The Chocolate Source
There is no big mystery to chocolate except how luscious it tastes in every form. As with most creations, the quality of the ingredients – cocoa beans, butter, cream, sugar, and the endless selection of nuts, fruits, and products mixed with the chocolate – matter; the higher the quality, the better the flavor. Some chocolatiers go so far as to grow and roast their own beans, while others purchase high quality chocolates and blend them. We all have our preferences: milk, dark, and even white chocolate although some connoisseurs do not consider white chocolate to be “real” chocolate. In any form, most of those that indulge agree that chocolate is simply delicious.
From time to time, I’ve written about chocolate and with Valentine’s Day fast approaching, a compilation of extraordinary sources of chocolate in the United States couldn’t be more timely.
La Maison du Chocolat
La Maison du Chocolat opened in 1955 in France and has since expanded throughout the world, including the United States with three free-standing stores in New York City and one in Short Hills, New Jersey. The world-famous chocolatier offers pralines, ganaches, paves, truffles, nougats, barks, bars, dipped fruits, fruit pastes, and my personal favorite: chocolate covered almonds. The almonds are priced at $31 for a half-pound bag while the assorted chocolates are $27 for a quarter pound box. The chocolates are beautifully boxed with a ribbon or in plastic bag with a bow. To view the complete selection and to order on-line, go to: http://www.lamaisonduchocolat.us/us/en/
Jacques Torres is known as Mr. Chocolate and is a pastry chef turned chocolatier. Born in France, Jacques Torres worked for a series of high-end restaurants and hotels before opening his first chocolate factory in Brooklyn in 2000 followed by his flagship store in Manhattan in 2004. With seven locations – all in New York City – Jacques Torres offers a variety of chocolates including truffles, bark, bars, malt balls, hot fudge sauces, caramels, and the ultimate chocolate lover’s dream: a 12 month subscription of chocolate delivered to your door the first week of every month for $540 (or $45 per month). When I was young, I used to dream about one day belonging to a Fruit of the Month Club where I would receive a box of fruit every month but now I think chocolate would be the just as decadent: choosing between fruit and chocolate would be a tough call.
A few years ago, Jacques Torres made headlines when Hershey sued him for infringement on their Hershey Kiss trademark claiming Torres’s square flat “Champagne Kiss” could confuse consumers looking to buy Hershey Kisses. The litigators must have had a lot of time on their hands as the public didn’t give Hershey a lot of sympathy and everyone is happy that Jacques is still selling his “Champagne Kisses.” My favorite Jacques Torres chocolate comes in their standard gift box: a pepper infused ganache enrobed in dark chocolate. It’s fabulous. A 12 piece box is $19. To view the full product line or place an order, go to: http://www.mrchocolate.com/
Michel Cluizel was established in 1948 in Normandy, France and still operates a factory processing their own cocoa beans. Twenty years ago, I tasted my first Michel Cluizel chocolate in the form of a mushroom: a chocolate covered caramel stem attached to a cap with a crunchy almond nougatine filling: the creamy buttery caramel combined with the crunchy almond nougatine all enrobed in chocolate was heaven. Michel Cluizel is still making those perfect little mushrooms although they have to be bought at his flagship store in New York City or on-line through one of his distributors because his website doesn’t offer on-line shopping. To place an order for a 4-pack ($9.50) or an 8-pack ($16.95) or to order his other products (bars, cocoa, and chocolate), go to: http://www.chocosphere.com/Html/Products/michelcluizel.html
Kakawa Chocolates is the new kid on the block based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Founded in 2005, Kakawa describes themselves as an “artisanal chocolate shop” that uses the products indicative of the area – chili peppers – in many of their products. Any company that uses an 80% dark chocolate as their base has to be serious about chocolates. My personal favorites are the Chili d’Arbols: whole toasted chiles dipped in caramel and covered in their signature dark chocolate (pictured below); and the Chili Caramels: a blend of 6 chilis from the southwest and Mexico stirred into caramel, dipped into the house chocolate and sprinkled with chili powder. For those who prefer milder flavors, Kakawa has a wide selection of truffles, caramels, turtles, and mendiants sans chili peppers. To view the entire selection or to place an order, go to: http://www.kakawachocolates.com/
Nantucket Chocolatier is a small chocolate shop on the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts. This small town chocolatier makes delicious milk and dark covered chocolate covered cranberries packaged in an 11 ounce bag ($16), 15 ounce box ($24), 21 ounce box ($35) or in a variety of gift tins. The company also makes a variety of other chocolates but I’ve limited my orders to the chocolate covered cranberries because they are so different from other chocolate covered fruits and oh so addicting. To place an order on-line, go to: http://www.nantucketchocolatier.com
There are very few large-scale commercial chocolates that I have an affinity for and Dove Chocolate Promises is at the top of the list. Even my dog, Daisy loves Dove chocolate. Last Sunday night, she jumped on the couch and on to a table to reach a glass bowl filled with about 60 of those perfect little milk chocolate hearts to commemorate Valentine’s Day. She ate every single one – aluminum foil and all. After chasing and terrorizing the cat endlessly (the effects of chocolate), Daisy was rushed to the 24-hour veterinary hospital and had her stomach emptied. Not because of the milk chocolate (contrary to popular belief, milk chocolate is not toxic to dogs – dark chocolate is though) but because of the aluminum foil that could have caused a blockage. My friend Lamar reminded me that each one of those little hearts cost me $4.38 after I figured in the vet bill. Daisy is fine now and although Dove chocolates will continue to have a place in our home, they won’t be within her reach – resourceful little thing that she is. Dove Chocolates are available at most supermarkets.