The Neuhaus box. Picture: BLOOMBERG
The Neuhaus box. Picture: BLOOMBERG

 The nice thing about buying so-called fine chocolate is that you can’t really go wrong. It’s all pretty good. But what separates Maison du Chocolat from Teuscher from Recchiuti. Which is the best of the best?

For those who have to worry about Valentine’s Day around the corner, otherwise known as Chocolate’s Great Day of Reckoning, we’re here to help.  We’ve enlisted our food editor, Kate Krader, to try some of the best chocolates in the world, so that you don’t have to. (The trials of Krader’s job never end, truly.)

Her methodology was simple: Krader tasted elite dark chocolate ganache truffles from companies that can ship across the US; most also ship globally.

Crucially, in an effort to make reasoned, head-to-head comparisons, each of the truffles Krader tasted was unadorned— where at all possible, there were no infusions, no nuts, no extra flavours. This is pure chocolate vs chocolate.

Krader’s conclusions are based on her own, explicitly biased preferences. “I have a sweet tooth, so I don’t always like the bitter chocolates that go up to astronomically high cocoa amounts,” she said. “Sometimes chocolate can be too intensely chocolate.”

The truffles were graded on taste, aesthetic, and overall presentation. Check out her findings below, listed from good to incredible.

7. Vosges Nine-Piece Dark Chocolate Truffle Collection, $30

Vosge's Valentine's Day-themed box. Picture: BLOOMBERG
Vosge's Valentine's Day-themed box. Picture: BLOOMBERG

While these chocolates had dustings of flavours that run the gamut from wild fennel pollen to Hungarian paprika on their outer shell, the insides “taste like a blast of dark, straight-ahead chocolate”, said Krader. She noted that the truffles themselves, while tasty, were not necessarily a go-to for chocolate purists: “They use flavourings as an exclamation mark; I’d recommend these for people who pride themselves on their unconventional fashion stylings.”

While Krader liked the colourful chocolates and appreciated the presence of a flavour key, she noted that it was “not the fanciest we tried”.

6. Teuscher, Nine-Piece Box of Dark Chocolate Truffles, $38.95

Teuscher chocolates included more whimsical teddy bears, dogs, and hearts.Picture: BLOOMBERG
Teuscher chocolates included more whimsical teddy bears, dogs, and hearts.Picture: BLOOMBERG

Krader appeared genuinely surprised after biting into Teuscher’s hefty, dark-chocolate truffle. “It’s very dense,” she said. “A powerhouse.” Krader didn’t take to the truffle — “Not my favourite,” she said — but acknowledged that many people would. “I think this is for people who go big, who want the triple-decker burger — the highest pile of truffles on their pasta,” she said.

Krader called the presentation, which consisted of a delicate, picnic-basket style box, “whimsical”. (A few animal-themed chocolates had been included in the box for visual flair.) “Extra credit for that chocolate dog,” said Krader. 

5. Recchiuti Nine-Piece Noir Truffle Box, $26

The next-level design of Recchiuti chocolates. Picture: BLOOMBERG
The next-level design of Recchiuti chocolates. Picture: BLOOMBERG

“Wow,” said Krader, biting into one of the company’s flat, square truffles. “This is definitely the chocolate with the most distinct point of view.” By that, she meant that it had perhaps the most unusual flavour of the bunch, with distinctly fruity notes. “This is from someone who’s redefining what truffles can be,” she said. “The flavourings don’t punch you in the face, and it tastes like it was just made.”

In other words: advanced chocolatiering. “There’s a sophistication about them,” she said. “Truffle neophytes might want something more general.”

As for the presentation, the box’s simple black design, combined with the delicate filigrees on the chocolates, were just right for her. “I’d grade them high 90s on the aesthetic — the details” she said. 

4. Michel Cluizel, 15-Piece Box, $35

Michel Cluizel chocolates.Photographer: Picture: BLOOMBERG
Michel Cluizel chocolates.Photographer: Picture: BLOOMBERG

“Ooh,” cooed Krader. “This is my kind of chocolate.” Whereas some chocolates are “kind of aggressive”, as she put it, the texture of Cluizel’s struck her as soft, “like a chocolate cloud”. Other adjectives she used were “gentle” and “gorgeous”. These truffles, she said, were “just sweet enough”.

The presentation, Krader noted, was pleasant but not jaw-dropping. “Am I going to run to it in a room of chocolates?” she asked rhetorically. “Maybe not, but I appreciate the nice print.”

3. La Maison du Chocolat 12-Piece Box of Truffles, $30

The Maison du Chocolat chocolates. Picture: BLOOMBERG
The Maison du Chocolat chocolates. Picture: BLOOMBERG

“You can tell that this chocolate is top-of-the-line,” Krader said. “It’s a very smooth experience.” She described the flavour as “buttery” and expanded on that theme by describing the experience as feeling like you’re “putting on the most luxurious and cushy chocolate robe”. The petite size of the truffles, however, raised a red flag. “I like a chocolate that takes two bites to finish,” she said. “These are a bit small for my taste, though aesthetically, they’re very pleasing.”

The brown, couture-styled box itself, Krader said, was a standout. “It packs the biggest punch,” she said. “You see it and you’re, like, ‘Oh, wow’.” 

2. LA Burdick Small Wood Assortment, $26

The L.A. Burdick assortment. Picture: BLOOMBERG
The L.A. Burdick assortment. Picture: BLOOMBERG

Krader made a literal “mmmm” sound as she bit into the truffle. “It’s an intriguing texture because it feels light and whipped, but it doesn’t just melt,” she said. “It’s not a pure-chocolate experience; there’s something more,” she said approvingly. “There are notes of caramel.”

The wooden box, Krader added, provides an extra sense of fun. “It’s so cute,” she said, noting that the company’s charitable giving (it donates to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which helps orphaned elephants and other savannah creatures), was an added plus.

Winner: Neuhaus 16-Piece ‘Prestige’ Box, $38

Neuhaus chocolates.Photographer: Picture: BLOOMBERG
Neuhaus chocolates.Photographer: Picture: BLOOMBERG

This was, hands down, Krader’s favourite. “Oh, my God,” she said. “I feel like I just fell into a pool of chocolate.” More to the point, the Neuhaus truffles did everything Krader said a good chocolate truffle should: the tender coating gave way to a luxurious whipped mousse filling, with layers of flavour. (“It comes in waves,” Krader said.) The units were big enough for two satisfying bites, and they tasted as if they’d been made five minutes earlier. “A chocolate like this makes you realise how many old chocolates you’ve eaten in your life,” she said. “And how many mediocre ones.”

The box itself — bright red, square, with a subtly raised gold border — was “gorgeous”, Krader said. “You know when you look at it that you’re getting something special.”

- Bloomberg

Please sign in or register to comment.