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Best Chocolate Revisited

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  • luci Jun 6, 2008 10:20 AM
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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.

                1. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. They use E. Guittard chocolate.

                  1. Some favourites:
                    Pierre Marcolini, especially the 85% Fleur de Cacao bar.
                    Domori's Porcelena bar.
                    Chocovic, especially the Ecuadorian varietal.
                    Plantations, for beautiful Ecuadorian chocolate -- more emphasis on wood and earth flavours, less fruity.
                    Taza for chocolate with raw and powerful flavours.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: limster

                      I live relatively close to Ecuador. Need to check out a way to get some Chocovic and Plantations. ..thanks all..so many choices..

                      1. re: luci

                        I think both of these chocolates have websites, I don't know if it's going to be helpful, but perhaps you can have a look see:

                        http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/
                        http://www.chocovic.es/

                        1. re: limster

                          Limster and I share a taste for Ecuadorian chocolate. I actually had a Dove single origin bar from Ecuador that was quite good. Since the luci likes milk chocolate, if she doesn't mind spending $$$$ she might want to track down some Coppeneur Hacienda Lara: organic, single origin, 62 percent cocoa solids milk chocolate. http://coppeneur.thewebshop.ca/produc...

                    2. I really love the squares of bittersweet chocolate from Poco Dolce. The aztec chile and almond coconut, both topped with sea salt, are my favorites.

                      1. My favorite chocolate (product, if you will): Alaüs Mathez truffles. They come in "Nature / Plain", i.e. dusted with coca; "Écorces d'orange confites / Candied orange peel; and "Éclats de fèves de cacao / with cocoa bean nibs --

                        One or two of those, which are about the size of the tip of your thumb, are the perfect ending to a meal, or late in the evening...

                        1. I love dark chocolate: 65% and above. Maybe I should limit that to 70% and above. When it comes to plain chocolate, this is what I think:

                          I don't care what anyone says, Lindt Ecuador 75% Cacao is good chocolate. I'm nibbling on some right now and it makes me happy. And it is relatively easy to get, and that is important to me. I live far from the city and I have few choices other than to order online. And this time of year, shipping is very costly because it has to be fast and it needs to be refrigerator-packed.

                          If I drive to Concord, MA, I can get Michele Cluizel - I love the Concepcion, and it's only $5.00 for the large bar. The same bar costs at least a dollar more online (I've seen it for $8.00 online) and then you have to pay shipping.

                          Amedei is really good, but hard to find.
                          Pralus is heavenly, but hard to find and expensive.

                          Godiva - it's crap
                          Theo - don't like it. I didn't like the taste, and I didn't think it had good texture
                          Green & Blacks - terrible taste

                          Meryl
                          http://mylittleworldoffood.blogspot.com/

                          1. I really like Hotel Chocolat and Michael Cluizel as well. In my area there is a place called LA Burdick that has wonderful chocolates.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: lycheefloat

                              I missed this thread earlier, but Hotel Chocolat's mail order chocolates are the best I've ever had (and most of my friends agree). They are far superior to Vosges, Godiva, Leonidas, Woodhouse, etc. My only gripe is that the American website -- www.hotelchocolat.com -- has a very limited selection while ordering from the more extensive UK website -- www.hotelchocolat.co.uk -- requires extraordinary delivery charges. I'm hoping they fix the US selection in the future. The other gripe is that the stores have a lot of smaller items available that are not available by mail order (often at a discount). On my last visit to London, I bought a lot of those little six- or eight-piece items and they were phenomenal.

                              1. re: Jwsel

                                I have some inside scoop and good news to report about Hotel Chocolat. From October the range available at www.hotelchocolat.com will be significantly expanded and their shipping rate structure re-vamped.

                            2. Lately, we have been enjoying the Chocolove bars, particularly with ginger or cherry. I am one of those who think that Scharffenberger is bitter.

                              1. I'll throw John and Kira's into the mix. They use ganache for filling and source some things locally. In fact, their mint is sourced from public schools in Philadelphia (and when you bite into their mint squares, it's like you are truly chewing on a leaf).

                                Other standout flavors (to me) are pistachio, ginger, and raspberry. And don't get me started on the ganache filled figs.

                                But here's the irony...They are located in Philadelphia and I live in Philadelphia. But they have no storefront. All orders must be shipped. And since the shipping costs are based on the order amount, I pay as much shipping as someone who lives in California!

                                But anyway, try them. They are really, REALLY good!!

                                http://www.johnandkiras.com/site/Welc...

                                1. It's that time of year again in the NE, when Lake Champlain Chocolates can be shipped without fear of melting.

                                  Best truffles in America.

                                  1. for cooking, i like vahlrona, scharrfenberger, and callebaut. i find that they give an intense, true chocolate flavor.

                                    for eating out of hand, i enjoy vahlrona majari, which is round and fruity. i don't use a lot of milk chocolate, though i typically use callebaut in baking for it's caramelly undertones.

                                    for chocolate treats i love vosges' barcelona bar with sea salt and smoked almonds, the mo's bacon bar - dark & milk chocolates blended with smoky maple bacon pieces, and the red fire bar. teuscher's champagne truffles are incredible as well, for those i actually prefer the milk chocolate version. i also enjoy jules destrooper bicuits with dark or milk chocolate - they are divine.

                                    1. Maybe 10 years ago, when I was working as a mail carrier, one of my customers tipped me at Christmas with a re-gifted box of chocolates that were hand-picked and packed SOMEWHERE in Europe.....there was a street address, a local phone number, and nothing else on the box, not even the store name. I'm guessing Holland or Belgium. The language was not French or German. I know nobody in the family had been out of the country recently, and never before (or since) did they tip me. So to avoid embarrassing the customer, I never asked where the chocolates were from; by my, oh, my, they were a whole 'nother species from even the priciest chocolates I've had on this side of the pond. The milk chocolates were so rich that they'd be melting by the time I took a second bite. My customers didn't know what they were missing! I like Lindt truffles - they are to the mystery chocolates what Wonder bread is to brioche.