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It was a hard, yet flavorful journey to the world’s finest chocolates. No piece went unturned-or uneaten, for that matter. Quality chocolates-and there are many-“are unbelievably smooth and melt quickly in your mouth,” offers Lisbeth Echeandia, the publisher of Confectioner magazine. “And there is a big difference between the quality of fresh chocolates [made within 24 hours] and the [prepackaged] ones that you buy in the store,” declares Timothy Moriarty, features editor of Chocolatier magazine.
We turned to the experts and our taste buds to identify the top four chocolatiers.
Black Enterprise’s Picks
La Maison du Chocolat
(House of Chocolate)
1018 Madison Ave.
New York, NY 10021
Price per pound: $55
Coined the “champagne chocolate” by be’s editorial staff, this delicacy was described as the smoothest among the top picks. It’s not surprising. La Maison du Chocolat is a 22-year-old creation of Robert Linxe. He’s considered the world’s best chocolatier by experts. The handmade treats, which don’t contain any eggs or preservatives, arrive in New York weekly straight from the company’s headquarters in Paris.
L.A. Burdick Chocolate
52 Main St.
Walpole, NH 03608
Price per pound: $41
“American chocolatiers are perfectly capable of making the best chocolate there is,” insists Elaine Gonzalez, author of Chocolate Artistry and The Art of Chocolate. Larry Burdick, developer of L.A. Burdick Chocolates, proves that American chocolate makers are competitive. We found the treats to be a “nice blend of chocolate that really wakes up the senses.”
Payard Patisserie & Bistro
1032 Lexington Ave.
New York, NY 10021
Price per pound: $48
“Vive la difference” is a sentiment you’ll subscribe to after partaking of these specialities produced by third-generation pastry chef Francois Payard. Described as “exotic” by the be staff, these fine chocloates will surprise you with flavorful, if difficult-to-identify, fillings. The company, which offers approximately 20 types of chocloates, boasts of being the only chocolatier to offer candies made in the U.S. from imported French chocolate.
2805 East Madison
Seattle, WA 98112
“I am absolutely addicted to Fran’s gold bars,” admits Gonzalez-and so are other chocolated connoisseurs. Since 1982, the owner and her crew have been creating handmade and hand-wrapped treats with Belgian and Venezuelan chocolate. The three retail outlets are located in Seattle. Prices vary widely depending on the number of pieces and the type of candy. Six goldbars with almonds will cost you $10.50 and you’ll pay $18 for 12. Despite the supreme quality, Fran’s goodies are less pricey than other top tier chocolateers.
How can you spot fine chocolate?
- Presentation. “It should have a nice shine and gloss to it,” contends Echeandia.
- Aroma. You should be able to distinguish the aroma of bittersweet (dark) chocolate from that of milk chocolate.
- Melt factor. It’s the cocoa butter that causes the chocolate to melt in your mouth. “Better-quality chocolate uses lots of cocoa butter,” advises Tom Ward, president of Russell Stovers.
- Freshness. According to renowned chocolatier Larry Burdick, “Fine chocolate should be eaten within three days or you’ll find the flavors will begin to break down.”
- The finale. The aftertaste should be pleasant.