Best Chocolate in the U.S.
K+M Extravirgin Chocolate
For their chocolate line, chef Thomas Keller and olive oil icon Armando Manni are making chocolate according to the same "live" principles Manni designed for his cultish oils--a method developed with the University of Florence to minimize heat exposure and retain antioxidants throughout processing. The two tapped former pastry chef Chi Bui (Daniel, Le Bernardin) to perfect the blockbuster bars, which double down on the antioxidant power with a finishing hit of Manni oil. The first release includes three bars, from Madagascar, Peru and Ecuador; the latter is our favorite--uniquely floral, with a lush, velvety texture.
Find K+M Milk & Dark Chocolate, Ecuador, $15 at williams-sonoma.com
Buy Thomas Keller's baking book: Bouchon Bakery, $32 at amazon.com
Owner and chocolate visionary Katrina Markoff flavors chocolates with unexpected ingredients (curry powder, bee pollen) and packs them in boldly designed boxes. Markoff is also a pioneer of the bacon-and-chocolate trend and now has glamorous boutiques in Chicago, New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
For more than 30 years, Seattle-based owner Fran Bigelow has been setting candy trends—she was selling miniature chocolate bars and elegant truffles before they became ubiquitous. Her sweets also have a very high-profile admirer: one of President Obama’s favorite indulgences is Fran’s Smoked Salt Caramels ($12)—buttery caramels coated in milk chocolate and sprinkled with smoked sea salt.
Find Fran's Chocolates at franschocolates.com
Buy the book: Pure Chocolate, $7 at amazon.com
Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolates
Pastry chef Christopher Elbow worked at the American Restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri, until the demand for his chocolate petits fours convinced him to launch his own candy business in 2003. His beautiful hand-painted chocolates come in creative flavors like bananas Foster and caramel apple. Elbow also makes fantastic chocolate bars, including our favorite, No. 6 Dark Rocks, made with dark chocolate and popping candy.
Find Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolates at elbowchocolates.com
L.A. Burdick Chocolates
After gaining recognition for the adorable almond-eared chocolate mice he provided to New York City’s Le Cirque and Bouley in the 1990s, chocolatier Larry Burdick moved to Wapole, New Hampshire, where he opened a cheery yellow café. Today, there are L.A. Burdick locations in New York City, Boston, and Cambridge, Massachusetts, serving his fantastic handmade chocolate candies, from ganache-filled truffles to the chocolate bunnies Burdick makes each spring, an Easter variation on his famous chocolate mice.
Find L.A. Burdick Chocolates at burdickchocolate.com
San Francisco chocolatier Michael Recchiuti creates market-driven confections like chocolate-dipped pear slices flavored with Key lime juice, and homey chocolate desserts such as Quadruple Chocolate Brownies. We also love Recchiuti’s dark chocolate-covered burnt caramel almonds and the seasonal peppermint patties.
Find Recchiuti Confections at recchiuti.com
Buy the book: Chocolate Obsession, $23 at amazon.com
Third-generation chocolatier and genius pastry chef François Payard creates outstanding homemade chocolate confections, superb fluffy macarons and beautiful cakes at his elegant bakeries in New York City, Las Vegas, Japan and Korea.
Find François Payard at payard.com
Buy the book: Chocolate Epiphany, $14 at amazon.com
Godiva Cake Truffles
In 2004, Los Angeles chocolatier Valerie Gordon started creating her impeccable, handmade small-batch chocolates and crispy chocolate-covered toffees topped with almonds, fleur du sel or candied fruit. Favorites include the outstanding milk chocolate-dipped nougat and caramel squares. In 2011, Gordon created a line of new tea blends, cookies and petits fours.
Find Valerie Confections at valerieconfections.com
Buy the book: Sweet, $21 at amazon.com
Chocolatier Kee Ling Tong opened her flagship store in New York City’s Soho in 2002 as a combination flower and chocolate shop. Today she has three locations, offering superb handmade chocolates in 40 flavors, including pyramid-shaped Champagne truffles, made with dark chocolate ganache and Champagne.
Find Kee's Chocolates at keeschocolates.com
The flagship store of this classic American chocolate company opened in 1921 in Los Angeles. Today there are more than 200 locations across the country offering delicious chocolate candies filled with nuts, marzipan and nougat. We get nostalgic for See’s Milk Bordeaux ($24.50), candy filled with brown sugar cream and topped with crispy chocolate puffed rice.
Find See's Candies at sees.com
Pastry chef Jacques Torres left Manhattan’s Le Cirque in 2000 to open his own chocolate factory. Torres now runs a chocolate empire that includes two production facilities, multiple NYC outposts and one in Atlantic City. We especially love Torres’s milk chocolate-covered Cheerios ($8.50) and caramel chocolate popcorn, an addictively salty-sweet snack.
My Sweet Brigadeiro
Christina Bhan and Paula Barbosa of My Sweet Brigadeiro make 20 different versions of these chewy Brazilian truffles, including traditional Rich Chocolate and Pecan-Cinnamon.
Find My Sweet Brigadeiro at mysweet.com
Xocolatti’s globally-inspired truffles and slates (very thin versions of chocolate bark ($28) with layers that recall slate rock) come in seven flavors like mango and paprika with white chocolate. “In India, we usually eat fruit with spices on it, and one of the most popular combinations is mangos with paprika on top,” says founder Shaineal Shah.
Find Xocolatti at xocolatti.com
Hudson Valley Chocolates
Stephanie Glaisek’s bonbon boxes include pieces with fillings like almond butter, candied tangerine or peppermint tea.
Find Hudson Valley Chocolates at hudsonvalleychocolates.com.
Handmade in Chicago, Veruca’s sea salt and burnt-caramel candies are covered in dark chocolate.
Find Veruca Chocolates at verucachocolates.com.
At her beautiful Atlanta boutique, owner Kristen Hard refuses to use anything but dark chocolate in her amazing bean-to-bar chocolates and playful desserts, such as a chocolate faux salami flecked with biscotti. To win over milk chocolate lovers, she says she “slowly ratcheted up the cacao percentages, and no one noticed.” Many chocolate artisans spend years training with masters, but Hard is almost completely self-taught. “It used to make me feel insecure,” she says. “But it’s also why I’m unique.” She now spends six weeks abroad each year sourcing beans directly from farmers, creating outstanding bars like one with Venezuelan cacao and raw sugar.
Find Cacao at cacaoatlanta.com
Launched in 2006, the Seattle-based Theo Chocolate was the first chocolate manufacturer in the US to be both 100 percent organic and fair-trade. Theo’s conscientious chocolates are delicious: nuanced and intense, like dark, single-origin bars from nations such as Ghana and Madagascar. Founder Joseph Whinney is so passionate about chocolate that he hired a biologist to genetically map Theo’s beans. Not all of Theo’s endeavors are so serious: 3,400 Phinney bars, named for the factory’s street address, come in whimsical flavors like the salty-sweet Bread and Chocolate, featuring dark chocolate mixed with bread crumbs; it’s perfect with afternoon coffee.
Buy the book: Theo Chocolate, $25 at amazon.com
Massachusetts candy makers use unusual ingredients, such as passion fruit and white chocolate, in their caramels. There are also delicious bars like the Ancho, filled with spicy nuts, scotch caramel and pretzels.
Find EH Chocolatier at ehchocolatier.com.
French Broad Chocolates
These crunchy, waffle-cone-like cookies are coated in hazelnut cream and covered in dark chocolate.
Find Max Brenner chocolates at maxbrenner.com
Valrhona has taken their Caramélia chocolate bar, which uses rich dairy-based caramel (made from skim milk and butter) instead of caramelized sugar, and added crunchy pearls of toasted puffed cereal coated in the same chocolate for an incredibly creamy, crunchy candy bar ($10).
Askinosie, a fantastic bean-to-bar producer in Missouri, collaborated with other artisans for their new CollaBARation line of chocolate bars. We love the sweet, malty chocolate they created with Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and the unexpected dark chocolate licorice bar, made with a Scandinavian licorice producer.
Find Askinosie at askinosie.com
The Grown Up Chocolate Co.
These bars have names like Glorious Coconut Hocus Pocus ($43) but sophisticated ingredients like ganache and gianduja.
Find The Grown Up Chocolate Co. at amazon.com