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Christmas Chocolate Recommendations

All right, so some people were mentioning at a signing their intention to gift CHOCOLATE THIEF with a box of nice chocolates for Christmas, and I thought:  Good lord!  I can’t let people go around buying chocolates without guidance, can I?  Not unless they’re swearing to report back to me on their good finds, at least.  And maybe share…

So I decided to share some of my favorite U.S. artisan chocolatiers, and if you weren’t planning on giving people chocolate for Christmas, after this you will have thought better of that little lapse.

MIEL BON BONS (www.mielbonbons.com)

A local chocolatier for me, Bonnie Lau trained in Paris and offers her luscious chocolates and macarons in an enchanting little jewel-box of a shop in Carrboro, NC.  You can see more about my first visit to her shop here or, better yet, just soak in the visuals on the Pinterest board I did here.

CHOCOLATS DU CALIBRESSAN (www.chococalibressan.com)

A French chocolatier who re-established himself in Santa Barbara for the sake of his homesick American wife (don’t you LOVE a good love story?  especially when it equals more chocolate for us!), Jean Michel Carré makes exquisite hand-painted chocolates that are, really, worth forsaking nirvana.  (Can you forsake nirvana?  I’m never entirely sure how that works.  But I will worship his red Buddhas any day!)  You can read about the day a brother on a trip discovered this True Gem and sent me a box here.  Or the day a Sweet Sister-in-Law and Brother sent me a box of FORTY Buddhas for a certain birthday here.  (NO connection between the number of Buddhas and age.  Really.  Totally random they should pick that number.)  I love these Buddhas!  But to be fair to yourself, you really have to get a whole box of all his different chocolates before you narrow yourself down to one.  I love all of them.  Oh, and those turtles he does are adorable.

CHRISTOPHE ARTISAN CHOCOLATIER (www.christophechocolatier.com)

A third-generation French chocolatier who ended up in Charleston with his American wife (AGAIN with the GREAT love story! you see how Chocolate and Love go together?), Christophe Paume makes exquisite hand-painted chocolates and a salted caramel chocolate bar that is the best of that trend that I’ve yet had.  He also has a gorgeous Christmas line-up of chocolate snowmen, Santas, Tin Soldiers, Nutcrackers, and Christmas trees.  You know where my child’s teachers are getting for Christmas.

I apologize for the bad photography.  What can I say?  My thousand words can sometimes be worth WAY more than my pictures.

Here’s a better photo of the Christmas Snowman, straight off the site.  We’ll just have to hope none of those teachers are peeking on my website to spoil their Christmas surprise:

ESCAZU (www.escazuchocolates.com)

This is another local chocolatier to me, and one of the earliest bean-to-bar microbatch producers in the U.S.  (Which doesn’t make it that old–2009 was when they went full-scale bean-to-bar for all their chocolate.)  I have to admit I was skeptical before tasting their bars–how could a little local place compete with the years of expertise of Valrhona?  But I loved the uniqueness and quality of their bars, and for those looking for something without soy lecithin, this is the place!  They use none.  Their sensuous hand-painted chocolates are only available in store, as can their array of historical and contemporary hot chocolates, both of which I highly recommend for those in the Raleigh area.  But the bars can be ordered everywhere.  I love the passion and conviction Hallot Parson and chef Danielle Centeno show for what they do and their personal connections with small farmers in Costa Rica and Venezuela.  The stories in this place!  Take a look at this turn of the century grinder they found in Spain, for example:

I will get a full post or Pinterest collection from my visit and interview with them shortly.  I’m far behind!

JOHN AND KIRA’S (www.johnandkiras.com)

Mina of Mina’s Bookshelf recommended this small artisan chocolate company to me when I was up in Philadelphia, and it was absolutely delightful to be guided through a tasting at a little stand at the Rittenhouse Square farmer’s market, under golden leaves in late autumn.  And all I can say after that is, if you have not tasted their FIGS, you have not lived your life to the fullest.  Go ahead.  These things are AWESOME.

Here.  That’s not my photo.  I stole it off their website.  My photo has teeth marks.  Sinking into sumptuous, luscious, barely whiskey-touched rich chocolate ganache surrounded by the most delicate fig, straight from Spain…

So now it’s a real dilemma.  WHICH chocolate do I most want to get for Christmas?  Maybe ALL of them.  And all of it would be for research purposes, of course.  Which makes Christmas start to look like a busman’s holiday for me, doesn’t it?

Only…smug grin here…different.

Mwaa-ha-ha-ha-ha.

Or should that be Ho, ho, ho?

For more chocolatier recommendations both in the U.S. and Canada, check out the comments to the GREAT CHOCOLATE HUNT and sneak in any last-minute recommendations, if you can, because it is about to close.  Meaning I have to work through the rest of the recommendations there quickly!  Help!

Seriously…that’s a lot of chocolate.  Even I might need some help. :)

What about you?  Any Christmas chocolate recommends that you want to add?

Joyeux Noël! :)


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