If You’re Going Gourmet Chocolate
Moonstruck Chocolatier or Made with Callebaut
My favorite gourmet chocolates are those made with Callebaut. And my favorite truffles are Moonstruck. Edible whimsy. So delicious, so fun. Check out my Chocolate Addicts post with more about my top two picks.
But let’s face it, as much as we may love the good women in our life, our wallets might go ouch. Sometimes we just can’t afford the stuff that was crafted by virgins under a full moon that’s priced as if it actually came from the moon. (Vosge’s, Valrhona, Teuscher et al. They are all excellent, but not for the wallet.) So here are some ways to get some terrific chocolate without taking out a loan.
Buy Local, or Locally – It’s Faster
Look up a “chocolatier” in your town.* You’ll find what’s local (Dallas – Chocolate Secrets and J. Dorian – you lucky women!) or gourmet brands with an outlet (San Francisco – Teuscher, Seattle – Theo, New York City – Jacques Torres), and so on. It’ll still be pricey but no shipping fees and you’d be supporting a local business.
Some of these brands can be found at Whole Foods in either the candy section or near the cheesemonger.
Local Can Include Costco
Regional chocolatiers will sometimes do a “road show” at Costco for a few days. Ask your local store if there are events coming up. Also, you don’t have to be a Costco member to order a number of things from their online site, and that sometimes includes gourmet brands in gift boxes, especially at the holidays and around Valentine’s Day.
It’s okay to ask a chocolatier what kind and process of chocolate they make or use. My local chocolatier used Callebaut, Belgian style, made in Canada, so I was in heaven. Curious about chocolate processes? Wikipedia is all over it. This article explains Dutch process and at the bottom you’ll find more links to more and more and more…
Mass Market Means Affordable Chocolate
Fancy top of the line can be fantastic, but to me the real key is something you picked out that matches her tastes. That personal touch increases the value of the gift. Trust me on this.
These are all widely available U.S. brands. Take note: if the object of your affection is used to European chocolates, U.S. produced ones may not be pleasing, and vice versa.
These little orbs of heaven can be found in grocery stores, at mega retailers like Target and World Market, even in large bags at Costco and Sam’s, so it pays to shop around. (The smaller the bag, the more cost per ounce.) They have a unique dual melt point for mass market chocolates and a range from white to extra-extra dark. They are sensitive to heat, so don’t buy a bag where the little jewels appear to be slightly oily outside their wrappers. Keep them cool until you gift them. Don’t leave them in a hot car or a stocking hung by an actual fire.
If you buy the big bag at the holidays, amp up the personal touch by picking out her favorites and putting them in a wee box or fancy bag with a bow, all for her, no sharsies. Lindor Truffles
Newman’s Organic Dark Chocolate
Especially for those with allergies and sensitivities, check out the minimal ingredient list. It’s scrumptious too. Try stores like Whole Foods or World Market. Similar choices are available from Trader Joe’s. If you’re at World Market (a.k.a. Cost Plus), they also carry a range of chocolates, including imported and harder-to-find. [But do they have Millionaire Shortbread? No, they do not. I weep.]
Lake Champlain Five Star Bars
Yes, the name is accurate. Can be found at Whole Foods. Just one can be the perfect gift if it’s a flavor profile that she really likes. LakeChamplain.com
It’s a favorite for a lot of people, and widely available in upscale malls and retailers like Kohl’s. I’m descended from Lady Godiva so I say with some trepidation that it’s not my favorite. Their dark is exceptionally so, but I find the texture a little waxy. However, I’m willing to own that most people don’t. Godiva.com
If your lady likes it, get her what she likes. This is good advice in all situations, by the way. You’re welcome.
For the money, Dove especially passes the taste test for me in both milk and dark. Both excel with caramel fillings, and Dove’s peanut butter filling is just salty enough to avoid being too sweet. They’re individually wrapped which helps with impulse control, a thoughtful approach you won’t want to bring up yourself unless she does and then, really, my advice is to absolutely deny any need for impulse control because she’s beautiful as she is. (Seriously, chocolate is about romance. Trust me on this one too.) Dove.com
Like Lindor’s you can pick out her favorites and gift them for her exclusive no sharesies consumption. They are a firm, durable chocolate, and can be scattered from stocking to tree or put on pillows. But not if there’s a dog in the house – chocolate can be toxic to our canine friends.
See’s Old-Fashioned Candy and Chocolate
If in your area, and often found in airport kiosks. A special small box you pick out yourself based on her likes will get you far, Padawan. For mass market chocolate, See’s has a great melt-point and reliable, classic and comfort choices. Their recipes never seem to change, so if she said she liked one particular chocolate, she’ll probably still like it. Their toffees and caramels are silky, buttery goodness. All of their chocolates, like the Bordeaux above, come in both milk and dark preparations. Their truffles tend to be dark only. Sees.com
Even a small box that you handpicked and fetched will please anyone with romance in their soul.
Ask the Right Questions
If you’re not sure what your sweetheart likes, check out this fun questionnaire that is sure to spark a lively debate and get-to-know-you-better conversation.
* In some countries and regions, a “chocolatier” must be producing their own chocolate directly from the bean. That’s not true in the U.S., hence a “chocolatier” can be someone who produces their own chocolate end products from the chocolate created by another chocolatier. For example, some will buy chocolate in bulk from Callebaut to produce their own style of truffle.