I'm looking for a good boutique chocolate shop to get a present for a chocholic colleague. I had come across a few discussions on chocolate shops on Chowhound, and it would appear that the three places worth taking seriously are Burdick's on Brattle Street in Harvard Square, Serene Chocolates near Dolphin Seafood in mid-Cambridge and Temper Chocolates in the Commonwealth Hotel in Kenmore Square.
Are there any choc-hounds out there who would be wiling to compare and contrast the three shops, and suggest what each shop's strengths and weaknesses are?
Thanks in advance.
What a good friend :-) I've only had Burdick's and Temper's chocolates (so can't comment on Serene). I'd be happy to have chocolate from either, so I don't think you'll go wrong however you choose. Burdick's seems to have greater variety at a given time, and they also sell those chocolate mice and penguins and other novelties. Temper sells chocolates made by three different chocolatiers, so even though there may be a smaller selection, you have the opportunity to try different styles. Personally I am very fond of Joan Coukos's bonbons (the grapefruit caramel is an exquisite blend of citrus, salt, and chocolate; and the habanero has a wonderful hint of chile blended with dark chocolate).
I'd check out their web pages to see what flavors they're offering:
Really, what a nice friend!
Burdicks only sells Burdick's chocolates - the novelties are the thing there.
Temper (a very small space, and helpful owner) and Serene carry a variety of serious chocolatiers, so more flavors/styles; including my favorites from Brendan Gannon in Somerville, La Tene
I'm taking some La Tene chocolates to a lunch a Speed's with a friend: exquisite chocolate, and our first Speed's pilgrimage!
Serene doesn't seem to have a website.
Serene doesn't have a very fancy facade, but the chocolate there is very good and less complicated than Burdicks (there are some funky flavors, but plenty that are just a good flat-out ganache). They also sell Toscanini's ice cream (I realise that's not a present, but it's nice!). The owner is also on the Cambridge Fire Department, which is a cool reason to shop there. It is a very unpretentious shop, like my all-time favorite (Li-Lac in NYC).
There is also that Somerville-made brand called Taza. I still don't love their bar chocolate, but their cocoa nibs are fantastic and more uncommon than the usual thing. They are at farmer's markets and their website shows where the chocolate is sold.
There is a shop I enjoy in Brookline Village but don't remember the name. It has a very clean-tasting chocolate. Not the most adventurous place but a very solid, lovely chocolate.
Temper probably has the biggest selection of chocolatiers to choose from. If you want bar chocolates, they're probably the place to go -- my picks Domori Porcelena (but haven't had any from the current vintage), Arriba Plantations (get the ones that are straight chocolate, without nuts or quinoa or anything) as well as blends from Taza (tend to be more "raw" and powerful, which I like). It's also worth considering the bar chocolates at Formaggio -- they sell Dolfin, which I like very much, even if it's not as refined as some of the ones above.
If it's bon bons that you want, I'd vote for La Tene chocolates which you can get at both Serene and Temper. La Tene also has a workshop in Somerville that one could visit.
If you're in the mood, it's worth getting the European-style hot chocolate at Temper.
I think Seranade chocolates are fine, but aren't as carefully tempered as those from La Tene and the quality of the chocolate used isn't as high imho.
Well that was fast!
Shame about Burdick's being closed -- still haven't made it there, and I guess I won't get to get there before the present has to be bought. I did make it to Serene the other night (under Dolphin Seafood in mid-Cambridge; they do have a web site space reserved but almost no information ont he web site). I guess the bonbons that I bought were from La Tene.
By way of background, the thing that got me thinking about the chocolate present was a visit in Philadelphia to a shop called Naked Chocolate Cafe http://www.nakedchocolatecafe.com/ They are a small store which I think makes their own bonbons on premises, along with drinking chocolate in the Spanish style. The chocolate there is utterly superb, with a deep creamy richness and intense dark chocolate flavor.
I say this, because I have to say that after getting a box of Naked Chocolate bonbons, I was quite disappointed by the La Tene chocolates. I had the dazu (lemon zest, sichuan peppercorns) and the ume (Japanese plum). I didn't really get any sichuan peppercorn type feeling, either citrus or numbing, from the dazu (though maybe my expectations were just off given my Sichuanese firebrand tendencies). The plum filling in the ume was tasty enough, but both chocolates were just a little flat and two-dimensional compared to what I got from Philly. Naked Chocolate Cafe will also ship (weather permitting), so I think I know where I'll order from if I need it (though as mentioned, have yet to make it to Burdick's or Temper).
I ran into the Taza tent at the Davis Square farmer's market yesterday. Chomped into an unprocessed roasted cacao bean (interesting, sort of like half almond, half bitter espresso bean from hell, glad I tried it, not sure I'd ever try it again) and tried a bite of their dark chocolate bar. On the guy's recommendation, I let the square melt in my mouth and man, what a strange and interesting mix of flavors. Dark cherry, wild berries, and all other kinds of fruit notes started coming in one after the other, and there's an edginess that you don't get from the smooth, uniform candy bar style that I'm used to. My wife is hooked too, and this gift basket may well wind up being a selection of Taza chocolates.
BTW, the Taza guy said there is a good chance their next chocolate bar thing won't be taking place at Mariposa, but they're not sure where yet. Will post more if I find out.
To me it depends on whether a person is an fan of austere 70%+ dark chocolate bars or confections. I think you'll find what is close to the best pure chocolate in the world at Cardullo's, Formaggio, and Christina's Spices. I personally would appreciate a box full of chocolate bars from Cardullo's to compare and contrast.
As for confections, I need to check some of these places below out, they sound delicious.