Best NYC Chocolatiers
I am visiting NYC for a foodie vacation in September. I love amazing chocolate and would like to scope out the best chocolatiers in town. I have heard good things about Kee's and love the bean-to-bar concept of the Mast Brothers, but would like to know where else is worth visiting.
For instance, is Jaques Torres just for tourists (his menu looks boring). I need all the advice I can get. Thanks!
Although the chocolate chip cookies and wicked hot(or frozen) chocolate at JT are both worth a taste, I wouldn't put the place as a separate destination. This problem is easily solved by combining a stop in the branch of JT on the UWS (Amsterdam near 74th St) with a stop into Levain for the best chocolate chip cookie in the city - get both the chocolate chocolate chip and the plain walnut chocolate chip ones.
For pure chocolate truffles, you have it right with Kee's. There is also a Vosges right around the corner from Kee's, but they are ubiquitous these days and their truffles are definately second tier.
Mast Bros are a must as well, but just for take away bars.
For a place to sit and have some chocolate and chocolate treats in a classy setting, you may have to settle for Maison du Chocolate on the UES.
I think Kee's is the best in NYC. Her chocolates are handmade daily and come in an array of unusual and delicious flavors. I've also heard very good things about Bespoke Chocolates, but I haven't tried it yet. La Maison du Chocolat is worth a visit as well. Nearly everything is flown in from Paris, and I'm pretty sure NYC has the only stores in the US. They carry excellent traditional chocolates with prices to match.
I haven't been to Jacques Torres so I can't comment on the chocolates there, but I have tried their chocolate chip cookie and thought it was great. It's a pretty classic one, with a crispy outer third, a pliant middle third, and a soft center, with chocolate generously laced throughout of course. Very different from the Levain cookie, which is more of a huge, soft butter bomb. People rave about both.
Kee's is definitely one of my favorites. Her chocolates have a relatively thin chocolate shell so the flavors inside really pop. I would say hers are a deeper, earthier flavor. Meanwhile, Teuscher are my other faves-they have a slightly creamier, buttery texture. The champagne are the best though the others are good too. One that I've tried recently was surprisingly good, though it's not just a chocolate shop. FIKA is a relatively new coffee place that has a Swedish chocolatier doing their chocolates. Different, but good-especially if you like liqueur chocolates (rum & whiskey ones are both good, not overpowering) Worth a stop if youre in the area (Midtown East, I think on 58) but I wouldn't make it a destination stop. I would make the other 2 destinations.
Torres' bon bons sound boring but still taste good, and they have other products that are excellent, like the ice cream sandwiches, malt balls, chocolate covered potato chips, chocolate covered fruit, etc. Also Mr. Torres is also often in the shop (the Manhattan one) and you can see them making the chocolates behind glass, which is nice. The product is obviously fresh. (Whereas Vosges gets all their chocolates shipped from another location.)
La Maison also has a branch in Rockefeller Center. Good to sit down and have some hot chocolate or chocolate ice cream. They also have excellent macarons. They fly in items from Paris several times a week so their products are still fresh but not as fresh as Kee's or Jacques Torres. One of the few things they make in house is the chocolate ice cream, which is amazing, and only available in the warmer months, hopefully it's still available when you're here! Otherwise, get some bon bons, a cup of hot chocolate, and a maracon or two (I'm partial to the salted caramel). Their style is also more subtle than say Kee's or Jacques Torres.
I would say La Maison and Kee's are the best in town (Kee's also has the most unusual flavors), but Bespoke Chocolate is also very good. They have a much smaller selection and kind of a odd location, though. But the owner is very nice and it's an open kitchen situation so you can watch them making the chocolates.
Neither Bespoke nor Kee's have somewhere to sit down and enjoy your purchases. And whatever you do, stay away from Max Brenner.
Best hot chocolate
Manhattan chocolate tour
Max Brenner on 2nd Ave closed, thankfully.
An additional recommendation for things to buy at Kee's - I really enjoy the macarons, especially the lychee rose w/ white chocolate filling. The rest of the macarons have dark chocolate ganache fillings and come in varied flavors like passion fruit, soursop, lavender, mint cocoa, peach, etc.
My favorite chocolates in the world are Leonidas, which makes them one of my favorite things in the universe! Anything with hazelnut is out of this world. Their milk chocolate is silky rich heaven, and the hazelnut fillings are sublime. I used to only be able to obtain it when someone brought it back from Europe, but now it's in NYC, and LA. NB: I do not care for dark chocolate (gasp!), so I cannot testify as to their quality in that area, and they don't have the new "chic" chocolates with herbs, hot peppers, grass clippings et al.
www.leonidas-chocolate.com. There is one at 485 Madison Ave. (at 52nd street)
re: OC Mutt
To the best of my knowledge, Leonidas is common in Belgium and is considered just a notch above Godiva. I think Leonidas suffers from both middling chocolate quality and overly sweet fillings, and all of their chocolates are machine-made instead of handmade. That's a huge difference from Kee Ling Tong making her chocolates fresh by hand every morning with top-shelf chocolate and ingredients. To be fair, Leonidas isn't in the same price range as Kee's or La Maison du Chocolat. For example, checking online shows Leonidas @ $36/lb vs. LMDC @ around $85/lb for their standard chocolates, with no special or seasonal items that can bring it to over $100/lb. Walking into a LMDC store without knowing this beforehand can lead to some major sticker shock; I guess you have to pay through the nose for Robert Linxe's creations and their pricey trip across the Atlantic. Kee's only sells by the piece (which are small), and while $2.35/piece adds up quickly, I feel that it represents a somewhat better value than LMDC, but that might all be in my head. If you're willing to spend a bit (ok, a lot) extra, you can do much better than Leonidas. There would be many places that would rank ahead in NYC. If you really love Belgian-style chocolates, Pierre Marcolini is regarded as one of the best Belgian chocolatiers and has a location on Park Ave.
I'd also suggest taking another stab with dark chocolates at one of the places recommended above. Being a chocophile and not liking dark is like being a red wine lover and hating tannins (which would leave you with New World merlots? Boring!).
re: OC Mutt
I adore Leonidas (my special favorites are the Manon Cafe and the Manon Blanc--just visited their website and saw they sell them by the box--after I lose my 15 pounds, that's where I'm going to celebrate! Leonidas also makes a fabulous Gianduja (also sold by the box). Also love Neuhaus. My preference is for Belgian milk chocolates. I did great when I visited Bruges--hit every chocolate store; I didn't do as well in Paris since most of the chocolates are dark chocolates.