See's Chocolates: Have You See-n the Light?

20080212-seestoffeecan.jpgGrowing up in New York our local boxed chocolate of choice was either Barton's or Barricini's. That was what my grandmother would have at her apartment in the Bronx. I don't know if either of them was any better than Whitman's or Russell Stover, but they were my grandmother's choice and she doted on me, so I loved those chocolates.

When I moved out to Los Angeles for my senior year of high school I was crushed to find no boxed candy I recognized. There was See's right near our house, but out of loyalty to my grandmother's choices, I never went in.

Fast forward almost 40 years later. A month ago I found myself searching for a reasonably priced chocolate to recommend to friends for Valentine's Day. I couldn't in good conscience recommend Whitman's or Russell Stover, because let's face it, they're both pretty awful. I don't think Barricini's even exists any more, and Barton's is not what it once was.

So when an artisanal chocolatier I know and respect a great deal (he does not want to be outed as a See's fan) told me he actually really likes certain See's pieces, he piqued my curiosity. He said See's doesn't use preservatives and uses good-quality Guittard chocolate. I then went on to See's website to see if there was any place in New York I could get its chocolates.

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It turns out that See's is sold at the Lord & Taylor department store in New York. I also found out that Warren Buffet bought the company from the See family in 1972. (Buffet is not going to buy a loser chocolate company.)

I started getting really excited about losing my See's virginity. I walked over from the Serious Eats office to Lord & Taylor and bought one of every See's variety they had: milk chocolate almonds, nuts and chews, Awesome Peanut Brittle Bars, and toffee.

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See's Toffee-Ettes

I brought them all back to the office and sampled one piece of each. See's turns out to be pretty damn good chocolate. For the price ($15 or less a pound) you cannot go wrong. I am partial to the one-pound boxes of dark chocolate nuts and chews ($15). What's not to love? Walnuts, almonds, caramel, all enrobed in various combinations in dark chocolate that, in the words of Curb Your Enthusiasm's Larry David are, "pretty, pretty good." I am also fond of See's Awesome Peanut Brittle Bars ($7.80 for eight one-ounce bars), already portioned out to make sure you don't overdo it. The little nubs of buttercrunch rolled in crushed almonds called toffee-ettes are also mighty fine.

I hope my grandmother will forgive me for forsaking Barton's and Barricini's, but I have to say that my chocolatier friend was right. See's is an excellent everyday candy. Warren Buffet should be very proud. I have See-n the light.