Connecticut is apparently so well known for its chocolate shops that it has a bona fide tour route for sweet confections called the Connecticut Chocolate Trail. So how does Bridgewater Chocolate in West Hartford stand apart from the crowd? Its stunning packaging, for one. But the chocolate tortels, truffles and dark chocolate-covered cherries on a milk chocolate heart are luxurious and rich.

The packaging is beautiful and modern, with the logo embossed in tonal black on black. The box itself is pretty sexy and, for some reason, reminded me of a black bustier. Inside, the minimally designed booklet explains the flavors, with black and white illustrations of each chocolate. None of the other assortments are presented in such a cohesive package, and we found the Recchiuti’s key of chocolates much easier to decipher than those included with the other brands.
The Ghirardelli chocolate company, named after famous Italian Chocolatier Domingo Ghirardelli is an US division of Swiss confectiner Lindt and Sprungli and is perhaps one of the most coveted chocolate brands in the world. Incorporated in 1852, it is the third oldest chocolate company in the States and sports some of the largest variety of flavours and options in dedicated Ghirardelli shops. Sold in bar versions or miniature single squares, these varieties include milk chocolates, peanut butter chocolate and mint chocolate among many others.

You can’t get fresher honey bon bons than the ones you will find at Mademoiselle Miel. The honey used in these scrumptious confections is gathered from the rooftops of St. Paul, Minnesota, itself. Get your honey bon bons however you like — smoked with scotch, in a seasonal flavor or simply as classic, pure honey — but just get them. Mademoiselle Miel’s commitment to local ingredients extends to all the shop’s products, which also include maple chocolate bars.
Top chocolatiers generally work with couverture (first-rate chocolate containing a high percentage of cocoa butter) to make their creations, versus fresh cocoa beans, although an increasing number now experiment with bean to bar. Some makers even grow their own cacao beans. Direct contact between growers and makers is the best-case scenario for sustainable, or at the very least fair trade, chocolate.
We cut the chocolates into quarters so that more than one person could taste all of the offerings while also trying to avoid palate fatigue. While this may sound like a silly problem, it can be quite frustrating when your taste buds become overstimulated mid-tasting and fail you. To try to limit this, Saltines and club soda were set out to help tasters pace themselves.
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.
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.
Chocolate is supposed to be fun, and that’s something Bon Bon Bon takes to heart. This Detroit shop makes open-top chocolates inspired by local cultures, using local ingredients, and packaged in recyclable boxes. Each stunning bon is handcrafted; they come in unique flavors like Bour-Bon-Bon-Bon (whiskey caramel, bourbon dark chocolate ganache and glacee orange) and coffee and donuts. In a nod to Michigan’s rich music history, Bon Bon Bon also sells chocolate cassettes and records.
The truffles are packaged in a row, as in the above image (which unfortunately does not convey the triangular shapes well), in a triangular box. A mild drawback is that the box unfolds and opens flat, which is not convenient for holding the remaining truffles until you can eat them. I recommend trying Telluride once. The price is a bit high, although the reasonable shipping price partly compensates for that.
This Brussels, Belgium-based chocolatier has a long-standing reputation as one of Europe’s best chocolate-makers, and this dark chocolate collection is a fantastic way to sample their variety of confections. A twenty-five count box contains a wide assortment of fillings including pralines, ganaches, caramels, and fruit fillings all enrobed in high-quality dark chocolate. Although it’s a Belgian brand, it’s readily available in the US with two-day shipping.
Because they’re meant to be gifted, I presented the chocolates in their boxes, but without the brand names showing. We felt that the presentation should be a factor in judging. We had a very strict rule against calling out a brand to the rest of the group if someone recognized the packaging. Luckily, it wasn’t an issue—no one had a clue about what was what during the tasting.
The chocolatier, William Dean Brown, plays with a variety of flavors in the assortment. The pieces included Cappuccino, Apple Pie, Hazelnut, Grapefruit and Tarragon, Strawberry Caramel, and more. I regard the Apple Pie highly for execution of its theme; it contained an apple layer and a crumb layer that were faithful to the theme, but the chocolate had a minor role in that piece. Indeed, the amount of chocolate flavor in the assortment varied and was not always the star.

This company was incorporated in 1852. In America, it the third-oldest chocolate company. It is one of the only chocolate companies in the United States which is in control of all aspects its own manufacturing process. Its bar version is cut into several squares and comes in many flavors which include caramel filling, caramelized almonds, salt and almonds, and peppermint bark.
Truffles appear a few times on any gourmet chocolate list and many chocoholics consider them to be a standard for the gourmet category. These truffles are made by Miami Beach and it’s clear they’ve put a lot of thought into both taste and presentation. They use ingredients of the highest quality in each truffle and to top off the great taste they also have a variety of service options. Consumers can choose various preparation methods from kosher to vegan so that even those with dietary restrictions don’t have to miss out on great gourmet taste. To top everything off, the price for these truffles is pleasantly average.
If you’re looking for something completely different, consider these luxury champagne truffles from the famous British chocolatier Charbonnel et Walker. A small-batch chocolatier known for serving the Queen of England, they’re famous for specialty products including these milk chocolate truffles made with marc de champagne, a French brandy made from champagne grapes. Their strawberry coating adds a pleasing sweetness that counters the intensity of the brandy-flavored filling.
My husband Evan got me a subscription to your gourmet chocolate of the month club as a gift. It was one of the best gifts I've ever gotten - our whole family looks forward to each month's new arrival of chocolates. We share the pieces, savoring every bite. Each one is better than the last! Our 2 year old son Calder gets so excited whenever he sees the beautiful packaging, he loves to keep the "presents" even long after the chocolates have been devoured. Of course he is even more excited by the "special treats" inside. Thank you for bringing so much joy into our home each month!
Are you a frequent gift-giver? You may want to take a look at the Celebrations Passport: with a yearly fee of $29.99, it includes free shipping from a family of brands that include Cheryl's Cookies, 1-800-Flowers, and Harry & David. Otherwise, expect to pay quite a bit for shipping: for example, on a gift assortment that retails for $139.99, we were given a shipping cost of $18.99. You can see all of the shipping costs by clicking on the blue question mark icon as you begin the ordering process; delivery prices start at $4.99 and go up to 15% of your order total (for orders over $150).
The Whitman’s 40 Ounce Jumbo Assorted Chocolates Box is ideal for snacking, gifting, and candy dishes. It also makes a great minty and sweet treat at work, home or on the go. Additionally, the Whitman’s 40 Ounce Jumbo Assorted Chocolates Box is made in the United States. And it does not contain gluten, meaning it is perfect for everyone. If you are looking for a gift for any of your loved one, the Whitman’s 40 Ounce Jumbo Assorted Chocolates Box is the product to go for.
Italy is another country with famous chocolate-makers, including Baci Perugina, Guerrero and Cioccolata Venchi. The first chocolate license was granted by the House of Savoy in 1678, and what we now call Nutella was first created in the mid-19th century in Turin. Perugia, however, is the best-known city for chocolate tourism in Italy thanks to Baci, meaning "kisses."
A new prize given by our founding partners, Maricel Presilla, Martin Christy and Monica Meschini. The Triple MMM (or Mmm…) prize represents products chosen by the founders and Grand Jury because of a personal appreciation of a product tasted during judging. This prize reflects personal enjoyment of the product awarded and is not based on the competition scores.
Our own country is the world’s biggest producer of chocolate. One thing that sets American chocolate apart? The frequent use of peanuts and almonds. There are a number of artisan chocolate shops across the country, but Hershey’s in the country’s largest producer of the candy. And of course, there’s Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania, a popular family destination for both thrill rides and all the chocolate and confections one can handle!
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.
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. Ratings are the number of points given by Yelp and Google users out of a possible 5.

With colorful eye-popping displays of sumptuous chocolate truffles and confections, Sprüngli offers the traditional high-end Swiss chocolate experience. This luxury chocolate shop first opened its doors in 1836, later to build a reputation on its signature macaron, the Luxemburgerli. Chocolate-covered nuts and hot chocolate mixes are offered to take home, in addition to the ultimate grand cru truffles that would send anyone’s eyes rolling back in delight. Rub shoulders with the city’s well-to-do while enjoying a coffee and chocolate cake in the Paradeplatz flagship shop’s second-floor café. Numerous locations in Zurich.


The flavors we taste-tested ranged from the creamy, caramel-filled Coffee Toffee to the earthy and bitter 100% cacao Peru bar (not for the faint of heart). Our unanimous favorite emerged as the Goji Berries in Sesame Nougat, a milk chocolate bar studded with dried goji berries and filled with layers of green tea ganache, homemade nougat and soy and sesame filling. In addition to creating their hand-scooped chocolates in-house, Zotter is an independent bean-to-bar producer that prides itself on using organic, fair-trade quality cocoa beans and runs the company entirely on eco-power.
Guests at Perugia can tour the Perugina factory and stay at the "chocohotel," which includes milk- and dark-chocolate themed floors as well as a restaurant with a menu that utilizes chocolate in every dish. A "chocopass" in Turin grants travelers a three-day pass to more than 20 chocolate samplings in the area's cafés. Chocolate culinary and cooking tours can be arranged in Positano and Perugia, and you can find the country's chocolate museum in Norma.
Because they’re meant to be gifted, I presented the chocolates in their boxes, but without the brand names showing. We felt that the presentation should be a factor in judging. We had a very strict rule against calling out a brand to the rest of the group if someone recognized the packaging. Luckily, it wasn’t an issue—no one had a clue about what was what during the tasting.
#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!
Hédiard was my favorite of the fine chocolate stores I visited in my first trip to Paris. (It was later bested by Côte de France and Chocolat Michel Cluizel.) The tea (Thé) piece is good and brings out the chocolate flavor well. A hazelnut piece has good texture and a nice taste that develops after a moment. The flavors are strong but not overpowering, and the flavors in the assortment I bought were distinct from each other.
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.

Dilettante claims confectionary descendance from Julius Rudolph Franzen, pastry chef to Franz Josef, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary. I have only their truffles to judge them by. Unfortunately, I prefer other pieces with a greater variety of components and expression. Truffles are too often an overdose of chocolate and cream. Dilettante may move up on my list when I have more experience with their products, such as their gift box assortment.
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.

We reached out to some of the world's best makers to learn more about the chocolates they love. These aren't the kinds of confections you'll find wedged between gum and mints at the check-out counter. They are craft chocolates, known for their attention to quality and celebration of the wide range of flavors found in cocoa beans from different origins.


One of the house specialties at Fire & Grain is flatbread. Shown is the prosciutto and fig flatbread, which is covered with green onion aioli, prosciutto, figs and arugula, and drizzled with balsamic reduction and garlic oil. “I’ve been making this dough for more than 35 years, and we’ve perfected it,” says chef Michael Cappelli. Wendy Pramik for USA TODAY
Molly is a freelance journalist and social media consultant with degrees in international affairs and public relations. As social media consultant to the Western Balkans over the past four years, Molly divides her time between the American South and Zagreb, Croatia. She has written for OZY, Fodor's Travel, Lonely Planet and Teen Vogue among others while reporting from North America, Europe and the Middle East. Her work can be found at www.mmollyharris.com.
Chocolate making in general is often referred to as an art, but at Dancing Lion in Manchester, New Hampshire, they really are making art. They sell stunning chocolate sculptures that almost look like stonework. You’ll also find beautiful and uniquely flavored chocolate bars such as The Blues, a beautiful blue bar with dark chocolate, blueberries and toasted pecans.

Lots of colors, artsy treats and premium quality chocolates can be expected at Norman Love Confections in Florida, USA. The chocolatier was founded in 2001 by Norman Love. Norman used to work in the corporate world before the idea of the chocolate venture germinated in his mind. He was always passionate about chocolates and the experiments to embellish these heavenly eatables. He co-owns the chocolatier with his wife Mary. Today, Norman’s scrumptious and beautiful creations reach the international territories and bring back loads of appreciations.
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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.
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