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Jacques Torres vs. Other Chocolatiers

  • z

I'm glad that Jacques Torres opened up a store in Manhattan, if for no other reason than I can finally talky about it on this message board.

I am a big fan of JT's chocolate, but I've read two national reviews lately about the best chocolates to order and in both he ranked quite low.

The first was from Consumer Reports, and I'm sorry but I can't remember anything else about their ratings other than that JT scored somewhere in the middle of the pack.

The latest review is from Slate.com. They rate JT 2nd to last, better than See's, but worse than Purdy's, Richart, Gearharts, Leonidas, Godiva, Bernard Callebaut, Lindt, MarieBelle and La Maison du Chocolat (that's in ascending order with La Maison being their highest rated).

Now, I'm automatically suspicious because I'm a fan of the low-scoring Richart (even though I can't afford it), and dislike the higher-scoring Godiva and Lindt (actually, I disdain Lindt).

So, what gives? Is Jacques Torres really that bad? And more importantly, is La Maison du Chocolat (which I've yet to visit) really that good?

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  1. I think La Maison is amazing, and I do find JT to be not-that-great, so I guess I should read the article. Are the ones you listed the only ones they rated? No Pierre Marcolini or Debauve & Gallais (two recent amazing chocolatier openings in NYC).

    6 Replies
    1. re: Peter Cuce

      "Teuscher" champagne truffles are my fave.

      1. re: Peter Cuce
        t
        The Turtle (Bay) Dove

        Took advantage of Marcolini having just opened up (my boyfriend's favorite chocolatier from having lived in Brussels) and Valentine's Day to compare Marcolini with La Maison du Chocolat (my previous favorite in NY although I haven't tried all the top chocolatiers in the city).

        They were both fabulous, of course, but we slightly preferred the Marcolini - subtler but more interesting flavors in the infused chocolates (for instance, we had a citrus infused and a tea infused from both places) and a fresher deeper richer taste to the chocolate. That freshness despite the fact that I bought the Marcolini's last week and kept them (in a ziplock) in my fridge over the weekend and bought the Maison's yesterday morning.

        FWIW, the Marcolini chocolates were more expensive. The smallest box of assorted chocolates I could choose for myself was a five piece - $13. The Maison box was twelve pieces - $18.

        Marcolini in NY could be a serious problem for my wallet and weight!! Now I have to try Debauve (and Teuscher champagne truffles, although that would be a slightly different type of chocolate than the infused or marzipan/ganache/etc. filled pieces I got from Marcolini and Maison).

        1. re: The Turtle (Bay) Dove

          Would love to read your impressions of Debauve when you finally get there. Start saving up! Got some of their ganache/coffee/praline types yesterday; came out to about $3 a piece, tho I did get a tasting in the store. FWIW, my wife was not blown away (for reference, her fave is Maison, and she likes the 72%+ Cluziel blends). Marcolini is on Park, right? What cross-street? (not that I can afford to go there right now; I'm back to Hershey's Kiss level after yesterday).

          1. re: Andy T.

            If you go to Debauve and you feel like dropping $9, ask for them to make you some hot chocolate. It takes about 10-15 minutes, but it's well worth it. They gave you a lot for the money, easily enough for two people.

            1. re: Andy T.
              t
              The Turtle (Bay) Dove

              Pierre Marcolini is on Park at 58th.

          2. re: Peter Cuce

            Absolutely nothing compares to Paula's choco covered marshmallows and fudge.

          3. I've actually heard decent things about Godiva's recent high-end, limited-edition offering (I forget what title they gave it), but their regular stuff is fairly wretched. And unless Lindt is putting out something new that I am unaware of, I agree that they are to be disdained.

            That said, I'd rather munch on a bar of Michel Cluizel single-estate chocolate (Hacienda Los Ancones is my favorite) than bother with gussied-up versions of a food best taken as plain as possible.

            Incidentally, I bought a stale bar of Cluizel at Dean and Deluca recently, but since I mentioned it, that particular section of the store looks noticeably better taken care of.

            1. I would advise you to trust your own palate - food scoring is a very subjective matter. I used to only buy wine based on rankings published by the Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator before realizing I preferred a different lighter stye that gets much lower scores. Wrt chocolate I prefer Lindt I can buy at my corner korean bodega to a lot of the artisanal European stuff at Zabar.

              1. Well I've only had Jacques Torres once and I did enjoy my selection of chocolates.

                However, imho, Kee Tong and her Kee's Chocolates (at 80 Thompson in SOHO), blows his stuff away. I do beleve she studied under JT, so he gets my thanks for that

                YMMV

                1. I have to join you in your skepticism of any review that places Godiva and Lindt (both of which in my opinion are the McDonald's of the chocolate world)in any sort of "best chocolate" category.

                  My favorites are Newhaus for white chocolates and Maison for dark truffles.

                  Years ago, a friend of mine brought me some chocolates from Paris (dark blue box with some interesting goldish? sort of pre-columbian line drawing designs) which had some heat to them. I was very hesitant to try them at first, but found them to be quite good. I understand this chocolate boutique has a store in NYC but I didn't save the wrapper and I don't remember the name of the brand anymnore.....does anyone which chocolates/store I'm talking about?

                  --Maria

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Maria

                    Agree that Godiva and Lindt are overrated, but perhaps not McDonalds level.

                    I'd put it more in the Outback Steak category of food. Outback is a fine meal and enjoyable. But once you have been to a great steakhouse, Outback no longer measures up.

                    FWIW, I am not big fan of boutique chocolates, but Christopher Norman's seem great to me. Maybe their freshness has soemthing to do with it, being made here. Woman I've bought them for have liked them too.

                  2. I think you misread the Consumer Reports ratings. While JT was rated #7 out of the 20 products tested, it was still rated Excellent and a CR Best Buy at that. The ratings did not give an absolute numerical value and there is no reason to think that there were more than just minute differences between all the excellent rated products (although they did say that the top 3 were of equal quality, meaning that there was at least some small gap between #3 and #4). The only rap on JT's chocolates was that there was some slight quality differences between their boxes.

                    All in all, if I were JT, I'd be pleased with the report.

                    1. OK, my next stop is La Maison du Chocolat. Any recommendations for dark chocolates??? At their prices, I've got to choose wisely.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Zinc

                        I actually like La Maison's chocolate (dark) coated orange peels more than truffles.

                      2. I'm a big fan of both Torres and La Maison.

                        First off, the hot chocolate at Torres is FAR, FAR, FAR superior to anything else on the market. Recently, after hearing about the place for the umpteenth time, I went to Mariebelle on Broome Street in SoHo for their hot chocolate because people would describe it with swooning eyes every time. My wife and I both ordered the hot chocolate, and were massively disappointed. While I won't go so far as to say that Mariebelle's hot chocolate tasted like a brown crayon dipped in lukewarm water, I will say that it was lukewarm, and the mouthfeel was thin and watery. It tasted like hot Nestle's quick. After taking our second or third sip of the stuff, we left the balance of it and walked over to Torres' new place. I ordered the "Wicked" hot chocolate made with ground sweet ancho and smoked ground chipolt chili peppers (this is made with a darker chocolate mixture) and my wife had the "Classic" (made with more of a milk chocolate base). I can honestly tell you that there is NOTHING as good as hot chocolate at the chocolate bar at Torres.

                        As for the chocolates themselves, I like both very much. At La Maison, my favorite things to order are located on the left side of the store in the front window just as you enter. They keep their larger sized specialities located in that window and they are delicious!

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: MATSON JONES

                          you surely didn't order Mariebelle's Spicy hot chocolate European style. If you ordered something american style, and tried to compare that to Wicked, it's just apples and oranges.

                          1. re: me

                            No, it was an "apples to apples" comparison. And to whoever asserted that Mariebelle's hot chocolate is even on the same field as Torres, eeeeyeeeewwwwww. Mariebelle's IS actually like a brown crayon dipped in lukewarm water!

                            1. re: MATSON JONES

                              eeeeyeeewww? I hope your palate is as mature as your articulation.

                              1. re: me

                                Lighten up, stop being so pompous, and have some fun - like you should be doing when you drink hot chocolate!

                              2. re: MATSON JONES

                                Well, I don't know about eeeyeeewwwwww... but I do think MarieBelle's can be hit or miss, or at least the mix she sells. I've had wonderful tins that rival Angelina's and tins that produce thin, disappointing hot chocolate.

                                1. re: em

                                  That's really interesting - my wife said the exact same thing. She used to enjoy Mariebelle's hot chocolate mix that she made at home. Then one day she made some that she had recently bought, and said it was really not good at all. That's why we went straight to the store, to observe how they made it and to try it "direct from the tap," so to speak. After I took her down the street to Torres, however, she became an addict!

                            2. re: MATSON JONES

                              Have to disagree about the hot chocolate. I've had similar or better chocolate at La Maison, Lunette et Chocolat, Debauve & Gallais, Fauchon, and a couple of other places.

                              1. re: Peter Cuce

                                I have to disagree with your disagreement, but only in the case of Lunette et Chocolat (I've yet to try the others on your list). Their HC was weak and watery whereas I've always found JT's HC to be one of the tops I've tried in the city.

                                1. re: Tim

                                  I guess to each of his/her own. I can't comment on Lunette et Chocolat's HC making skills, but for two years in a row I had the opportunity to have Mariebelle and JT's hot chocolate (spicy and wicked, respectively) side by side at the Chocolate Show in November. MB wins hands down.

                                  1. re: Tim

                                    Never had it weak and watery there, but I haven't been in a few months. I find JC's too thick, almost pudding-y. I like it thick but not that thick.

                              2. A few more to mention are: Vosges in Soho - they don't make it right in the store but they really have their presentation down pat. A friend in Ireland luvs their chinese take-out boxes so much that he makes us lug them back for her.

                                Jacques Torres has a great value for the price. Mariebelle is so expensive! They had this cute calendar girl bar which cost $15. It's good, but that price is just insulting.

                                Knipschildt is also another good one. Fritz makes great classic truffles.

                                1. Yes La Maison du Chocolat is that good. However, do try Kee's. Her chocolate is so fresh it will make you forget about everything else while you have it in your mouth. Only one I have yet to try in NYC is Marcolini. Debauve is good but does not match La Maison du Chocolat's subtlty and perfect balance. I think the prices at high end stores are all roughly the same, about 90 dollars a pound. However, pure chocolate is a completely different story. Amedei's chauo and porcelana and Domori's are my favorite. Michel Cluizel's Hacienda Los Ancones is terrific also ( and much much less expensive!! ) Don't know how he manages to get the flavor of olive oil in there! We eat a ton of chocolate and after a while, the lesser ones just seem like a waste of time and calories.

                                  1. Michel Cluizel or La Maison are way, way better than JT!