Alongside the anonymous array of scented bath products and decorative candles, chocolate is by far the most popular Christmas gift to give when you’re short on ideas and, depending upon the type, cash.
The vast array of brands makes the search for the perfect chocolate all the more difficult. Novices and connoisseurs alike have similar questions when making their selection: Does the pomp and packaging associated with a particular brand guarantee quality? Is an American brand sold at Walgreen’s just as tasty as an import from Belgium?
Of course, these are difficult questions, perhaps comparable to the perennials “What is the meaning of life?” and “Is there a god?” And although these answers certainly don’t come easily, there’s little need to worry. We at the Oracle took it upon ourselves to test various chocolates (arduous, I know) to determine which brands are the most delicious and whether quality has anything to do with price.
The general impression we got from Russell Stover was that the taste and texture were exactly what one would expect from a box of chocolates shaped like a heart and covered in red cellophane. Though our reviewers enjoyed the chocolate, the overriding sentiment was that it was “kind of bland,” “just chocolate” and “it’s not wow.” One reviewer described the chocolate as utilitarian. In other words, Russell Stover gets the job done, but without frills.
Whitman’s wasn’t as unanimously popular as the Russell Stover’s. One reviewer who tasted a plain piece of chocolate said that given the choice, she’d rather eat a Hershey’s bar. Several reviewers complained the flavors weren’t very distinct; another referred to the vague contents of her truffle as a “chocolate surprise.”
The single rose and loose, cursive script on the packaging – the kind of script you’d see in the window of a cheap manicure salon next to a woman with frosted hair – should have been a dead giveaway that Sweet Occasion was an epicurean train wreck. The consensus was that Sweet Occasion couldn’t have been authentic chocolate because chocolate isn’t typically synthesized in a laboratory. It was agreed that the stuff was the type of chocolate you’d pick up at a gas station or – as several reviewers simultaneously corrected – at a truck stop. To Sweet Occasion’s credit, the truffles were coiffed with swirls of color and pleasing to the eye, but they were overstuffed with disagreeable filling: tangerine paste and mystery pink fluff. As the review progressed, Sweet Occasion was eventually referred to as “the budget chocolate.”
See’s CandyCitrus Park Mall$$
Overall, we were pleased with See’s because it tasted like “real chocolate.” In the case of a butter toffee candy, for example, one reviewer said See’s was comparable to the candy she made at home. Also, we were happy to see a wide variety of traditional and original candies in a compact, half-pound box of chocolates.
GodivaCitrus Park Mall$$
The Godiva truffles were very rich and well liked. Several reviewers who sampled the dark chocolate varieties were happy that the truffles were made of “real” dark chocolate with a flavor that bordered on bittersweet. Despite the high quality cited by most participants, the truffles were not particularly original.
Schakolad Chocolate FactoryHoward Avenue$$$
Our reviewers immediately commented on the appearance of the chocolates: the coconut truffle, for example, was finely dusted with white ribbons coconut, and the raspberry ganache was stamped with delicate maroon red hearts. Schakolad quickly became our favorite chocolate because the 15-piece box, in addition to its excellent presentation, contained several flavors we hadn’t seen offered by any other brand, such as mint, maple, marzipan and key lime.
Soleil ChocolatesBruce B. Downs$$$
Like Schakolad, Soleil chocolates were rather pretty and quite delicious. Although raspberry truffles are typically considered run of the mill chocolates, the raspberry truffle offered by Soleil was unique in the sense that it was a shaped like a heart and appeared almost airbrushed; its outer shell faded gracefully from a deep purple hue to bright red.
The disturbing thing about Choxie was that one reviewer could barely cut the truffles in half because the shell was so tough. And despite the fact that the truffles almost resembled Godiva’s, the chocolate just wasn’t good. The reviewer sampling the coffee truffle, for instance, described the filling as “burnt coffee.” The gingerbread truffle didn’t taste like gingerbread, and the tiramisu truffle “burnt the tonsils like hellfire.” Even after we’d grudgingly swallowed our respective pieces of Choxie, there was a mad dash for the water cooler. We hoped water would dilute whatever noxious remnants remained – boy, were we wrong. The Choxie was so unpleasant and the unpleasantness so persistent, several reviewers bit into the remaining Sweet Occasion (truck stop) truffles just to mask the flavor. In the words of one reviewer, “We definitely didn’t save the best for last.”