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.
What kinds of chocolates can you get at Russell Stover? While you won't find anything overly exotic or gourmet, you'll find an appealing selection of just about everything else. Whether you want milk or dark chocolate, sampler or single-flavor boxes, or you'd like to build your own gift box, the website makes it easy for you to find it. Use the search box, or simply click on the brand you prefer (Russell Stover or Whitman's) at the top of the page, where you'll get a dropdown menu of the available product categories. In addition to chocolates, you'll also find gift baskets (with or without plush animals), hard candies and jelly beans, brittle and chocolate bars, and an outlet for clearance items at a discount.
Award-winning author and master chocolatier Paul A. Young deserves the accolades he receives for his creativity and mastery with all things chocolate. Walk into his tiny Camden Passage original chocolate shop and inhale the intoxicating aroma of fresh chocolate being made on-site. Young is one of the British chocolatiers who launched the chocolate revolution in London about 15 years ago, casting aside the overly sweet British chocolate of old for the fresh and innovative chocolate offerings that you’ll now find in at least a dozen top-notch chocolatiers in the capital city. Try his dark chocolate sea salt caramel pecan brownies—guaranteed to seduce every unsuspecting chocolate lover. Three locations in London found in Camden Passage, Royal Exchange, and Soho.
Candinas Chocolatier is a small manufacturer run by Markus Candinas. His truffle assortment includes two very nice nut pieces, with a very fine crunchy texture and good flavors. The truffles have thin shells and medium-strength flavors. Another piece was sweet and fruity, quite appealing. However, without a chart, you do not know what to expect. The web site also offers no selection of pieces. The marzipan piece I liked seems to be gone. Much of the assortment is plain or mild ganaches or other “just chocolate” pieces that do not interest me. Given that, though, the milk chocolate truffle was spot on, and the flavors are nice.
“Birthday cake” is a difficult flavor to convey in a chocolate, but Anna Shea nailed it. The Candied Bacon Caramel also presented the bacon flavor better than other bacon-chocolate attempts I have experienced, but there were still some chewy bits in it that I feel detract from fine chocolate. Other pieces that were excellent without compromise include the Aged Balsamic Caramel, the Haiku (green tea ganache), and Krystle’s Banana Foster.

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. 


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.
Since 1997, this confectionery inside the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero has been putting artistic touches on their small batch yet exquisite chocolates, caramels, bars, sauces, fruit/nut mixes, and truffles. Their top-selling Fleur de Sel Caramels are covered in dark chocolate with a well-blended balance of salt and sweetness. For Valentine’s Day, their Hearts in Motion box provides a whole lot of lovin’—burnt caramel truffles embellished with Picasso-esque images. Grand Amour Box holds three layers of popular truffles like Ginger Heart, Piedmont Hazelnut and Force Noir.

Owner Patricia Tsai is a self-taught chocolatier whose background in the business world taught her how to avoid the pitfalls of running a sustainable food business. Since 2012, Tsai has been sourcing cacao from a small farm in Tabasco, Mexico. At Chocovivo, she roasts and grinds those beans into chocolate using a grinder made in Mexico; she also has an ancient Aztec stone grinder, which is fascinating to watch in action. The shop sells a variety of chocolate products, including hot chocolate mix and chocolate sauce, but Tsai’s single-origin and blended bars (flavored with locally sourced coffee, spices, and essences) have attracted a loyal following. Three years ago, Tsai expanded her operation to include hair and skin products made from natural cacao and cocoa butter. Chocovivo ships nationwide. 12469 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
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.
In addition to the informational articles below, you’ll find reviews of products that we think are the best gourmet chocolate (and make the best chocolate gifts for people who know good chocolate). You can find more chocolate gift ideas in the Gift-Finder section. If you have suggestions, comments, or want to tell us about your favorite chocolates, we’d love to hear from you. 
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
If you're looking for chocolate as a gift, you'll want to look in the Gifts & Baskets section of the site. You'll find arrangements ranging from less than $10 to over $200. Personalized gift-giving options with Ghirardelli are fairly basic. You can choose from gift cards in four amounts, all with the same brown Ghirardelli-brand design; we would have liked to see cards with different themes for birthdays, wedding gifts, and so forth. You can also make a custom mix, but again, your options are limited: five designs of small tins that hold 15 Ghirardelli squares.
“Wow,” said Krader, biting into one of the company’s flat, square truffles. “This is definitely the chocolate with the most distinct point of view.” By that, she meant that it had perhaps the most unusual flavor of the bunch, with distinctly fruity notes. “This is from someone who’s redefining what truffles can be,” she said. “The flavorings don't punch you in the face, and it tastes like it was just made.” In other words: advanced chocolatiering. “There’s a sophistication about them,” she said. “Truffle neophytes might want something more general.”

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.

My son, Justin, treated me to a subscription to the Chocolate Club for my birthday this year. His message says it all..."I have often tried to describe you to people...haven't quite figured out how yet, but invariably the description includes chocolate in one of its sumptuous forms!" So, it was with great anticipation that I waited for my first delivery. One morning I was relaxing in my hot tub enjoying a beautiful spring morning, thinking that life couldn't get much better...when suddenly it did! The FedEx delivery man arrived with my chocolates in hand...life is good...and the chocolates are yummy!
Made for everyone, the Nestle 900 gram Quality Street Extra Large Can is available in The Purple One, The Green Triangle, and Orange Crème varieties. It is transported from England and boasts ultimate taste that will make any chocolate lover filled with joy. In addition, this chocolate package comes in a 2.2-pound tin to make sure you enjoy assorted gourmet chocolates to the fullest. People in the UK love the Nestle 900 gram Quality Street Extra Large Can and so should you. You will love the beautiful packaging as well as the irresistible taste.
There is a reason why Russell Stover 10 Ounce French Chocolate Mints are regarded as among the best boxed chocolates. First, they arrive in a 10-ounce box, meaning you will get plenty of chocolates for maximum satisfaction. Second, these mints are sweet, cool, and worth savoring. They also come in complimentary seasonal gift wrap, and this makes them a great gift idea. Moreover, these chocolate mints ship fast, so you won’t have to hold your appetite any longer. They are made in the United States and arguably the most delicious chocolate you have ever tasted.
Among all of the tested chocolates, the Recchiuti come in the most intriguing shapes and designs. No two chocolates are the same. Some have intricate patterns, while others look like little sculptures. This contrasted sharply with the John and Kira’s box, filled with 15 squares of the same shape, size, and texture (a little monotonous for a romantic gift).
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
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.
These chocolates are unusual, to say the least. Richard Donnelly likes to push the chocolate experience by combining its rich tones — he uses Belgian and French chocolate — with ingredients such as lavender, chipotle, saffron, cardamom, and Earl Grey tea. Such innovation helped Donnelly win the Best Artisan award at the prestigious Euro Chocolate Festival in Perugia, Italy, just ten years after he opened his shop. To maintain quality and ensure freshness, Donnelly produces no more than 50 pounds of chocolate a day. If you need a break from the exotic and unusual flavors, try Donnelly’s white chocolate macadamia nut or a honey vanilla caramel.
K’s 5-star review: Nama grand mariner and Nama champagne: rich and delicious. Absolutely. Remind me of Burdick's Pave, which are one of my absolute favorites. The Nama are a better value -- more pieces with the benefit of a handy prong to keep all the cocoa dusted pieces from feather off on your fingers. Boxes run $18.00 each as of 4/2014. Potato chips: really didn't click. Tasted greasy and didn't flatter either -- more guilt and less pleasure.
At her beautiful Atlanta boutique, owner Kristen Hard refuses to use anything but dark chocolate in her amazing bean-to-bar chocolates and playful desserts, such as a chocolate faux salami flecked with biscotti. To win over milk chocolate lovers, she says she “slowly ratcheted up the cacao percentages, and no one noticed.” Many chocolate artisans spend years training with masters, but Hard is almost completely self-taught. “It used to make me feel insecure,” she says. “But it’s also why I’m unique.” She now spends six weeks abroad each year sourcing beans directly from farmers, creating outstanding bars like one with Venezuelan cacao and raw sugar. cacaoatlanta.com

The Oaxaca truffle, for example, uses guajillo and pasilla chilies with 75% cacao Tanzanian dark chocolate and pumpkin seeds, while the Naga truffle is filled with sweet Indian curry and coconut that's covered by 45% cacao deep milk chocolate. If you're getting a bit freaked out by the experimental flavors, have no fear — there are also chocolates with cherries, hazelnuts, and other more traditional ingredients inside.
We were struck by the fine presentation of this collection by Ferrero. Every piece of high-quality chocolate comes individually wrapped making them a perfect addition to any party or just a nice treat to go with after dinner wine. The box itself is designed perfectly for gift-giving and the variety of chocolates inside mean that there are tastes and textures to satisfy almost any chocolate enthusiast out there. Each piece of chocolate flawlessly combines a smooth taste with a crisp and crunchy wafer center, with a dash of hazelnuts rounding out the flavors.
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).

We knew there was a word for what the look and taste of the gourmet cookies from 1812 House made us feel, so we got busy Googling and we think we found it: Hiraeth. Hiraeth is a Welch word that is tough to translate but it expresses that feeling of longing and nostalgia that borders on homesickness for a time or place you can no longer return to. That’s the kind of emotional time travel we had when we unboxed our cookies from 1812 House. These are timeless, classic cookies made with real butter and vanilla and handmade in small batches. Eating one is like stepping back in time, a pleasure mixed with nostalgia.
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.
If you still want a classic chocolate chip cookie, the Salty Sweet version uses thin slabs of chocolate that layer throughout giving each bite the perfect dough to chocolate ratio. But don’t stop there. We loved the Oatmeal Raisin cookies (“Best I’ve ever had” said one taster), the Dark Chocolate cookies (“Deeply chocolate without being too sweet’) and the Spicy Cinnamon cookies which absolutely live up to the name. Gluten-Free and Vegan cookie options are available too, and they are just as delicious as the classic versions.
Founder Colin Gasko is running a small but ambitious operation. Each single-origin chocolate bar at Rogue is sourced from independent farms in Peru, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Trinidad and Tobago, and Honduras. Unlike other fair-trade chocolate purveyors, Rogue pays more than twice the minimum for some of its cacao order to ensure the lasting success of those farms. Thanks to its small production, Rogue doesn’t always have a wide array available to purchase online, but each bar tastes like something special. Three Rivers, MA

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!


The pieces in a one-pound box were quite varied in appearance, with few repetitions. Most pieces have full flavors of moderate strength. The designs were elegant but not as ornate as Burdick’s. The cinnamon-ginger piece was very good, and the chocolate-coconut mixture is notable. Some pieces are somewhat ordinary, not entirely worthy of a fine chocolatier.
In 1991, Alessio and Cecilia made a pilgrimage to Tain l’Hermitage, in the Rhône Valley, for an appointment at Valrhona. The Tessieris were humored for a while, but when they were ready to make a deal, they were sent away with nothing. The French wouldn’t even negotiate. According to Cecilia, they were told that Italy wasn’t evolved enough to appreciate such extraordinary chocolate.
Who would think we would be singing the praises of Canadian chocolate? Soma, which began in 2003, describes itself as a place to "eat, drink, and worship chocolate". Visitors can experience their small-batch chocolate-making up close at the micro-factory on the Toronto store's premises. Their menu boasts an impressive display of mind-blowing creativity, like "Sparky" Gianduja pralines laced with Pop Rocks, Gooderham Worts Whiskey truffles and the 8-Year Aged Balsamic Vinegar truffles. Bars are available in rectangle or circle form — Soma's Chocolate Possible Worlds bars come as 200-gram oversized disks, such as the "Ruby Red" bar topped with wild cherries, cranberries, barberries and dusted with Sumac powder. O Canada!
Along with the milk and dark bars, there are bite-sized ChocoPods, drinking chocolates, bonbons and truffles. For a real textural experience, try the vegan-friendly Ooh Ahh Almond bar. It blends dark chocolate and crunchy almonds that have been kettle-cooked in sea salt and sugar. Or heat things up with the Spicy Maya bar that fuses cayenne and pasilla chile with creamy dark chocolate. If you want to get in on the latest Chuao flavor, then you have to try Strawberry Waffle Wild, a mix of crunchy waffle bits, strawberries and milk chocolate.
I was delighted with Artisan du Chocolat’s Couture chocolates. You would do well to make Artisan your first stop in London. The flavors range across fruits, nuts, herbs, and spices and are very well done. My favorites were the softy and crunch Feuillantine and smooth Honey, followed closely by the cooperating flavors in the Coriander Praline and the Banana and Thyme and the slightly piquant Sea Salted Caramel. The collection also shines with the Orange Blossom, Passion Fruit, Lavender, and other pieces.
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.
This chocolate brand was first manufactured in the United Kingdom. Its sister brands are ‘Milky Way’ and ‘5 Star’. Its slogan “pleasure you can’t measure” was used to appeal to more women and children. It comes in different sizes from miniature bars to regular 58 gram single bars. Limited-edition flavors include Mars Almond, Mars Gold, and Mars Maple.
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 that there is probably not a city or a town of any size in the country that doesn’t boast at least one purveyor of specialty chocolates, and many places have more. There are at least 80 of them in New York City, for instance, and more than 30 in Los Angeles.
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