by Eszter Hargittai on December 16, 2004

It’s my birthday so I’ll take this opportunity to talk about something dear to my heart: chocolate. A friend who clearly does not realize how little time I spend working out gave me two pounds of some very good quality chocolate for my birthday. (Maybe the idea was that this way even after sharing with him I’d still have enough left for me.:) Another friend – whose wife and I have a monthly ritual of giving each other Belgian truffles on random holidays – sent me a link to a New York Times article about some of the best places in Paris for quality chocolate. One of the most intriguing gifts I’ve gotten recently came from Paris and was chocolate related: chocolate perfume. The scent is very real, and I don’t mean of some cheapo imitation American candy bar. The aroma resembles very high quality chocolate. Surprising as it may be, smelling the perfume can have healthy repercussions. A whiff of that scent will nullify any craving for poor quality chocolate (the type most likely to be around one’s office where such cravings often arise). Before completely dismissing all American chocolate, I should note that at a chocolate party where the hosts had us guests sampling and rating unidentified milk and dark chocolates from all over the world, some American chocolates actually came out quite highly ranked (including something as generic as Hershey’s dark chocolate).

I think a sophisticated chocolate enthusiast has cravings for specific types of chocolate, not just chocolate in general. So sometimes it is that M-azing candy bar you crave while other times only a Cote d’Or hazelnut dark chocolate bar, a Ritter Sport Marzipan bar or a Sport falat will do (just to name some of my favorites).

For those in the Chicagoland area, I highly recommend the Belgian chocolatier Piron in Evanston (the source of my monthly chocolate truffle ritual mentioned above). I welcome pointers to other great chocolate stores wherever they may be.



Delicious Pundit 12.16.04 at 5:46 am

My favorite birthday-related quote is James Thurber’s (written from memory): “I’m 60 and I guess that puts me in with the geriatrics, but if each year had 15 months I’d only be 48.”

I find this trick works at lower values of x as well.


eudoxis 12.16.04 at 5:52 am

Two other great american brands:

Guittard – excellent for baking
Scharffen Berger – a bit too bright for me (slightly underroasted), but the cocao powder works for that perfect New York egg cream.

My favorite is Michel Cluizel (France) single origin chocolates w/ between 65% and 82% cocao.


cm 12.16.04 at 7:51 am

Indeed the Hersheys dark chocolate that I happened to try is not too bad, but steer clear of their other stuff. Similar for other dark chocolate brands. I figure with dark chocolate there is perhaps less to screw up or replace with cheap surrogates, as it’s mostly just cocoa and sugar.


Chris Bertram 12.16.04 at 8:01 am

Well Brussels is the place… in the Place du Grand Sablon and thereabouts, there are any number of excellent chocolatiers.

OTOH, when needs must, any decent cooking chocolate with cocoa solids at 70%+ (they tell you this crucial statistic on the wrapper)….


Duane 12.16.04 at 9:30 am

Thanks very much for that article! I’m going to be in Paris for xmas, and now I know what I’ll be doing with at least one of my days there.


jan 12.16.04 at 10:16 am

well, suggest everyone to try the côte d’or intense dark70%.


belle waring 12.16.04 at 10:32 am

yes, jan, I agree. that côte d’or stuff is really good.


Jeremy Osner 12.16.04 at 12:56 pm

Mmm… chocolate…


McDuff 12.16.04 at 2:59 pm

No discussion of chocolate is complete without reference to Green and Black’s. Yummy AND fair trade, perfect for the liberal chocolate lover.


Sean 12.16.04 at 3:05 pm

I think the best in Chicago is definitely Vosges ( — I would put it up against the best anywhere. My usual preference is for pure deep dark chocolate, but the Vosges truffles are so interesting and subtle that they’re well worth seeking out. There’s a store on Michigan Ave, in the same mall as Nordstrom’s.

And happy birthday!


bq 12.16.04 at 3:19 pm

While Brussels is indeed the best place to buy chocolate, if you’re in North America, you can find the same quality from Canadian Belgian immigrant Bernard Callebaut. He also has four stores in the US, two of which are in Illinois.

For the best chocolate based solely in the US, I recommend The Dilettante in Seattle. Amazing dark chocolate truffles, which they’ll ship packed with dry ice to preserve them, and the family claims to have once been master confectioners to Tsar Nicholas II.


fester 12.16.04 at 3:37 pm

Could you tell me if the shop that you got the Chocalate perfume from has an online operation, and if so where it is located. If not, could you please tell me the name and arrondisemont that it is located in as a friend who is a complete choclaholic will soon be in Paris, and I would love to give some pointers and score some brownie points.


reb 12.16.04 at 4:28 pm

I haven’t been to most of the places in mentioned in the NY Times article, but it seems they mostly focus on patisseries with good chocolatiers in them. For a shop in Paris totally devoted to chocolate, check out Cacao e Chocolat (29 Rue de Buci, 6e, M: Mabillon). It’s got a wonderful selection and is quite “modern” in its tastes.


Maria 12.16.04 at 4:58 pm

Neuhaus Chocolate. If you like dark, they have a dark bar that will make you weep with joy, a dark chocolate orange bar and dark chocolate tea bar (much better than it sounds). The stores are awesome and for a chocoholic they are paradise.

You can order on-line ( or call individual stores (the B’way store gave me the info that they ship anywhere) for what you want if the online store doesn’t float your boat.


kevin 12.16.04 at 5:34 pm

Happy birthday.

I have no chocolate related material to add.


Manfred Traven 12.16.04 at 6:01 pm

L.A. Burdick’s makes very very good chocolates, as good or better than most Belgian in my opinion. And their cafe in Cambridge MA is worth a visit for the hot chocolate, probably the best I’ve had.


Manfred Traven 12.16.04 at 6:02 pm

L.A. Burdick’s makes very very good chocolates, as good or better than most Belgian in my opinion. And their cafe in Cambridge MA is worth a visit for the hot chocolate, probably the best I’ve had.


MaryLou 12.16.04 at 7:03 pm

This chocolate came highly recommended in another blog (I forget which one). I bookmarked it, but haven’t ordered yet:


Kate Nepveu 12.16.04 at 7:57 pm

I have had the chocolate from ; it was an early Christmas gift. It is excellent.

For something a little simpler, I also love XOX Truffles, which are intense and smooth. A random and fortuitous discovery on this summer’s trip to San Francisco.


alex 12.16.04 at 9:55 pm

If you’re in Blacksburg, Virginia I can recommend ‘The Chocolate Spike’ pretty highly. Though I can’t imagine why any of you would pass through here…

For off-the-shelf bars, the best I’ve found is Dolfin. Their 88% cacao bar is simply the best dark chocolate I’ve ever had. The 70%, variously flavored with with orange peel, Earl Grey tea, candied ginger, almonds, and mint, are also worth examining.

The one Sharffen Barger dark bar that I tried had a nasty solvent taste to it. I hope it was an isolated example but haven’t repeated the test.


eszter 12.17.04 at 1:13 am

Thanks for all the great recommendations.

To answer Fester’s question, I asked my friend for info about the store where she bought the chocolate perfume. Voila:

Drugstore Publicis
133 Champs Elysées
75008 Paris


fester 12.17.04 at 1:20 am

eszter, you are an angel…


mike 12.17.04 at 6:04 am

Oh yeah vosges – I have a friend that works there – they are the best i’ve ever had.


Adam Stephanides 12.17.04 at 3:22 pm

The best chocolates I’ve ever had are Martine’s which are made, and as far as I know are only sold, on the seventh (iirc) floor of Bloomingdale’s in Manhattan. My favorite chocolates available in the Chicago area (but I haven’t tried Callebout yet) are Laderach chocolates: they’re made in Switzerland and sold at Marly Chocolatier, in Evanston. (It’s tricky because Marly sells various brands, and doesn’t label them by brand: the Laderach are the ones on the corner of the table nearest you as you enter.)

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Rubens Chocolates, which makes very good handmade chocolates, and whose shop is in the small city where I live, Champaign, Ill. (where the University of Illinois’s main campus is), if you’re ever passing through.


Mary Kay 12.17.04 at 5:00 pm

I also live in Seattle, and prefer Fran’s Chocolates to Dilettante. Fran’s has the single best piece of candy I’ve ever eaten. Caramel dipped in dark chocolate with fleur de sel sprinkled on top. And they do mail order

Although I live in Seattle I first tasted that chocolate at Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor. They do mail order too and are a first rate deli.

I’ve also eaten Vosges truffles at Zingerman’s. Very yummy.



eszter 12.19.04 at 6:21 pm

Thanks for the additional recommendations. Bummer I wasn’t reading this thread when I was in NYC the last couple of days or I would’ve tried to make it over to Bloomingdale’s.

I’ve been to Rubens Chocolates in Champaign and agree that it’s a great place. (I’m assuming that’s where my friend took me when I visited. It would be hard for me to imagine that Champaign would have several such truffle stores.) Then again, Evanston seems to do just fine with several of them. In fact, although it may be hard to believe, I have yet to go to Marly Chocolates probably because I’m so happy with Peron and it’s near where I live. (Given that it’s so close by, I’ve actually been pretty good at not going there too often.:)

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