Notes on top chocolates from around the world
Many artisan chocolatiers boast a couple of exceptional truffles, but none I've tried have the volume of Feve Artisan Chocolatier, formerly Au Coeur Des Chocolats, available in shops like Bi-Rite and on the company's website. Owners Shawn and Kathryn Williams have traveled Europe extensively, visiting many of the world's best chocolate makers. Besides artful, elegant, precise presentation, Shawn's truffles succeed first and foremost in flavor.
Many chocolatiers promise flavors like curry or lemongrass or other excitement in their truffles, but often the flavor of truffles (at the standard, expensive $1.50–$3 a piece) is barely discernible or bland, leaving me disappointed, wishing I'd stuck with a straightforward piece of chocolate. Not so in Feve's line of truffles, in which I struggle to name my favorite overall. There's cherry-vanilla (dark chocolate and lemon ganache layered with cherry vanilla gelée), cardamom punchy with Scotch, sesame-vanilla crispy with praline, dreamy banana-caramel, pistachio-rosemary caramel with pistachio praline, and vivid passionfruit or yuzu. Each is exquisitely lush.
MORE LOCAL FAVORITES
Chocolatier Blue's truffles, served in its Berkeley shops are fresh and creative. Try the Ants on a Log, filled with celery seed, peanut butter, and currant, or the tart caramel apple or peanut brittle crunch with caramelized banana and creamy peanut butter.
Saratoga Chocolates' Caramel Cin, a heart-shaped treat of dark chocolate oozing decadent cinnamon caramel.
Sixth Course Artisan Confections' aromatic caramels, like rosemary, or sage and brown butter.
Wine Country Chocolates' Elvis truffle of peanut butter and banana ganache rules, while the cinnamon and clover honey oozes honey goodness.
Maison Bouche's Fleur de Sel is one of the Oakland producer's elegant, French-spirited bars, a standout made using Brittany salt.
Alma Chocolates in Portland, Ore. makes an insanely good Thai peanut butter cup with ginger, Thai chile, lime, even red volcanic sea salt varieties. You can usually find it at Portland chocolate haven Cacao.
Antidote is a quality raw, NY-based bean-to-bar line made in Ecuador. It produces dark chocolate bars in flavors like banana-cayenne, lavender red salt, and almond fennel. Expect subtlety and a earth-like taste in each. Available locally at Buyer's Best Friend.
Chocolat Modern is a longtime New York favorite, making square "bistro bars" that are dark and filled with the tastes like banana and Cognac, pumpkin praline, apricot and Bas Armagnac, and zesty grapefruit. There's a rotating selection available locally at The Candy Store.