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Jun 6, 2008 10:20 AM

Best Chocolate Revisited

Have been trying different chocolates. Had some lovely Leonidas from Belgium. Just ate some Scharffen Berger but it was really bitter and not too sweet. Mom had 65 USD worth of See's that I sampled and was not overly impressed. What is your favorite to die for chocolate ?

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  1. First there was teuscher, and now there is Lake Champlain. Outstanding.

    See's, Godiva, and Lindt pale in comparison.

    1. As your finding bear out, tastes in chocolate are extremely subjective. Many hard-core chocolate fans love Scharffen Berger, but I also find it too astringent (I think what many people react to as bitter is actually acidity, or a combination of acidity and bitterness).

      Also, you seem to be lumping together chocolate (pure chocolate or chocolate with incidental flavors) and confections or bonbons (truffles, chocolates with filled centers, etc.). Someone who likes one might not like the other, even from the same producer.

      See's is an American style that's quite different from European chocolates like Leonides. See's chocolates are dipped, not molded, and the fillings are buttercream, not ganache. They're not as refined and intense, but in some ways they can be more satisfying, with big chunks of nuts, chewier caramel, etc. The milk chocolates can be too sweet, but the dark chocolates are better -- the raspberry buttercream (not the raspberry truffle) is one of my all-time favorite confections.

      Godiva and Lindt are both what I'd call mid-range chocolates. They're a bit higher quality than Hershey's, Nestle's, etc. but they're still mass-market chocolate. Godiva I think is a scam. When it was first introduced there was very little premium chocolate available in the U.S. and it seemed good in comparison. But when you compare it to the premium chocolates available now, you realize it really isn't very good, especially when you can get comparable chocolates now for a fraction of the price at the drug store.

      When you start getting into smaller production -- even artisan -- chocolate, then you're in a completely different category. Even that can be broken down into mass-produced blended chocolates (like regular Valrhona); single origin chocolate; small batch, hand-made chocolate; bean-to-bar chocolate (chocolate where the finished product is made by one producer from the beans, instead of starting with couverture made by someone else as even many premium chocolate bars are), and even field-to-bar chocolate (where the whole process of growing and harvesting the beans and making the finished chocolate is by the same producer).

      3 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Yeah, I don't like the acidic finish of Scharffen Berger, always found it unbalanced, especially in a blend.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          "Godiva I think is a scam."

          My thoughts exactly. My feeling with chocolate any more is that you get what you pay for. I tend to really likd most of Lindt's line (especially the white and the chili), but otherwise, I think that the more expensive (with bars, at least) the better. Example: Vosges dark has a much better effect on me than Valhona, Scharffen Berger, or the higher-end Hershey's. There just tend to be more complex flavors, and I find layers of flavors in the higher end stuff, e.g. if a more expensive chocolate starts out a little bitter, you might find that it later has some fruity notes, and then finishes with a nice effervescence almost like a nice red wine, as opposed to a lower end producer, who often tends to have more one dimentional flavors to offer (not that that's always a bad thing)

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Good chocolate synopsis.

            My favorite at this point is Amadei 9. It's a blend, but its got a lot of character. Naturally their single origins are also incredible. Patric and Devries are two american small-, or even micro-batch producers that I love.

            Recently in a blind taste test of 15 chocolates including Theo, Amadei, Devries, Patric, Valrhona, and a couple of mass-producers I found that I actually enjoy Ghiardelli's twilight dark quite a bit. It's pretty smooth, probably due to a higher cocoa butter percentage and it has a little spice and smoke flavor. A bit of a surprise.

          2. As Ruth said, so much is a matter of taste. Do you prefer a smoother, maltier flavor or a brighter, more acidic flavor? How creamy do you like the texture to be? Do you like dark or milk chocolate, or both? Do you like the European style of milk chocolate or the American style (most people like one or the other, not both)? Do you like flavors or nuts or fillings added to your chocolate? Etc.

            For example, for eating I prefer semisweet chocolate in the 55-65% cocoa solids range, which for me is the optimum combination of taste and texture. I like Scharffenberger -- but my tastes run to the acidic and bitter. Not a big fan of milk chocolate, but I do like the Scharffenberger milk chocolate nibby bar. For flavored chocolate, I like Green & Black's Maya Gold. I recently discovered Taza, which is not conched and has a rather gritty texture, and I liked it quite a lot, which surprised me.

            1. I'm a huge fan of La Maison du Chocolat. It's dark, slightly bitter, creamy and luscious. Valhrona is a big fave of mine as well. I'm also not the largest fan of Scharrfenberger. I did a blind chocolate taste test and found that I preferred many other chocolates. But I think its astringency would go well with wines more than other chocolates.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Miss Needle

                My fav choc are the bars my friend brings from Switzerland. Got to find out the name/brand. I favour milk chocolate but love dark chocolate to nibble. Miss Needle, your blind taste test sounds fun..a chocolate tasting perhaps?

                1. re: luci

                  Yeah, I had a feeling that you liked milk chocolates from your post. La Maison tends to have more dark chocolates. I think there recently was an article in th New York times or something that discussed higher end milk chocolates.

                  The blind tasting definitely is fun. Make sure you've got plenty of water to wash out your mouth between chocolates. And have some savory foods around. While it sounds implausible, there is such a thing as too much chocolate! : )

              2. I love Scharffen-Berger (both the dark and milk). There's also a place local in Seattle, Theo Chocolate, that I really enjoy.