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I have used Ghiradlli in the past and occasionally Vahlrona (obviously better)...I used to use the Ghiradelli a lot because I thought it had a great reputation for being a high quality chocolate and the price was very reasonable...

My expert chocolate friend told me that Ghiradelli is complete crap...Is this true? I just picked up 3 large bars of Scharffen Berger which my friend suggested which has 70% Cacao...anyone know what % Cacao Ghiradelli Bittersweet has? And any opinions on any of these brands, thanks!

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The Nov/Dec Cook's Illustrated has a baking chocolate comparison. They tested it in brownies and chocolate sauce. On the Recommended list were:

Scharffen Berger Unsweetened Pure Dark Chocolate

Callebaut Unsweetened Chocolate

Ghirardelli Unsweetened Chocolate Baking Bar

Valrhona Cacao Pate Extra

Nestle Unsweetened Baking Chocolate Bars

Not recommended were, unsurprisingly:

Baker's Unsweetened Baking Chocolate Squares

Hershey's Unsweetened Baking Chocolate

The tasters really liked the Ghirardelli. The least expensive of the Recommended bunch was Nestle ($3.98/lb), followed by Callebaut ($5.43/lb). Ghirardelli was $8.76/lb.

I've always thought the Ghirardelli candy bars tasted really great, if maybe a bit too sweet. If your baked goods taste good, why not use it? I think your friend is incorrect.

The whole article is worth reading, though, in regard to the "flavor profiles" the companies are going for, where and how they get their beans, and how secretive the companies are about the whole thing.

"Save Donald Duck and Fuck Wolfgang Puck."

-- State Senator John Burton, joking about

how the bill to ban production of foie gras in

California was summarized for signing by

Gov. Schwarzenegger.

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Brig--I happen to agree with your friend that Ghirardelli is complete crap. Crapola in any form. (As an aside, it always struck me, by the shape of your friend's chocolates, that she uses pre-made commercial shells--little hollow balls of tempered chocolate--kind of like a wiffle ball with but one hole in them that allows a chocolatier to pipe in a ganache. Ask her if that's the case and report back, ok?)

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Personally I've always ranked Ghirardelli at the same level as Hershey and Nestle - not even as good as Cadbury.

By the way, who would you say is doing the best, most interesting filled chocolate work these days? I thought Maison du Chocolat was good, but Richart has the coolest stuff I've ever seen with some amazing flavors.

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There are lots that I have yet to try here in the US... Ganache Chocolate (Norman Love in Ft. Meyers, FL), Garrison Confections (Andrew Schotts, NYC, http://www.garrisonconfections.com/), and my newest hire, fresh out of the CIA tells me that Dan Budd, formerly of Park Avenue Cafe, etc., now an instructor at CIA, has a chocolate business on the side...

I've sampled only once, but Jacques Torres is doing some nice stuff... http://www.mrchocolate.com/

In France, Maison du Chocolat and Jean-Paul Hévin are definite must-tastes... This summer I embarked on my own little degustation of chocolates from Pierre Hermé, Peltier Patisserie (Philippe Conticini), and Lenôtre (a new branch of which had recently opened in 'our' neighborhood).

On a pure technical level, Hermé shined with the thinnest and cleanest coatings and the smoothest, silkiest ganaches. Peltier wins in the creativity category, utilizing spices and herbs and really pushing the flavor envelope (I appreciate this, yet am a little skeptical regarding Vosges' wasabi truffle- I think that may be where I draw the line!). I also liked the range of techniques, offering little mendiant tablets and bars and a line of different rochers, not to mention molded chocolates in addition to enrobed. Lenôtre offered a great product, which is a feat, considering that there must be some level of mass-production going on. While I thought the range of flavors were a little narrow (lots of variations of praline and gianduja), I thought it was great to see Lenôtre utilizing some of the decorative trucs that have come onto the chocolate scene in the last few years- vividly colored cocoa butters, wisps of metallic colored dusts, and textured acetates, for example.

I've only tasted Richart once or twice. A couple months ago, I went to visit their shop on 55th Street (and Fifth, across from the St. Regis, in NYC) but 'twas closed. Will make a point to go again in a couple of weeks. The flavors and presentation are interesting, but I wonder if they hold up on a technical level to the likes of Maison du Chocolat...

Michael Laiskonis

Pastry Chef

New York

www.michael-laiskonis.com

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What does everyone think of Guittard? I find the chocolate chips to be incredibly smooth and buttery tasting..they literally melt in your mouth almost immediately. Is it crap as well in terms of using it in baked goods?

-Elizabeth

Mmmmmmm chocolate.

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#1 Okay, this has gotten me to thinking: maybe I shuld mail order some chocolate, say, when the semester is over, and spend my break playing around with it in my favorite recipes. So, what should I order and from whom? Your suggestions? I want to get enough to make it worth the shipping, but not so much that it'll sit on the shelf forever.

#2 Last week while visiting friends in State College, PA, I tasted Sharffen-Berger for the first time. My friend [ a foodologist like myself] and I spent $2 on a tiny bar of dark chocolate. Neither of us liked it very much. We wondered why, since we know it's supposed to be so good, and since so many credible people recommend it. It tasted chalky and bitter. We wondered if maybe it had been sitting on the shelf forever?

#3 I'm not going to argue with any of you who claim that there are some chocolates that are better than others and that some chocolates which might seem decent are in fact crap. I spent a week wandering around Belgium eating chocolatre from every chocolaterie I passed--really. From the chains to the local mom and pop joints, I bought 100g boxes and sampled EVERYTHING. It was truly one of the happiest weeks of my life. I experienced chocolate at a different level. Since then I can't even think about Hershey's, for example.

But I do cook with Ghirardelli, Lindt, etc. They are available in Atlanta. The turnover is high, so i know what I'm cooking with, while not fresh, is at least not moldy. My Belgian experience made me realize that freshness is a big part of what makes chocolate fine. It's simply impossible for me, in rural Georgia, to get chocolate of the quality I had in Europe. If I had lotsa money I might have it overnighted to me straight from the shop, but that's not an option :sad:

So I settle for what's available, and Ghirardelli is good enough when it's the best thing I can get. But now I know I need to break down and try mail order.

#4 My favorite chocolate is Ecuadorian. You can find cheap bars of Superior in many large Ecuadorian groceries. The chocolate is dark, rich and sweet, with a liquor- and liquer-like flavor and texture. And there are some superior chocolates manufactured by small companies, one in Otavalo but I can't recall the name of the top of my head. I've eaten the fruit in cocoa pods, picked the pods off trees. I've had raw cocoa beans toasted and salted like popcorn. Cocoa is a magical food with so many incarnations. I agree that a chocolate exhibit needs to show the process--how that tropical plant becomes a European confection.

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What a great thread! Thanks Awbrig for starting it.. and thanks to the rest for educating me about chocolate. I have the same questions that Awbrig has.. and have enjoyed reading through this thread.

Also, am I mad for not liking Jacques Torres chocolates? They were truly uninspired. But then again, at a young age I was spoiled by La Maison du Chocolat.. and since then I have been lucky to eat chocolates that even more special.... But his did not impress me. And just because of his reputation, I picked up 3 large boxes the first time I went to the Brooklyn location. I was sad afterwards. Have never gone back.

And I have been sheepish about saying anything thus far for I am no expert about chocolates. But still, I have not yet had any really great samples in the States. I must take it back.... recently I was sent a box of chocoaltes from a friend t hat works with Fracois Payard and a few of the chocolates were great. Those were made in th US.

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Actually Steve, with all due respect, is 100% wrong as is MLPC and Leslie in re to Vosges Chocolate...I rec'd an email from katrina and she has invited me into the kitchen to see how they make the truffles...which are not shells and ganache piped in...

Vosges Truffles are awesome and unique and beautiful and if you say otherwise why do you say that?  Please answer only if you have had them...

Interesting!

So maybe Katrina would want to come on eGullet and share with us what they do with chocolates at Vosges.

I believe last time I saw Lesley post she was Lesley with a "y".

And I think Awbrig, you should take up the offer to go into the kitchen and report back. But please see how they make the chocolates from scratch. It would be nice if you could take a digital pic or two of them making the outer shells... It would be a great experience for others on eGullet as well. What a treat it shall be.

I am going to place an order now.. and report back after I have tasted the chocolates.

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would you guys be interested in getting her as a special guest on egullet?

Would it not be more appropriate to have her simply clarify on this thread how they are more unique than the several other boutique chocolatiers (sp?) around the country?

Also telling her about eGullet, this thread and all our interest in chocolate, should be enough for one that really loves their trade to come and share their unique style of culinary expression. I think it would be great if you as a friend can share with her the ease with which she can share directly with us more about her company. It would be appropriate in my humble opinion as then she has a chance to tell us if her product truly is different from how it has been perceived by some. Her site does nothing to alleviate my fears that the chocolates are not made with wholesale shells. And it would be a shame that if in reality, they are making their own, many others like me will never know the facts and would be shy of buying her product.

I think as her friend you ought to simply have her browse the site and if she feels she has anything add to what our members have debated thus far, she should become a member and share all she wants to. It is easy enough. And so simple and immediate.

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Awbrig,

Sorry I don't believe your friend for a minute.

If you want proof, just look at the chocolate on the left of the picture of 32-piece box of truffles. You can see the hole where the gananche is piped in. Also, the truffles are completely round and they are all the same size, sure signs that they were NOT hand rolled. Gimme a break, any trained chocolatier (which I am, with a degree and years of experience to prove it) could tell you those were made with shells.

Also, she only seems to sell one shape of chocolate. The hallmark of a fine chocolatier is the assortment of handmade chocolates he/she offers -- squares, lozenge shapes, rectangles cut with a “guitar,” chocolates piped onto a base, hand rolled truffles and chardons, and ganache and marzipan centers cut with an “emporte-piece.” Even moulded chocolates (many of Torres' are moulded) are considered bottom of the line and are not accepted in chocolate competitions. And believe me, moulded chocolates are more difficult to make than those filled Vosges filled truffles.

In my books, this product is not even the work of an experienced chocolatier.

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Lesley,

possibly. i have been invited to the kitchen of Vosges...so lets see ok? Not saying you're wrong or right but lets give the other side a chance... Katrina mentioned to me that there are many untrue rumours around in re to her chocolates and Im excited to find out more...

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oh, unless you know for fact since you work there right? whatever, yourself...unless you can provide backup that Vosges isnt what they say that they are...back it up instead of your own opinion. I can give you 25+ links of articles on the high quality of Vosges Chocolates and the fact that the Chicago Field Museum chose them as representing their Chocolate exhibit does say something...so whatever...

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oh, unless you know for fact since you work there right?  whatever, yourself...unless you can provide backup that Vosges isnt what they say that they are...back it up instead of your own opinion.  I can give you 25+ links of articles on the high quality of Vosges Chocolates and the fact that the Chicago Field Museum chose them as representing their Chocolate exhibit does say something...so whatever...

Awbrig,

Lesley could not have explained all the details better. I was impressed by all she said in such few words. I am also impressed that she as an expert was of the opinion one like me had from eating Torres's chocolates. While they are better than the generic piped chocolates, they too are far from the fine chocolates one can find with relative ease if looking at the right places.

No one refutes the great press Vosges may have gotten and would still get, but that does not change the look and accepted quality of their product. By looking at their website alone, I was not moved to buy anything. The product had a uniformity that was not appealing after I have been spoiled by real artisanal chocolate.

Certainly their product must appeal to many for its aesthetic beauty. And I respect the personal taste of others. But I am with Lesley and other far more learned and trained experts in this one. I hate fuss and hype, but when it comes to chocolate, like in many other fine things offered us in life, often the less dressed up versions can have great or even greater character. In fact way too often I have seen beautiful chocolates with nothing more than a skin deep beauty.

If you can put aside your personal relationship, you will quickly understand what Lesley shares so eloquently. She has no reason to go either way with your friends company and their product. Her opinion is honest and one earned after years in the trade. These are gut instincts that come with experience. To deny her that and to argue with her about it would be silly.

While there certainly must be a great number of rumors about Vosges, that is true about any business. It is always best for those directly involved to bare honest facts and come out clean. You and I and Lesley can speculate. Some with more insight than the others, but again, yes it would be considered speculation. Even though I feel even the layman in me believes Lesley. Your friend would do herself and her product great service by sharing the facts herself on here. Gary Danko came on eGullet and posted when a certain thread on eGullet involved some speculation about his work. I believe that to be a simple and easy way for a professional to share the subtleties of their trade.

But until Katrina or Vosges can share facts that are credible and on the contrary with some proof to substantiate how they go about making their product in house, I would have to go with my own instincts and certainly find those of Steve and Lesley even more reliable.

And the exhibit you give such credibility to, may not be everything you make it out to be. If my memory serves me right you came out with the impression that a book would have shared just as much. That in itself says a lot about the exhibit you speak of. And the glaring lack of any demos and tastings makes it seem sad in my book. I would say a book is even better for it is contained in such a small space and yet leaves a similar impression as a gallery exhibit. This says little about the exhibit but so much about a well written book.

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Just a couple of suggestions from a non-professional:

1) In the photo for the box of 32 truffles, the one on the left appears to have a piece of crystallized violet on top rather than a piping hole. At least that's what it looks like to me since it's the same color purple as the box lid.

2) Perhaps the truffles are all perfect and exactly the same size because they carefully chose from hundreds of individual truffles to present only the most perfect and uniform specimens. This is common practice in professional photo shoots. (By the way, the photos and packaging are beautiful)

I haven't sampled her product, and I don't mean to disparage anyone's experience and expertise, but to judge the entire output of a reportedly well respected chocolatier solely from viewing a few tiny images on a web site seems a tad premature to me.

(Her logo, on the other hand, could really use the attention of a professional designer. Please invite her to contact our office ASAP :biggrin::wink:)

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I haven't sampled her product, and I don't mean to disparage anyone's experience and expertise, but to judge the entire output of a reportedly well respected chocolatier solely from viewing a few tiny images on a web site seems a tad premature to me.

Maybe she is reading this thread and will find it useful and important to post.

That could help us all know what really it is that they do to achieve such great level of perfection in shape and size. :smile:

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"well respected chocolatier"

I never heard of this outfit before yesterday.

And if that is a piece of candied violet, it's used to camouflage the hole.

Look, the bit about the truffle casings is one thing, but anyone who presents this type of one-dimensional line is just not a chocolatier worthy of merit. It's like a chef who only makes terrines. There's a lot more to the profession than that.

That's just my opinion...and I'm sticking to it.

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