only 5 percent of the world's chocolate is made. Sixty-three percent of that cacao is grown in Ecuador. One of the country's top three brands, Pacari, continues to collect international awards. Kallari and Republica del Cacao chocolates also have bold Ecuadorian flavors.
My husband Evan got me a subscription to your gourmet chocolate of the month club as a gift. It was one of the best gifts I've ever gotten - our whole family looks forward to each month's new arrival of chocolates. We share the pieces, savoring every bite. Each one is better than the last! Our 2 year old son Calder gets so excited whenever he sees the beautiful packaging, he loves to keep the "presents" even long after the chocolates have been devoured. Of course he is even more excited by the "special treats" inside. Thank you for bringing so much joy into our home each month!
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.