Everything you want to know about chocolate
All right, listen up. Here at Serious Eats, we know that Valentine's Day is merely a great excuse to buy your significant other some serious chocolate. We're not talking Whitman's or See's or Stover's. We're talking handmade chocolates made by chocolate-obsessed folks from coast to coast. We're talking chocolate in all its formshot chocolate, ice cream, it doesn't matter as long as it's chocolaty, creamy, and delicious. Here is a list of Serious Eats favorites. We posted many of them in our Chrismachocolakwanzaakkah posting in December, but we've also made some significant discoveries. I know my list is far from complete. Who's your favorite chocolate maker? Serious Eaters want to know.
Theo | theochocolate.com
We just received a shipment of chocolates from Theo Chocolates in Seattle, and all four Serious Eaters in the office are now officially in what can only be described as a chococoma. It is a lovely, dreamlike state, one we would surely like to share with a loved one on Valentine's Day. At Theo, they import fair tradecertified or organic cocoa beans and make them into sublime chocolate bars and chocolate-enrobed ganaches and pralines. All of us at headquarters here impressed by Theo's 3400 Phinney line, which embeds tasty bits into each bar. We were blown away Coconut Curry Milk Chocolate (left; just look at those curry spices nestled in there) and the Chai Milk Chocolate bars, and I for one usually hate those kinds of flavors mixed into my chocolate. In fact, I found the Theo bars far superior to the similarly flavored Vosges chocolates getting so much press attention lately. Among the individual pieces, we loved the peanut butter and jelly, made with a layer of raspberry pâté du fruit and peanut butter praline with milk chocolate. We'll never be able to eat a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup again. The lemon praline, lemon curd ganache, made from fresh organic lemon juice and zest, tastes like the lemon chiffon pie of my dreams.
2-ounce 3400 Phinney Inclusion Bars, $3.25 each, (excludes shipping)
John & Kira's | johnandkiras.com
John and Kira are two politically correct chocolate makers who craft fabulous molded chocolates out of extraordinarily high-quality ingredientslocal whenever possible. (Unfortunately, they can't grow cocoa beans in the Philadelphia area.) I'm partial to their chocolates filled with raspberry, mint, pistachio, ginger, honey-lavender, and coffee-whiskey.
15 single-flavor pieces, $27 (excludes shipping)
L. A. Burdick | burdickchocolate.com
When I first met Larry Burdick, he was probably making his chocolates illegally in an Upper East Side tenement building in New York City. Then he and his wife packed up everything and moved to Walpole, New Hampshire, many years ago, and now they've become chocolate moguls of the best kind. They still obsess about every piece of chocolate they sell. Try the chocolate mice in three flavors: orange, mocha, and cinnamon. Each mouse has almond ears and a silk tail. Don't try to eat the tail. (Larry also makes a killer chocolate lemon cake, a sponge cake filled with lemon butter and glazed with dark chocolate.)
9 chocolate mice, $29 (excludes shipping)
Fran's Chocolates | franschocolates.com
Fran Bigelow popularized caramels with fleur de sel in this country, and as far as I'm concerned, hers are still my go-to caramels. I usually get the box that combines the regular gray salt caramels and the smoked salt variety.
15-piece gray-and-smoked caramel box, $22 (excludes shipping)
Kopp's Frozen Custard | koppscustard.com
Everyone in Wisconsin knows that Kopp's makes really serious frozen custard, and to satisfy the frozen-custard cravings of Milwaukee expats everywhere, Kopp's ships ten-pint packs of the rich, velvety treat at a time. Let each pint defrost properly before eating it, and it will achieve the frozen-custard consistency of your dreams. Kopp's has many different chocolate flavors on any given day, including German chocolate cake, chocolate peanut-butter chocolate, and chocolate chocolate chip. Just click on the date you want them to ship your custard for the day's flavors. But act fastDecember 12 and 19 are the last two shipping dates before the holidays.
10 pints, $75 (excludes shipping)
Capogiro Gelato Artisans | capogirogelato.com
My friend Craig LaBan, the restaurant critic at the Philadelphia Inquirer, turned me on to Capogiro Gelato, and now I'm practically addicted. They have a six-chocolate flavor sampler that includes chocolate hazelnut with caramelized hazelnuts; chocolate with banana; mint stracciatella, bittersweet chocolate with fresh mint; Mexican chocolate; and an almost unsweetened bitter chocolate.
6-chocolate sampler, $60 (excludes shipping)
Graeter's | graeters.com
Graeter's has been making great French pot ice cream in small batches in Cincinnati way before Jerry Springer used his time as the mayor of that fair city to catapult him to talk show host infamy. The black raspberry chip is one of the great ice cream flavors of all time.
Six pints, shipping included, $50 to $70 (depending on location). 12 pints, shipping included, $80 to $110
MarieBelle New York | mariebelle.com
Maribel Lieberman fell in love with the hot chocolate at the legendary Café Angelina in Paris, and she set out to replicate it at her store in New York City. She has succeeded beautifully. Her Aztec Dark flavor is a heady, chocolaty brew with a very smooth finish. Maribel taught me that her hot chocolate tastes better made with water instead of milk. Nobody believes me, but it's true.
20-ounce tin Aztec Dark hot chocolate, $22 (excludes shipping)
Recchiuti Confections | recchiuti.com
Michael Recchiuti is a terrific San Francisobased chocolate maker. I love his Key lime pears, his just-sweet-enough fudgy brownies, and his pièce de résistance, his burnt-caramel almondswhole organic almonds in dark chocolate with just a little burnt caramel dusted in cocoa.
40 pieces of burnt-caramel almonds, $8 (excludes shipping)
The King's Cupboard | kingscupboard.com
The good folks of the King's Cupboard in Red Lodge, Montana, make chocolate sauces so good they don't even need ice cream. I eat them straight from the jar. I can never decide between the bittersweet- or the espresso-chocolate flavors. Just get them both. And for good measure, get a box of the coffee molten chocolate cake mix. You'll never be able to make a Duncan Hines cake ever again.
10-ounce jars of sauce, $7.95 each (excludes shipping)
Boule | boulela.com
Los Angelesbased pastry chef Michelle Myers (she and her husband, David Myers, own the fine restaurant Sona) makes lots of great things at her shop, but I'm always drawn to her crunchy rochers (dark chocolate with lemon chiffon, marshmallow, and crispy rice) and her treacle pecan toffee, which is some of the best butter crunch you will ever taste.
Box of 7 rochers, $10; box of treacle pecan toffee, $8 (excludes shipping)
Maison du Chocolat | lamaisonduchocolat.com
Robert Linxe is one of the truly legendary French chocolate makers, and his truffles are irresistibly delicious works of art.
Small box of truffles (0.42 pounds), $35 (excludes shipping)
Zingerman's Bakehouse | zingermansbakehouse.com
The Zingerman's Bakehouse makes a chocolate cherry bread that can be used as the base of the best French toast you've ever had in your life.
1.25-pound loaf chocolate cherry bread, $12.50 (excludes shipping)