Taste: In Search Of: Artisanal Chocolates

This year, give a gift of locally-made chocolate

To see just how good (or bad) Philly’s new artisanal chocolates are, we sent samples to three expert tasters: Fran Bigelow, owner of the venerable Fran’s Chocolates in Seattle; Tish Boyle, editor of Chocolatier magazine; and Tina Casaceli, director of pastry arts at the French Culinary Institute. All of the chocolates featured are available via mail order, so you can impress your faraway friends with a bit of decadent Philadelphia pride.

John and Kira’s
(formerly Jubilee)
$26 for a box of 15

FB: The wooden box is a beautiful presentation gift. Flavors come through with each chocolate, assertive enough to identify and recognize.
TB: Intense, true flavors such as garden mint—tastes like the leaf!—and fragrant lavender-honey.
TC: The best overall. The fillings are smooth and full of fresh, natural flavors that burst in your mouth.

Le Bec-Fin
1523 Walnut Street; 215-567-1000
$30 for a box of 16

FB: The caramel was outstanding! Amazing depth of flavor. The coconut delivered a real fresh coconut flavor. Great centers and superb mastery.
TB: The cherry cordial’s flavor was too strong. The smoky caramel was very nice, but the best one was the milk chocolate with Bailey’s Irish Cream.
TC: The flavor was okay, but not great, and sometimes they had way too much alcohol flavor.

24 South High Street, West Chester;
$27 for a box of 20

FB: Very nice presentation. I particularly liked the Szechuan peppercorn, but the madeira was too sweet.
TB: The madeira is way too sweet. I spit it out. The lavender was soapy, and the saffron truffle had no redeeming qualities. But I did like the caramel truffle.
TC: I was not fond of these truffles. They seemed to be made from manufactured shells that are filled and re-dipped.

210 West Rittenhouse Square;
$18 for a box of 24

FB: The Roquefort was excellent. A finer execution than a box of cheese chocolates I sampled in Paris last year.
TB: The dark rum was way too strong. Roquefort cheese: How can I ever erase the memory of this terrible taste?
TC: The flavors were weak and sometimes artificial-tasting. It tastes like extracts are used in place of real fruit purees or juices and alcohols.

The Painted Truffle
$30 for a box of 20

FB: Very creative. The hazelnut in milk chocolate was a standout, as was the Model T, a dark chocolate truffle with the lingering of cognac on your palette.
TB: The Banana-Bo-Banna tasted like overripe banana. The Monkey’s Uncle had an artificial flavor. “Mediocre” sums up these chocolates.
TC: The fillings have great flavors and are obviously made from fresh ingredients through infusing, as opposed to extracts.