Do you agree with the Best Brownie Mix winner? I would love to hear your favorites. What brownie mix do you stand by? I have to admit that I have always loved Ghirardelli and Betty Crocker Triple Chunk so I wasn’t too surprised. The beauty of it is that I had 20 willing judges who didn’t confer with each other. There were definitely clear-cut winners.
Known for iconic brands like Godiva Chocolatier and home to two of the world's largest chocolate factories, Callebaut and Puratos, Belgium has a rich chocolate history. Flanders, the Flemish region, is often called the "capital of chocolate," though the country at large holds more than 320 chocolate shops. Production began as early as 1635 when Belgium was occupied by the Spanish who introduced the New World product to the country.
Something was also lost in presentation. The uniformity of the pieces made for a bland appearance. An open box showed an array of blocks. The nearly identical undecorated chocolates lacked the attractiveness of of other chocolatiers’ colorful pieces with diverse shapes and decorations. And, while creative effort has clearly gone into zChocolat’s collection, I found the pieces pleasant but not compelling.
The Connoisseur Collection is an assortment of delightful flavors, but it is weak on chocolate. Many of the pieces are very sweet or creamy or fruity but have little or no chocolate flavor. Some do, such as the Aztec with its chocolate flavor that is simultaneously strong and delicate. In spite of the poor representation of chocolate, I would be tempted to recommend the Connoisseur Collection for the other wonderful flavors, including passion fruit, chai tea, orange and pistachio marzipans, and hazelnut. Unfortunately, the product I received weighed 5.5 ounces, much less than the 6.7 ounces claimed. This makes the price $105 per pound, which is hugely overpriced.
For more than 30 years, Seattle-based owner Fran Bigelow has been setting candy trends—she was selling miniature chocolate bars and elegant truffles before they became ubiquitous. Her sweets also have a very high-profile admirer: As a lover of salty-sweet desserts, one of President Obama’s favorite indulgences is Fran’s Smoked Salt Caramels ($12)—buttery caramels coated in milk chocolate and sprinkled with smoked sea salt. franschocolates.com
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.
A mural of Milton S. Hershey adorns The Hershey Story Museum, which tells the story of Hershey’s rise to become one of the top chocolatiers in the world. Born on a Pennsylvania farm in 1857, Hershey eventually turned to chocolates and used fresh farm milk to mass-produce milk chocolate, which was until then a luxury confection. Wendy Pramik for USA TODAY
Christmas is soon approaching and you may want to surprise your loved ones with a unique gift that will not just warm their hearts but also make this coming Christmas a day to remember. And one of the gifts you can consider is a boxed chocolate. Tasty and delicious, a boxed chocolate will no doubt bring joy to the people you love. A good number of them come in well-decorated boxes and tins, and this makes them a stunning gift for anyone who loves chocolate.
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 there is probably not a city or a town of any size in the country that doesn’t boast at least one purveyor of chocolates. There are at least 25 in New York City, for instance, and more than 30 in Los Angeles.
Who would think we would be singing the praises of Canadian chocolate? Soma, which began in 2003, describes itself as a place to "eat, drink, and worship chocolate". Visitors can experience their small-batch chocolate-making up close at the micro-factory on the Toronto store's premises. Their menu boasts an impressive display of mind-blowing creativity, like "Sparky" Gianduja pralines laced with Pop Rocks, Gooderham Worts Whiskey truffles and the 8-Year Aged Balsamic Vinegar truffles. Bars are available in rectangle or circle form — Soma's Chocolate Possible Worlds bars come as 200-gram oversized disks, such as the "Ruby Red" bar topped with wild cherries, cranberries, barberries and dusted with Sumac powder. O Canada!
Glacier Confection makes some of the prettiest chocolates you’ll ever lay your eyes on, both in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and beyond the city limits. Each and every chocolate, from their blood orange and honey to their cookie dough-inspired confection is beautifully marbled, shiny, and oh-so-smooth. What makes this chocolatier unique is their coffeehouse, cocktail and dessert-inspired treats.
In researching and testing for this guide, I was surprised to find that expensive doesn’t always mean high quality. Some of the costly boutique chocolates we tried were clearly made from inferior beans, with flavor that just died on the tongue. The Recchiuti chocolates, on the other hand, are worth the money, with the subtle flavors that come from great cacao.
The zChocolat collection of chocolates combine with Valencia almonds, Piedmont hazelnuts, quality French butter and cream in the ganaches are world renowned. These are not your typical box of chocolates as you can expect caramels, pralines, Chocamandine, Orangettes, Pistachio-almond marzipan sprinkled with pieces of caramelized pistachios, passion fruit caramel, Venezuelan dark chocolate ganache, Hazelnut praline infused with coffee ganache, gifts catered to Valentine's Day with heart shaped chocolate and more. zChocolat is also unique in that it's made in the purest form, low in sugar, with no preservatives, no coloring, all natural ingredients, no alcohol and 100% pure cocoa butter.
Christopher Elbow Chocolates is a Kansas City, Missouri, shop that takes the phrase “artisanal chocolates” to the next level. Each and every piece of candy is painted by hand, making these more like tiny, edible pieces of art than an after-dinner treat. The creativity extends beyond looks; these chocolates come in inventive flavors such as rosemary, Japanese yuzu and calamansi lime as well as an ever-rotating list of limited-edition flavors.
However, it is the chocolate that counts here. Norman Love falls short. Although the pieces were visually great, quite polished, and perfectly executed, they did not use chocolate well. Perhaps a third had a good chocolate presence. There were quite good non-chocolate flavors, including peanut butter, pistachio, lime, and pumpkin. The Peanut Butter & Jelly was very good but not good enough to justify putting them in an expensive confection.
You will actually have to visit Amsterdam to sample what may be the best chocolates in the Netherlands. The proprietors of Puccini Bomboni, a delightful cafe and restaurant, hand-make each chocolate on the premises and do not deliver. Exotic combinations of chocolate and spices, concocted from the freshest ingredients, are a specialty. Although the variety isn’t enormous, the quality is truly amazing.
For $260, in late 2014, you could've gotten yourself a To’ak 2014 Rain Harvest 50s gram Chocolate Bar. It was Fair-Trade, USDA certified, 81% dark chocolate and came in a box made from Spanish Elm engraved with the specific bar number, as only 574 were made. There was also a 116 page booklet included, so you could read it and remind yourself why you spent $260 on a chocolate bar. The only ingredients, by the way, were cocoa and cane sugar.
Doreen Pendgracs has spent the past seven years scouring the planet in search of the world’s finest chocolate and most memorable chocolate experiences. She is the author of the award-winning book Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate. She is currently researching the second volume, Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate Adventures. Read her writing about the world of chocolate.
Do you know someone who can’t live without a piece of chocolate every day? Gift him or her this overflowing package of gourmet chocolate goodies. Each box contains a variety of chocolate covered treats, from fluffy marshmallow pops dipped in milk chocolate to dusted chocolate peanut butter toffee balls. For dark chocolate lovers, there's an impressive assortment of treats that are dipped in dark chocolate. Reviewers say this generous box was packaged beautifully and offered a nice variety and unique flavors. Be sure to find a truly committed chocolate fan for this gift basket!
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.
In addition to the informational articles below, you’ll find reviews of products that we think are the best gourmet chocolate (and make the best chocolate gifts for people who know good chocolate). You can find more chocolate gift ideas in the Gift-Finder section. If you have suggestions, comments, or want to tell us about your favorite chocolates, we’d love to hear from you.
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
With four boutique locations throughout Seattle, this shop gets its name from Fran Bigelow, a master chocolatier who is renowned for her harmonious blending of textures and flavors. Find silky smooth ganache fillings in dark and milk chocolate truffles or discover tart apricots, plump figs, organic almonds and ginger in fruit and nut box collections. Plus, Fran’s various signature gold bars and gold bites combine indulgence with elegance.
The pieces in a one-pound box were quite varied in appearance, with few repetitions. Most pieces have full flavors of moderate strength. The designs were elegant but not as ornate as Burdick’s. The cinnamon-ginger piece was very good, and the chocolate-coconut mixture is notable. Some pieces are somewhat ordinary, not entirely worthy of a fine chocolatier.
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.
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All-Around Favorite: Chocolopolis: The defining difference between these chocolates and others we tasted was the utterly complex and rich ganache inside each different truffle. Chocolopolis has one of the largest collections of craft chocolate bars in the world—many of which they incorporate into their truffles. The Champions Box (my favorite) features all of their award-winning truffles. Lacquered and glossy, each truffle delivers serious taste, (think lemon-lavender white chocolate or the Madagascar dark chocolate). The top taste was the Dominican Republic House Blend truffle, made from their proprietary blend of select Dominican Republic couvertures (cacao). Chocolopolis founder Lauren Adler notes, “I’d compare our style of confections to the French tradition, where it’s really about the quality and the flavor of the chocolate.” Her caramel cups dusted with a cluster of sea salt are worth a bite too.
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.