Turns out we Westerners are a loyal bunch when it comes to our sweets ― dotting the region are dozens of high-quality chocolatiers, each with a fervent following.
We vetted the best for extra-special treats. After narrowing the field to 13 worthy competitors based on ingredients and technique, we conducted our own tasting, scoring the chocolate’s quality, range and balance of flavors, artfulness of packaging, and good value for the price.
Our top pick: Recchiuti Confections
Why: Rich, deep flavors; innovative, alluring fillings; and masterful execution ― clearly, industry pioneer Michael Recchiuti’s San Francisco company is at the top of its game. “They’re the future of chocolate,” as one taster put it.
Favorite flavors: Sesame nougat (built on a sliver-thin layer of crisp sesame caramel), star anise and pink peppercorn, burnt caramel
Give them to: Anyone you want to impress ― your boss, your future in-laws
Price: $40 for the 16-piece Valentine’s Box
Contact: www.recchiuti.com or 800/500-3396
A sweet choice: Charles Chocolates
Why: These charming, handcrafted, small-batch sweets by Emeryville, CA, chocolatier Chuck Siegel inspired instant loyalty. Top-quality chocolate is paired in exquisite proportion with flavors such as Earl Grey and peanut praline.
Favorite flavors: Raspberry hearts, bittersweet peanut butterflies
Give them to: Your spouse, your mom, anyone else who deserves some sweet love
Price: $27 for a ½-pound box (about 21 pieces)
Contact: www.charleschocolates.com or 510/652-4412
For the sophisticate: Jin Patisserie
Why: Nestled in bento-style boxes, these hand-painted jewels from L.A. pastry chef Kristy Choo explode with exotic, Asian-accented flavors such as mango-basil and jasmine.
Favorite flavors: Ginger, caramel clove, pandan (a leaf that tastes a little like a spicy vanilla bean)
Give them to: The artists and aesthetes in your life
Price: $25 for a 12-piece box
Contact: www.jinpatisserie.com or 310/399-8801