Chocolate Store Reviews and More

I review chocolate confections (pralines, cordials, bonbons, and other chocolates with stuff in them). Here is a web site with reviews of solid chocolates and chocolate bars. Here is more information about what I will and will not review.

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My personal reviews.
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Store addresses.
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Latest updates, introduction, and more.
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Explanatory notes.
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Indices to reviews and directory.
Reviews
This page has reviews of stores I think worth reviewing. My directory page has address and phone information for many other stores.

Alegio chocolates
Alegio Chocolaté. (Big image.)

Alegio Chocolaté

I was introduced to Alegio Chocolaté on a chocolate crawl and bought a selection to taste at home. The Raspberry had a good balance with strong raspberry and good chocolate working together. The Orange was similar but slightly milder. The Santa Domingo is an unusal combination of green olive, licorice, currants, and apricot. Those flavors actually stood to the side a bit to present the chocolate at center stage. The Espresso worked well with a slightly salted caramel. The Habeñero had a little bite to it, while the Honey was of course sweet. Throughout the pieces, distinct chocolate flavors were presented well.

Alegio knows what they are doing with chocolate. Unfortunately, their price is quite high, which prevents me from recommending them, except possibly on a “try once” basis.

Type: Fine. Price: $115/lb. in 2007. Chart: Yes. Conclusion: Good but too expensive.

Chocolates in Anette’s Ensemble box
Anette’s Ensemble box. (Big image.)

Anette’s Chocolate Factory

Anette’s Chocolate Factory has a nice variety of chocolates, more than your usual Standard assortment. Examples include the Peach Cobbler, Roasted Hazelnut Morsel, Mint Truffle, Triple Berry, and Himalayan Salted Caramel. They were a bit hit and miss for me, but I would say their milk or dark Ensemble (12 truffles, 18 others) or Anette’s Assorted (30 others) boxes are a good deal.

The Peanut Crunch started with a good light crunch and revealed distinct but light toasted peanut flavor. That was my favorite, and I also enjoyed the Apricot Cream, Marshmallow Cream, and Tart Cherry. I would prefer stronger chocolate flavors in Anette’s chocolates. The Dansk Bar sounded promising with “chocolate truffle layered over marzipan and vanilla caramel,” but I was disappointed. The flavors were not brought out well, and the texture was firmer than I expected. I also found the Triple Berry Cream too sweet to enjoy the fruit and chocolate flavors, so I recommend you select your favorite pieces from the case if you are in the store.

Type: Standard. Price: Truffles $43/lb., others $30/lb. in 2008. Shipping: $16. Chart: Color. Conclusion: Good variety, worth visiting when in Napa.

Anna Shea chocolates
Anna Shea Chocolates. (Big image.)

Anna Shea Chocolates

Anna Shea Chocolates is an experience not to be missed. The flavors, ingredients, technique, and artistry are excellent, including an excellent color chart and playful names. The assortment includes a variety of flavors including fruit, cinnamon, liqueurs, and some playful flavors like red velvet and birthday cake. The assortment was light on nut flavors, which tend to be my favorites.

“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.

Some pieces lagged. The hazelnut in the Hazelnut was too weak. The Puleo was the only piece in which the alcohol detracted from my experience. The Marzipan could have played up its marzipan more. Mostly the assortment contained good compositions and strong, balanced flavors, including good use of chocolate to support or complement other flavors.

I will be giving Anna Shea Chocolates as gifts.

Type: Fine. Price: $86/lb. in 2014. Shipping: $20. Chart: Color. Conclusion: Not to be missed.

Array of rectangular chocolates with decorated flat tops
Artisan’s Couture chocolates. (Big image.)

Artisan du Chocolat

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.

The Couture pieces have uniform shapes, rounded rectangles, differing largely in the decorations printed on their flat tops. I suspect that eases production and enables the good price of £30/lb. ($50/lb. in 2009). Artisan should not be missed when you are in London.

The O chocolates are more of a novelty, disks with a thin filling. While the flavors are okay, the fillings are too small to contribute much. So I leave these pieces to people who just want chocolate with a little bit of something else. At £42/lb., they do not enjoy the same price attractiveness as the Couture chocolates. I did not try the truffles or salted caramels but suspect you will not go wrong sampling them.

Type: Fine. Price: Couture £30/lb. in 2009. Shipping: £17.50. Chart: Color. Conclusion: A must in London.


chocolates with mathematical expressions in gold lettering
Pythagorus. (Big image.)

Au Chocolat

Au Chocolat retails Neuhaus and other chocolates.

Au Chocolat once carried the Les Cygnes collection from Kim’s Chocolates that included these wonderful Pythagorus pieces with mathematical expressions in gold lettering. Most readers will not share my excitement for the math chocolates, but I like mathematics, so I was happy to find a new supplier, named after the collection, Les Cygnes.

Type: Standard and Fine. Price: $19/lb. and $28/lb. in 2002. Conclusion: Ordinary.

Bissinger French Confections

Bissinger’s toffee is pretty good. The pieces in their French Collection and Signature Classic assortments were good quality but did not have a lot of flavor for me. For example, I did not taste much blackberry in the Blackberry Caramel, and the Pecan Nut Ball was too sweet with not enough nut flavor. The price is high for Standard chocolates; you can get some nice Fine chocolate at the same price.

Type: Standard. Price: Toffee $28/lb., other $33-36/lb. in 2005. Chart: Drawings. Conclusion: Too expensive for Standard.


Assorted Bridgewater chocolates, sliced open
Bridgewater Chocolates. (Big image.)

Bridgewater Chocolate

Wrapped Bridgewater chocolate bars (Almonds, Apridemia, Coffee, Cranberry Raisin, Lime, Lime’n Coconut, Zesty Orange)
Bridgewater chocolate bars. (Big image.)
Take classic chocolates, make them with fine chocolate, and upgrade the design and execution a few notches, and you might have something like Bridgewater’s assorted chocolates. You can taste the quality and care that goes into these chocolates. I liked the peanut butter pieces quite a bit, as well as the Irish and almond toffees. Not all the pieces moved me, but you should try for yourself.

I recommend Bridgewater’s assorted chocolates, including the toffees, which you can buy separately. However, their marzipan, truffles, and bars do not impress me the same way, although nothing is particularly wrong with them. The truffles had an airy mousse-like filling. The orange truffle was pleasant, but the hazelnut and raspberry were distant in those truffles. The bars with bits of various fruits, nuts, or other items had a more appealing chocolate flavor than most chocolatiers’ bars. The fruits added a bit to the flavor but were a minority portion. The marzipan was standard.

Type: Fine. Price: $34/lb. in 2006. Shipping: $22. Chart: Color. Conclusion: Assorted chocolates are very good.


Assorted Burdick chocolates
Burdick chocolates. (Big image.)

Burdick Chocolate

Larry Burdick makes exquisite delicious chocolate pieces at Burdick Chocolate, a small manufacturer at the western edge of New Hampshire, northwest of Keene and 70 miles from Nashua. Burdick does a great job of making a variety of ornate fine chocolates and presenting them well. The pieces in his assortment differ from each other well, so that one is entertained by the changes in flavor, style, and shape. The flavors range from intense chocolate to balanced to strong non-chocolate flavors, and the sweetness ranges from bitter to very sweet. Some flavors are familiar, and some are exotic.

After trying several Fine chocolatiers that have been recommended highly, I tried Burdick again and realized his work is significantly above other artisan chocolatiers. Do not miss this. If you cannot get to the cafés in Harvard Square, Walpole, or New York, call or order on the web to have chocolate shipped to you. Burdick Chocolate is well priced for this quality and reasonable for shipping and makes an excellent gift.

Type: Fine. Price: $60/lb. in 2011. Shipping $11.50. Chart: Color. Conclusion: Best choice for a fancy gift and a must when you are in Harvard Square.

Byrne & Carlson

Ellen Byrne and Christopher Carlson in Portsmouth feature fine and standard confections in a variety of styles using chocolate from Belgium, France, and Venezuela. Their truffles are their best overall products. Byrne & Carlson’s truffles are well-designed, handmade, and mostly soft, not hard shelled. The Thistle truffle has nice soft marzipan and Kahlua. The Truffes au Paprika have an interesting balance of delicate flavors with just a slight edge. Most pieces have mild flavors, but the passion fruit pyramid is overwhelmingly tart, wasting the chocolate.

Type: Fine. Price: $32/lb. in 2004. Conclusion: Great for a truffle assortment and as a gift.

Cacao Atlanta

In Cacao Atlanta, Kristen Hard offers some notable and novel truffles. The Cola Truffle piqued my interest the most. It plays on Atlanta being home to Coca-Cola, I have not seen cola combined with chocolate elsewhere, and it is well executed. The cola is combined nicely with the chocolate in this piece.

The Pecan Penuche also plays on local products, Georgia pecans. Its flavor makes nice use of pecans but is a little sweeter than I would like. Two pieces make excellent use of spices. The Aztec has a deep chocolate flavor, strong enough to stand up to the blend of six chilies and spices that kick in after a few seconds. In the Cayenne Passion Fruit, the cayenne and passion fruit play nicely with and against each other and with the chocolate. I often find that “hot” spices detract from chocolate, but Hard has blended these well.

Those were my favorites of the Bean to Truffle Collection. They are novel enough that I am pleased to have tried them once, but the exceptional price prevents me from recommending the collection. The other pieces in my box were well done but not highlights for me. The Pistachio Marzipan did not present the pistachio or marzipan flavors well, the Nougat Torrone does not feature much chocolate flavor, and the Gianduja seemed very slightly bitter.

Cacao Atlanta has additional truffles available in the boutiques but not available online. I have not had opportunity to try them but suspect they would be excellent. I sampled some non-truffle products that were available online but was not excited by them.

Type: Fine. Price: $124/lb. in 2012. Shipping: $12. Chart: Numbered. Conclusion: Several notable and novel pieces but very expensive.

Café Ströbele.

Café Ströbele has a nice assortment of chocolates. They have several good hazelnut pieces.

Type: Fine. Price: €20/lb. in 2006. Conclusion: Tour stop and good supplier if you live in town.


Candinas truffles
Candinas truffles. (Big image.)

Candinas Chocolatier

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.

Type: Fine. Price: $41/lb. in 2006. Chart: No. Conclusion: Fine Swiss chocolate.

Chocolat Céleste

Chocolat Céleste is a mixed bag; I have enjoyed some pieces but not all (relative to experienced expected for the price), and prices have escalated. I suggest the Grand Cru collection. Although pricey, $139/lb. in 2012, it is a rare opportunity to taste criollo (a type of cacao, from which chocolate is made). I enjoyed the criollo pieces in the collection. They should be approached as a tasting experience: Cleanse your palate with water, smell, taste, let the chocolate dissolve, and take the time to experience it. The collection also has non-criollo pieces that I found a bit flat and dry compared to the criollo.

Céleste’s other pieces have covered a range. The flavors have been generally medium strength, usually with good balances. A raspberry piece had a good body, with the raspberry distinctly present but not forefront.

Chocolat Céleste offers USPS as a shipping option, which I prefer over UPS and FedEx for residential service.

Type: Fine. Price: $109/lb. and up in 2012, toffee $40/lb. Chart: Some color charts. Conclusion: Good but pricey.


Chocolat Michel Cluizel storefront
Chocolat Michel Cluizel. (Big image.)

Chocolat Michel Cluizel

Michel Cluizel has a store in Paris that is irresistable in both its appearance and its chocolate selection. Upon arrival, you will see their wonderful window and shelf displays and the chocolate fountain. Here I discuss the store. For the Michel Cluizel brand more generally, see this entry.

The store was formerly called La Fontaine au Chocolat and featured a fountain of flowing chocolate. However, I more admired the cacao pods made of chocolate and the wonderful tortoises and other animals. They were works of art in chocolate.

After I finished looking, I enjoyed the excellent balance of chocolate and raspberry in the framboise. The pistache was great. The noisette had a good hazelnut, but the chocolate was a bit weak. The Chocoblock looks like the chocolate-nut bark you find in so many stores, but it was superb. It contains assorted nuts and particularly brings out the pistachio flavor.

Type: Fine. Price: €51/lb. in 2010. Chart: Color. Conclusion: A must in Paris.

Chocolate Connoisseur

The Chocolate Connoisseur makes chocolates with French and German chocolate. The Oriental Dream was a nice piece with pistachio and marzipan. The peanut butter and cinnamon pieces were nice and blended their flavors well with chocolate, but the hazelnut piece was weak. The chocolate itself does not stand out.

Type: Fine. Price: Truffles $37/lb., others $18/lb. in 2004. Chart: No. Conclusion: Not quite worth the price.

Chocolate Dream Box

The Chocolate Dream Box is a treasure at the southern tip of Silicon Valley, not far from Fleur de Cocoa. Chocolatier Holly Westbrook uses mostly classic compositions, such as fruits and nuts, to good effect. I sampled a pound assortment with not a false note in the batch. Along the way, I encountered the Duo with hazelnuts in peak texture and a medium-light but distinct hazelnut flavor. The Exquisite truffle had a good dark chocolate ganache with fruity notes as promised. At 72% cacao, the Black Truffle was not intense chocolate but was rich and pillowy.

Generally I found the flavors moderate in strength. I prefer strong flavors, particularly my favored hazelnut. However, these are no slouches, and the various flavor combinations were well balanced. The few alcohol pieces used the liqueur flavors well without letting the alcohol bite.

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.

Type: Fine. Price: Pralines $72/lb. in 2013. Chart: Color. Conclusion: A hidden treasure.

The Chocolate Garden

The Chocolate Garden’s dark chocolate raspberry and dark chocolate cherry truffles rival those of el Eden (now closed). Their flavors are powerful, and the truffles are large and sumptuous. These are classed as soft truffles because they do not have a hard shell, but they are quite firm.

The milk chocolate orange truffle is also excellent, but I am not as fond of the others. I had to work to taste the hazelnut in the milk chocolate hazelnut, and the chocolate flavors did not seem strong to me in the milk chocolate, dark chocolate, or darkest dark chocolate. I wonder if the cream they are using is a little unusual. (The web site gives a hint: In addition to heavy cream, the truffles contain butter and butterfat.)

I do recommend The Chocolate Garden. You can get a box of all one flavor. The price is good for this quality, and they offer inexpensive USPS shipping.

Type: Fine. Price: $39/lb. in 2005. Chart: Map. Conclusion: Superb truffles.

The Chocolate Moose

The pumpkin cream (may be seasonal) has a nice, strong flavor. The pecan cup, the peanut butter cup, and the caramel crunch are good. Nancy Cornell will make Peanut Butter and Jelly Chocolate Cups on request, so call ahead. The price is excellent.

Type: Standard. Price: $11/lb. in 2003. Conclusion: Only known source for Peanut Butter and Jelly Chocolate Cup.

The Chocolate Truffle

The Chocolate Truffle’s selection is better than most other stores; they have found distinctive chocolates not readily available elsewhere, even in other gourmet chocolate stores. The Peanut Butter Crunchies are a unique blend of chocolate, peanut butter, and a crunchy texture.

You will also find fine truffles, assorted pieces filled with creams and jellies and pretzels and nuts and caramel and other goodies, fine brands of chocolate bars, and other novelties. The Gourmet Brownie & Peanut Butter is fun but massive, so be sure you have help eating it.

Type: Both Fine and Standard. Price: Assorted. Conclusion: This was my primary source for personal consumption when I lived in New England.

Chocolate Visions

Chocolate Visions makes excellent chocolates with nice flavors. I tried The Works Collection and generally enjoyed both the pieces with familiar flavors and those with novel combinations. The Hazelnut Trio had an unusual structure that showcases its familiar flavors well. The spice was distinct in the Tarragon, quite unusual, and worked well with the chocolate.

Type: Fine. Price: $55/lb. in 2006. Shipping: $8. Chart: Color. Conclusion: Recommended.

Truffles of The Chocolaterie
Truffles of The Chocolaterie. (Big image.)

The Chocolaterie

The Chocolaterie is a delightful find in a suburb of Atlanta. They have a variety of truffles with flavors that are both fanciful and familiar. The Cookie Dough Truffle gives a good impression of its namesake and is both enjoyable and playful. As with the Malted Milkshake Truffle, the flavor composition conveys a luxurious feel. These and several other flavors weave multiple flavor sensations without losing them in a blend.

The Mom’s Apple Pie Truffle had a good apple flavor, a background of pie crust flavor, and was well accompanied by white chocolate. I did find it too playful with non-chocolate flavors to take it seriously as a chocolate piece. The Chocolaterie also has simpler and more direct flavors, such as the Epicurean Truffle and the Hawaiian Pink Sea Salt Butter Caramel.

My least favorite of those I sampled was the Almond Florentine. I found it dry, and the texture was coarse. However, finding your favorites among their many varieties will make your visit worthwhile.

Type: Fine. Price: $78/lb. in 2014. Chart: No. Conclusion: Must visit in area.

Chocolaterie Bernachon

Bernachon is famous for quality, but it was disappointing to me. Bernachon’s chocolate, which they make from raw cacao beans, is very good, and their pieces that are mostly chocolate are very good. However, some of their other pieces flopped for me. One such was the Créole, which has marzipan with rum-flavored currants. I did not like its composition at all. The pralines with liqueur also did nothing for me. (Eat them whole. The liqueur will spill when you bite into them.)

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).

Le Gianduja was lifeless. La Noisette was okay, but the hazelnut flavor seemed a bit off to me.

The ballotin and its contents looked very nice. The look was distinctive and not frilly. However, I would not say a pre-mixed ballotin is worth the price. Stick to the pieces you like.

Type: Fine. Price: €34/lb. in 2003. Conclusion: If you go, stick to the mostly-chocolate pieces.

Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut

I place Bernard Callebaut a notch above Godiva but several notches below Burdick. 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.

The product came with nutrition and ingredient information. The product I received weighed slightly less than the claimed amount. Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut is separate from Callebaut.

Type: Fine. Price: $41/lb. in 2004. Chart: Color. Conclusion: You are better off with Burdick.

Chocolatier Blue chocolates
Chocolatier Blue chocolates. (Big image.)

Chocolatier Blue

Chocolatier Blue features fine chocolates of diverse flavors. One of my favorites was the Sweet Potato Casserole, for its novel flavor. The sweet potato flavor was well presented and balanced with the chocolate. The Hazelnut was also excellent. Hazelnut is a traditional flavor in chocolates, but the natural hazelnut flavor shone in this piece without being bitter. Other favorites included 75% Dark, Lemon, Pistachio, Passion Fruit Caramel, Candy Cane, and Pear. The PB Crunch was crunchy and had a nice peanut flavor with a pleasant tang.

Some of the pieces had flavors I thought were too mild or combinations that missed the mark slightly. The Grapefruit with Rosemary did not capture either flavor for me. In the Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam, the peanut butter and jam flavors were excellent, but the chocolate flavor was lost.

Overall, I would give Christopher Elbow the edge over Chocolatier Blue, for some similar chocolates with stronger flavors at a comparable price. However, Chocolatier Blue has a better price and some very good and interesting pieces worth experiencing.

For full effect, I suggest eating Chocolatier Blue pieces whole, rather than in smaller bites, especially the milder pieces. The Cookies & Cream had notably more character when eaten whole. Some of the pieces I received may be holiday flavors; I am not sure whether they will be available on a regular basis. Chocolatier Blue’s web site required Google Wallet to purchase. That required a lengthy legal agreement I had no time to evaluate. Fortunately, a friend lives near their flagship store and picked up a box for me.

Type: Fine. Price: $71/lb. in 2012. Shipping: $0. Chart: Color. Conclusion: Worth trying, nice gift.


Extraordinarily colorful chocolates
Christopher Elbow chocolates. (Big image.)

Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolate

Christopher Elbow’s beautiful and colorful chocolates were also wonderful tasting. Most of the pieces were sweet and fruity, with medium-strong flavors.

Elbow’s pieces are mostly square ganaches or round caramels. Many of the caramels were dominated by a sweet fruit caramel, with chocolate from the crisp shell playing a lesser role. The chocolate was a little stronger in the Fleur de Sel, which was wonderful to bite into. The Bananas Foster is also notable because four flavors, chocolate, banana, caramel, and rum, are each noticeable and distinct, working together but not diminshing each other.

The ganaches generally delivered stronger chocolate flavors, especially the deep chocolate flavor of the Venezuelan Dark, which seemed stronger than its 70% cacao. In contrast, the Madagascar seemed to have a fruity chocolate. The paté de fruit in the Raspberry was amazingly strong, although not completely outstripping the chocolate.

Some pieces delivered milder flavors, such as the Bourbon Pecan and the Honey Vanilla. Sight and taste are not the only senses stimulated; the French Lavender and the Cinnamon had particularly nice scents.

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.

Service was very good, and the shipping cost is not bad in today’s market.

Type: Fine. Price: $84/lb. in 2008. Shipping: $15. Chart: Color. Conclusion: Expensive but compelling.


Box of Chuao chocolates
Chuao Dark collection. (Big image.)

Chuao Chocolatier

Chuao Chocolatier’s pralines include combinations of banana with caramel, feta with chocolate buttercream, and raspberry with hazelnut. Chuao (pronounced “chew-wow”) uses Venezuelan chocolate with French and Belgian techniques.

I have liked Chuao in the past but think their products have changed, perhaps to support larger production and distribution. My 2014 order was somewhat disappointing, not up to the $84/lb. price. Ingredients seemed to be good quality, but the flavors were generally not strong, and the chocolate flavors were weak. The honey combined nicely with the nut flavors in Nut & Honeylicious. But the nut flavors, which are often my favorites, were mild in this and other pieces. Among the stronger flavors were the raspberry and strawberry in the Framboise and Strawberry Seduction, but even these were medium strength at best and without strong support from the chocolate.

Type: Fine. Price: Pralines $84/lb. in 2014. Shipping: $11. Chart: Color. Conclusion: Disappointing.


Several pieces of each of a dozen fine chocolates
A small part of Cocoa Bella’s selection. (Big image.)

Cocoa Bella Chocolates

Cocoa Bella Chocolates overwhelmed me with an array of chocolates from US and European chocolatiers. Their offerings include Amedei (Pisa, Italy), Bridgewater Chocolate, Cary’s of Oregon, Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolate, Chuao Chocolatier, Michel Cluizel (France), Corné Port Royal Chocolatier, Fudge Fatale (Los Angeles, California), Givere Chocolatier (Franklin, Tennessee), John & Kira’s, Knipschildt Chocolatier, Laderach (Switzerland), Maglio (Lecce, Italy), La Marquise de Sévigné, Payard (New York, New York), Pfister (Illnau, Switzerland), Plantations Collection (Bale, France), Pralineur Van Collie (Roseclare, Belgium), and Valentino Chocolatier (Schepdaal, Belgium).

I took several photographs of Cocoa Bella, but I could not fit all the counters into one photograph, and none of the images convey the magnitude of the selection. The image shows you part of one counter. Click on it to see the more detail, and then imagine about 15 feet of counter like that.

Cocoa Bella’s offerings change too quickly for me to keep this review up to date. The selections are excellent, and it appears you can expect to find superb chocolates at Cocoa Bella whatever is there. My current favorites are Cluizel and Christopher Elbow. It is clear Cocoa Bella is a required stop in San Francisco. I have not seen any other store with as wide a selection of chocolates from Fine chocolatiers.

Type: Fine and some Standard. Price: $35-85/lb. in 2009. Chart: Yes (ask). Conclusion: Exceptional selection of Fine chocolate.

Cosmic Bliss
Cosmic Bliss. (Big image.)

Cosmic Chocolate

Cosmic Chocolate invested well in the design of their web site and the visual appearance of their chocolates, and it shows. Unfortunately, their chocolates, while not bad, are not great and are not by any means worth the exhorbitant price. I sampled the Cosmic Bliss collection. I enjoyed the Black Currant Violet, in part because currants are not used as often as they deserve, and the flavor was nice in this piece, but none of the other pieces were notable.

Cosmic’s shipping cost varies quite a bit based on the size of your order and the destination.

Warning: Cosmic’s web site rudely played music without consent. (My praise of their web site is only for the visual design. I do not endorse their use of Flash or sound or their failure to supply standard navigation elements.)

Type: Fine. Price: $147/lb. in 2008. Shipping: $25, see above. Chart: Yes. Conclusion: Massively overpriced.


Côte de France Store interior
Côte de France. (Big image.)

Côte de France

Côte de France is an elegant little shop. They have a very diverse assortment—the pieces I had were quite different from each other—and every piece was a hit. A hazelnut praline was nice and had a medium flavor that stood well even though it was not strong. The caramel piece was hard and chewy.

Type: Fine. Price: €48/lb. in 2010. Chart: Color, incomplete. Conclusion: My favorite in Paris.


Les Cygnes chocolates Chocolate with mathmetical expressions on it
Les Cygnes. (Big image.) Pythagorus. (Big image.)

Les Cygnes

Les Cygnes carries a favorite chocolate piece of mine, the Pythagorus, which I like more for its mathematical decorations than its hazelnut cream. This and other pieces are made by Kim’s Chocolates. The name of the store is also Kim’s Chocolates’ name for this line of chocolates, Les Cygnes.

I am not fond of all their pieces, but some are pretty nice, and the price is okay, so I recommend ordering pieces that appeal to you. The Mathilda is a quite nice marzipan, and some of the other marzipan pieces are good too. The Altesse is a good caramel. There is also a piece with a bit of a peanut shape and three lines that is very nice, but I cannot match it with a name on the web site. It is the leftmost piece in the image to the right.

Type: Low Fine. Price: £16/lb. in 2006. Shipping: £9. Chart: No. Conclusion: Good price.

Dalloyau

I was pleased with the assortment of chocolate pieces I bought from Dalloyau. It contained a good marzipan and a very good jelly piece. In some nut pieces, there was a good balance of chocolate and nut flavors. The flavors had a moderate intensity. My interest did not last through the entire assortment, though.

Type: Fine. Price: €43/lb. in 2003. Conclusion: One of the better stores in Paris.

DeBrand Fine Chocolates

The Connoisseur Collection is an assortment of delightful flavors, but it is weak on chocolate. Many of the pieces are very sweet or creamy or fruity but have little or no chocolate flavor. Some do, such as the Aztec with its chocolate flavor that is simultaneously strong and delicate. In spite of the poor representation of chocolate, I would be tempted to recommend the Connoisseur Collection for the other wonderful flavors, including passion fruit, chai tea, orange and pistachio marzipans, and hazelnut. Unfortunately, the product I received weighed 5.5 ounces, much less than the 6.7 ounces claimed. This makes the price $105 per pound, which is hugely overpriced.

The Classic Collection is ordinary quality but expensive price. The creams are very sweet, and the chocolate flavor is not strong in most pieces. The peanut butter flavor in the peanut butter piece is quite strong.

Warning: DeBrand sent me unsolicited commercial email. DeBrand’s web site rudely played music even though I have “Play sounds” disabled.

Type: Standard to high Standard. Price: $33/lb. (Classic), $105/lb. (Connoisseur) in 2003. Conclusion: Skip it.

Dilettante

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.

Type: Fine. Conclusion: Their truffles do not stand out.


Assorted Donnelly chocolates
Donnelly Chocolates. (Big image.)

Donnelly Chocolates

Donnelly’s chocolates have well-developed chocolate flavors. Many pieces use strong flavors of spices, fruits, or nuts. I recommend identifying each piece before biting into it—the chocolate-banana combination is better when you expect it than when you are surprised. The cardamom piece is similarly better savored when you are prepared to sense the cardamom. (This spice is not used as much as its distinctive flavor and scent warrant. If you are not familiar with it, I recommend smelling and tasting a little separately before trying Donnelly’s cardamom-chocolate combination.)

The peanut vanilla caramel piece stands out. Donnelly’s chocolate leans toward the bitter.

The ordering process on their web site is excellent. It is simple and fast and offers choices of light, dark, or mixed, without alcohol, and without nuts. Shipping is expensive, like other fine chocolatiers.

Type: Fine. Price: $75/lb. in 2003. Conclusion: Good but expensive.


Assorted el Eden truffles
el Eden truffles. (Big image.)

el Eden Handcrafted Chocolates

Sadly, el Eden closed in March 2003. I leave the review here as a memory of what I seek in a truffle.

el Eden’s truffles were superb, full of flavor. I prefer not to judge chocolatiers by their truffles because so many are overwhelmingly chocolate. But el Eden’s truffles were what truffles should be: strong flavors that balance with the chocolate.

Type: Fine. Price: $45/lb. for 50 truffles (20.5 oz.), $52/lb for 25 in 2002. Conclusion: A terrific treat, worth the price when you truly need good chocolate or as a gift.

Elisabeth Brussels

I found Elisabeth Brussels’ chocolates to be well done but with light flavors. For example, the Trianon was a nice piece with caramel and wafers, and its caramel and chocolate flavors are mild. However, the Massepain Pistache was just okay.

Type: Fine. Price: €17/lb. in 2003 in Bruxelles. Conclusion: Good if you like light flavors.

Elk Candy Company

Elk Candy Company makes fine chocolate and marzipan. I do not think marzipan is very interesting when it is plain or merely coated in chocolate, so it is nice to find a chocolatier that has developed their marzipan further, as Elk Candy Company has done with their flavored marzipan rolls. I like marzipan this way. Elk sells it in slices. Flavors include pistachio, truffle, hazelnut, and orange.

Type: Standard and Fine. Price: $21/lb. in 2004. Conclusion: Visit when in New York and mail order occasionally.


Assorted Fauchon chocolates
Fauchon chocolates. (Big image.)

Fauchon

Fauchon is a disappointment. They have a fancy gourmet shop on Park Avenue with attentive staff. But their chocolates do not match and are not suited to Fauchon’s prices. Their pastry is better. I tried a cherry macaron in New York and an Auguste in Paris and found them to be delicious.

Type: Fine. Price: $45/lb. in 2001. Conclusion: Not recommended.

Galler

Two of the three Galler pieces I tried were bitter. One piece, a praline, was unpleasantly bitter. I can enjoy bitter chocolate, but it does not work when it combats other flavors. The bitterness worked better in a piece with a stronge orange flavor. It was still not to my taste, but it might work for some people.

Type: Fine. Price: €15/lb. in 2003 in Bruxelles. Conclusion: Misses the mark.


Garrison Confections’ Seasonal Collection
Garrison Confections’ Seasonal Collection. (Big image.)

Garrison Confections

Garrison Confections’s main attraction is the Seasonal Collection, which features twelve new flavors about every three months. Generally I like new experiences, so that is fine by me, but do not get attached, because your favorite piece will vanish. I tried the collection in April 2007 and was impressed by some pieces, notably the fruit patés. The Pabana was particularly nice, good flavors blended well, including a novel fruit flavor. The 91% was also very nice, unusual for me since I generally like more than chocolate alone. The pieces with alcohol were less appealing to me, as usual. The Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie was a bit piquant with a nice balance. The Coffee Almond Praline started well but finished weakly.

Although there was some nice work in the collection, I cannot recommend it due to the high price ($75/lb.) and the shortcomings.

I do recommend Garrison’s Ultimate Toffee. It was a very good toffee and only $17/lb. It does have only a thin layer of chocolate that could be thicker.

Garrison has other novelties, but the toffee was best. The Ultimate Nougat Bar suggested something I would like to see chocolatiers try—remaking classic candy bars with fine ingredients. Unfortunately, the Nougat Bar fell short. It felt too empty of flavor, and the first three ingredients do not impress (dried egg whites, sugar, and potato starch).

Garrison’s pieces generally were not a good showcase for chocolate; it played only a minor role in most pieces. While ordering, I was put off by the lengthy legal terms. I would rather a chocolatier tell me more about their products than about how all shipping problems will work against the customer, and the seller does not want to be bothered with anything like ensuring their product is delivered well.

Type: Fine. Price: $75/lb. in 2007. Shipping: $27. Chart: Map. Conclusion: Too expensive, not a good showcase for chocolate.

Ghirardelli Chocolate Company

Ghirardelli is a famous chocolate manufacturer that originated in San Francisco. Ghirardelli was purchased by Lindt and no longer maintains their former standards.

Type: Below Standard. Price: $13/lb. in 2004. Chart: Individual wrappings. Conclusion: Do the tourist thing once and move on.

Ginger Elizabeth chocolates
Ginger Elizabeth chocolates. (Big image.)

Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates

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.

I would have liked more salt in the Fleur de Sel Caramel and stronger peppermint in the Fresh Peppermint, but overall I was very pleased with the selection. Ginger Elizabeth’s prices are in line with the super premium market.

Type: Fine. Price: $88/lb. in 2013. Shipping: $18. Chart: Color. Conclusion: Very nice, a must in Sacramento.

Godiva

Godiva has slipped somewhat, and you would do well to explore some of the alternatives in this page. I am fond of their hazelnut paste, which they use in the Open Oyster and other pieces. I recommend you cherry-pick your favorite pieces and not buy a packaged assortment, except large boxes may have cheaper rates. I liked the Almond Praliné Raindrop I had in 2007. You might find you like some of Godiva’s lines and not others. For example, I generally find Godiva’s pralines okay but was displeased in 2009 by some misplaced flavor in several of their truffles.

Before some holidays, Godiva offers its G collection. The G collection is made by Norman Love Confections, and its pieces are similar to Norman Love’s. I did find some of the G pieces stronger and tastier than those I purchased directly from Norman Love. However, the G collection cost $138/lb. (in 2006), so I do not recommend it.

I tried a few pieces of Godiva’s Platinum Collection, around $52/lb. in 2006, and some of the pieces were nice, but I recommend staying with Godiva’s regular assorted chocolates. The V.S. Comtesse and the Mokalata had a nice velvety chocolate. The Iconique was a soft milk chocolate with hazelnut giving it a slight bite. The Razabelle was a chewy raspberry caramel that would have been nicer if the raspberry were more pervasive and longer lasting. The Cœur was a nice hazelnut paste. The Nocturne had dark chocolate lost in the other ingredients. One frustration with Godiva’s Platinum Collection was that I could barely read the 4.5-point type describing the pieces in the brochure that came with them.

Type: Fine. Price: $44/lb. in the US in 2009, €18/lb. in Bruxelles in 2003. Chart: Color. Conclusion: Unreliable, overpriced.

Granite State Candy Shoppe

Granite State Candy Shoppe is the classic little chocolate shop, nestled in downtown Concord. They have a strong marzipan, and the peanut butter bolster is okay, but most of their pieces do not stand out. For example, their buttercrunch (toffee) misses the mark—It has oddly shaped almond pieces jutting out at discordant angles, the flavor is not quite right, and the texture is too brittle.

Type: Standard. Conclusion: If you are already in downtown Concord, maybe stop in once to see if it is to your taste.

Harbor Candy Shop

Harbor Candy Shop is a surprise in the middle of a beach town. They have a large selection of Fine chocolate as well as an assortment of Standard chocolate, and their chocolate-making area is on display. I liked their Muscadine truffle but not their hazelnut crunch bark. Harbor shares some product designs with Byrne & Carlson due to Ellen Byrne’s tenure at Harbor. However, I distinctly prefer Byrne & Carlson’s Thistle to Harbor’s.

Type: Fine. Price: $13/lb. to $25/lb. in 2001. Conclusion: A must if you are on Route 1 in Maine, but edged out by Byrne & Carlson in Portsmouth.

Harbor Sweets

Harbor Sweets makes very fine chocolates, about as good as the best chocolatiers, but not quite as fancy or expensive. Their chocolates are simply presented but are very good and have strong flavors. The buttercrunch (toffee) is very good, although it is too much chocolate and not enough buttercrunch.

Harbor Sweets are carried in various specialty stores in 17 states, especially Massachusetts. For store information, contact customer service by email to swee@ne800.com or phone at 1-800-234-4860. Some of their chocolates are sold under the brand name Dark Horse Chocolates.

Type: Fine. Conclusion: Buy from Harbor Sweets once in a long while.

Hédiard

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.

Hédiard’s chocolate bars were less satisfying than their chocolate pieces. The Chocolate Noir Aux fruits secs (bitter chocolate with fruit and nuts) was unsatisfying and strangely empty of chocolate flavor.

Type: Fine. Price: €37/lb. in 2003. Conclusion: One of the better stores in Paris.

Intemperantia

Warning: Intemperantia sent me unsolicited commercial email and said, incorrectly, my address was obtained from their “contest.” They continued to send unsolicited commercial email after being told to stop.

I tried Intemperantia’s petite truffles and French Pavers. The truffles are nice; they have good texture and good flavor. The milk chocolate truffle is particularly strong for a milk chocolate, and the alcohol truffles have a nice flavor without too much alcohol. Unfortunately, even the largest package, 72 truffles, amounts to $57/lb. plus shipping, and the truffles are not worth that much. The Pavers are bitter and not unpleasantly so, and they grow on you. Intemperantia offers shipping by Postal Service (less expensive than FedEx and UPS).

Type: Fine. Price: $57/lb. in 2002. Conclusion: Too expensive and sent spam.

Jacky Pédro

Jacky Pédro is the third generation in a 70-year history of chocolatiers. He operates a little store in Alençon, about two hours from Paris. I really enjoyed it and hope some of my readers can visit.

One piece had a very good blend of hazelnut and almond with a fine crunchy texture. The marzipan was very good; Jacky Pédro brought out the flavor well. He must have sense of humor and self-confidence to label one of his products Le Crottin du Pin. To avoid spoiling your appetite, I will not translate the name, but the piece is a cocoa meringue with a chocolate cream filling. It was nice and very unusual and just a bit bitter. I also strayed from chocolate and tried the Patés de Fruits, which were very good.

Jacky Pédro is just down the street from Glatigny, which was closed during my visit, but I am told you should visit Glatigny while you are in Alençon.

Type: Fine. Price: €29/lb. in 2003. Conclusion: A treasure.


Assorted Jacques Torres chocolates
Jacques Torres chocolates. (Big image.)

Jacques Torres Chocolate

Jacques Torres’ products are excellent, and there is not much to detract for that. A correspondent recommended the Alizé Heart of Passion, but the nut pieces are my favorites, with the Heart and other fruit pieces second. Most of the nut pieces, such as the Heavenly Hazelnut, had the fine crunchy texture of a praliné. The Cinnamon Praline was also a great nut piece, with hazelnuts. The European Peanut Butter had sort of an airy taste to the peanut butter. The Heart had a nice pop to the passion fruit flavor enveloped by chocolate flavor. The Creamy Raspberry, Fresh Squeezed Lemon, and Love Bug were also excellent fruit pieces.

The Pistachio Marzipan and Bandol Breeze (apricot pâte de fruit and marzipan) were too weak for my taste, but most of Jacques Torres’ pieces had both good non-chocolate and chocolate flavors. The Golden Espresso was another very good piece. Mom’s Chocolate Peanut Brittle did not quite work for me, but Grandma’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch was excellent, with a great roasted peanuts flavor and complementing chocolate. In spite of my few quibbles I, most of Torres’ pieces are done to near perfection, and I would class Torres with Burdick. Both are near the same quality. Burdick uses a bit more exotic flavors while Torres takes familiar flavors to great heights.

Type: Fine. Price: $69/lb. in 2014. Shipping: $4 ($35 in warm season). Chart: Color. Conclusion: Superb chocolate.

Jean-Paul Hévin Chocolatier

I tried Jean-Paul Hévin’s Chocolate Apéritifs au Fromage (€46/lb. in 2003), Boîte Gourmande (€47/lb.), and Les Truffes Natures Boîte (€34/lb.). I missed the English page when ordering, or I would have seen “Aperitive Cheese Chocolates,” “Gourmet Gift Box,” and “Plain Truffles.”

Chocolate Apéritifs au Fromage is chocolate-covered cheese. That was an unusual combination, new to me. The flavors are balanced and modest, but the cheese prevails. The Boîte Gourmande contains plain square wafers of chocolate, Florentins (chocolate cookies, square wafers covered with a honey and nut confection), mendiants (chocolate disks topped with nuts and dried fruit), and chocolate sticks containing candied orange peel. All are good. These are little chocolate delicacies, to be savored. The dried fruit arrived still fresh and full of flavor.

Les Truffes Natures Boîte is a box of truffles. I find most truffles uninteresting and am not attracted to these. However, this is an excellent price for truffles of this type, so I recommend them to those who like truffles.

Two of the boxes contained less than the advertised amounts. The Fromage was 126 grams instead of the 140 claimed, and the Gourmande was 188 instead of 200. My prices per pound are based on the lower amounts. The Truffes was over, 211 grams instead of 200.

Type: Fine. Price: See above. Conclusion: A must in Paris. Shipping is too expensive.

K Chocolatier truffles
K Chocolatier truffles. (Big image.)

K Chocolatier

K Chocolatier’s K Truffles are traditional truffles, dusted in cocoa powder instead of enrobed in chocolate. They deliver a deep, luscious chocolate and cream sensation. I suggest tasting these once to experience a true truffle. Unfortunately, the price is too high for me to recommend otherwise.

I also tasted the K Ginger, K Pomegranates, and K Pecan Krisps. While nice, they are not as notable as the truffles.

Type: Fine. Price: $99/lb. in 2012. Conclusion: Worth a try once.

Kee’s Chocolates
Kee’s Chocolates. (Big image.)

Kee’s Chocolates

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.

Type: Fine. Price: $111/lb. in 2012. Chart: Web. Conclusion: Too expensive.

Knipschildt Chocolatier

I have had Knipschildt chocolates from two sources: Cocoa Bella and Whole Foods Market. The pieces from Cocoa Bella were excellent. This includes Hannah, a piece with caramel and sea salt, and Lilac.

On the other hand, the pieces from Whole Foods Market were not as impressive. The Elizabeth, Antoinette, and Madeleine were good. The Jeanett had a strong mint flavor that overpowered its white chocolate. The Sophie is marzipan with lemon, which is interesting. I wanted more marzipan, but it was good. Not everything worked. The Valentina is a chewy caramel with lavender. Lavender is aromatic, but that was distracting, and it did not contribute a pleasing flavor. The Patricia certainly had chili but was weak on tangerine. These were fine for grocery store chocolates, but lackluster for the price, $51/lb. The box has drawings illustrating the pieces, but I was unable to match several pieces to the drawings.

Type: Fine. Price: Depends on source. Chart: Drawings (not useful). Conclusion: Purchase directly or from a chocolate store.

Kollar Chocolates
Kollar Chocolates. (Big image.)

Kollar Chocolates

Kollar Chocolate’s pieces show excellent technique: They have good flavors, the flavors are generally well expressed, the chocolate is good, and the pieces are attractive and physically well crafted. However, I did not get a great sense of depth of flavors or blending of them. By and large, the flavors in each piece seemed distinct from each other and did not combine to form an experience absorbing to the senses.

The Cardamom and Fennel Pollen offered nice experiences of those spices. More familiar flavors were found in the Almond Praline and Peanut Butter. I found the chocolate flavor better in the Earl Grey than in the 72% Dark Chocolate. However, no piece wowed me, and I cannot recommend these at the price.

Type: Fine. Price: $94/lb. in 2014. Shipping: $39. Chart: Color. Conclusion: Excellent technique.


Lenôtre chocolates
Lenôtre chocolates. (Big image.)

Lenôtre

Lenôtre is a nice store, and their chocolate pieces were pretty good. The flavors were generally delicate but prominent and distinctive. I prefer strong flavors, so Lenôtre is not one of my favorites, but it is quite good, and I recommend it if you like mild or moderate flavors.

The Pistache was very good as a pistachio piece but only a good chocolate. The Surprise Caramel is good and left a nice aftertaste. There are some nice hazelnut pieces.

Type: Fine. Price: €38/lb. in 2003. $58/lb. at Las Vegas in 2004. Conclusion: Good Paris choice for delicate flavors.

Leonidas

Leonidas makes fine chocolate, but it is not the best quality, and sometimes the flavors seem a bit off to me.

Type: Fine. Price: $33/lb. in 2008. €6.2/lb. in 2003 in Bruxelles. Conclusion: Purchase occasionally.

Li-Lac Chocolates

Li-Lac Chocolates is a terrific chocolatier. They have yummy moist marzipan “rolls” (really fingers), a good raspberry jelly bar, and some nice hazelnut truffle squares. Their raisin bar has a tangy blend of strong chocolate and raisin flavors, although it contains few whole raisins.

Type: Fine. Price: $39/lb. to 48/lb. in 2004. Conclusion: Stop by when in New York and mail order occasionally.

Lindt & Sprüngli

Lindt & Sprüngli sells both their imported chocolates and chocolates made in New Hampshire. Try the hazelnut, amaretto, and peanut butter truffles. Lindt’s quality has suffered since they targeted a larger market, but you might still find a piece or two that you like.

Type: Fine declining to Standard. Conclusion: No longer worthwhile.


Assorted Maison du Chocolat chocolates
Maison du Chocolat chocolates. (Big image.)

La Maison du Chocolat

I was pleased with La Maison du Chocolat’s chocolates in Paris, and the prices there were reasonable. Unfortunately, my experience with their New York stores are less pleasing, in both quality and price, so I cannot recommend them. In France, I recommend sampling their chocolates to find your favorite pieces.

Type: Fine. Price: $112/lb. in US in 2012, varies widely by box selection, cheaper in France. Conclusion: Good in France.

La Maison du Chocolat Artisanal

La Maison du Chocolat Artisanal is a superb shop with assortments of fine chocolates from several chocolatiers. The price is excellent even for Bruxelles (where chocolate is cheap). The marzipan pieces were very good, and I enjoyed everything I sampled from La Maison du Chocolat Artisanal.

It was very warm when I visited Bruxelles, and Maison was the only store in Bruxelles considerate enough of their customer to suggest protecting chocolates from the heat of the day.

Type: Fine. Price: €13/lb. in 2006 in Bruxelles. Conclusion: My favorite shop in Bruxelles.


Array of MarieBelle chocolates
MarieBelle chocolates. (Big image.)

MarieBelle

Warning: MarieBelle sent me unsolicited commercial email and continued after being told to stop.

MarieBelle’s chocolates have fun designs, but the flavors did almost nothing for me. The Swiss chocolate is a thin shell around the fillings and contributed little to the taste. Good ingredients were used, and the flavors, when I could detect them, were well done. However, even pieces I would expect to have prominent flavors, like the Pineapple or Mandarin, were weak. The Spices piece was good, and the Hazelnut Praline was good except for the slightness of the flavor. I could not recommend these at half the price, let alone the $100/lb. charged.

I also tried the cheaper Croquettes au Chocolat, chocolate given a crunchy texture with buttery European cookies, but they also did almost nothing for me.

MarieBelle sent unsolicited commercial email. Their shipping policy is bad. They pick the shipper and require expensive overnight delivery, charge $32 for less than two pounds, and deny responsibility if you do not stay home to receive the package. The web site does not offer a choice of pieces. My 25-piece box contained duplicates, so that only 14 flavors of the 27 depicted on the chart were in the box.

Warning: I gave MarieBelle a unique email address. Sometime later, I received phishing email sent to that address.

Type: Fine. Price: Chocolates $100/lb., croquettes $37/lb. in 2006. Shipping: $32. Chart: Color. Conclusion: Overpriced and underflavored.

La Marquise de Sévigné

Their hazelnut piece had a good flavor at first, but it did not last through eating the whole piece. There were some good pieces and some strong flavors, but overall the assortment was average for fine chocolates in Paris (which is of course a high standard).

Type: Fine. Price: €30/lb. in 2003. Conclusion: Just average for fine Paris chocolate.


Box of Martine’s chocolates
Martine’s Chocolates. (Big image.)

Martine’s Chocolates

Martine’s Chocolates has a large assortment of fine chocolates, all very good and with a variety of classic flavors, including several hazelnut pieces, raspberry, marzipan, caramel, and more. The flavors are generally moderate strength and well blended. I would make a few adjustments for my personal tastes, but I have no complaints about Martine’s chocolates.

Glitches detracted from Martine’s service. My apartment number was not put in the shipping address, even though it was confirmed by telephone, so FedEx could not deliver the package, a waste of the shipping fee. (The number might have been written on the top layer, which is torn off, and not copied through to the shipping label beneath.) After I ordered, Martine’s called me to say there was a 50¢ price increase for one of the pieces. I would have suggested honoring the price on their order form, not wasting a phone call, and sending a new form noting the change for future orders. These could be one-time glitches that would not stop me from ordering again.

Type: Fine. Price: $48/lb. preselected, $61/lb. your choice in 2005. Chart: Black and white images. Conclusion: Quite good, preselected is good value.

Mary Chocolatier

Mary Chocolatier has some excellent chocolates. I was surprised by their cream mocha because I usually do not like creams much. The cream mocha was very very good—the cream flavor has a full body and is expressed well. The marzipan in dark chocolate was very good too. A milk-chocolate hazelnut piece had a good, strong hazelnut flavor.

A dark-chocolate hazelnut piece had a light but definite hazelnut flavor. Another piece had yellow marzipan in milk chocolate, but it did not taste like marzipan. I do not know what they were trying for, and it did not do anything for me.

Mary loses points for not labeling the chocolates in their display case or having a brochure, and the person who served me appeared reluctant to describe pieces or help me select according to my tastes.

Type: Fine. Price: €20/lb. in 2003 in Bruxelles. Conclusion: Required stop in Bruxelles.


Box of McElrath truffles
Epicurean Truffle Assortment.

B.T. McElrath Chocolatier

Brian and Christine McElrath run B.T. McElrath Chocolatier, an artisan chocolatier in Minnesota. Like Burdick and Candinas, they make their own distinctive pieces of fine chocolate. McElrath’s truffle assortment was excellent, with balanced and moderately strong flavors. In most pieces, the flavors remained distinct, working together without losing their own identities. B.T.’s Signature Dark Chocolate Truffle had a full chocolate flavor without any bitterness and without being very sweet. Other flavors include caramel; passion fruit; lavender and pepper; chile and lime, lime, coconut, and ginger; cinnamon and star anise. All were well done. I would ask for a different and stronger caramel flavor, but that is a quibble of personal preference. (Also, others like me who like hazelnut and other nut flavors will not get their fill at McElrath.)

Type: Fine. Price: $76/lb. in 2011. Chart: Color. Conclusion: Very nice.

Melt

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.

As with many premium chocolatiers, because of the price I can only recommend sampling a few pieces.

Type: Fine. Price: £54/lb. in 2009. Conclusion: Very nice but very expensive.

Mendocino Chocolate Company

Mendocino’s works are playfully artistic.

Type: Standard with Fine influence. Conclusion: Mail order once in a long while.

Michael Recchiuti

I happened upon Confections by Michael Recchiuti in a gourmet food store and followed up with a trip to their San Francisco store. Recchiuti’s chocolates are superb, with fascinating chocolate flavors and nice blends with other flavors. Several Varietal pieces feature different strains of cacao beans, a good opportunity to compare flavors.

The lemon in the Lemon Verbena seems like an indirect flavor; it is not strong, and it supports the chocolate. The Sesame Nougat is a great piece, a novel combination. Recchiuti’s pieces generally have strong flavors accompanied well. The visual designs are great too.

The hazelnut praline bar is superb. Some of Recchiuti’s other items did not appeal to me. For example, the brownie dissolves in your mouth wonderfully and was neither too sweet nor too bitter, but it did not have a strong flavor. Similarly, the chocolate-nut bars did not move me.

Select your chocolates from the display case, because the boxed chocolates cost much more than a la carte. Also, my a la carte pieces were full weight, but the box was very slightly underweight (a few percent).

Type: Fine. Price: A la carte $48/lb., boxed $88/lb. in 2004. Chart: Good drawings. Conclusion: Superb.

Michel Cluizel chocolates
Michel Cluizel chocolates. (Big image.)

Michel Cluizel

I was very impressed with the chocolates at Chocolat Michel Cluizel in 2006, when it was called La Fontaine au Chocolat. I have also sampled Michel Cluizel through their New York store and other retailers, but those experiences have not risen to the level of the Paris shop.

Type: Fine. Price: New York: $80/lb. in 2012. Conclusion: Prefer the Paris store.

Moonstruck chocolates
Moonstruck chocolates. (Big image.)

Moonstruck Chocolatier

Moonstruck has some truffles with a variety of novel, fresh, and attractive shapes. The hazelnut truffle brought out the flavor of its whole hazelnuts well. The cherry kirsch truffle was okay, and the apple brandy was too mild.

Moonstruck ought to be better for the price they are charging. However, if you do sample Moonstruck, I recommend trying an assortment spread across Moonstruck’s varied pieces.

Type: Fine. Price: $64/lb. in 2008. Chart: Color. Conclusion: Presentation good but does not stand out in taste.

Munson’s Chocolates

Munson’s Chocolates makes a top-notch buttercrunch. Their marzipan is moist, although plain. I found the shells of their truffles to be too hard.

Type: High end of Standard. Conclusion: Good place to get buttercrunch.

Neuhaus chocolates
Neuhaus chocolates. (Big image.)

Neuhaus

Neuhaus is a Belgian chocolatier with stores throughout the world. They have a number of hazelnut pieces. I like their Troika (marzipan and gianduja) and Paolo (hazelnut praline with whole hazelnut).

Prices might vary by outlet. The $61/lb. I paid at Macy’s in San Francisco in 2008 was too much, but the €17/lb. I paid in Bruxelles in 2003 was a good deal. I do not recommend an expensive Neuhaus box as a gift, but, if you select your preferred pieces at a counter at a good price, Neuhaus is okay.

Type: Fine. Price: $61/lb. in 2008. Chart: Color. Conclusion: Okay when convenient and reasonably priced.

Norman Love Confections

Norman Love box Norman Love chocolates in opened box
Norman Love box. Opened box. (Big image.)
Norman Love Confections is an artisan chocolatier with a wonderful colorful presentation in a clever package. The 36-piece assortment makes a visually impressive gift. I am seeing more clever and creative packaging from chocolatiers, including ideas and art that should be preserved for display.

However, it is the chocolate that counts here. Norman Love falls short. Although the pieces were visually great, quite polished, and perfectly executed, they did not use chocolate well. Perhaps a third had a good chocolate presence. There were quite good non-chocolate flavors, including peanut butter, pistachio, lime, and pumpkin. The Peanut Butter & Jelly was very good but not good enough to justify putting them in an expensive confection.

The assortment comes with three each of 12 random flavors, unless you enter a particular request when ordering. There were a few pieces I could not match to the chart. My order arrived with cold packs and lots of insulation.

Type: Fine. Price: $86/lb. in 2006. Shipping: $18. Chart: Yes. Conclusion: Beautiful gift but not for chocolate lovers.

Notter School & Chocolate Studio

Notter is a school for pastry chefs and also operates a chocolate studio. They make elegant pieces with good chocolate, fresh cream, and some strong fruit flavors. The selection is small but superb. Many of the pieces use white chocolate; ask for your preference if you do not want much white chocolate.

Notter has classes both for professional chefs and for amateurs. See their web site for more information on classes for cakes, chocolate, cookies, breads, and more.

Type: Fine. Price: $39/lb. in 2004. Chart: No. Conclusion: Orlando’s best.

Francois Payard chocolates
Francois Payard chocolates. (Big image.)

Payard

François Payard is widely known as a pastry chef, but I was unimpressed by Payard’s chocolates. I enjoyed the Chagall, a praline wafer with excellent structure, good balance, and medium-mild flavors, although it was a bit slow to present flavors. I also liked the Gauguin, in which the cherry and chocolate flavors worked well together, and the Monet, with a strong cinnamon flavor. Most other pieces were okay but unremarkable. The Rodin disappointed because its initial interesting raspberry flavor faded too quickly.

Type: Fine. Price: $54/lb. in 2012. Chart: Color. Conclusion: Skip the chocolates.

Pierre Hermé

Pierre Hermé was a delight. A friend suggested I try their macarons, but I could not resist sampling the chocolates, and they were excellent.

The Corso was the most novel piece, combining olive oil, salt, and chocolate. I was skeptical, but the olive oil was presented nicely and worked well with the chocolate. My sensations of the Pietra alternated between the chocolate and hazelnut flavors; they were balanced nicely. Generally, Hermé’s pieces had good chocolate and nice flavors, although I did not agree with all of the balances. I did not taste the caramel or salt very much in the Makassar, and the raspberry in the Ispahan could have been stronger.

Overall, it was a very nice assortment, and the price is good for this quality of chocolates, so I recommend Pierre Hermé strongly. They have shops in Paris and Tokyo and appear to ship only in Europe.

Pierre Hermé provides a full-color chart. It is on a large sheet I was tempted to frame and hang on a wall. Because it is so large, it is cumbersome to use for identifying the chocolates in your box.

Type: Fine. Price: €48/lb. in 2010. Chart: Color. Conclusion: One of the best in Paris.

Pierre Marcolini

I was not satisfied at Pierre Marcolini. The Massepain Pistache was unremarkable. The dark chocolate in the Noisettine Fondant was so strong it almost overpowered the hazelnut. The ingredients and components in the piece were good, but the composition was not great. In the Trianon Fondant, the dark chocolate exterior did overpower the filling, and the wafers were soggy, not crisp.

At Fortnum & Mason in London, I tried another piece by Pierre Marcolini, the Gianduja Citron, and it was good, a nice blend of hazelnut and lemon.

Type: Fine. Price: €23/lb. in 2003 in Bruxelles. Conclusion: Cross the street to Wittamer.

Planète Chocolat

Planète Chocolat sells most of their chocolates in prepared boxes, so I could not pick out my preferences. Some pieces, mostly truffles, are available separately. The pieces in the box I got had textured tops that I could not match up with the diagram, so I could not tell what was what. Planète Chocolat’s chocolates look fancy, but that does not make them taste fancy, and I would rather pay for taste than looks.

A hazelnut piece was good and would be okay for the price on its own, but most other pieces, although good quality, left me unmoved. A few pieces are composed well, with good blends of mostly mild flavors.

Type: Fine. Price: €16/lb. in 2003 in Bruxelles. Conclusion: Uneven collection.

Regis Chocolatier

I liked Regis Chocolatier’s Noir Orange bar. The orange flavor was brought out well. I do not usually like simple chocolate bars, but I recommend this one.

However, Regis’ collection of chocolate pieces is erratic. I liked some, and I disliked some. Some were nice, some were good, and some were “just chocolate.” This is not what I expect from fine chocolate. Overall, the flavors were moderate strength.

Type: Fine. Price: €41/lb. in 2010. Chart: No. Conclusion: Paris has better.


A five-by-five array of square and round chocolates with pink designs and brown designs
Fruity in pink, Roasted in brown. (Big image.)

Richart

Richart’s stores in the United States have closed since I wrote the review below. A limited selection is available at Gastronomie in New York (address below).

Richart has improved over the years and makes a nice presentation in the store and in the box. Their chocolates are nice but are far from worth the extraordinary price. I purchased a 25-piece box mixed with Fruity and Roasted pieces. The prepared boxes in the store were all Fruity, all Roasted, or all Balsamic, so each has a uniform color, unlike my mixture to the right. Other design elements in the store are nice, such as a shelf display using a lot of white with a little bright color, different in each column of boxes.

Some of the Fruity pieces were excellent, particularly the Mango Passionfruit ganache. The fruit flavor was nicely bittersweet and strong with a good peak, complemented by slightly bitter chocolate. The Lime ganache, Raspberry ganache, and Red Berry bouquet coulis were also quite good with strong fruit flavors. The Orange Zest coulis was very interesting. I had the sensation of flavor in the upper palate versus on the tongue. The Apricot coulis flopped, though; it was weak and not sweet enough for me.

The Roasted pieces were not bad but certainly not the fine works they should be at this price. The caramel in the Caramel coulis was strong, but the Smooth roasted hazelnut praliné was only moderate. I recommend sampling both the Roasted and the Fruity chocolates in the order suggested in the accompanying pamphlet. It does enhance the flavors.

The chocolate in these pieces was subdued. Mostly, I prefer a balance between chocolate and other flavors. In Richart’s pieces, chocolate does not contribute enough for me. Since it was weak, I tasted the chocolate by itself first before biting into a couple of pieces. The chocolate was slightly bitter without a lot of flavor. That is perhaps not unusual for French chocolate (and I prefer Belgian), but, at this price, I want chocolate to knock me over.

I recommend Burdick Chocolate as a better gift and more pleasing to the palate. If you try Richart, sample the larger pieces. The Petits are too small to be appreciated.

Type: Fine. Price: $127/lb. in 2005. Chart: Color. Conclusion: Makes an impressive gift but massively overpriced.


Box of Saratoga Chocolates
Saratoga Chocolates. (Big image.)

Saratoga Chocolates

My 2013 experience with a purchase from Saratoga Chocolates was improved from prior samples in 2006 and 2008, but I do not find it up to the level I expect from their price. One of the better balances in their pieces seemed to be in the Peanut Butter in dark chocolate (the strong peanut butter flavor was not a match for the milk chocolate version, though). The Caramel Cinnamon also blends its title ingredients well, but this and other pieces did not present chocolate flavors well.

The Hazelnut Praline Truffle presented a strong roasted flavor of hazelnut but might have been roasted a bit too much and did not capture the nutty aspect of hazelnut well. In some pieces, the chocolate seems too bitter or dry to me.

Type: Fine. Price: $80/lb. in 2013. Chart: Color. Conclusion: Not recommended.

Schakolad Chocolate Factory

Schakolad’s Butterscotch Truffle was very good, and the hazelnut cup was good. Some of the other pieces were unexciting. The Orange Truffle was orangey, but its white chocolate does not contribute, and the marzipan and buttercrunch were weak.

Type: Fine. Price: $25/lb. in 2004. Chart: Color. Conclusion: Okay for the price.

Schoggi Imported Swiss Chocolates

I had a mixed experience at Schoggi. Each of the several pieces I choose from the case was excellent, mostly hazelnut pieces, with a very nice paté de fruit. So I anticipated enjoying the prepared assortment I also purchased. However, it was generally disappointing. The chocolate and other ingredients were good, but I found the compositions and flavors lacking strength, not atypical of Swiss chocolate.

Yerba Buena Lane is a pedestrian-only street, so a GPS or mapping software might balk at leading you there. If so, aim for 760 Market Street.

Type: Fine. Price: $74/lb. in 2013. Conclusion: Possible indulgence, but choose individual pieces.

See’s Candies

See’s Candies makes some nice chocolates for their price class. I developed a fondness for See’s Peanut Crunch and Peanut Butter Patties. Ghirardelli is the classic San Francisco chocolate name, but it has lost its luster, and See’s will actually be more enjoyable to eat. (Or to change from Standard to Fine in San Francisco, go to Cocoa Bella Chocolates or Michael Recchiuti.)

(I own stock in See’s parent company, Berkshire Hathaway.)

Type: Standard. Price: $17.50/lb. in 2013. Conclusion: Choose See’s over Ghirardelli when bringing back a gift from a San Francisco trip.

Seven Sisters Sweet Shop

The chocolates of Seven Sisters Sweet Shop have life and character. These are nice chocolates and novel interpretations of the usual themes of nut clusters, caramels, and so on. Their collection has lots of nuts and not so much fruits or creams.

Type: Standard. Conclusion: Order from occasionally.

Stowaway Sweets

Stowaway Sweets has a few interesting pieces with strong flavors and good chocolate. Look for the unusual items in their selection. I recommend the fudge brownie, the distinctive Glover’s Grog, the fruit-flavored meltaways, and the peanut butter caramels. In July 2006, I was informed the chocolatier who had been with Stowaway Sweets for 30 years had left, and the Glover’s Grog was not being made. Stowaway Sweets is quite out of the way in the North Shore area of Boston, so try mail order if you are not in the area.

Type: Standard with a suggestion of Fine. Conclusion: Good but not easily accessible. Worth mail ordering the pieces above.


Telluride Truffle’s The Fourteener
The Fourteener. (Big image.)

Telluride Truffle

Telluride Truffle’s theme is cute. Their triangular truffles are mountains, some capped with white chocolate snow or decorated with ski trails. Other chocolatiers have used mountain themes, but Telluride’s distinctive presentation charmed me more than expected.

By and large, the truffles are nice. In the Class 5, the chocolate led, and the raspberry was a good partner. The Black Diamond made good use of chocolate. The Rocky Top had a mild pleasant coffee flavor. The Powder Day was a good firm white chocolate. Mostly the strengths were medium, although the hazelnut was weak in the milk chocolate Mud Season.

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.

Type: Fine. Price: $59/lb. in 2006. Shipping: $9. Chart: Color. Conclusion: Entertaining, a bit overpriced.

Teuscher

Teuscher flies chocolates in daily from Europe. They are good, but they are more pretentious and expensive than good. I recommend the Champagne truffle (and I thank the correspondent who recommended it to me). Teuscher may appeal to fans of Swiss chocolate. I prefer Belgian and find Swiss flavors to be off the mark or too mild.

My 2005 purchase in San Francisco was slightly underweight. The chocolate felt powdery to me. The Ground Orange Gianduja was good, with orange pervading the piece, and the Hazelnut Gianduja was okay. However, the Marzipan and Honey Crunch were lackluster, and the Buttercrunch Chip was a bit dry. The weight of my 2006 Palo Alto purchase was correct. The White Gianduja was pretty good, medium-strength hazelnut flavor with some crunch.

Type: Fine. Price: $66/lb. in 2006. Conclusion: Okay for Swiss fans. For others, their high quality is not as high as their price. Use Burdick instead.

Tom and Sally’s Handmade Chocolates

Tom and Sally’s Handmade Chocolates is a little chocolatier at the southern tip of Vermont. They have a large selection of pieces of their own novel designs. The fillings are good and varied, but the chocolate is weak. The flavors are moderate strength. They are charging too much.

Guided factory tours are offered for a small fee at 10 and 2 except Sundays.

Type: Both Fine and Standard. Price: $38/lb. in 2004. Chart: No. Conclusion: Try it when passing by.

The Truffle Shop

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.

Among the non-alcoholic truffles, the Black Forest has a wonderful cherry flavor, and the raspberry cream is a strong puree of fresh raspberries. The peanut butter is weaker. The filling is like a dense whipped cream with a light peanut butter flavor. A thicker center might be better, and the chopped peanut decorations interfere with the flavor.

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.

Still, you can customize an order to pick the best flavors, so you might want to try The Truffle Shop once.

Type: Fine. Price: $51/lb. in 2002. Conclusion: Experience once, give as a gift once.


Valentino chocolates
Valentino chocolates. (Big image.)

Valentino Chocolatier

Valentino offers Belgian chocolates with medium-strength flavors. They have several hazelnut pieces, a favorite of mine. I was also impressed by the fresh cream pieces. These are real cream, whipped, not the sugar mass called creams in mass market chocolates, and you should probably eat them first to get the best flavor. The Grand Place was a good caramel, the Buchette was a nice blend of marzipan and hazelnut.

A few pieces have a little alcohol. The Amaretto was nice, just a touch of alcohol flavor, and the amaretto flavor was nice, mild to medium in strength, and worked well with the chocolate.

Although a color chart was provided, I was unable to identify some pieces, and there seemed to be some mismatches. For example, the piece I matched to the Montreal picture, which should have orange ganache, tasted of hazelnut.

Type: Fine. Price: $38/lb. in 2006. Chart: Color. Conclusion: Okay.


Buttercrunch and peanut butter cups
Buttercrunch and peanut butter cups. (Big image.)

Varsano’s Chocolates

Varsano’s looks like your average chocolate shop, so I was not expecting much, but their chocolates surprised me. Their uncommon white chocolate peanut butter cup was very nice, and the milk chocolate was good too. Marzipan is a favorite of mine, but only when it is elevated from a plain hard paste to something fluffier and more flavorful, and Varsano’s does that with an excellent chocolate-covered pistachio marzipan. I also liked the chocolate-covered graham cracker. The chocolate they use for covering their pieces is appealing. However, the buttercrunch tasted very weak to me, and the truffles did not impress me in 2006 as they did during my first visit.

In any other city, Varsano’s would be a regular stop, but of course there is so much competition in New York City that Varsano’s will have difficulty being noticed, especially with the nearby Li-Lac Chocolates.

Type: Standard. Price: Chocolates $21/lb., truffles $25/lb. in 2006. Conclusion: Worth a visit, and one of the best marzipans available.


Two 4-by-4 arrays of Vosges truffles
Vosges Exotic Truffles. (Big image.)

Vosges Haut-Chocolat

Vosges’ truffles are mild. This works well in the Woolloomooloo, which delivers a macadamia flavor that is pervasive without being strong. However, the other pieces are generally too mild for my taste. You might expect the curry in the Naga or the wasabi in the Black Pearl to be prominent, but they are weak. The flavors are present, but you have to work at tasting them.

The Xocatyl is a milk chocolate truffle with vanilla and an interesting texture, just a bit of friction in a smooth filling.

I cannot recommend Vosges, largely due to the extravagant pricing. Additionally, several boxes I purchased in 2006 were greatly underweight (13.1 ounces versus 16). The discrepancy in 2012 was much smaller but still measurable.

Type: Fine. Price: $95/lb. in 2012. Conclusion: Too mild and overpriced.

William Dean Chocolates 36-piece assortment
William Dean Chocolates. (Big image.)

William Dean Chocolates

The 36-piece assortment I ordered from William Dean Chocolates contained a broad selection of chocolates and flavors, from the familiar peanut butter or even childhood favorite peanut butter and jelly, to fine lavender or port and plum. The Port and Plum was one of my favorites of the box. The flavors interplayed nicely and had some depth. The Mexican Mango was a very nice mango puree with a little bit of spiceness. The PB Krunch had a strong peanut flavor roasted just right. The WD 64%, a straight chocolate piece, was another of my favorites.

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.

A few pieces, such as the Tropical Caramel, were somewhat mild. Overall, I quite enjoyed the assortment and recommend it.

Type: Fine. Price: $84/lb. in 2013. Shipping: $14. Chart: Color. Conclusion: Definitely worth trying, and a good gift.

Wittamer

Wittamer’s Cœur is a half-milk and half-dark heart shell filled with gianduja and a few chopped nuts, which I liked. A crème fraîche piece was very good, although the cream could be a bit tangier. Generally, Wittamer’s pieces had a good balance of flavors.

Wittamer also has a café at Place du Grand Sablon 12.

Type: Fine. Price: €21/lb. in 2003 in Bruxelles. Conclusion: Very good.

Woodhouse chocolates in a circular blue box
Woodhouse Chocolate. (Big image.)

Woodhouse Chocolate

Woodhouse Chocolate has some very nice pieces; you should definitely visit when in St. Helena or even Napa. However, not every piece lives up to their price level, so be selective about your assortment. I found the shifting flavors of orange, cream, marzipan, and chocolate in the Fiori di Sicilia made it a fun experience, although its chocolate is a minor player. I particularly recommend the Pecan Caramel for an excellent pecan flavor, which mixes well with the chocolate, and the Peanut Croquant, again for a good medium-strong peanut flavor that mixes well with chocolate.

The Raspberry Chambord had a very nice flavor in a very light mousse. The Pistachio is a novel blend of pistachio and gianduja (hazelnut chocolate) and was quite good.

The Quatre Epices was well balanced blend of four spices. Wild Cherry had a nice piquant cherry flavor the first time I tried it but was milder on a later occasion. The Praline Noisette was good with a sharp hazelnut flavor, and the Mocha Cream was good, but some of the other gianduja pieces were mild or weak. The Honey had mild flavors with not much honey shining through. The cinnamon of the Cinnamon Toast was present but stood alone, not partnering well with the chocolate.

The toffee was sweet even for my sweet tooth but good.

Type: Fine. Price: $85/lb. in 2008, toffee $61/lb. Chart: Color. Conclusion: Very good.

XOX truffles
XOX truffles. (Big image.)

XOX Truffles

XOX Truffles makes classic small hand-rolled truffles. Truffles are chocolate and cream mixed with other flavors. The filling is rolled in cocoa, finely chopped nuts, coconut, or other items.

These truffles are bite-size, so you can get 20 truffles in just 4 ounces, allowing you to sample every variety. They are generally very good, with strong chocolate flavors and nice blends. The packaging is simple; the truffles are in a single plastic bag in a box.

I definitely recommend XOX Truffles at the in-store price, but the online price is only for fans.

Type: Fine. Price: $40/lb. (in store), $80/lb. (online) in 2008. Shipping: $20. Chart: No. Conclusion: Quite good.

© Copyright 1996 by Eric Postpischil.