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

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
Cacao Art: Made by sisters Susana and Isabel Garcia, who started the business in Venezuela but later moved to Miami (lucky for us). Says Isabel, “We think, as sisters, there is a lot of nostalgia in our chocolates, because we like to recreate the tastes of our shared childhood in Venezuela.” Case in point, the decadent Anís y Papelón truffle (an International Chocolate Awards winner) made from sweet anise and raw cane sugar and inspired by a traditional Venezuelan pastry. The sisters use as many local and organic ingredients as possible and different spices and flavors from their extensive travels in Europe and North and South America.
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.
The Wild Strawberry was also strong, very nice for strawberry. Some pieces were classics like the House Dark and some were playful like the PB & Jelly or the Speculous S’more, and they were all well done, not a false note among them. My biggest flavor criticism might be that the Gianduja Hazelnut was a little sharp for hazelnut, whereas I prefer a broader, smoother flavor.
If you like chocolate bark covered with fresh fruits and nuts, you will go nuts for the chocolate of Paul de Bondt. He was born in Holland and married an Italian, Cecelia. The couple makes international chocolate with flair. Try their lemon lime 64 percent bar made from Madagascar’s finest cacao. Although one can find several outstanding chocolate makers in Tuscany, de Bondt proves noteworthy for his scientific approach to chocolate, offering various percentages of the same cocoa in a series of bars that lets you find just the right nuances for your chocolate preferences. Chocolate and tea shop in Pisa.
A British Chocolate bar, Mars chocolate bars were first manufactured in England back in 1932 and was advertised as being made with the chocolate couverture by famous chocolate producing company ‘ Cadbury’. The Mars bars have high nutritional values packing in 2.2g of Protein, 8.5g of Fat and 35.3 g of carbs. These chocolates are basically generous helping of nougat and caramel richly covered in milk chocolate and wrapped in a trademark black wrapper with red-gold edged lettering.
Norman Love Confections: Chef Norman Love’s chocolates always have a tropical high toned fruitiness to them—even his dark selections. We loved his holiday candy cane selection (which comes in a fetching candy cane-shaped box.) The sleek, lustrous very colorful chocolates won big for shock and awe—they also tasted great too. This was one of the most festive and fun collections that we opened.
My wife and I purchased a Chocolate of the Month Club for her Grandmother who lived in another state. It was a great gift, easy and convenient for us, and as a chocolate lover, she was thrilled. The best part was that every month, when she would receive her next shipment, she would call us and tell us all about it, and it gave us a chance to talk, catch up on her life, and stay connected. We hadn't anticipated the extra benefit of choosing that gift, but we truly appreciated it.
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.
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.
The Mom’s Apple Pie Truffle had a good apple flavor, a background of pie crust flavor, and was well accompanied by white chocolate. I did find it too playful with non-chocolate flavors to take it seriously as a chocolate piece. The Chocolaterie also has simpler and more direct flavors, such as the Epicurean Truffle and the Hawaiian Pink Sea Salt Butter Caramel.
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.
Philadelphia Candies Assorted Dark Boxed Chocolates are unique and tasty. They are made with nuts that are dry roasted in-house to give the much-needed freshness. Additionally, the manufacturer makes creams from scratch to give these chocolates a unique taste. Philadelphia Candies Assorted Dark Boxed Chocolates also come in a safety sealed to make sure it is 100-percent safe for consumption. Plus they are USDA/FDA-approved to give you confidence knowing you are buying a safe and quality product. They are pure dark chocolates that arrive in temperature-controlled packaging.
Cookie Love’s gourmet cookie flavors include the classics like Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal with dried Cranberries, but you’ll also be tempted by Mocha Chocolate Chip, or how about their heartiest cookie named Enduring Love that combines organic coconut with almonds, oatmeal, chocolate chips and dried cranberries. With loyal customers across the country and rave reviews, Vermont Cookie Love is the place to order rich, all natural cookies and frozen cookie dough for lovers of just-out-of-the-oven home baked cookies.
#3: Great Value (Wal-Mart Generic Brand) Fudge Brownie Mix — the underdog and least expensive brownie mix killed it in the brownie mix challenge, much to the surprise of the judges.  One judge even gave it a perfect score and deemed it the favorite.  It consistently received a few solid 8’s, a few 9’s, and one 10.  It also received a 2 and several 4’s so it wasn’t a favorite across the board.  Most reviewers like the soft, chewy texture with flaky top. They enjoyed the fudgy flavor. Some thought it was slightly artificial tasting and wouldn’t eat it again. It scored well enough to nab the #3 spot. What a shocker!

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.

Susanna Yoon used to make the chocolates at Thomas Keller’s three-Michelin-starred Per Se, where each meal ends with a tableside buffet of bonbons. Yoon spun her craft into Stick With Me, a shop in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood. Inside a space roughly the size of one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets, she sells two dozen different types of bonbons, eight different types of soft caramel candies, and a handful of packaged brittles, toffees, nougats, and marshmallows. Each dome-shaped bonbon is a study in flavor pairings: The sunshine-like burst of yuzu against the soft sweetness of a white chocolate shell; nutty black sesame alongside tart passionfruit; or the dual-layered mint chocolate chip, with a flavor that unravels as it melts. 202A Mott Street, New York, NY

One piece had a very good blend of hazelnut and almond with a fine crunchy texture. The marzipan was very good; Jacky Pédro brought out the flavor well. He must have sense of humor and self-confidence to label one of his products Le Crottin du Pin. To avoid spoiling your appetite, I will not translate the name, but the piece is a cocoa meringue with a chocolate cream filling. It was nice and very unusual and just a bit bitter. I also strayed from chocolate and tried the Patés de Fruits, which were very good.
Also known as home to the Little Chocolatiers from former the hit TLC show, Hatch’s is at the top of our list when it comes to the best chocolates in Salt Lake City. The quality of chocolate that you consume here whether it be with a caramel apple, inside some of their homemade ice cream, or melted in a cup of hot cocoa is truly top notch. Some of Hatch Family go-to’s are their chocolate covered Oreos, chocolate covered raspberries, and aztec salted caramels.
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.
Traditionally, giving Chocolate as a gift can be a time consuming process. Driving to the local grocery or chocolate store, searching the limited selection, bringing it home, wrapping up the item, and then getting back in your car again to drive to the local Fed Ex or UPS Store to make the delivery actually happen - it can all be a time-consuming and frustrating challenge for anyone.
It isn't bitter, it isn't deep, it isn't vanilla-y or cakey, or creamy - it is more or less sweet chocolate as a fragrance. I'd love this as a candle! It isn't the sort of thing I'd wear day to day, but it is a relaxing and well interpreted scent. If you love chocolate fragrances I can't see how you could go wrong with this one - and since it is a bit simple, I think it would be lovely to layer.
Decadent is the first word that comes to mind when describing these Swiss milk chocolate truffles. The inside is filled with rich, smooth chocolate that melts in your mouth — and the outside is covered by a crunchy chocolate shell. You'll get the benefits of both textures in one delicious treat. And talk about value: this 60-count box will keep your gift recipient high on chocolate for weeks.

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.


Vosges ($40 for 16 pieces) is famous for round truffles with exotic, unexpected combinations like wasabi with black sesame and even Taleggio cheese with walnuts. Their bacon bar is beloved by many people we talked to, but their assorted chocolates weren’t as well received. Funniest comment: “Cumin?? That’s a mean trick!” Vosges are available in Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.
I was introduced to Alegio Chocolate on a chocolate crawl and bought a selection to taste at home. The Raspberry had a good balance with strong raspberry and good chocolate working together. The Orange was similar but slightly milder. The Santa Domingo is an unusal combination of green olive, licorice, currants, and apricot. Those flavors actually stood to the side a bit to present the chocolate at center stage. The Espresso worked well with a slightly salted caramel. The Habeñero had a little bite to it, while the Honey was of course sweet. Throughout the pieces, distinct chocolate flavors were presented well. 

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