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 over 80 years, this Swiss chocolate house has produced some of the finest sweets in the world. Its Champagne truffles are renown, and their handmade floral packaging is unparalleled, but when it comes to their bars Teuscher goes for pure unadulterated chocolate. Beginning with only the thin-shelled Criollo beans (surely the rarest, and some say the highest quality), the Teuscher chocolate-makers produce every bar by hand in Zurich, adding only cocoa butter and sugar (and sometimes very little, as in their 99 percent cocoa bar). While its headquarters are in Switzerland, lucky for us, Teuscher has shops all over the world—including in nine U.S. cities.
Chubby Chipmunk Hand-Dipped Chocolates is a quirky little chocolate shop that has something for everybody. This Deadwood, South Dakota, shop is known for its handmade truffles, which come in dessert- and drink-inspired flavors such as root beer float, New York cheesecake and Bailey’s Irish Cream. You know you’re getting a real gold nugget too, because each chocolate has to pass personal inspection before being sold.
Although the site claims that Chocolate is a member of the Better Business Bureau, the BBB website has not given the retailer accreditation; at the time of our review, Chocolate's rating was a B+. Why? There are some complaints that haven't been resolved to the customer's satisfaction; most of them say that there were issues with credit cards being charged for orders that either shipped considerably late or not at all, and that it was difficult to get any response from Chocolate. The “Contact Us” page only offers an online form or an email address, not a phone number for customers to get more direct help.
The Recchiuti Confections Black Box (16 pieces) was my personal favorite in our 2014 review, and after tasting them again for this year’s update, I immediately remembered why. The assortment contains the best mixture of classic and more exotic flavors, and the bonbons aren’t too sweet. This box also has the most unique selection visually, with chocolates of varying sizes and shapes, and the sleek packaging is more eye-catching than any other box we tried.
The love for chocolate does not discriminate. No matter how old you are, where you are from, how much money you have, or what your social status is, chances are there is some kind of chocolate that you can't say no to. There is a reason why chocolate is loved by people around the world -- it actually causes a chemical reaction in the brain that makes you happy.
I delayed sampling The Truffle Shop because the prices and shipping costs are so high, amounting to $7 per 1.3-ounce truffle when six truffles are ordered. The amaretto truffle may have been worth the experience once in a lifetime, but I have to say the rest are overpriced. The $25.50 cost for six truffles includes wonderful packaging: a nice gift wrap on the box, individually wrapped truffles in hand-assembled cups and wraps and rings. The presentation is exquisite. The $15.95 shipping paid for two-day FedEx, styrofoam packaging, and an unnecessary gel refrigerant in January, with no cheaper option available.
I rarely recommend chocolates at this price level, and I certainly cannot make Christopher Elbow a regular treat, but I do recommend experiencing these exquisite chocolates. They would also make a superb gift. (Alternatives at this quality but somewhat cheaper are Burdick and Jacques Torres.) While I recommend Elbow’s chocolates, the toffees did not stand out for me.
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The Thai peanut butter cups at Alma Chocolate in Portlandm Oregon, are what make this shop famous, but don’t discount their other offerings. Their bonbons are some of the best in the country and come in beautiful flavors such as fig and marzipan and passion fruit caramel. They also pay homage to chocolate’s Latin roots by making hand-crafted chocolate icons, made with 74 percent single-estate dark chocolate and painted with 23-karat edible gold.
And, no surprise, the world winner is also a hit with esteemed makers: "Meeting the wonderful Canadian couple David and Cynthia of Soma Chocolatemaker at the International Chocolate Awards World Championships was a gift," Friis-Holm says. "The rare beans originating from the troubled country of Venezuela that are featured in their Guasare 70% bar make for a very tasty, beautifully executed and worthy world winner."
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.