To take advantage of Chase Sapphire Preferred’s lucrative offer of 3x points on dining on the first Friday of every month, we regularly round up the best in food and drink. To get a jump on your February 14/Valentine’s Day sweets shopping, TPG Contributor Michele Herrmann has put together an assortment of artisan chocolate shops across the U.S. where the candies are just as individual as your Valentine.
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.
K’s 5-star review: Beautifully painted, deliciously filled, Norman Love bonbons are crafted to delight. The flavors are astounding and exceptionally executed. The back of the shop can be seen where bustling confectioners are building each morsel with care and quantity. They also have a cafe if you need to chill. The store is located near the airport, it's should be tradition to resource a box when traveling ... If you are looking for exotic flavors, a reward, a gift to wow, or just an excuse to float on the sweet aroma of chocolate, this is the spot. A few favorites I would recommend: keylime, passion fruit, apple ala mode, lemon bar, hot dark chocolate, tahitian caramel, Florida orange, mango, mmm. The bonbon shells are so delicate they serve as an accent to augment the fillings within. Truly brilliant.
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.
Some pieces I liked were the dark chocolate Palets d’Or, Le Cocktail (with a blend of nuts, was what fine chocolate should be but not the oustanding piece I expected from Bernachon’s reputation), Le Métis (praline, marzipan, and pistachio, was an unusual melange and interesting), L’Aveline (hazelnut praline, was very good with sharp flavors that were not overpoweringly strong), La Truffe (a very good truffle), Le Chuao Pepitos (strong chocolate), La Nougatine (good caramel), and La Truffette (an orange flavor that blends well with the chocolate).
The milk-chocolate-covered toffee was very good. I do not think the dark chocolate or white chocolate showcase the toffee as well. Lest my praise and high marks for the Chocolate Dream Box make you giddy, let me note that not everything was perfect. The crunch of the Hazelnut Crunch felt just a bit soft, and the chocolate flavor in the Lion Heart was blunted. And the price is high.
With five café locations—including one at their factory—this chocolate company handcrafts signature treats that taste exquisite but also look exceptional. Their assortment of bars pep up traditional milk or dark choices with options like a Milk Chocolate Crispy Orange Brulee Bar, Dark Chocolate Espresso Bean, or even the Dark Chocolate Raspberry and Fennel Bark. The gourmet dark, milk and ivory truffles feature fun sweets like the Strawberry or Raspberry Love Bug and Cookies and Cream Cone. Caramels and toffees are touched with sea salt or vanilla, and gourmet hot cocoa mixes go from simple to spicy. A specialty line of liqueur truffles are derived from Oregon’s finest craft distillers. Plus, their tumbled chocolate balls taste of blueberry, hazelnuts, sea salt caramel and even a German roasted malted wheat berry used in beer making.
Cadbury, anyone? It’s hard to pass up a Cadbury egg when they appear in the grocery store, but the brand originated in the United Kingdom and originally sold tea, coffee, and drinking chocolate in the 1820s. The Cadbury brothers supplied Queen Victoria with chocolate in the 1850s and developed the popular Dairy Milk chocolate, famous for having a higher milk content, in 1905. While you can buy Cadbury Eggs and Dairy Milk bars around the world, we think they taste better while walking down a cobblestone street in the U.K.!
French Broad: This chocolatier opened in Asheville in 2007 and does a nice job of giving the chocolate lover a big truffle for the buck. These were some of the largest truffles we tasted. Their Buddha Collection’s vegan truffle was a favorite (composed of bitter sweet chocolate and coconut cream), lending the truffle a nice exotic edge. The Lavender and honey from the signature collection box—a milk chocolate ganache around a dark chocolate ganache blended with local honey and lavender—was the a delicious riff on lavender. The mole negro—housemade mole in dark chocolate and rolled in sesame seeds—great texture and spice.
Description: Puccini Bomboni pursues perfection for you, each and every day. Tasting that single chocolate, your visit to one of the shops: everything should exceed your expectations. On the Staalstraat you can even see our kitchen crew in action. The purchase of your box of chocolates is completed with a miniature booklet containing information on your selection. This will enable you to choose carefully at home and help you make a selection for your next visit. Puccini Bomboni is dedicated to provide each customer with the best chocolate experience ever!
This best selling chocolate brand produces a premium, round, chocolate sweet. It consists of flat sheets of Wafer, Nutella, and hazelnuts. About 3.6 billion Ferrero Rocher are sold every year in over 35 countries. This brand has had a major impact in China since China allowed foreign businesses to increase the economy. The gold wrapping gave a luxurious and different appearance which the Chinese associated with wealth, which allowed for its popularity in China over other chocolate brands.
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.
Exactly when and where the first chocolate shops opened in America is uncertain, but early contenders for the honor include The Original Velatis, which set up shop selling caramels (some of them involving chocolate) in 1866 in Silver Spring, Maryland, and Govatos, which went into business in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1894 (both are still going strong; see slideshow).
The phrase dark chocolate sea salt caramels should be a selling point in itself, but these bite-size treats also have something else going for them: they have almost 500 five-star reviews on online. And there’s a reason why. They make other salty-sweet chocolate-caramel combos seem lackluster in comparison. One reviewer said they have a “bold saltiness” that’s “not for the faint of heart” and another said, “My favorite candy ever!” The creamy, rich caramel is cooked to just the right consistency and the smooth chocolate goes perfectly with the visible salt flakes on top.
Chocolate and peanut butter is the killer combination many of us can't get enough of — so naturally, it makes sense to put every incredible Reese's bar together in this one variety pack, which includes 30 pieces of peanut butter chocolate. The pack includes Reese's peanut butter cups, Reese's sticks, peanut butter cups covered in white chocolate, Reese's filled with pieces, Reese's Pieces, and Reese's Big Cups.
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.
Today the Teuscher kitchens in Zurich make more than 100 varieties of chocolates using these original recipes, which have been handed down from father to son. Only the finest and most expensive natural ingredients are used, and absolutely no chemicals, additives, or preservatives are added. The house specialty is a champagne truffle, a blend of fresh cream, butter, and chocolate with a champagne cream center, dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Chocolates are flown to Teuscher stores worldwide weekly.
Each set includes three bars: a Birthday Cake Batter Truffle Bar, a Thanks-olate Truffle Bar and a Here’s to You Truffle Bar. The cake batter bar has a white center mixed with colorful confetti pieces that’s coated in milk chocolate. It tastes like yellow cake with vanilla frosting. The Thanks-olate bar is milk chocolate mixed with toffee pieces and sea salt. The Here’s to You bar is dark chocolate mixed with popping candy that explodes as you eat it.
This North End chocolate and nut shop run by two childhood friends features a variety of artisan chocolates by local and national chocolatiers as well as gourmet nut mixes, health bars, and specialty snacks, as well as vegan and gluten-free chocolates. Tasting days give the opportunity to try anything from Pure 7’s dark chocolate peppermint bar to Northlight Baking Co.’s macarons.
It’s no longer difficult to find beautifully decorated chocolates, sea-salted caramels, or delicately scented truffles: Nearly every major city in the U.S. is now home to a shop offering single-origin chocolate bars or bonbons filled with spiked ganache and coated in paint swipes of color. Others use local fruit, fresh herbs, spices, nuts, coffee, tea, or other essences to enhance each chocolate variety, encouraging flavors to dance on the tongue as they melt.
You can never have too many choices when it comes to chocolate. This Belgian chocolate box provides an amazing assortment of dark, milk, and white chocolate in an elegant gold box with a bow on top. You'll get 19 chocolate pieces that include favorites like 50 percent dark demitasse, chocolate hazelnut praline, praline crescents, and coconut macaroons covered in dark chocolate. If 19 pieces simply aren't enough to satisfy your taste buds, you can trade up for a 140-piece box (or one of the many sizes in between).
Chocolate is a guilty pleassure made of the mass of roasted cocoa beans and cocoa butter processed with powdered sugar. This sweet is hundreds of years old. The word cocoa derives from the Aztec word "cacahualtl". According to the legend the cocoa was the most beautiful tree in the Aztecs' paradise. They believed the cocoa beans provided wisdom and helped cure diseases. These trees originaly grew in the Amazon and Orinoco basins. The Mayans started to cultivate cocoa more than 2,500 years ago. They used the cream of cocoa to cure wounds and as both stimulant and relaxing medicine. They also created a bitter beverage called "chocolha" with the seeds of cocoa and some local spicies which was only consumed by the nobles.
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.
Chocoholic travelers can have an immersive experience in Hershey, Pennsylvania, at Hershey Park. The amusement park, with roller coasters, water rides and candy mascots, also holds two hotels and one campground. Guests can take in shows and concerts, eat thousands of calories thanks to chocolate-themed menus and rich desserts or even get sticky with a "chocolate fondue wrap" at the full-service spa.
The award-winning Almond Roll Ups, $33, a soft-baked cookie rolled in sliced almonds that wraps around a marzipan center, was a unanimous favorite. Or try the soft butter cookies that sandwich fruit fillings of strawberry, peach, apricot or raspberry, $33. Gluten-free options are available too like the Hazelnut Cookie, and their award-winning dark chocolate dipped Hazelnut Cookie, $38.
The lucky residents of Sacramento have a treasure in Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates. The Hazelnut Praline was excellent, with evocative hazelnut. The Almond Rocher had a great texture. Its almond was well balanced with the choolate although it could have been stronger. The Peanut Butter Croquant also had an excellent balance with the flavors brought out well, including a little zip to the peanut butter.
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.
Pastry chef and chocolatier Valerie Gordon does it all, from pastries and historical cakes to petit fours dipped in white chocolate and delicate toffee coated in dark chocolate. Her almond fleur de sel toffee is a favorite. Valerie Confections ships many of its sweets anywhere within the continental U.S. 3360 West 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA (multiple locations)