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.
Owner Alexandra Clark was a student of chocolate economics, so it’s safe to say she knows the business from top to bottom. At Bon Bon Bon, she flavors her bonbons with locally sourced ingredients, uses recyclable packaging (a rare commitment in the industry), and has a crew of internationally trained chocolatiers who call themselves the “Babes Babes Babes.” They put out a massive variety of delightful, open-topped chocolates, including the He Loves Me Not, which is angel tears tea-infused dark chocolate ganache topped with flower petals. The shop ships nationwide. 719 Griswold Street #100, Detroit, MI
Travelers can plan indulgent travels to the country with tours, classes and even a festival. In Pullman rail cars, vintage, first-class coaches whisk guests through scenic landscapes from Montreux to the Cailler-Nestlé factory in Broc. The 9-hour journey takes place from May to mid-October and includes coffee, croissants, cheese fondue and, of course, chocolate samples. For a more hands-on experience, attend a chocolate-making class at Confiserie Isler in Stäfa. Amateurs and pros alike will enjoy tasting a range of chocolates with an aperitif as they learn to mold and decorate an Easter bunny. Finally, Festichoc, an annual chocolate festival that began in 2017 with more than 50,000 attendees, takes place in Geneva during March over the course of two days.
Valrhona, the Rolls Royce of chocolate, has been crafting couvertures (chocolates with high cocoa content) since 1922. Hailing from France's Rhône Valley, Valrhona's wine country influence is unmistakable. The label on each Valrhona cru (single origin bar) bears the name of that bean's terroir, the most exclusive of these being the Vintage Single Origin bars, sold in limited quantities according to crop yield. Valrhona also suggests wine pairings designed to bring out the "notes" in each chocolate's complex flavor profile. From chocolate pearls to tasting squares, the brand's nec-plus-ultra chocolate bar selection is available at specialty grocery stores.
Olive & Sinclair isn’t just Nashville’s first bean-to-bar chocolate shop, it’s the first such store in all of Tennessee. This small-batch shop does everything in-house, from stone-grinding their cocoa to finishing up the ethically sourced, organic confections. The results are scrumptious, of course, and include signature Tennessee items like bourbon brittle and caramels alongside duck fat caramels that simply melt in your mouth.
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.
If you are looking at this product and reviews, chances are you have already eaten a lot of dark chocolate. If you haven’t, this isn’t a great place to start given the cacoa content is so high (I found this out myself the hard way). I used to eat mainly milk chocolate, which is primarily sugar. I initially tried an 85% dark and despised it. I then worked my way up starting with like a 45%, then 60%, than 72%, then 85%, then 88-100%...which worked a lot better as my taste could adapt to the change (for better or worse [better for me as I need to watch my dietary intake and want the health benefits of dark chocolate], standard commercial milk chocolate is now so overly sweet to me that I cannot eat it.)
I was introduced to Alegio Chocolate on a chocolate crawl and bought a selection to taste at home. The Raspberry had a good balance with strong raspberry and good chocolate working together. The Orange was similar but slightly milder. The Santa Domingo is an unusal combination of green olive, licorice, currants, and apricot. Those flavors actually stood to the side a bit to present the chocolate at center stage. The Espresso worked well with a slightly salted caramel. The Habeñero had a little bite to it, while the Honey was of course sweet. Throughout the pieces, distinct chocolate flavors were presented well.
After surveying the options, devil’s food seemed like the best choice for side-by-side testing. Since the key characteristic of a devil’s food cake is its richness, we figured we’d be able to judge more fairly by basing our test on the big brands’ most indulgent offerings. Next, the pros in our Test Kitchen baked each cake according to the directions on its package. To rid our bakers and testers of any preconceived biases, we prepared and compared each brand without its flashy packaging or marketing claims.
Created by Austrian chocolatier Joseph Zotter in 1987, Zotter Chocolates offers 365 flavors, produced each day of the year! While we taste-tested an assortment of flavors ranging from the creamy, caramel-filled Coffee Toffee to the not-for-the-faint-of-heart 100% cacao Peru bar, the Goji Berries in Sesame Nougat emerged as the unanimous favorite. This milk chocolate bar is studded with dried goji berries and filled with layers of green tea ganache, homemade nougat and soy and sesame filling. Also worth noting is the colorful and unique artwork that covers each bar designed by Andreas h. Gratze.
The O chocolates are more of a novelty, disks with a thin filling. While the flavors are okay, the fillings are too small to contribute much. So I leave these pieces to people who just want chocolate with a little bit of something else. At £42/lb., they do not enjoy the same price attractiveness as the Couture chocolates. I did not try the truffles or salted caramels but suspect you will not go wrong sampling them.
When I spoke with Eric Case of Valrhona Chocolate, he made a point to differentiate filled chocolates from chocolate bars: “Chocolate and chocolates. Chocolate is something made from a bean, to give to someone that then creates a bonbon, or a confection, or a candy. ‘Chocolates’ are all kinds of things that happen to use chocolate in the ingredients, but they also have marzipan, toffee, nuts, or fruit.” Because of these additions, the shelf life of a quality box of chocolates is (generally) much shorter than that of a bar.
To identify the best chocolate shop in each state, 24/7 Wall St. indexed ratings weighted by number of reviews for thousands of chocolate shops nationwide on Yelp and Google. To be considered, a chocolate shop must be in or near a city with a population of at least 100,000 people. In states with few or no cities of this size, chocolate shops in smaller cities were also considered. Ratings are the number of points given by Yelp and Google users out of a possible 5.
Master chocolatier Christopher Curtin makes incredible salted caramel truffles and bonbons filled with Shiraz-infused ganache at Éclat Chocolate, but his pretzel bar, infused with the flavor of Pennsylvania Dutch pretzels, might be the ultimate salty and sweet chocolate concoction. Shipping options vary, depending upon distance; see order guidelines for details. 24 South High Street, West Chester, PA
On the other hand, the pieces from Whole Foods Market were not as impressive. The Elizabeth, Antoinette, and Madeleine were good. The Jeanett had a strong mint flavor that overpowered its white chocolate. The Sophie is marzipan with lemon, which is interesting. I wanted more marzipan, but it was good. Not everything worked. The Valentina is a chewy caramel with lavender. Lavender is aromatic, but that was distracting, and it did not contribute a pleasing flavor. The Patricia certainly had chili but was weak on tangerine. These were fine for grocery store chocolates, but lackluster for the price, $51/lb. The box has drawings illustrating the pieces, but I was unable to match several pieces to the drawings.
Though this taste test determined which cake we prefer, it’s worth noting that there was one ingredient missing—the frosting! It’s easy to imagine that many of these brands would have tasted sweeter, more moist and flavorful with a dollop of creamy frosting on top…unless, of course, you’re on board with the naked cake trend. Even if you don’t have a five-star boxed mix on hand, delicious icing can go a long way toward improving a so-so cake.