In their handsome mock alligator-skin box, these chocolates have the appearance of confections made by a true professional (and if you’re giving chocolates to men, this assortment has unisex appeal with a tip toward the manly). But there’s more to it than that, because you can taste the good ingredients used here. Lee Johnson, Fiori’s CCC (that’s Chief Chocolate Conjuror), has a nice range of fillings that will be appreciated by both traditionalists and chocolate adventurers. I like the Fragola, a dark chocolate piece with fresh organic strawberry and liqueur in a white ganache, as well as the Fichi al Rhum, homemade fig liqueur blended into a dark ganache. But if you’re more venturesome in your appetites, try the Yoshino, fresh ginger and toasted sesame in a dark ganache, or the Basilico, a truffle filled with a dark ganache flavored with fresh organic basil, apricot and lime. I like the emphasis on seasonal produce here, as well as the use of organics where possible. And how on earth does Fiori get the exterior chocolate coating on their truffles so thin? Mr. Johnson offers a lovely hot chocolate mix, as well. FioriChocolatiers.com
Omanhene produces ingots. But these aren’t ingots of gold or silver, they’re ingots of another precious material: cacao beans. The background story of this chocolate is fascinating; it all began when the CCO (Chief Chocolate Officer) was sent to Ghana as a high school exchange student. Steven Wallace decided he wanted to give something back to the African country he came to love, and Omanhene, which uses only cacao beans grown in Ghana, is the result. My favorite product in Omanhene’s line is their dark milk chocolate. Something like a cross between a very cacao-intensive milk chocolate and a not-too-bitter dark chocolate, it’s alluringly smooth, with a full, rich, deeply chocolate flavor that always makes me think of coffee (though it has no coffee in it). These ingots are small (0.7 ounces each), so they’re a great treat for any time of day. They come already “gift wrapped,” in a very nice presentation box (each ingot is also individually wrapped). I’ve been recommending this chocolate for years now, and I still love it. Also available: an Extra Dark chocolate, a number of gift assortments, hot cocoa and frappe mixes, and chocolate without the fancy wrapping. Omanhene.com
Marshmallows and products containing them are specialties here. If you don’t think marshmallows are anything special, you just haven’t tried Pete’s enormous, fresh-tasting squares, available in flavors such as Chocolate, Espresso and Strawberry. If you ever get tired of these flavors by themselves (and I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that) you can order them dipped in chocolate. Pete’s makes an unusual Rocky Road, which you can order as a home-style “slab” or in small squares. Their recipes include semisweet chocolate, vanilla, almonds and espresso marshmallows, and it’s all delicious. There are also chocolate-dipped caramels, hot cocoa mix and any number of seasonal specialties. I like the playful nature of these products, and they’ll appeal to a wide variety of ages. Certified Eco-Kosher by Dreidel-K. PetesGourmet.com
How To Choose?
There’s a lot of variety here, but those who like plain bars or marshmallows will separate themselves from those who like fancy bonbons or chocolate Buddhas. Or, if you want it all, just start at the top of the list and work your way down, as we do.
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