Great Gifts: Artisanal Chocolate Makes A Tasty Gift!!
If you want to give a great gift to someone– whether you know them well or not– you might want to think about artisanal chocolate. Skip the Godiva and the big brands because they don’t have the personal touch or the love put into each one.
I would recommend Recchiuti but I also know that a $40 shipping charge to get it to you OVERNIGHT might be a bit pricey– but worth it if you can go that route. If you are in the San Francisco Bay area, hit the Ferry Building and stock up. The beauty of artisanal chocolate is that it’s hand-made with fine chocolate sourced from around the world. The source of chocolate provides different flavors (much like coffe) and thus it’s unique. How each chocolatier handles it and what they do with the chocolate to create more than just bars, but unique creations with unusual ingredients — from liquor to flowers to food like bacon.
Here is a select list of artisanal chocolate brarnds you might want to try. I will be doing a review on 2 brands and also a pastry line that are “to die for”. If you order now–even if they can’t deliver in time for Christmas–you have something on the way that they can savor through New Years and it’s worth the wait!! Trust me, with these chocolates — particularly the 3 brands I chose to review– sit yourself down with a good cup of coffee or tea, red wine, a fine port, whiskey or cocktail of your choice. (Don’t miss my 12 drinks (and days) of Christmas posts. One each day with a variety of drinks based on a single spirit)
Here are the companies that caught my attention for a variety of reasons:
Based on a foundation of Valrhona chocolate, each piece is a hand-painted and an “edible piece of art” piece is hand-painted, they “edible art”. Ingredients include organic cream and there are no preservatives or corn syrup used so you get a purity of flavor and amazing experience.
For the Holiday Season 185Chocolat presents the flight of five Truffles.
Caramel Knowledge~ A burst of sweet salt caramel that you must taste!! Place entire piece in mouth for full 360 degree experience of caramel bliss. .
Hungarian Heat~ Close your eyes: you’re on a flavor trip. The chocolate is fruity and rich with a is a hint of Hungarian Pepper.
Mint Kiss~ Dark chocolate ganache kissed by organic mint. This ain’t your York Peppermint Patty.
Raspberry Silk~ Inside the delicate single origin chocolate shell, a raspberry and chocolate ganache is incredibly delightful
Triple Chocolate~ Outside is a single origin chocolate. The first layer is a creamy milk chocolate that has been kissed by French Lavender honey followed by a dark chocolate ganache which sparked with a regional honey.
Heidi Ash was the 185th recipient of a heart transplant at the Mayo Clinic. The transplant was a joyous event in her life. ” It allowed me to follow my dream, creating chocolates. Chocolates are my passion. 185Chocolat is a blissful celebration, just like life ought to be.”
Bissinger’s Chocolates is an ancient chocolatier based in European history.
Bissinger’s handcrafted artisanal chocolates have been in business since the 17th century, when King Louis XIV granted the Bissinger family the title of _Confiseur Imperial_ (Confectioner of the Empire). In 1845, Karl Bissinger left France for the United States with his loyal master confectioner and all of the Bissinger family secrets. In 1927, his son, also named Karl, would go on to open a Bissinger’s kitchen in St. Louis which is still the company’s headquarters.
Many of their confections are still made using original recipes from the Bissinger family cookbook, dated 1899, yet are still contemporary blending our rich tradition with a spirit of innovation – and a number of unforgettable flavors that can’t be found anywhere else.
KRETA OLIVE OIL TRUFFLES: Kreta Olive Oil is infused into chocolate, creating a luxuriously smooth center. It’s then covered with a layer of Bissinger’s 38% milk chocolate. This culinary truffle is finished with a sprinkling of salt for a savory edge.
PORCINI MUSHROOM TRUFFLES: Delicate Porcini mushrooms lend this truffle subtle savory hints and notes of nuttiness – which pair perfectly with a finishing of Bissinger’s deep, dark chocolate.
CHOCOLATE-COVERED WINE GRAPES: The New York Times recently raved about these – Muscat grapes, infused with Shiraz, then finished with a covering of Bissingers 60% dark chocolate.
Their traditional holiday treat are these dark chocolate covered caramel Lollies. YUMMY!
La Maison Richart is another European brand that’s absolutely to die for. This high-end French chocolate brand has
La Maison Richart (www.richart-chocolates), a high-end French chocolate manufacturer since 1925. Widely recognized (and highly coveted) for its passion for innovation, The “Petit Richart” and the “Mini-mac” (i.e. mini French macaron) are just two great examples of products that La Maison Richart is known for.
Michel Richart, master chocolatier, (known as the “Karl Lagerfeld of chocolate” in France), perpetuates the “tradition” with the “Chocomac by Richart“; a unique combination of French Macaron and aromatic chocolate ganache. (sounds divine!)
The entire Maison Richart collection is based on seasonal collections. So the thing to do is buy now and buy often. There are many choices and they have groupings by flavors much like a couture fashion collection, there are couture chocolate collections.
Valerie Confections is a chocolatier known for her modern interpretations of classic chocolates and confections. Established in 2004 by partners Valerie Gordon and Stan Weightman, Jr., Valerie Confections is a Los Angeles-based artisanal confectioner. Using the finest ingredients available, they craft traditional chocolates, confections, and petit fours for the sophisticated palate. The brand’s philosophy is that the things in our childhood can make us happy in our careers and life. A leader in the artisan food movement, Valerie recently expanded her line of traditional truffles, petit fours and cakes to include several special offerings for the upcoming holiday seasons.
Mint Mendiants $14 FOR A 6 PIECE SET is an delicious interpretation of the after dinner mint. Disks of bittersweet Valrhona are topped with candied organic mint leaves, harvested locally at Silverlake Farms.
Pumpkin Seed Toffee: $40 FOR A 12 PIECE SETAlready garnering rave reviews, Valerie’s new toffee flavor is studded with roasted pumpkin seeds. Each piece is then hand dipped in bittersweet chocolate and sprinkled with sweet smoked paprika and Durango smoked salt.
Rose Petal Passion Fruit Truffles: $35 FOR A 15 PIECE SET. Our new truffles are inspired by our most popular Petit Four: Rose Petal Passion Fruit. A rich, bright passion fruit ganache is accented with rose water. Encased in a shell of 61% bittersweet chocolate, and topped with a dried, edible rose petal.
Durango and Citrus Chocolate Bark Set: The Durango Bark is darkened milk chocolate topped with some of our favorite flavors – roasted organic California almonds, cocoa nibs, and Durango smoked salt. The Citrus Bark starts with local organic citrus which is hand-candied, then added generously to a slab of 61% bittersweet chocolate. (sounds dreamy, doesn’t it?)
Chocolat Celeste is a really unique brand. Mary Leonard started out to create the most unique confection possible. She set out to create a uniquely luscious chocolate flavor- in a large truffle with an extraordinarily smooth dark ganache. The “Sweetie” (the customers that loved it fondly gave it the shortened name) grew quickly in demand because the local Minnesota population were amazed by the deep chocolate experience. Today, the “Sweetie” is the most popular flavor accounting for 80% of the chocolates the brand makes.
Mary had a very specific description of the “Celestial Sweetie“.
Each chocolate is still hand scooped. They weigh a full ounce each. The ingredients are our difference. It is a bittersweet (68%) chocolate from Germany. It is a blend of a variety of beans that create a slightly fruity flavor. The same chocolate is used for the ganache and for the enrobing. The butter has a slightly higher butter fat content. And it is very low moisture. (Moisture ruins the consistency – water and chocolate do not blend). The butter comes from a small dairy in Hope, Minnesota. It is made it very small batches. The whipping cream comes from a small cooperative dairy in another small town in Minnesota. It is rBGH free and additive free. No gums or agars, like most commercial whipping creams. Our ganache is never, ever gummy. The ganache is infused with Frangelico. Our chocolates are not made from a filled shell, consequently the “snap” of fine chocolate is always present. We do not use single origin chocolate on this one simply because we do not want any sharp flavor edges.
Sulpice Chocolat is the exclusive manufacturer of designer chocolate bars . Each one is individually hand-painted with either a splatter paint or marbleized design (there are so many variations here).
Available in eight different flavors which replicate the intense flavors often associated only with truffles: epice, amande, menthe, chai, gingembre, noisette, pistache, and moka. They are beautiful, unique and delicious.
That’s the round-up!! I have reviews of two more artisanal brands plus one pastry line to come. So just come back tomorrow because we will have cocktails and chocolate reviews.
Stevie Wilson, LA-Story.com
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FYI– as a gift, these are truly worth waiting for because they will blow someone’s tastebuds away.