A gift of the finest chocolates is always a winner. The market is saturated with plenty of factory-made ordinary chocolates so make your gift a delicious statement with premium hand-painted, hand-crafted truffles and bonbons this season. These artisans put in the long hours and diligent ingredient sourcing to create delicious, sustainably and ethically sourced works of chocolate art. And, believe it or not, there is a proper way to enjoy good quality chocolate – popping a whole truffle or bonbon into your mouth and chewing is not it. Chocolatier Annie Rupani of Cacao & Cardamom suggests, “Close your eyes, inhale deeply, let the chocolate coat your mouth to fully release the flavors. Taste each piece in at least two bites some flavors unfold in layers so take your time.” Here’s your list of some of the best chocolates for gift-giving this holiday season:
Flying Noir: Berkley-based chocolatier Karen Urbanek creates exquisite chocolates that are as much about flavor and decadence as they are about poetry and beauty. Using specialty ingredients such as the finest green tea, wild blueberries or Japanese whisky to imbue flavor and impeccably sourced chocolate to ensure quality, her expressions taste like and are works of art. Consider the Ooloo truffle with bittersweet caramel ganache, Iron Buddha oolong tea and Conexion Fortaleza 64% dark chocolate or the impossibly addictive Kuri – a dark ganache with Kuri (chestnut) and Japanese whisky. Our favorites were from the Poetry & Prose series, a collection of truffles that are inspired by poetry. With each individual truffle you’ll get a line of poetry to match. Says Urbanek, “I love discovering new poets and writers, so it is part of almost all offerings. It gives me an interesting interval now as part of chocolate making process. Some of the writings can be dark and serious, and long, but that chosen line or two just seems to be the right one for the bonbon.”
Cacao & Cardamon: These boxes of beautifully hand-painted chocolates are made with premium couverture chocolate, hand-ground spices, organic heavy cream and 82% European butter, all the better to ensure a flavor-packed bite. The Holiday Collection is a three-part box of stacked truffles—which is delightfully fun to open and display but even more enjoyable to eat. The collection features selections such as Peppermint Oreo (white chocolate ganache infused with organic peppermint and a layer of crushed Oreo) or the Gluhwein (red-wine dark chocolate ganache infused with cinnamon, cloves, star anise and orange.) For a pure chocolate experience consider their Truffle Collection – offerings of dark ganache laced with simple flavors such as sea salt, candied orange, or green cardamom.
LUXX Chocolat: Luxx CEO and Master Chocolatier Lisa Mecray Rogers, has been voted one of the Best Chocolatiers & Confectioners in America by the International Chocolate Salon for the past five years. She’s a specialist in single-origin dark chocolate creations and sources organic, fair-trade chocolate without preservatives or artificial flavors. Her playful Hi Barbie Collection features clever expressions such as the Malibu Barbie, a rum-soaked bonbon with coconut center and cacao nibs. The Mini-Tin Collection has an intriguing assortment of chocolates from Moroccan Fig and Thyme Crunch to the Black and Blue – ganache with blue cheese – a surprisingly decadent taste combination that screams for a sip of bourbon to go with.
Valerie Confections: For almost 20 years Valerie Gordon and her husband and partner Stan Weightman Jr. have been crafting elegant chocolates. In 2022 they opened a flagship bakery, café and production facility, ensuring the quality and Holiday winners include the addictive mint infused 61% chocolate truffles that deliver the pitch-perfect balance of fresh mint with silky ganache. Peppermint bark is a great stocking stuffer (or the ultimate addition to a batch of brownies) and the Baby Grand Assortment has something to please everyone – truffles, toffees and caramels all in one box, which will be empty by the night’s end.
Dallmann Confections: Chocolatier Isabella Knack is a third-generation chocolatier from Austria. She opened Dallman in 2004 and has built a following for her composes pretty jewel-like offerings in flavors that bring together Old-World technique and modern flavors. The Holiday Collection has a wide range of flavors, from chai tea latter to champagne and mocha. Consider her Vegan Collection – tasty offerings such as toasted quinoa with orange and almond, or peanut butter, dates and coconut. Her Hot Chocolate Bombs, oversized chocolate balls filled with cocoa, much like a bath bomb, are brilliant for hostess gifts or spike them with rum for an amazing dessert.
Norman Love Confections: Based in Florida, award-winning chocolatier Norman Love brings chef talent to the chocolate-making with preservative-free exceptional offerings. Gift boxes range from just two selections to a 50-truffle collection. Love’s best offering for dark chocolate fanatics is the Norman Love Black Collection – a colorful selection of single origin chocolates ranging in intensity from 68% to 97%, comparing flavors and intensity is part of the fun and will keep and chocolate lover happy for hours.
Chocolat Michel Cluizel: This Paris-based chocolatier has been crafting chocolates for nearly 70 years and the emphasis has always been on the freshest and finest ingredients. The Plantation Collection, which features individually wrapped squares of chocolates from various chocolate regions across the globe, is a great opportunity to experience the taste differences across farms and regions. The box has a QR code to scan scan for a sensory experience of each of the plantation.
Sustainable and Decadent Stocking Stuffers:
Sharffen Berger Chocolate is best known as America’s first “bean-to-bar” chocolate maker. This now privately owned chocolate producer was the first to add cacao percentages to the front of the label. Today, they still painstakingly source the best beans from small farms across the globe, tasting 150+ samples of cacao varieties a year to select the final few that go into their chocolate bars. The Ultimate Chocolate Lover’s 3oz Bar Bundle is a selection of 8 bars including the satiny salty decadent 70% Dark Chocolate with Almonds, Toffee and Sea Salt.
Dandelion Chocolate offers a holiday spiced Gingerbread Hot Chocolate features 70% Camino Verde, Ecuador chocolate laced with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove, and a pinch of light-brown sugar, to lend a silky rich texture. Bring out their limited-edition Japanese Citrus Collection at the finale of the holiday dinner party. Each elegant expression is enrobed in Dandelion’s hand-ground small batch dark chocolate and features three distinctive Japanese citrus varieties: Lemon, Iyokan, and Hyuganatsu.