The Food Maven Diary
Very Special Chocolates
These are the chocolates that Joan and I tasted on last week's Weekend show. I suggest going to the individual websites to learn more.
The artisinal "E."-branch of the fine Guittard line includes my favorite dark chocolate, L'Harmonie. It's funky and sexy and will make your skin extra sensitive if you eat too much. Which you will. Buy it in a big block and chip off pieces whenever you need to get in touch with the earth and you senses.
1300 East Pike Street
Seattle, WA 98122
Fran's Chocolates are not just candy. They are an experience. Always. Her new chocolate-covered caramels are something you've never eaten – the softest possible caramel coated with dark chocolate, sprinkled with gray sea salt. I used to think chocolate-covered pretzels and potato chips were the ultimate chocolate and salt sensation. Now this. $20 dollars for a box of 15.
The San Francisco chocolatier (pronounced re-KYOO-tee) makes elegant looking European-style pieces with exotic "global" flavors, such as jasmine, star anise and pink peppercorn, lemon verbena, and lavender-vanilla. There's even a caramel with fleur de sel inside (as opposed to Fran's with the salt on the outside), and a fabulous square of L'Harmonie, the funky dark chocolate from an Ecuadorian varietal said to be "the original" cocoa tree. The 32-piece "burgundy box," the ultimate sampler, is $75. The 16-piece "black box," also an impressive gift, is $40. Also available at Dean and Deluca.
The Chocolate Loft
119 West 23rd Street, Suite 1003
New York, NY 10011
Garrison is New York's newest chocolatier. It is owned by master pastry chef Andrew Garrison Shotts, formerly of La Cote Basque and the Russian Tea Room, who is unique in creating a different assortment every season, actually including seasonal ingredients – for instance, pumpkin in the fall. For Valentine's Day he has a great lovers selection in which each one of the 12 chocolates are named and flavored for a historically famous lover: Juliet is strawberry, Casanova is praline, Valentino is passion fruit, Marc Anthony is a bittersweet ganache flavored with marc de champagne, a liqueur. Rhett and Scarlett get raspberry. In a golden or red box, the gorgeous pieces are both sophisticated and delicious. Available for $19.95 at The Chocolate Loft, by mail, and at Blue Apron, 814 Union Street, Brooklyn (Park Slope), (718) 230-3180.
P.O. Box 5330
Central Point, OR 97502
This is politically correct chocolate: organic, free trade … you get it. It comes in bars, all wrapped in different pale-colored paper (probably recycled), the color depending on flavor. Besides some classics – milk chocolate, dark chocolate, hazelnut, and mint -- there's exotica like roseberry (raspberry and rose hips), lime, chai (ginger and tea), and latte (a milk chocolate with a "hint of cinnamon"). A box of 12 bars – you choose the flavor mix – is $36, plus postage.
2917 Avenue R
Brooklyn (Marine Park), NY 11229
Brooklyn's answer and refreshing antidote to foreign chocolates, this neighborhood chocolatier molds sentiment and nostalgia, not to mention white and dark chocolates together, into their fancy Valentine's Day forms. Great marshmallows – chocolate covered if you like -- and a great warm feeling that you can get only in a family-owned, neighborhood store. Check out the website and mail order if you will, but there's nothing like visiting the store.
1000 Third Avenue, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10022
This is a concession on the 6th floor of Bloomingdale's on 59th Street in Manhattan. Named for the owner, whose late husband was a big-wig at Godiva (the real deal in Belgium), and started this boutique as a "retirement" business. The Belgium-style chocolates are sublime – ganache that doesn't just melt in the mouth, but disappears in the mouth leaving an intense flavor finish. The nine-piece assortment is $16.50. For Valentine's Day you can get it in a hand-painted box signed by the artist for $58. The decorated box would make a fine place to keep jewelry.