Point me to the best chocolate bars
November 25, 2013 2:10 PM   Subscribe

When I encounter the chocolate bar aisle at a Whole Foods/Trader Joe/Central Market (if you're in Texas) type store, I am struck dumb by OPTION PARALYSIS. Please recommend me the best 2 or 3 brand/variety type chocolate bars to try next time I find myself in one of those hellpits. Muchas gracias!!!
posted by slappy_pinchbottom to Food & Drink (46 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Dagoba. Always excellent, including bog standard chocolate in different levels of darkness, plus several intriguiging varieties.
posted by BrashTech at 2:14 PM on November 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm glad you asked! I just had the most ridiculous and amazing chocolate bar the other day, and indeed I am going to pick up another one after work: the Equal Exchange Lemon Ginger Chocolate Black Pepper bar. I freely admit that I got it on impulse, thinking all the while that it might be gross because really, seriously, there's way too much going on. But it was actually incredibly delicious - gingery and crunchy. The lemon and black pepper really do add something - I know because at the same time I also had some very high-end ginger dark chocolate and while good, it wasn't as good.
posted by Frowner at 2:15 PM on November 25, 2013

For about four years, buying snacks at Whole Foods was actually part of my job description. We had some pretty serious chocolate lovers in the office, so I took this question very seriously.

Here is what I would buy (for an office of about seven people, on a monthly Whole Foods trip, knowing that chocolate lasts a pretty long time):

Regular Plain Old Chocolate. For this I would switch off between Chocolove bars and another of the cheaper plainer brands they offered (including sometimes the 365 brand). I would get a few milk, a few dark, and a few plain chocolate with nuts. I personally prefer Chocolove, but never got any complaints about the 365 brand, either.

Fancy Fancy Chocolate. I would pick one or two bars of very high quality chocolate. Usually I would get one Scharffenberger milk chocolate (we had some serious milk chocolate fans in the office) and one dark chocolate from one of the fancy artisanal/single-origin/high cocoa solids content chocolate makers. Mast Brothers would probably fall into this category, though I don't think our Whole Foods sold it back then.

Novelty Chocolate. I would then pick out a few bars of weird or fun stuff. A few times I got a Vosges bar with bacon in it. Chocolove is also good for this, and the almond/sea-salt chocolate bar would be the sort of thing I'd pick. Dagoba also makes some good entries in this category, I remember their lavender chocolate going over pretty well. I usually would pick out some kind of chocolate + toffee or other relatively traditional things, and tried to pick only one far out choice per trip.

I tried to stay away from anything where I couldn't see why this bar of chocolate should cost $6.
posted by Sara C. at 2:21 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tcho chocolate in general (do you have this in TX? It's San Francisco based and we have it in our Whole Foods here, but not sure if it's nationwide. It should be if it isn't. It is divine.)

And the Tcho SeriousMilk Cacao bar in specific. It is my current crack.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 2:25 PM on November 25, 2013

I am a chocoholic and my go-to's at Trader Joe's are always Ritter Sport Milk Chocolate with Whole Hazelnuts and Trader Joe's brand Dark Chocolate Caramel with Black Sea Salt Bar (the sea salt on it is AMAZING and melts in your mouth--my mouth is actually watering just imagining it...)
posted by lovableiago at 2:25 PM on November 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I've never seen Tcho at Whole Foods, but if your Whole Foods offers it, YES PLEASE AND THANK YOU.
posted by Sara C. at 2:27 PM on November 25, 2013

Five Star Bars by Lake Champlain Chocolates. I'm not big on the Fruit & Nut and haven't ever tried the Granola, but the Caramel, Peanut, and especially the Hazelnut are WONDERFUL.

(I know they have these at Whole Foods but I don't know for sure about Trader Joe's or Central Market.)
posted by dlugoczaj at 2:28 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Endangered Species brand, absolutely. Try the very 48% chocolate, which has a rich chocolate flavor but is still sweet, or try the dark 72% chocolate which has the dark flavor without bitterness.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:32 PM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I write sometimes for a blog called "ZOMG, Candy!". The founder & main writer reviews TJ's candy with some regularity. See also the categories of fair trade, organic, and single origin.
posted by knile at 2:41 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Man, this is tough, and I'm not sure anyone can answer this for you. You kind of just have to try them all I think :) Also, a lot of this will vary depending, but some of my favorites that are available at Whole Foods:

I personally really like Theo (especially the sea salt dark chocolate).

Chuao offers some really interesting chocolate bars, they are delicious, but they are spendy. However, the pepper/pop rocks bar is kind of amazing and worth it at least once.

Fearless Chocolate from San Francisco is also delicious - I especially like the Matcha Green Tea chocolate.

Alter Eco Dark Chocolate with Quinoa is really delicious. Like a crunch bar but better.

Endangered Species is also pretty good. I'm a big fan of the dark chocolate goji berries bar and the rainforest mint.

Komforte Chocolates are kind of neat, but not really worth it. They have like ramen chocolate, popcorn chocolate, tortilla and lime chocolate. Novel, but not amazing.

Chocolove I actually think is kind of hit or miss. The best one by far is the almond sea salt one. They are also much cheaper than other bars, so that's nice.

Dagoba I'm kind of so-so on, honestly. I just don't love their chocolate. Though the lavender-blueberry bar is kind of nice.

TJs I don't think has the best plain chocolate with the exception of the dark chocolate in a round tin they sell at the check-out.

Edit: Wow, I'm a hippy.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:42 PM on November 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

I really like Taza stone ground chocolate lately.
posted by mlle valentine at 2:46 PM on November 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

In my experience chocolate bars with salted almonds tend to be quite good, in any nicer brand. If you're paralyzed by the assortment of flavors, get a salted almond one.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:48 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Trader Joe's does shrink-wrapped 3-packs of generic own-brand milk and dark chocolate bars at the checkout. They're cheap enough that I don't know how much they cost, and I buy one pack of each, each time I'm there. I don't know who they source them from, but they're pretty good.
posted by carter at 3:00 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

On a day-to-day basis, I usually buy either the ones that are on sale or the ones that claim to give money to charity or environmental causes or whatever, in either case because that fact distracts me for a moment from the fact that I'm buying a five-dollar chocolate bar.
posted by box at 3:07 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Trader Joe's does shrink-wrapped 3-packs of generic own-brand milk and dark chocolate bars at the checkout.

This is my recommendation, as well -- it's TJs chocolate intersection of quality and price. They're labeled "Belgian Chocolate" and come in Milk, Dark, Dark with Almonds and Extra Dark.

They're cheap enough that I don't know how much they cost

$1.69 in my market.
posted by Rash at 3:14 PM on November 25, 2013

Forget the bars and go straight for the bulk Valrhona chocolate at Whole Foods. (Assuming they still sell it.) Nothing compares.
posted by MsMolly at 3:14 PM on November 25, 2013

Came in to recommend TCHO. I'm no connoisseur, but I think it's excellent chocolate.

I would have recommended Scharffen Berger and Dagoba at one point, but they're both owned by Hershey, so they're both suspect to the usual corporate nonsense - unethical practices, child labor, cheap ingredients, etc. Just my opinion. I could be wrong.
posted by cnc at 3:15 PM on November 25, 2013

Similarly, Green and Black's is now owned by Kraft. (The boutique-chocolate world has some parallels with the craft-beer industry.)
posted by box at 3:19 PM on November 25, 2013

Just discovered TCHO about a month ago. In particular their coffee infused chocolate bar made with Blue Bottle coffee. It's so good.
posted by aperture_priority at 3:19 PM on November 25, 2013

I find that when presented with too many complicated food options--enormous numbers of pizza topping possibilities, five thousand different kinds of potato chips, chocolate bar aisles that extend for what seem like entire city blocks--I revert to a kind of reactionary purist stance and choose the simplest one. Basic tomato sauce and cheese pizza. Plain potato chips. And Lindt und Sprüngli's Touch of Sea Salt. Dark, dark chocolate with the just the right amount of fleur de sel. Uncomplicated, delicate, and extraordinarily good.
posted by jesourie at 3:23 PM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ritter Sport milk chocolate with hazelnuts and Dagoba Xocolatl dark chocolate (with chilies) are two I like. If you haven't tried chocolate with chilies, I know it sounds strange, but the flavors actually go quite well together.

I avoid things that have artificial flavoring, including artificial vanilla (which Lindt uses, I believe), just on the basis of "it's fancy chocolate, I want quality ingredients."
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:35 PM on November 25, 2013

Not sure about the availability in your area, but Dolfin Masala Chai Milk Chocolate is my favorite chocolate bar.

I will also second that the pepper/pop rocks bar by Chuao is worth a try. It's like a party in your mouth! Not really the kind of chocolate bar I'd return to though, since I'm not a huge dark chocolate fan, but YMMV.
posted by yasaman at 3:38 PM on November 25, 2013

If I had to choose a favorite it'd be: Ritter Dark Chocolate w/ Hazelnuts.

The reason why I like Ritter is that it's a German chocolate brand and one of few brands whose Dark Chocolate is -actually- Dark Chocolate (ie: vegan; containing NO milk fat). It's around $1.99 at my Trader Joes (Seattle).

Another brand you might find in Whole Foods is Theo Chocolate. I love this brand and they're a Seattle based company so I've got to see them craft their chocolates in person. If they do happen to carry Theo where you're at, the African Congo Dark Chocolate With Vanilla Nibs is an experience. It's my favorite bar from Theo. They too offer chocolate that is fair-trade based, organic, and so on. I believe a bar will run you $5-$7 at Whole Foods.

Sometimes the best part of too many choices is being able to try them all. :9
posted by stubbehtail at 3:50 PM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nthing TCHO for sure. Grab one of the little sampler packs if you're interested in tasting the ways chocolate (without any added flavorings) can be different. Or if you prefer milk chocolate, just load up on their Serious Milk Chocolate. And the Blue Bottle Cappuccino one is excellent, too.

If they have it in your area, Recchiuti's chocolate bars are amazing. Their Dark Milk in particular.

Valrhona and Cluziel are both brands you should try without hesitation if you find yourself faced with them. There's a lot to choose from within each brand, but just pick something that seems appealing (even if you just think the package is pretty!) and go from there, you can't really go wrong. Cluziel also has varietal sampler packs, which I have occasionally seen at Whole Foods and similar stores.

And I do still love Scharffen Berger, even post-Hershey's buyout. If you grew up liking the Hershey's bar with almonds, their milk chocolate bar with almonds is the grown-up, refined-palate version and kind of addictive.
posted by rhiannonstone at 4:05 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and if you're a fan of chocolate with stuff in it, Chocolove is great for that.
posted by rhiannonstone at 4:08 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

And Lindt und Sprüngli's Touch of Sea Salt. Dark, dark chocolate with the just the right amount of fleur de sel

This is a matter of taste and my taste says MOAR SALT

I went and bought every single chocolate bar at whole foods that had salt in it to try to find the saltiest one. Theo Sea Salt was my favorite.

But really my recommendation is not a specific chocolate, but the process of buying a whole bunch of chocolate bars and doing a tasting. Keep notes if you won't remember otherwise. Invite some friends. Maybe get some port to drink too.
posted by aubilenon at 4:18 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

At Trader Joe's today, I saw this sea salt/caramel/chocolate/peanut butter truffle combo that I dare not buy for myself!
posted by discopolo at 6:17 PM on November 25, 2013

Chocolove is good. But you should try plain old Dove dark chocolate. It's awesome.
posted by Dansaman at 7:59 PM on November 25, 2013

Tie between Vosges smoke and stout vs. Vosges pink Himalayan sea salt and caramel.

oh man, i don't have either right now. What to do!
posted by nat at 8:41 PM on November 25, 2013

Ritter Sport marzipan is really good (as is any chocolate with marzipan), but it has a high marzipan to chocolate ratio for those days when you want a little less chocolate. I also really like the Theo brand chocolate bars.
posted by Blitz at 8:51 PM on November 25, 2013

I am also a fan of Ritter Sport, though I prefer the Cornflake variety.

Regardless of what, out of the many choices above, you prefer, you are going to need to also declare your allegiance to a Ritter Sport.



Seriously though Ritter Sport is pretty damn good. Though I have never figured out why the word "sport" is in there.
posted by Sara C. at 9:06 PM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Qualität im Quadrat!
posted by aubilenon at 9:13 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm in the minority, but I think Dagoba has an unpleasant texture. If I'm at a convenience store, I'll grab a Ritter Sport (especially the cornflake one). At the stores you mentioned I love Chuao -the maple bacon bar, the potato chip one, the spicy Maya. Yum!
posted by 26.2 at 10:10 PM on November 25, 2013

Inexpensive chocolate:

While the Chocolove Dark Chocolate and Almond with Sea Salt bar is fantastic, I think that the Salted Peanut in Milk Chocolate is even better. I say this as a person who generally prefers dark chocolate and almons to milk chocolate and peanuts. There's just something about the way the Salted Peanut bar is crafted that makes it more than the sum of its parts. Seconding Lake Champlain's Five Star Bars as delicious, but not super-chocolatey. Most of the bar is the filling inside the chocolate, which is good as long as you like the filling.

Trader Joe's: I'm convinced that the Black Salt Caramel bar mentioned above, and the Dark Chocolate with Toffee, Walnuts and Pecans are either repackaged Vosges bars, or indistinguishable knockoffs. They are less than half the price of Vosges bars, so if you like them, they're a great bargain. The 3 pack bars someone else mentioned above is quite good. They also sell Valrhona at good prices, and I've enjoyed all the Valrhona I've bought there.

Pricier bars: If you see these at your Whole Foods, these are the ones that are worth the price IMO:

1) Rogue Chocolatier. Nothing but cacao and sugar, but he combines them in such a way that you get layers of complex flavors, and a silky-smooth texture (a feat that a lot of single-origin bars can't manage). The Silvestre bar is the masterpiece, but the other ones are quite special as well.
2) Askinoisie. I've had lots of these bars, with beans from different locations, and all are complex and balanced. The only bar from them I didn't like was one with licorice pieces, because the licorice was all dried out.
3) Patric. Yet another chocolatier who works with beans from a variety of plantations, and really works hard to let the flavors shine through. The OMG PB&J is particularly impressive--the fruity jelly-like flavors are all from the cacao--there's no fruit added.
4. Valrhona. Anything you can't find at Trader Joe's. They're consistently excellent in my experience.
5. Dick Taylor. The ones with figs are expecially good.
6. JCO black fig pistachio is one of my favorite "chocolate with stuff in it" bars.

High-end bars where you should proceed with caution, IMO:

1) Vosges. Very hit and miss in my experience. Some are very good (The Smoke and Stout Caramel Bar, the Barcelona bar (smoked almonds and sea salt). But they love to add unusual ingredients without really making the flavors work with the chocolate (the bacon bar is a prime offender in this category).

2) Theo. They are local to my hometown, and I want to love them, but their bars all seem to have this unpleasant and unbalanced sour flavor notes, in my experience. Your mileage may vary.
posted by creepygirl at 10:26 PM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I forgot to add that the chocolate PB&J bars at Trader Joe's are delicious and ridiculously cheap.
posted by creepygirl at 10:38 PM on November 25, 2013

Oh another favorite of mine is Taza's chocolate bars. They have a weird coarseness that turns into meltiness to them that I love.
posted by aubilenon at 11:13 PM on November 25, 2013

Another vote for Ritter Sport! Try them all. My faves:
The red one: dark chocolate marzipan
Dark chocolate peppermint
Whole hazelnut in both milk and dark
Damn…just try them all.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 12:19 AM on November 26, 2013

FWIW, I think the Trader Joe's bars are made by Cachet, which is owned by Kim Choc in Belgium.
posted by carter at 5:32 AM on November 26, 2013

As others have said, Ritter Sport is good. The Peppermint was my favorite by far. (I say "was" just because the Peppermint used to be vegan but isn't anymore, so I haven't had any in years.)
posted by johnofjack at 6:35 AM on November 26, 2013

Came here to say Equal Exchange, but Frowner got there first! Sooo good, especially the chocolate peanut butter bar.
posted by stompadour at 8:18 AM on November 26, 2013

My favorite Ritter Sport is the dark chocolate with hazelnuts.
posted by box at 9:21 AM on November 26, 2013

No one has mentioned this Ritter which is unbelievably good, if you can find it. (I pick up mine at Walgreens.)
posted by wittgenstein at 9:37 AM on November 26, 2013

I have a really hard time finding fair trade chocolate at Trader Joe's. Sometimes they have one fair trade option and if so, I choose that. Otherwise, I forego fancy chocolate from their store. If I'm going to be spending money on fancy chocolate I expect to be paying for fair trade. Also, it helps narrow the options.

Theo's sea salt chocolate and their mint coconut chocolate are both pretty great.
posted by aniola at 9:19 AM on November 27, 2013

You like seasonal stuff, right?

Because the Theo Nutcracker Brittle and Peppermint Stick, and the Ritter Sport Coconut Macaroon, are all pretty good.
posted by box at 8:48 AM on November 28, 2013

Just tried Patric's Limited Edition Oatmeal Cookie chocolate bar (dark milk chocolate, rolled oats, and cinnamon) and it's fantastic. Not too sweet, and the cinnamon and the oats really add a lot to whole experience. If your Whole Foods or another grocery store has them, I highly recommended picking up a couple of them.
posted by creepygirl at 2:37 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

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