It's not every day that our expert tasters are compelled to use words such as "amazing," "artistic-looking," "sophisticated," and "ultra-smooth." But that's what they said about some of the excellent chocolates in our Ratings (available to subscribers). Flavors such as cinnamon toast "explode from the first bite," tasters said. John & Kira's candies infused with mint "taste as if the leaves were just picked," and Nonnie Waller's truffles "scream cream."
There's another word we'll need to use: expensive. The very best we reviewed cost up to $5.63 an ounce (up to $90 a box), without shipping. And many top chocolates require shipping because they're sold in so few stores that they must be ordered by phone or on the Web.
You can spend a bit less
Price doesn't guarantee excellence. One of the most expensive chocolates we tested, which cost $8.38 per ounce, were just decent.
Shipping is expensive
For the candy in our Ratings, standard overnight or one-day shipping to New York added from about $17 to $45 to the total cost. Shipping costs can be lower in winter than in summer, when we ordered.
With Nonnie Waller's chocolates, "each piece could be a dessert," testers pointed out. On the other hand, L.A. Burdick's pieces are just "tiny bites."
Nutrition has pluses and minuses
Eating a little dark chocolate occasionally might be healthful, as some research links is to lower blood pressure and certain other health benefits. But eating too much won't be: The tested chocolates that reveal nutrition information have about 200 calories and 8 to 17 grams of fat per 1.4-ounce serving.
Boxed chocolates can be very different, so keep in mind the recipient's tastes. Among the more traditional choices are Candinas, La Maison du Chocolat, and Nonnie Waller's. People willing to try new tastes might like Christopher Elbow, Vosges, and Xocolatti. Whatever your choice, enjoy it soon: The shelf life of most candy is 10 days to two weeks.