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.
Krader’s conclusions are based on her own, explicitly biased preferences. “I have a sweet tooth, so I don’t always like the bitter chocolates that go up to astronomically high cocoa amounts,” she said. “Sometimes chocolate can be too intensely chocolate.” The truffles were graded on taste, aesthetic, and overall presentation. Check out her findings below, listed from good to incredible.
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.
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.
Named after Venezuela’s legendary cacao-producing region, Chuao Chocolatier specializes in “fusion chocolate.” Founded in 2002 by Venezuelan master chocolatier and chef Michael Antonorsi, and his brother Richard, Chuao (pronounced chew-wow, as it turns out) aims to dazzle and delight taste buds by pairing ethically sourced chocolate with natural — and oftentimes surprising — ingredients such as chile peppers, popcorn, potato chips, bacon and honeycomb.
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.
Larry Burdick makes exquisite delicious chocolate pieces at Burdick Chocolate, a small manufacturer at the western edge of New Hampshire, northwest of Keene and 70 miles from Nashua. Burdick does a great job of making a variety of ornate fine chocolates and presenting them well. The pieces in his assortment differ from each other well, so that one is entertained by the changes in flavor, style, and shape. The flavors range from intense chocolate to balanced to strong non-chocolate flavors, and the sweetness ranges from bitter to very sweet. Some flavors are familiar, and some are exotic.
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Enter the shop and you are instantly hit by the smell of the chocolate, as you look at a counter full of truffles, behind which there lies a kitchen. The truffles are large, and there are also other chocolate options (such as half orange slices, drops, etc) in boxes to the side. All that I have tasted warent the reviews people give for this temple to cocoa.
Another Swiss chocolate brand you might know is Milka, thanks to its logo featuring a purple cow with a bell around its neck. Milka sells its chocolate in a variety of packages and flavors. Some of its chocolate bar flavors include milk chocolate, milk chocolate with Oreo, strawberry yogurt, caramel, white chocolate, white coconut, and whole hazelnut.
Chef Oscar Ortega is making some truly otherworldly chocolates at his Jackson, Wyoming, chocolate shop Atelier Ortega. His truly artisanal chocolates come in classic flavors (Tahitian vanilla, walnut) and inventive varietals (oregano and Earl Grey tea). And if these stunning chocolates don’t do it for you, then consider stopping in to America’s best old-school candy shops.
Richart’s Intense Valentine Gourmet Chocolates are $77 for a box of 49 chocolates. The real frustration here is that it's 49, not 50, so those of us with a strong sense of symmetry will have to eat them quickly just to cope. However, they are legitimate French Chocolates, each one having one of seven fancy flavors / aromas - floral, spicy, citrus, balsm, roasted, fruity, or herbal. The box also comes with a dark chocolate plaque for your valentine, so maybe that's piece 50.
K’s 5-star review: If your a fan of praline or gianduja (or belgium milk chocolate), this the chocolate shop to stop. A few favorite pieces: Cornet d'Oré, Sapho, Caprice, Pagode, Astrid, Passion Amande, Tentation, Plasir, Bourbon 13, Mephisto, Coeur Praline, Louise, Suzanne, Jean, Adeison, Galerie, Fredric, Prestige, Millenaire, Milk Napoléonette, 1857 ... and more, but those are the ones I can pull off the top of my head. Yeah. They're that memorable. It is a small shop, almost walked right over it if I didn't have a rip-tide radar for Neuhaus. Staff was helpful and readily introduced me to the new chocolate assortments on the wall and chatted with me about the selection in the case. I was able to make a 25ish piece selection for about $44ish and they packed it in a nice sturdy box with a bow (points for presentation and travel-safe arrangements). Compared to other ny shops, the bang for your buck is noticeable: the pieces are three times the size of (let's say) La Maison and a better price. Be prepared to be impressed by the praline, gianduja or creams. Go to Teuscher if you're in the hung-ho for champagne truffles. I have not tried the liquor filled chocolates (though they're on my list). Looking forward to the Easter eggs in the Spring.
MarieBelle’s chocolates have fun designs, but the flavors did almost nothing for me. The Swiss chocolate is a thin shell around the fillings and contributed little to the taste. Good ingredients were used, and the flavors, when I could detect them, were well done. However, even pieces I would expect to have prominent flavors, like the Pineapple or Mandarin, were weak. The Spices piece was good, and the Hazelnut Praline was good except for the slightness of the flavor. I could not recommend these at half the price, let alone the $100/lb. charged.
Since 2008, Original Beans has taken the “bean to bar” idea full circle with their “bar to bean” commitment to plant a seedling for every chocolate bar sold. Details of their Grand Cru Blend No. 1 80 percent organic dark chocolate are kept secret, but they claim to use some of the rarest cacaos from South America and Africa. And with only raw cane sugar added, the bars are also vegan.
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In France it was introduced from Spain in 1615, when infanta Anne of Austria, showed the chocolate drink to her new husband, the King Louis XIII. In Belgium, the Low Countries back then, the production of chocolates started in 1635 under the Spansh occupation. In 1657 a Frenchman living in London opened “The Coffee Mill and Tobacco Roll“, a shop which sold the first tablets of solid chocolate, that were used to prepare this new drink. Chocolate became so popular that the British government taxed it heavily to the extent that chocolate had a price which was equivalent to two thirds of its weight in gold. Switzerland started to produce chocolate in the middle of the XIX century.
Enjoy trying different flavors, Richart fine chocolates offer unsurpassed taste sensations by bringing together the finest ingredients in time-tested recipes. In addition to other mouth-watering flavors, Richart uses ingredients to add a relatively redolent experience to the taste, such as balsamic to taste the original cacao or roasted to enjoy coffee ganaches and caramel coulis.
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.