Find Your Chocolate Heaven

Now that chocolate has been officially labeled as “healthy,” you can eat as much as you want.  Not that that really made a difference to those of us who enjoy it — we would have had some anyway.  But it’s better to enjoy it without guilt.

Here’s a review of some outstanding places to get some of the best chocolate in the world.

Yes, chocolate is delicious, but the discovery that chocolate contains important antioxidant compounds known as “phenolic phytochemicals” has made it cool to indulge in this sensuous food.

Did you know that some women prefer chocolate to sex? 

It’s been removed from the category of “candy porn” and transformed into “health food.”  Who would have guessed such a welcome metamorphosis would occur?

Well, Woody Allen, for one.  He anticipated the discovery of chocolate’s benefits by decades in his movie Sleeper.  (We’re still waiting for the updated word on cigarettes.)

 

Chocolate.com

 

Get 10% Off at Chocolate.com with code “MYCHOC10” (enter code at checkout) through 12/31/12

Chocolate has been on my mind lately.  (Not that it takes too much prompting for me to think about it.)   It occurred to me that there are two “candy-centric” holidays each year:  Halloween and Easter.  Eating sweets is an essential part of both celebrations — trick-or-treat candy for Halloween and an Easter Basket for Easter.   These holidays are about six months apart.  I guess that gives candy fans enough time to recover from one before diving into the next.  

However, since chocolate is good for you, why wait for a holiday?  Find your chocolate paradise now. 

Whether you enjoy a chocolate bounty twice a year or give in to your craving daily, the opportunities to partake of great chocolate have never been better.  There’s so much good chocolate available that it will take you years to sample even a fraction of it.   And new offerings are being created constantly.  And it’s good for you

Below are some great online sites that will help you fully satisfy your passion for chocolate.

 

Chocolate.com

Chocolate.com is the dedicated marketplace for some of the finest chocolate from around the globe.  In just a few short years, Chocolate.com has gathered together an outstanding collection of 208 individual chocolatiers under one online umbrella, selling an unparalleled selection of chocolate-based candy and other foods.  Their website is vast, well-designed, entertaining, functional, and intriguing. 

Among other services, they offer customized chocolate gifts, where they design and make chocolate in a shape of your choosing, with your logo or text printed or engraved on it.  They can handle any size of gift from corporate to individual.  They also have an extensive collection of articles about chocolate.  Early in their history they affiliated with Chocolatier Magazine (which became Dessert Professional after merging with Pastry Arts) and the writers have created many articles for Chocolate.com. If you want to learn about the uses, history, nutrition, composition, and many other aspects of chocolate, browse through the articles section of their website.  (For example, if you read through the articles, you would find that chocolate does, in fact, grow on trees — the cacao tree, specifically — and that the scientific name for the tree derives from a Greek word meaning “food of the gods.”)  

Chocolate.com also includes an extensive collection of customer reviews of their products, which is helpful when searching for just the right chocolatey thing, either for yourself or someone else.  They offer products that are vegan, organic, kosher, and fair-trade, all easily searched for and clearly described.  They are also known for their excellent customer service.

In other words, if it has anything whatsoever to do with chocolate, Chocolate.com probably has it.

Their website rewards careful browsing (and you can sign up for their newsletter and receive a $5 gift certificate).  Here’s an example of some of their goods:

Mavrakos Marshmallow Eggs

Mavrakos Marshmallow Eggs from Chocolate.com

You’ll find maybe the best marshmallow eggs you’ve ever tasted from Mavrakos Chocolates, a legendary St. Louis confectionary, which disappeared for awhile (along with these eggs) but is now resurrected.  I’ve had these eggs myself (and given them as gifts) and they really are good.  Apparently the Mavrakos name inspires fond memories in those in and around St. Louis.  Here’s what one happy customer wrote:  “I recently made a trip back home to be with family and was in Dierbergs when I came across a table display with Mavrakos boxes.  I nearly fainted right then and there.  I was so excited, like a kid in a candy store (no pun intended…he he).  I immediately grabbed a big box of Pecan Burrs and held them to my chest and wonderful memories came flooding back.”

Chocolate-covered Peeps for Easter

Everybody likes Peeps for Easter — especially when covered with chocolate

 

Speaking of chocolate and marshmallow reminds me that Chocolate.com is offering quite a variety of candy for Easter.  For example, how about chocolate-covered Peeps?

Right now, you can also get 10% off your order at Chocolate.com using the code EASTER10 at checkout (the field to enter the code appears on the last page of the checkout process).  This is for a limited time, of course.

 

 

 

There are too many great chocolatiers on Chocolate.com to do them justice here; you’ll have to explore on your own.  But just to whet your appetite a bit more, how about Enjou Chocolat?  Started in 1983, Enjou Chocolat has become known as New Jersey’s best chocolate shop — in fact, they were voted Best Chocolate Store in New Jersey Life Health & Beauty Magazine’s “Best of NJ” issue.  They have been featured on Bobby Flay’s TV show “Food Nation” and the founder, Wendy Taffet, lectures on chocolate throughout the state.  They are particularly known for their custom-shaped chocolates.  For example, you might like to try their decadent Chocolate Champagne Bucket and Bottle — that’s right, a champagne bottle made of milk chocolate in a dark chocolate bucket surrounded by truffles (pictured at right).  Whoa.

 

See all of Chocolate.com’s vendors on one page here.

By the way, you can also find cookies, cakes, brownies, and fudge at Chocolate.com.  And if you know a chocolate lover, what better gift than a subscription to the Chocolate of the Month Club?

 

 

 

 

Savorique

Savorique is similar to Chocolate.com in that they aggregate many products, but instead of focusing only on chocolate, they include gourmet and specialized foods from around the world.  The common denominator is high quality — which means their sources for chocolate are the best:  artisanal confections from some of the most creative, cutting-edge chocolatiers around.

 

Gnosis Passion Truffles

Gnosis Passion Truffles

For example, there is Gnosis Chocolate, which is dedicated to making the finest organic, raw chocolate using exotic, nourishing ingredients from a number of countries.  One of their best creations is their Passion Truffles, which use the fruit of the theobroma cupuaçu, a relative of the cacao (cocoa) tree.  Cupuaçu is one of the new “super-fruits” gradually coming to the forefront in the search for the most nutritious foods on the planet.  Not only is it good for you, Gnosis Chocolate’s rendition is delicious.   Their truffle recipes also include blue-green algae, coconut oil, and camu camu berry, all organic.

 

Here’s a video on the health benefits of cupuaçu:

 

That’s not all that Gnosis Chocolate offers, of course.  They have a variety of chocolate bars and their Hot Chocolate ElixirGnosis Hot Chocolate Elixir

Here’s a video of Vanessa Barg, founder of Gnosis Chocolate, describing how she goes about creating her luxurious yet healthful products:

 

Knipschildt Chocolates Signature Collection

Knipschildt Chocolates Signature Collection

Another indication that Savorique goes only for the best is Knipschildt Chocolates, voted one of the top 3 chocolates in the world by Gourmet Magazine.

When you open the box (made of handmade paper) of Knipschildt’s Signature Collection Chocolates, you know just by looking at them that you are in for something special.  Knipschildt uses only all-natural ingredients and each batch is made by hand.  Their chocolates are intended to be a multi-sensory experience.  If you can bring yourself to share these with someone else, don’t be surprised if they say it’s the most delicious chocolate they’ve ever tasted.

Knipschildt makes chocolate art.  And that is reflected in their Eve Kitten Designer Chocolate Bars , featuring images of Gotham’s so-called Lingerie Superhero (creation of designer Nancy Bacich).  Whatever her genesis, she tastes good.

 

 

 

Another unforgettable product from Knipschildt is their Chocolate Quail Eggs — 18 hand-made eggs in a carton (with straw).  They’re made of  white chocolate surrounding a milk-chocolate nougatine center.  Can you say “impressive Easter gift?”  But why just have them at Easter?

Knipschildt Chocolate Quail Eggs

Knipschildt Chocolate Quail Eggs — mmm…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christophe Artisan Hand-Painted Truffles

Another premier chocolate company Savorique partners with is Christophe Artisan Chocolatier, one of the most artistic of all the chocolate-makers found at Savorique — and indeed, in the world.  If you want hand-painted truffles, Christophe makes them.  Want flavors such as star anise and cappuccino cheesecake in your chocolate?  Christophe does that, too.  Here’s a distinctive gift from Christophe that should get you remembered:  the Christophe Artisan Hand-Painted Chocolate Truffles, containing a variety of truffles featuring such flavors as milk chocolate ganache with orange, white chocolate mango-rum ganache, earl grey tea infused in dark chocolate, and creamy gianduja ganache.  This is indeed a 5-star collection and a work of art.

 

TCHO Chocolate Bar Luxury Gift Box

Each of the chocolatiers at Savorique has an intriguing story to tell about their company, none more so than San Francisco-based TCHO Chocolate.  Founded by Louis Rossetto, who was one of the original founders of Wired magazine, TCHO (pronounced “cho”) combines hands-on design of its rich chocolate products — from working with the beans to creating recipes to state-of-the-art manufacturing — with a high-tech approach to controlling its production and lab facilities.  It uses an iPhone app to remotely control bean-roasting time and temperature at its facilities in Peru and Madagascar.  How cool is that?  The company has supplied wireless weather stations to cacao farmers so they can understand how climate affects bean fermentation.  TCHO is known for the high quality of the cocoa beans it uses, as well as the unique “flavor profile wheel” it has created to enable customers to easily find their preferred chocolate flavors.  TCHO has rapidly established itself as one of the premier chocolate-makers in the country and has become the private label chocolate supplier to Starbucks.  And it is one of the featured chocolatiers at Savorique.  Try their Luxury Gift Chocolate Bars.  Or any of their other products.  Of TCHO’s chocolate, renowned confectioner Michael Recchiuti was quoted by the San Francisco Chronicle as saying:  “The flavors in their chocolate are really robust, which is good.”  I think you’ll agree that it’s very good.

 

Rounding out the chocolate companies I’m highlighting from Savorique is Vosges Haut-Chocolat.  They are the epitome of exotic.  This is not your grandmother’s candy.  They include such ingredients as bacon (but then, anything tastes better with bacon), wasabi, curry, hemp seeds, olive oil, chillies, and exotic roots, spices, and flowers.  Savorique carries a good selection of chocolate bars from Vosges.  They bear such fascinating names as Black Pearl Ginger Wasabi Dark Chocolate, Barcelona Salted Milk, and Creole Bittersweet.  Heck, just go ahead and get the whole Vosges Chocolate Bar Assortment Pack and figure out which are your favorites.

Calindia

You could spend awhile just sampling all of the Vosges products from Savorique.  (Did I mention the Mo’s Bacon Milk Chocolate Bar?)  But you’d just be scratching the surface because they have over 20 superlative chocolate makers, each with a number of unique and exquisite products.

If you’re looking for a gift and having trouble deciding among all the choices, you can use their “Chat” function to ask one of their customer rep’s a question.  You can also recommend a favorite supplier through their suggestion box.

After the chocolate, there are  all the other dessert items from Savorique to try (cakes, cookies, etc.), not to mention the caviar, cheese, wine, condiments, and other products from around the world.  And they have a blog you can read.  You’d better get started.

Quality Gourmet Foods

 

 

 

Equal Exchange

We’ll complete this tour of the best portals to chocolate heaven with a company that’s a little different — Equal Exchange.  They began as a Fair Trade specialty coffee company, importing coffee from Nicaragua.  Their intent was to support small, organic farmers — and to revolutionize the way food is produced and distributed around the world.  Twenty years after their founding, they are now partnering with co-operative farmers globally, including in the United States, and have expanded their product line to include Fair Trade chocolate, teas, and snack foods.  They continue to support small farmers that use sustainable farming methods and their business model remains consumer- and worker-oriented.

So what’s the bottom line with respect to chocolate?  The bottom line is that they offer some of the finest Fair Trade Certified chocolate and cocoa available anywhere.  In their “eating green” guide, Bon Appetit recommended Equal Exchange chocolate (the only brand they singled out) and said in particular they loved their Very Dark Chocolate Bar.

Equal Exchange hot cocoa is the number one selling organic hot cocoa in the U.S. (they also have spicy cocoa and baking cocoa).

Their organic chocolate bars are some of the best yet lowest-priced bars you can find online and they contain up to 80% cacao (which, as you know by now, means extra amounts of chocolate’s health-enhancing properties).

Equal Exchange Chocolate Bar

 

So give them a try.  Right now, they’re offering free shipping on orders over $75.  Note that their minimum order online is $25, which increases production and shipping efficiency (and they’re all about sustainability).

 

 

 

 

They also have gifts:

In general, remember when you order chocolate from any of the vendors reviewed here that it is perishable and so must be shipped relatively quickly, so you’ll sometimes pay a bit more for shipping (unless you buy enough to qualify for free shipping) in order to ensure it arrives in good condition.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this survey of the world of chocolate.  Chocolate is a global phenomenon, a food that people are passionate about, not only because it’s good for you but because it symbolizes love, captivates the senses, and is one of nature’s most rewarding gifts (the “food of the gods”).  Which of the products here will you try first?  Leave a comment below.

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