You can’t go to Belgium and not go to a chocolate shop – there are more than 2,000 throughout the country! What makes Belgian chocolate unique is that it is only cooled at the end of the production process, which allows it to hold onto more of its aroma. Belgian chocolate is also almost entirely handcrafted. These two factors do make Belgian chocolate a little more expensive, but as they say – treat yourself!
My 2005 purchase in San Francisco was slightly underweight. The chocolate felt powdery to me. The Ground Orange Gianduja was good, with orange pervading the piece, and the Hazelnut Gianduja was okay. However, the Marzipan and Honey Crunch were lackluster, and the Buttercrunch Chip was a bit dry. The weight of my 2006 Palo Alto purchase was correct. The White Gianduja was pretty good, medium-strength hazelnut flavor with some crunch.
Pastry chef Christopher Elbow worked at the American Restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri, until the demand for his chocolate petits fours convinced him to launch his own candy business in 2003. His beautiful hand-painted chocolates come in creative flavors like bananas Foster and caramel apple. Elbow also makes fantastic chocolate bars, including the favorite among F&W editors, No. 6 Dark Rocks, made with dark chocolate and popping candy. elbowchocolates.com
The flagship store of this classic American chocolate company opened in 1921 in Los Angeles. Today there are more than 200 locations across the country offering delicious chocolate candies filled with nuts, marzipan and nougat. F&W’s Kate Krader gets nostalgic for See’s Milk Bordeaux ($24.50), candy filled with brown sugar cream and topped with crispy chocolate puffed rice. sees.com
Snickers have continuously been one of the most delightful chocolate bars introduced in the market since 1930 and is one of the bars which provides a huge amount of calorie intake. Initially named Marathon until July of 1990, this chocolate bar by the American Company Mars incorporated consists of caramel and peanuts enroped in milk chocolate. The bar is one of the most preferred chocolate bars in the world with an approximate global sale value of over $2 billion.
Katalin Csiszar and her husband, Zsolt Szabad, began the award-winning Rozsavolgyi in their home in Budapest in 2004. They source beans from Venezuela growers, and roast them very lightly to preserve their true flavors. Only organic cane sugar and a small amount of of cocoa butter goes in before they are formed into intricate patterns meant to mimic fireplace tiles, and wrapped by hand in paper that looks like your chic grandma’s vintage silk scarf. Purists rave about their Criollo and Trincheras bars, but those who like surprises go for inclusions like olives and bread, and flavors of Japanese matcha, and Indian masala spices.
For over 90 years, Esther Price Candies has been making the milkiest, most scrumptious chocolates in Ohio. Based out of Dayton, this local chain’s chocolate-covered caramels are their most popular product, but no trip to one of their seven locations across the state would be complete without picking up a box of their Buckeyes — it’s the most iconic dessert in Ohio, after all.
Not only does dark chocolate reign supreme in the dessert world for its complex bittersweet taste, but it's also ranked as one of the healthiest superfoods because it's loaded with antioxidants. These powerful antioxidants naturally found in dark chocolate can actually help reduce anxiety and depression — particularly when those experiences are related to or triggered by high stress levels. So if you're experiencing the winter blues, consuming antioxidant-rich foods like dark chocolate can be an effective natural remedy.
Famous in New York and internationally as an uncompromising chocolatier, Jaques Torres makes gourmet chocolate chip cookies that are an elegant and rich version of everyone’s favorite cookie. Each cookie measures 5 inches in diameter. Jacques uses his rich, house blend 60% dark chocolate baking discs, which means this cookie skews to the adult tastes, or kids with a discerning palate.
You'll pay a little more at Ethel M, even compared with other hand-crafted chocolatiers. For example, the least expensive design-your-own box is $39.99 plus shipping. Standard shipping will cost you $9.99 unless you're ordering $100+. The good news is that their "standard" shipping is 2-day and includes insulated mini-coolers with cold packs, to keep your chocolates unmelted.
We wanted to find a wonderful gift for close and very important business associates. You know, the kind that are difficult to shop for because they have everything they need and can buy themselves anything they want. We were thrilled to find monthlyclubs.com, offering the Design Your Own gift club, and selected a unique membership that featured their amazing Gourmet Chocolate of the Month Club at incredibly reasonable and affordable prices. The selections are one-of-a-kind delights, at least that's what we heard! Even picky dieters or (gasp) someone allergic to chocolate can enjoy sharing these world class confections.
Unlike many of the boxed chocolates we've tried, the Recchiuti offer a full sensory experience, which is part of the reason to give boxed chocolates in the first place. The flavors really set this selection apart from the competition. Classic concoctions, such as Burnt Caramel and Piedmont Hazelnut, offer just the right balance of sweet and bitter, while more adventurous flavors, such as Tarragon Grapefruit and Star Anise & Pink Peppercorn, are never overpowering (a problem we've found with most other flavored chocolates). And the black-on-black packaging—sexy, but not over the top or too obvious—looks and feels much more elegant than offerings from every other brand we looked at. Inside, the jewel box holds shapes and textures far more intriguing than the monotonous square candies in most other assortments. Overall, these bonbons are far more well-rounded than others we've tried.
And, no surprise, the world winner is also a hit with esteemed makers: "Meeting the wonderful Canadian couple David and Cynthia of Soma Chocolatemaker at the International Chocolate Awards World Championships was a gift," Friis-Holm says. "The rare beans originating from the troubled country of Venezuela that are featured in their Guasare 70% bar make for a very tasty, beautifully executed and worthy world winner."
In 1948, Michel Cluizel took over his family's pastry business in Normandy, France, where travelers still flock to learn the secrets of chocolate-making at his "Chocolatrium." In 2012, Cluizel opened a second Chocolatrium; in West Berlin, New Jersey. (The only other American outlet is their Manhattan storefront.) Visitors to the European and American Chocolatriums (or is that Chocolatria?) are walked through the chocolate creation process and the history of the Cluizel brand, offered a sneak peek into the Cluizel workshop, then feast on fanciful bonbons like caramel mushrooms, "cappuccinos" filled with coffee ganache and macarolats — macaroons with different flavored coatings and fillings.
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.
We were struck by the fine presentation of this collection by Ferrero. Every piece of high-quality chocolate comes individually wrapped making them a perfect addition to any party or just a nice treat to go with after dinner wine. The box itself is designed perfectly for gift-giving and the variety of chocolates inside mean that there are tastes and textures to satisfy almost any chocolate enthusiast out there. Each piece of chocolate flawlessly combines a smooth taste with a crisp and crunchy wafer center, with a dash of hazelnuts rounding out the flavors.
Ginger Elizabeth Hahn has produced molded and flavored chocolates since 2007. Today, her shop specializes in bonbons in California-inspired flavors like Eureka lemon, raspberry rose geranium, brown butter, buttermilk lime, and olive oil sea salt. Macarons, chocolate bars, and ice cream are also on offer, though only the chocolates ship coast-to-coast. Orders are shipped the day after they’re received, with the exception of Thursday through Saturday orders, which ship the following Monday. 1801 L St. Suite 60, Sacramento, CA

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.
We saved the biggest for last. Levain’s gourmet cookies push the limits of the definition of cookie. They have been described as “Molten Cookie Dough” for their barely baked middles that ooze with warm, sweet goodness. Weighing in at 6 ounces each they are the size of generous muffin tops. Each flavor is rich, buttery, super-decadent. We had the fun of standing in line to enter the teeny tiny New York store to order one of each flavor—Chocolate Chip Walnut, Oatmeal Raisin, Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip and Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip. I was lucky to have a posse of eager tasters with me. The edges have a slightly crisp cookie texture that gives way to an interior of cookie/cake-y crumb. The cookie’s center is a barely baked oooey goooey celebration of sweet. This is not a cookie for the faint of heart.
Owner Patricia Tsai is a self-taught chocolatier whose background in the business world taught her how to avoid the pitfalls of running a sustainable food business. Since 2012, Tsai has been sourcing cacao from a small farm in Tabasco, Mexico. At Chocovivo, she roasts and grinds those beans into chocolate using a grinder made in Mexico; she also has an ancient Aztec stone grinder, which is fascinating to watch in action. The shop sells a variety of chocolate products, including hot chocolate mix and chocolate sauce, but Tsai’s single-origin and blended bars (flavored with locally sourced coffee, spices, and essences) have attracted a loyal following. Three years ago, Tsai expanded her operation to include hair and skin products made from natural cacao and cocoa butter. Chocovivo ships nationwide. 12469 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
In 2004, Los Angeles chocolatier Valerie Gordon started creating her impeccable, handmade small-batch chocolates and crispy chocolate-covered toffees topped with almonds, fleur du sel or candied fruit. Favorites of F&W’s Tina Ujlaki include the outstanding milk chocolate-dipped nougat and caramel squares. In 2011, Gordon created a line of new tea blends, cookies and petits fours. valerieconfections.com
Hershey’s Chocolate World is one of the top attractions in Hershey. Visitors can take a free tour to see how cocoa beans are transformed into Hershey’s chocolate. They also can make their own candy bar, enjoy a chocolate tasting session, tour the town of Hershey via trolley, solve a gooey whodunit in the 4D Chocolate Mystery attraction and shop at one of the largest candy stores around. Wendy Pramik for USA TODAY
Christopher Elbow ($35 for 16 pieces) was our top pick for 2014. In a blind tasting, a panel voted it their favorite. In the most recent tasting, the chocolates came across as too sweet and the flavors a little heavy-handed. While they are absolutely beautiful—the chocolates resemble baubles and jewels—they were squeezed out of the top spots by this year’s contenders.
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.
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 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.
I have always been on the hunt for good chocolate. I first found Legacy Chocolates when they had a shop in St. Paul on Marshall Avenue - it was hands down the best chocolate I had ever had! When they left the shop on Marshall and were in Menomonie, Wisconsin I was still able to enjoy their chocolate. I just called Legacy and placed my order and they shipped it right to my doorstep. So happy to welcome Legacy back to St. Paul - best chocolate ever!!
Chocolate is based in Newport Beach, California and features artisanal, handmade chocolates from independent shops throughout the United States and Canada. The retailer seeks to promote small businesses, especially because their team of chocolate enthusiasts believes that the best sweets come from the smaller shops, not the big-name brands commonly known in the chocolate world.
Nobody knows for sure how many chocolate shops there are in the U.S. today, at least in part because many of them do double duty as patisseries, ice cream parlors, or gift shops. Suffice to say that there is probably not a city or a town of any size in the country that doesn’t boast at least one purveyor of specialty chocolates, and many places have more. There are at least 80 of them in New York City, for instance, and more than 30 in Los Angeles.
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