You've seen their chocolates at your local big-box retailer, but did you know you can build your own customized box of chocolates via the Russell Stover website? Although their selection is not gourmet or exotic, shoppers looking for a traditional variety of chocolates will find what they want with Russell Stover, which includes the well-known Whitman brand as well.
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.
I delayed sampling The Truffle Shop because the prices and shipping costs are so high, amounting to $7 per 1.3-ounce truffle when six truffles are ordered. The amaretto truffle may have been worth the experience once in a lifetime, but I have to say the rest are overpriced. The $25.50 cost for six truffles includes wonderful packaging: a nice gift wrap on the box, individually wrapped truffles in hand-assembled cups and wraps and rings. The presentation is exquisite. The $15.95 shipping paid for two-day FedEx, styrofoam packaging, and an unnecessary gel refrigerant in January, with no cheaper option available.
Truffles appear a few times on any gourmet chocolate list and many chocoholics consider them to be a standard for the gourmet category. These truffles are made by Miami Beach and it’s clear they’ve put a lot of thought into both taste and presentation. They use ingredients of the highest quality in each truffle and to top off the great taste they also have a variety of service options. Consumers can choose various preparation methods from kosher to vegan so that even those with dietary restrictions don’t have to miss out on great gourmet taste. To top everything off, the price for these truffles is pleasantly average.
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.
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.
Visiting the Republica del Cacao should be on every chocoholic's bucket list! The youngest company among our selections, the Republica del Cacao is an Ecuadorian chocolate firm founded in 2004. The brand arose out of an effort to preserve the indigenous Arriba cacao plants grown predominantly on family farms in the Manabí, Los Ríos and El Oro regions of Ecuador. Republica del Cacao's claim to fame is their single-origin dark chocolate bar, made with nothing but cacao, sugar and cocoa butter, allowing the complex flavors of each region's chocolate to speak for themselves. The company has also branched out into beverages like hot cocoa, coffee and chocolate- and coffee-flavored liqueurs.
SpagNVola husband-and-wife owners Eric and Crisoire Reid oversee entire chocolate process from farm to store, delivering unadulterated chocolate perfection. First they grow cacao at their farm perched on mountain slopes in their homeland of the Dominican Republic. The cacao pods are handpicked, then roasted and refined in their Gaithersburg, Maryland, factory. Take the free tour to learn about the origins of their chocolate and watch the kitchen’s magic. The award-winning 70 percent and 80 percent pure chocolate bars paint the clearest picture of quality, but don’t miss the boxed sets of olive oil truffles or caramel bonbons. Boutique at National Harbor and factory in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
The story of how Amedei eloped with Chuao and sent the wedding pictures to Tain l’Hermitage isn’t exactly a vision of sugar plums, but the chocolate industry has a long history of wars, most of them far more brutal. Steve DeVries, a bean-to-bar chocolate maker from Denver, used to say that the Spanish arrived in Mexico and threatened, “Give us your cacao or we’ll shoot you.” Hunting beans in Mexico, DeVries repeated the remark to an anthropologist. “No, no, no,” the anthropologist said. “Before that, the Aztecs came down and said ’Give us your cacao or we’ll cut your hearts out.’”
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.
Along with the Chocolate Chip cookies, you can choose from the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt (a brownie-like cookie made with Valrhona dark cocoa and Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips. It delivers a subtle and delightful “ting” of salt on the tongue), the clever Lemon Blueberry White Chocolate Chip, the White Chocolate Cherry Chip which is baked with tart Montmorency dried cherries, and a hefty Oatmeal Raisin.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
Because they’re meant to be gifted, I presented the chocolates in their boxes, but without the brand names showing. We felt that the presentation should be a factor in judging. We had a very strict rule against calling out a brand to the rest of the group if someone recognized the packaging. Luckily, it wasn’t an issue—no one had a clue about what was what during the tasting.
This one absolutely lives up to its name- it’s not sweet but you get the sense of sweet things being concocted in a kitchen- I feel like I’m sitting in a cafe having a dark chocolate scented cigarette. It stays close to the skin and lasts a long time- the tobacco keeps this unisex and I adore it- the drydown on my skin ignores the chocolate and favors the hint of cigar from nearby that was smoked a couple of days ago. Warm, cozy, soft. Great for cold rainy weather and people watching via a cafe window.
NEW! Ceretto Barolo + Exotic Truffle Collection. For those who appreciate and collect Italian wines. Embark on a guided wine and chocolate tasting through the Langhe region of Piemonte home to Barolo, Barbaresco and the white truffle. Ceretto 2014 Barolo Red Wine is paired with our signature 9 piece Exotic Truffle Collection and nestled in a purple gift box. This is a classic Barolo - light garnet in color with Barolo's quintessential aromas of roses, tart cherries, and hints of truffles. Ceretto's Barolo DOCG is extraordinarily approachable, and it will continue to reward the patient wine drinker as it evolves over the course of several years. Included are guided tasting notes with which you can unlock the stories of each truffle parfum and discover the chocolate and wine pairing experience.
Founder Colin Gasko is running a small but ambitious operation. Each single-origin chocolate bar at Rogue is sourced from independent farms in Peru, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Trinidad and Tobago, and Honduras. Unlike other fair-trade chocolate purveyors, Rogue pays more than twice the minimum for some of its cacao order to ensure the lasting success of those farms. Thanks to its small production, Rogue doesn’t always have a wide array available to purchase online, but each bar tastes like something special. Three Rivers, MA
In the lofty strata where Tessieri operates, “making chocolate” means that you make the chocolate. You import cacao beans from plantations. You roast them and husk them and grind the cacao nibs into a fine paste. You add sugar and grind some more. Finally you swirl the mixture in open tanks called conches, which smooths the texture while helping to blow off acids and other nasty flavors. It’s complicated, demanding work, and few small companies even attempt it.
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.
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
This chocolate brand was first manufactured in the United Kingdom. Its sister brands are ‘Milky Way’ and ‘5 Star’. Its slogan “pleasure you can’t measure” was used to appeal to more women and children. It comes in different sizes from miniature bars to regular 58 gram single bars. Limited-edition flavors include Mars Almond, Mars Gold, and Mars Maple.
Baking Notes: I cooked every brownie mix for LESS time than listed on the box. I used cake testers to test the middle to make sure the brownies were done. Click HERE for an inexpensive cake tester. None of them reached even the minimum baking time listed on the box. My advice to you is to ALWAYS set the timer for less time than listed on the box. If not, you may end up with hockey pucks for dessert!
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.