Let's not mince words. Here is the chocolate you should be eating:
- Michelle Cluizel - French. Neither too adventuresome (avoiding hot peppers, bacon and the like) nor too staid. A box of these chocolates is about as close to perfect as a box of chocolates can get.
- Kee's - A New World selection from NYC. These chocolates are particularly fresh and benefit especially from buying a smaller amount that you can eat more quickly. The flavors here feel a bit fresher and more experimental but they never loose their balanced flavor or elegance.
- Fika - My brother turned me on to the surprisingly good chocolate selection from this Sweedish-influenced coffee-and-chocolate chain (there are 10 locations in NYC) that first opened in 2006. Like Kee's these chocolates bring a fresh energy in keeping with their relative youth compared with the other chocolatiers listed, but they manage never to come across as the new kid on the block. The coffee's good too!
- Neuhaus - I'll be honest, after my first experience with Neuhaus a few years ago, I wasn't that impressed but there have been two or three subsequent boxes of chocolate and they've all been very enjoyable. This is belgian chocolate. The chocolates from Nehuaus tend to be much larger than any of the others listed above, which is maybe a pro and maybe a con depending on what your'e looking for in your chocolate experience.
- Leonidas - Also Belgian and also delicious. I'd say that these are the most traditional of the chocolates I've listed both in form and flavor but in a way that skews "classic" and "dependably wonderful" as opposed to "ho hum" and "boring". Like fellow Belgians, Neuhaus, they tend to skew a bit bigger than the French of American chocolates.
I am no chocolate expert, but every evening, my husband and I share two fancy chocolates. We split them in half so that we both get to taste everything. It is from this many-years-long ritual that I have developed my opinions on the subject. We call this "the chocolate ritual" and, to ritualize things further, we never eat the fancy (or "formal") chocolate without one another. We buy casual chocolate for that. Yep: formal and casual chocolate.
It should also be noted that it is worth it to store your chocolates in the 'fridge to keep them fresh longer but then to take them out about 20 minutes before you want to eat them so that they warm up a bit.
Here's Time Out's list of the 10 best chocolate shops from earlier this year which has some overlap with mine and, hey, I'm just a lady who eats chocolate; enjoy doing your own research!
Let us know your favorite chocolatiers in the comments!