The Oaxaca truffle, for example, uses guajillo and pasilla chilies with 75% cacao Tanzanian dark chocolate and pumpkin seeds, while the Naga truffle is filled with sweet Indian curry and coconut that's covered by 45% cacao deep milk chocolate. If you're getting a bit freaked out by the experimental flavors, have no fear — there are also chocolates with cherries, hazelnuts, and other more traditional ingredients inside.
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.
Candy — and especially chocolate — has been associated with Valentine’s Day since the 19th century. English confectioner Richard Cadbury started packaging his chocolates in heart-shaped boxes adorned with Cupids and rosebuds as early as 1861, and by the early 20th century, what had originally been a religious holiday had become fully commercialized. Candy shops (and florists) reaped the benefits.
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).

Review: When we first saw this box we didn't really have high expectations but considering this was the only chocolate assortment that was nearly wiped out by our testers, it's safe to say it's a true contender. Like the other Russell Stover on the list, this heart has a lot of variety but unlike its counterpart the chocolates seem to have a little more inspiration and flavor behind them. Overall reactions boiled down to head nods of approval from our tasters so if you're looking for something good that isn't wildly expensive, this is a great way to go.

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.


The Hershey Story Museum in downtown Hershey tells the story of Milton S. Hershey’s initial struggles with building a business before the chocolate-bar king put it all together. Visitors can browse the extensive educational displays, which feature historical photos and early advertising examples of Hershey’s chocolate products. The museum also offers a tasting bar and the Chocolate Lab, where visitors can craft a bar and learn how cocoa beans are transformed into confections. Wendy Pramik for USA TODAY
People were surprised when Anthony Bourdain's Good & Evil chocolate bar debuted in 2012 at more than $100 a pound, but Amedei's Venezuelan-sourced Porcelana bar already weighs in at more than $160 per pound. Cecilia Tessieri — one of the world's few female chocolatiers — makes some of the most expensive chocolate in the world. Since opening its doors in 1990, the Tuscany-based brand Amedei has contributed to a $27,000 cupcake in Dubai, as well as a $1,000 sundae at New York's Serendipity. Tessieri also makes an eclectic line of pralines, the filled chocolate bonbons that inspired her to go into business in the first place, and excellent bars such as the Cru Madagascar Extra Dark Chocolate (70 per cent) or Chuao Bar (70 per cent). But her creations are not for the budget-conscious!
Review: When we first saw this box we didn't really have high expectations but considering this was the only chocolate assortment that was nearly wiped out by our testers, it's safe to say it's a true contender. Like the other Russell Stover on the list, this heart has a lot of variety but unlike its counterpart the chocolates seem to have a little more inspiration and flavor behind them. Overall reactions boiled down to head nods of approval from our tasters so if you're looking for something good that isn't wildly expensive, this is a great way to go.
Launched in 2006, the Seattle-based Theo Chocolate was the first chocolate manufacturer in the US to be both 100 percent organic and fair-trade. (The Fair Trade Certificate goes only to eco-friendly products made by workers who are paid enough to cover their basic needs and reinvest in their operations.) Theo’s conscientious chocolates are delicious: nuanced and intense, like dark, single-origin bars from nations such as Ghana and Madagascar. Founder Joseph Whinney is so passionate about chocolate that he hired a biologist to genetically map Theo’s beans. Not all of Theo’s endeavors are so serious: 3,400 Phinney bars, named for the factory’s street address, come in whimsical flavors like the salty-sweet Bread and Chocolate ($7), featuring dark chocolate mixed with bread crumbs; it’s perfect with afternoon coffee. theochocolate.com
Considered to be some of the very best chocolate in all of New England, Lake Champlain Chocolate is a Burlington, Vermont, staple that carries wonderfully executed gourmet chocolates. Their hot chocolate is some of the most indulgent and delicious of its kind, and that luxurious texture and flavor of chocolate extends to all their handcrafted treats.
K’s 4-star review: Champagne Truffles are amazing. When you shop in the store, they have "mini" truffles which are even better. I absolutely recommend these as a highlight of a trek along 5th Ave (among other distractions). Other chocolates from the case weren't as impressive (or disappointing: the triple-layer gianduja was dry and crumbled apart in the bag). Oh, and don't expect that the chocolate will be packaged nicely with a self-selected assortment: you get a clear plastic baggy like you just bought bulk dime store candy. Otherwise, staff was courteous and helpful. So, yay! I'm a fan of one piece! Rather generous rating for one piece ... ah well.
Because Jacques Torres is as serious about technique as he is about fun, it’s possible to walk out of one of his eight New York City stores without a pure, single origin bar of dark chocolate and a bag full of chocolate-covered Cheerios (the idea for which he had when a mother quieted her wailing baby with a handful of the cereal.) His 80 percent Porcelana cocoa bars are unusually sweet and silky for chocolate with such a high cocoa content, but Torres says the qualities of these rare, special beans allow him to ratchet up the cocoa without adding more sugar.
Kate Weiser’s pieces were very attractive, the flavors wre not bad, and some of the compositions were interesting and appealing. Unfortunately, most of the flavors were too weak. I can only recommend the pieces with stronger flavors, including the Pistachio, Cookie Monster, Ninja Turtle, Key Lime Pie, Peanut Brittle, Cherry Almond, Lavender Apricot, and Salted Caramel. That is a broad enough range (fruit, nut, and other flavors) that most people would find several things to like and can craft an order likely to please themselves. The Pistachio blended its pistachio and hazelnut flavors nicely. The Cookie Monster is a novelty piece rather than traditional flavors but is well executed with its cookie base and vanilla bean ganache. In contrast, the title flavor in another novelty piece, the Sweet Potato, was very weak. Additionally, the chocolate flavor in many pieces is not well represented.
Review: Let's just say you get what you pay for and since you'll have to shell out top dollar ($50 to be exact) for these babies, we can assure you, they're good. However, we do have to point out that they are tasty, but not amazing. One taster described one of the Godiva's as "[feeling] like a hug, a milky embrace" while another brought things back to earth with "the special edition truffle, not so special." Don't worry, while not every piece is delectable, there are some definite stand outs, so they're worth the extra dough.
There is nothing conventional about Kate Weiser’s chocolate bars. They are painstakingly crafted, yes, but from there Weiser goes rogue, taking the grandest Venezuelan cocoa and adding açaí berries, or, in the ultimate rebellious act, going blonde with a caramel and sesame seed brittle bar. Her riotous, Jackson-Pollock-splatter-painted candy bars and bonbons are beautiful the way a punk rock romance might be—exuberant and irreverent in style and taste.
Assortments include gift boxes, baskets, and samplers, or you could order a chocolate of the month collection for a gift that lasts. Their blue bandana chocolate bars are made from beans sourced directly from the farmers, while the five-star bars are filled with nuts, caramel, fruit, or granola. And that’s just the beginning bars of this chocolate serenade.
Whether you’re celebrating an anniversary, giving your sweetheart Valentine’s Day treat, making a delicious apology, or just buying some chocolates for your consumption, few products are more versatile than a box of chocolate. They make for the perfect gift or the perfect snack and are ideal for any chocoholic that likes variety and mystery in each bite.
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. Shops listed for South Dakota and West Virginia had only a small number of reviews, but were the highest-rated shops for their states. Ratings are the number of points given by Yelp and Google users out of a possible 5.

She walked to the sideboard and pulled down three trays, each arrayed with a different cru. Valrhona was the first to borrow that wine term and apply it to chocolate; Amadei uses it to describe bars made with beans from the same region. Amedei’s Grenada I Cru was quiet and had something about it that reminded me of raspberries. The Jamaica was stronger and made me think of pipe tobacco; so did the Venezuela, but it also had a durable aftertaste of good black coffee. Then Cecilia offered me a tray of the first chocolate she made, called Toscano Black 70 percent. This time, I had trouble picking individual voices out of the choir. I mostly remember the overall sensation of getting all the deliciousness any sane person could want.
I visited Melt while in transit through London and was only able to sample a few pieces. My favorite was the Crispy Croquant, a hazelnut feuillantine with superb texture, excellent hazelnut flavor, and a nice scent. The Raspberry and Mint marvelously combined those flavors with a soft raspberry ganache and crystallized mint leaves in a white chocolate shell. The Sea Salted Praline and Gianduja Dome were also very good. The Sea Salted Caramel trailed a bit behind. It lost points for falling apart when bitten into and a strong note in the caramel that did not quite harmonize with the rest of the piece for me.
American consumers are expected to spend an astonishing $1.8 billion-plus on candy for the holiday this year, and about 75% of that will be on chocolate. Mass-market confectioners like Russell Stover, in business since 1923, will account for most of the sales. (The company, which also owns the Whitman’s brand, is the largest boxed-candy manufacturer in America.) Most smaller chocolate shops prepare special Valentine’s Day assortments and/or other chocolate-related gifts, though, and these tend to offer greater variety and utilize better-quality chocolate.
Let’s be honest, all chocolate is good, but the true artisans make chocolate that transcends good---taking us into the realm of speechless. The chocolates featured in this story were tasted, debated over, and tasted again. If they delivered on impact, richness and the element of surprise, they made the cut. One final note, almost every chocolatier made a spicy chocolate offering—and only one, Chuao, pulled it off in a delicate, surprising (not punishing) way. Heat in a chocolate truffle can border on cruel sometimes. It was also nice to see that bacon and chocolate have parted ways--as we did not receive any pork-inspired truffles this year. Otherwise, it was a very nice showing. Happy indulging.
The actual Black Dinah shop in Westbrook is tiny and unassuming, but don’t let the small size of the storefront detour you from trying their fresh artisan chocolates. Their truffles and chocolates are picture-perfect and come in stunning flavors such as pear Champagne and brown butter (the latter is painted with a signature Maine lobster). Their sipping chocolate, which is rich and creamy, is also a must-have for those long, cold Maine winter nights.
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.

Launched in 2006, the Seattle-based Theo Chocolate was the first chocolate manufacturer in the US to be both 100 percent organic and fair-trade. (The Fair Trade Certificate goes only to eco-friendly products made by workers who are paid enough to cover their basic needs and reinvest in their operations.) Theo’s conscientious chocolates are delicious: nuanced and intense, like dark, single-origin bars from nations such as Ghana and Madagascar. Founder Joseph Whinney is so passionate about chocolate that he hired a biologist to genetically map Theo’s beans. Not all of Theo’s endeavors are so serious: 3,400 Phinney bars, named for the factory’s street address, come in whimsical flavors like the salty-sweet Bread and Chocolate ($7), featuring dark chocolate mixed with bread crumbs; it’s perfect with afternoon coffee. theochocolate.com


Anette’s Chocolate Factory has a nice variety of chocolates, more than your usual Standard assortment. Examples include the Peach Cobbler, Roasted Hazelnut Morsel, Mint Truffle, Triple Berry, and Himalayan Salted Caramel. They were a bit hit and miss for me, but I would say their milk or dark Ensemble (12 truffles, 18 others) or Anette’s Assorted (30 others) boxes are a good deal.
K’s 5-star review: Nama grand mariner and Nama champagne: rich and delicious. Absolutely. Remind me of Burdick's Pave, which are one of my absolute favorites. The Nama are a better value -- more pieces with the benefit of a handy prong to keep all the cocoa dusted pieces from feather off on your fingers. Boxes run $18.00 each as of 4/2014. Potato chips: really didn't click. Tasted greasy and didn't flatter either -- more guilt and less pleasure.
If you get a huge box of chocolates and can’t finish them in two weeks, you can store them in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. After that, the flavors of the creams and ganaches can turn stale. When storing chocolates in the refrigerator, take the same steps you would when refrigerating chocolate bars. Be sure to wrap the box very well in plastic wrap, and seal in a zip-top plastic bag. Prior to eating, let the chocolates come to room temperature before unwrapping to avoid any condensation.
Troegs Brewing has set the pace of the Hershey craft beer scene since 1997. Founded by brothers John and Chris Trogner, Troegs offers a large selection of lagers, wheat beers, hop-laden ales, Belgian-style ales and seasonal brews. A visit to the tasting room and snack bar is a great way to wrap up a brewery tour, offered daily. Wendy Pramik for USA TODAY

If you get a huge box of chocolates and can’t finish them in two weeks, you can store them in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. After that, the flavors of the creams and ganaches can turn stale. When storing chocolates in the refrigerator, take the same steps you would when refrigerating chocolate bars. Be sure to wrap the box very well in plastic wrap, and seal in a zip-top plastic bag. Prior to eating, let the chocolates come to room temperature before unwrapping to avoid any condensation.
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