Best Chocolate in the U.S.
K+M Extravirgin Chocolate
For their new chocolate line, che Thomas Keller and olive oil icon Armando Manni are ratcheting up the intrinsic health benefits of cocoa beans and EVOO. The chocolate is made according to the same "live" principles Manni designed for his cultish oils--a method developed with the University of Florence to minimize heat exposure and retain antioxidants throughout processing. The two tapped former pastry chef Chi Bui (Daniel, Le Bernardin) to perfect the blockbuster bars, which double down on the antioxidant power with a finishing hit of Manni oil. The first release includes three bars, from Madagascar, Peru and Ecuador ($14.95); the latter is our favorite--uniquely floral, with a lush, velvety texture. williams-sonoma.com
Owner and chocolate visionary Katrina Markoff flavors chocolates with unexpected ingredients (curry powder, bee pollen) and packs them in boldly designed boxes. Markoff is also a pioneer of the bacon-and-chocolate trend and now has glamorous boutiques in Chicago, New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. vosgeschocolate.com
For more than 30 years, Seattle-based owner Fran Bigelow has been setting candy trends—she was selling miniature chocolate bars and elegant truffles before they became ubiquitous. Her sweets also have a very high-profile admirer: As a lover of salty-sweet desserts, one of President Obama’s favorite indulgences is Fran’s Smoked Salt Caramels ($12)—buttery caramels coated in milk chocolate and sprinkled with smoked sea salt. franschocolates.com
Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolates
Pastry chef Christopher Elbow worked at the American Restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri, until the demand for his chocolate petits fours convinced him to launch his own candy business in 2003. His beautiful hand-painted chocolates come in creative flavors like bananas Foster and caramel apple. Elbow also makes fantastic chocolate bars, including the favorite among F&W editors, No. 6 Dark Rocks, made with dark chocolate and popping candy. elbowchocolates.com
L.A. Burdick Chocolates
After gaining recognition for the adorable almond-eared chocolate mice he provided to New York City’s Le Cirque and Bouley in the 1990s, chocolatier Larry Burdick moved to Wapole, New Hampshire, where he opened a cheery yellow café. Today, there are L.A. Burdick locations in New York City, Boston, and Cambridge, Massachusetts, serving his fantastic handmade chocolate candies, from ganache-filled truffles to the chocolate bunnies Burdick makes each spring, an Easter variation on his famous chocolate mice. burdickchocolate.com
San Francisco chocolatier Michael Recchiuti creates market-driven confections like chocolate-dipped pear slices flavored with Key lime juice, and homey chocolate desserts such as Quadruple Chocolate Brownies. F&W editors also love Recchiuti’s dark chocolate-covered burnt caramel almonds and the seasonal peppermint patties. recchiuti.com
Godiva Cake Truffles
The chocolatier's new cake truffles, created with celebrity baker Duff Goldman, come in four Ace of Cakes–inspired flavors, including Cookie Dough (cookie dough-flavored ganache with a milk chocolate shell topped with dark chocolate chips) ($16) and Goldman's favorite: Butterscotch Walnut Brownie, a ball of caramel and maple walnut cream, surrounded by milk chocolate and molasses. godiva.com
In 2004, Los Angeles chocolatier Valerie Gordon started creating her impeccable, handmade small-batch chocolates and crispy chocolate-covered toffees topped with almonds, fleur du sel or candied fruit. Favorites of F&W’s Tina Ujlaki include the outstanding milk chocolate-dipped nougat and caramel squares. In 2011, Gordon created a line of new tea blends, cookies and petits fours. valerieconfections.com
Chocolatier Kee Ling Tong opened her flagship store in New York City’s Soho in 2002 as a combination flower and chocolate shop. Today she has three locations, offering superb handmade chocolates in 40 flavors, including F&W’s Tina Ujlaki and Kate Krader favorite, pyramid-shaped Champagne truffles, made with dark chocolate ganache and Champagne. keeschocolates.com
The flagship store of this classic American chocolate company opened in 1921 in Los Angeles. Today there are more than 200 locations across the country offering delicious chocolate candies filled with nuts, marzipan and nougat. F&W’s Kate Krader gets nostalgic for See’s Milk Bordeaux ($24.50), candy filled with brown sugar cream and topped with crispy chocolate puffed rice. sees.com
Pastry chef Jacques Torres left Manhattan’s Le Cirque in 2000 to open his own chocolate factory. Torres now runs a chocolate empire that includes two production facilities, six NYC outposts and one in Atlantic City. F&W editors Kate Krader and Tina Ujlaki, resident chocolate experts, especially love Torres’s milk chocolate-covered Cheerios ($8.50) and caramel chocolate popcorn, an addictively salty-sweet snack. mrchocolate.com
Brazilian Rich Chocolate Truffles
These chewy, sprinkles-coated balls (called brigadeiros in Portuguese) are more like chocolate caramels than French-style truffles.
Xocolatti’s globally-inspired truffles and slates (very thin versions of chocolate bark ($28) with layers that recall slate rock) come in seven exotic flavors like mango and paprika with white chocolate. “In India, we usually eat fruit with spices on it, and one of the most popular combinations is mangos with paprika on top,” says founder Shaineal Shah. xocolatti.com
Hudson Valley Chocolates
Stephanie Glaisek’s bonbon boxes include pieces with fillings like almond butter, candied tangerine or peppermint tea. hudsonvalleychocolates.com.
Handmade in Chicago, Veruca’s sea salt and burnt-caramel candies are covered in dark chocolate. verucachocolates.com.
Mast Brothers Chocolates
At their Brooklyn, New York, factory, the bearded brothers Rick and Michael Mast create fantastic single-origin dark chocolate bars that are wrapped in custom-printed paper and named after the sources of the cacao beans, such as Papua New Guinea, Moho River, Sambirano Valley, and La Red de Guaconejo. “They’re interesting, and certainly showcase the tangy, tropical, terroir-driven flavors of chocolate,” says F&W’s Kristin Donnelly. mastbrothers.com
At her beautiful Atlanta boutique, owner Kristen Hard refuses to use anything but dark chocolate in her amazing bean-to-bar chocolates and playful desserts, such as a chocolate faux salami flecked with biscotti. To win over milk chocolate lovers, she says she “slowly ratcheted up the cacao percentages, and no one noticed.” Many chocolate artisans spend years training with masters, but Hard is almost completely self-taught. “It used to make me feel insecure,” she says. “But it’s also why I’m unique.” She now spends six weeks abroad each year sourcing beans directly from farmers, creating outstanding bars like one with Venezuelan cacao and raw sugar. cacaoatlanta.com
Launched in 2006, the Seattle-based Theo Chocolate was the first chocolate manufacturer in the US to be both 100 percent organic and fair-trade. (The Fair Trade Certificate goes only to eco-friendly products made by workers who are paid enough to cover their basic needs and reinvest in their operations.) Theo’s conscientious chocolates are delicious: nuanced and intense, like dark, single-origin bars from nations such as Ghana and Madagascar. Founder Joseph Whinney is so passionate about chocolate that he hired a biologist to genetically map Theo’s beans. Not all of Theo’s endeavors are so serious: 3,400 Phinney bars, named for the factory’s street address, come in whimsical flavors like the salty-sweet Bread and Chocolate ($7), featuring dark chocolate mixed with bread crumbs; it’s perfect with afternoon coffee. theochocolate.com
Since she was a little girl, F&W’s Kate Krader, a New York City-native, has looked forward to this classic 1923 chocolate shop’s perfect homemade milk chocolate balls, wrapped in colorful foil, and available only during the holidays. “They remind me of my childhood,” says Krader. Another nostalgic favorite is the super-rich old-fashioned fudge that’s made daily. li-lacchocolates.com
Massachusetts candy makers use unusual ingredients, such as passion fruit and white chocolate, in their caramels. There are also delicious bars like the Ancho, filled with spicy nuts, scotch caramel and pretzels. ehchocolatier.com.
French Broad Chocolates
These crunchy, waffle-cone-like cookies are coated in hazelnut cream and covered in dark chocolate. maxbrenner.com.
Valrhona has taken their Caramélia chocolate bar, which uses rich dairy-based caramel (made from skim milk and butter) instead of caramelized sugar, and added crunchy pearls of toasted puffed cereal coated in the same chocolate for an incredibly creamy, crunchy candy bar ($10). valrhona-chocolate.com
Askinosie, a fantastic bean-to-bar producer in Missouri, collaborated with other artisans for their new CollaBARation line of chocolate bars. We loved the sweet, malty chocolate they created with Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and the unexpected dark chocolate licorice bar, made with a Scandinavian licorice producer. askinosie.com