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.
For the chocolate purist, or anyone looking for the perfect corporate gift, we think Maison du Chocolat ($60 for 28 pieces) is a great premium choice. The flavors are subtle enough to really let the chocolate shine. The packaging, reminiscent of brown pebbled leather, is understated and innocuous enough to gift for professional reasons. Although these chocolates are incredibly smooth and slightly less sweet than the Michel Cluizel, the overall flavor profile isn’t quite as daring as those in the Recchiuti box and might not provide the same sensory adventure as our main pick. We also think the assortments available online are a little big for a Valentine’s gift (although you can purchase smaller boxes in their stores).
Troegs Brewing has set the pace of the Hershey craft beer scene since 1997. Founded by brothers John and Chris Trogner, Troegs offers a large selection of lagers, wheat beers, hop-laden ales, Belgian-style ales and seasonal brews. A visit to the tasting room and snack bar is a great way to wrap up a brewery tour, offered daily. Wendy Pramik for USA TODAY
Traditional Mexican flavors come alive for popular chef and TV personality José Ramón Castillo, a leader in the evolution of Mexican chocolate. Que Bo! uses only organic ingredients sourced from local producers. Vibrant colored truffles matching their star ingredients, such as orange (mango, chili, and salt) or bright pink (guava). The massive, dipped confit figs soaked in molasses, cinnamon, and sugar can be enjoyed in the chocolateria’s hacienda-style courtyard in central Mexico City. Five locations in Mexico City.
Methodology: 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.
This Italian chocolatier specializes in hazelnut-flavored chocolate pralines, combining a hazelnut chocolate cream and a whole hazelnut with a crisp chocolate shell in either milk or dark chocolate. It’s a decadent chocolate experience, but with a complexity and mild bitterness from the hazelnut that makes it a more adult experience. Perfect for nut lovers.
The selection at Chocolate is vast, everything from a simple chocolate-dipped fortune cookie for less than a dollar, to a 200+ piece Valentine's assortment of gluten-free chocolates for over $300. We did notice that none of their categories included two of the most popular “candy holidays”, Halloween and Christmas, but Easter chocolates are sold year-round.
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.
Valrhona has been creating exceptional gourmet chocolate since 1922, with cocoa beans purchased directly from premier plantations in South America, the Caribbean, and Pacific regions. The chocolate, made in the French style, comes in a variety of bars. Valrhona was one of the first chocolatiers to describe its chocolate like wine, labeling creations as grand cru, single origins, single estate, and vintage chocolate from bean to bar. In 2008, it introduced spicy, salty Xocopili.
After gaining recognition for the adorable almond-eared chocolate mice he provided to New York City’s Le Cirque and Bouley in the 1990s, chocolatier Larry Burdick moved to Wapole, New Hampshire, where he opened a cheery yellow café. Today, there are L.A. Burdick locations in New York City, Boston, and Cambridge, Massachusetts, serving his fantastic handmade chocolate candies, from ganache-filled truffles to the chocolate bunnies Burdick makes each spring, an Easter variation on his famous chocolate mice. burdickchocolate.com
Savoring the world’s finest artisanal chocolates is an experience, one that’s enhanced by knowing a bit about what you’re tasting, how it was made, and who made it. Accompanied with each chocolate shipment is In Pursuit of Chocolate, our monthly newsletter, which introduces you to the artisanal chocolatiers and the unique personalities behind each Gourmet Chocolate of the Month Club featured selection. You’ll receive:
The chocolates of Kee’s Chocolates had generally good compositions; the chocolate was combined well with other flavors. The Black Sesame was particularly novel, crunchy sesame seeds with prominent flavor and somewhat subdued chocolate. The flavor of the Smoked Salt was also unusual, an interesting sensation. Others were more ordinary. Unfortunately, I did not find them good enough to justify the price.
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!
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.
“We became convinced it was impossible to become number one in the world buying beans from brokers,” Alessio says. “The broker cannot tell you who grew the beans, or how it was done.” I don’t take Alessio for a weepy humanitarian, and yet he practices enlightened self-interest when it comes to the people who grow his cacao. He has invested in Chuao, agreeing to pay off the farmers’ mounting debts and buying baseball uniforms for the local team. He needs their best work so that he and Cecilia can do their best work.
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. It is 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.
Chef Willem DeGroot’s amaretto truffle made my head spin. The amaretto flavor works very well with the large amount of alcohol in the truffle, and I recommend it highly. However, the hazelnut truffle is too much liqueur and not enough hazelnut. The Black Tulip truffle has a startling appearance; it is covered with sharp tufts of chocolate. Its strong cognac flavor is not to my taste.
Along with the Chocolate Chip cookies, you can choose from the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt (a brownie-like cookie made with Valrhona dark cocoa and Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips. It delivers a subtle and delightful “ting” of salt on the tongue), the clever Lemon Blueberry White Chocolate Chip, the White Chocolate Cherry Chip which is baked with tart Montmorency dried cherries, and a hefty Oatmeal Raisin.
This SoHo chocolate shop and store showcases luxurious, single-origin chocolates and confections derived primarily from Criollo cacao beans. Its Signature Ganache Collection features edible works of art, while its rich Hot Chocolate Collection gets a kick from the popularity of its Aztec Hot Chocolate. Cacao Bar, its 15-seat café, offers a sweet respite for patrons to order in coffee, chocolate or a baked goodie.
Presented in a stunning gold box, and then hand-tied using a two-tone gold and brown ribbon, the GODIVA Chocolatier 19 Count Classic Gold Ballotin will definitely bring a smile to your face. It is exactly what you need this festive season, and it comes in a 7.2-ounce box that contains up to 19 pieces. What’s more, the box has Godiva classics such as Dark Mint Medallion, White Chocolate Demitasse, and Milk Chocolate Embrace, meaning you will have a variety to choose from. The chocolate is produced by Godiva Company, which was established in 1926 and has vast experience.
Run by master chocolatier Jin Caldwerll, Las Vegas’s JinJu Chocolates uses fresh, seasonal and local ingredients to craft their artisan chocolates. Highlights at this Nevada-based mom-and-pop shop include their sea salted caramels (which come in a variety of flavors, including lemon, chipotle cinnamon and espresso) and the Fortunato No. 4 Chocolate Bar, a single-origin Peruvian chocolate that contains multitudes you can only dream of.
Anchorage, Alaska, is known for its stunning views of the aurora borealis, and Sweet Chalet is known for its similarly remarkable aurora bonbons. Each bonbon is hand-painted, so no two are alike in their beauty. The appearance of the aurora bonbons is only half of their appeal; they come in unique flavors ranging from caramelized pear with saffron to raspberry rosewater.
Stuart, Florida, located about 80 miles north of Fort Lauderdale, is already one charming small town to visit. Its highlight, though, is Castronovo Chocolate. This bean-to-bar small-batch chocolate shop has won several gold medals at the International Chocolate Awards for its lemon oil and lemon salt-infused white chocolate, Sierra Nevada 63 percent dark chocolate and Colombia mocha milk chocolate. The service here is attentive and as world-class as the bars themselves.
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.