Few people can resist the dark allure of really good chocolate. We associate chocolate with rich desserts, lavish Valentine’s Day gifts, and decadent holiday treats, but what we now call chocolate began as a very different kind of concoction.
Mankind’s love affair with chocolate began a staggering 4,000 years ago in the Amazon when cocoa beans were roasted, ground, and made into an unsweetened, bitter drink. In the 16th century Spain, the brilliant step of blending chocolate with sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and cinnamon created a fashionable beverage for the nobility. It wasn’t until 1830, however, that a process for developing solid eating chocolate was finally developed, and another few decades would pass before the inception of milk chocolate.
With the holidays quickly approaching, I want to focus on gorgeous artisan chocolates. Odds are, a gift box of these beautiful chocolates would make someone on your gift list a very happy person. I’ve found that local chocolatiers often combine exquisite craftsmanship with high quality, fresh ingredients for the kind of chocolate experience a mass-produced chocolate company cannot compare with.
For example, DeBrand Fine Chocolates is a family-owned chocolate company in Indiana. Each piece of chocolate is meticulously hand-crafted from the highest quality ingredients. These chocolates taste as incredible as they look, with traditional as well as exotic flavors.
Another noteworthy artisan chocolate shop is Alma Chocolate in Portland, Oregon. Chocolatier Sarah Hart creates traditional truffles, bon bons in a variety of tempting flavors, and unique molded chocolates decorated with edible gold leaf.
Christopher Elbow Chocolates in Kansas City and San Francisco, sculpts tiny works of art into delectable chocolate creations. Each confection is as much a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds.
In my experience, the ideal chocolate shop offers hand-made chocolates made from fresh ingredients on a small scale. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a small chocolate shop that makes their own artisan chocolates, all of the examples here ship chocolates anywhere in the U.S. For gifts, dessert or favors at your next dinner party or event, beautiful little works of art like this can please on every aesthetic level.