New York is United States headquarters for the top European chocolatiers, with products delivered fresh from the kitchen to New York shops on a weekly basis. If you can time your temptations correctly, you can follow scheduled deliveries and go around the world of chocolate in less than a week--and several dozen New York blocks.
Le Chocolatier Manon (872 Madison Ave., near 71st Street) receives chocolates from Brussels on Wednesday night; they're in the case by Thursday morning. Manon has some of the world's most beautiful chocolates. Each piece is handmade in shell, pyramid, leaf, cherub and pharaoh's head-shaped antique molds. Fillings include rich buttercream and flavored creme fraiche. Manon chocolate is sophisticated. The Citron (with green foil wrapped around the walnut-shaped piece) combines five flavors. The shell is half-dark, half-milk chocolate; half is filled with chocolate buttercream, the other with gin-laced creme fraiche.
Most popular is Manon's Bouchon: a thin, crisp, delicate cup of dark chocolate filled with creme fraiche, a portion of bittersweet buttercream added on top. This is hand-dipped in milk chocolate, hand-decorated with bittersweet chocolate and dotted with gold leaf. Manon's 60 varieties cost $28 a pound.
Small Family Business
Also fresh from Brussels on Thursdays are handmade quality chocolates at Corne Toison d'Or (725 Fifth Ave. at 56th Street, in Trump Tower). The company was established 50 years ago and has been run as a small family business ever since. Truffles are made the traditional way, creamy interiors dusted with bitter cocoa or powdered sugar. They vary in shape and size--a sure sign that they're handmade. Most popular is Truffe Glace, a dollop of pure cocoa butter with sugar glaze. There are 60 variations, with buttercreams, pralines and nougats encased in dark or mild chocolate, rich but not too sweet.
Jananais, shaped like an ear of corn, is filled with coffee buttercream on one side and praline on the other. Selections are placed in attractive ballotins, for $28 a pound. The shop also dips fresh bananas, strawberries, kiwi and other fruit in Corne Toison d'Or dark chocolate (around $2 each) and has introduced delicious Skendy of France fruit pastilles and fruit, noisette and mocha bonbons.
Mendiants and Marrons
Corne Toison d'Or chocolates are also at Au Chocolate (Bloomingdale's first floor, Lexington Avenue and 58th Street). This shop has one of New York's finest chocolate collections. Best are Dalloyau Chocolates ($40 a pound) from France, including delicious and light Mendiants (rings of dark bittersweet chocolate studded with crisp whole nuts and a raisin). For a break from chocolate, try Dalloyau's marvelous Marron Glace or sugary passion-fruit gelee.
Au Chocolate also sells Bloomingdale's own label (made by Valrhona) and specialty items such as chocolate flowerpots filled with chocolate-covered nuts (Swiss, $2.50 each). From Italy, there's Perugina and, an exclusive, Appendino's Gianduja in melt-in-your-mouth triangles.
One of Au Chocolate's finest items is Engstrom Candies of Colorado's fabulous Almond Toffee ($16.50 a pound). A thick coating of rich mild chocolate dusted with ground nuts and powdered sugar covers crunchy toffee riddled with almonds. Bloomingdale's has giant truffles, imported from Burlington, Vt., with rich fillings of typically American essences: vanilla malt, bing cherry, bourbon pecan and others.
Most people give top ratings to truffles at Teuscher of Switzerland (620 Fifth Ave., at Rockefeller Center and 25 East 61st St., near Madison Avenue). The champagne truffles have a dot of champagne cream in the center. They're fresh in the store on Tuesdays. Teuscher has 60 varieties of truffles including 12 marzipans, 23 pralines and dark, milk and white chocolate blocks shaped like owls, bears, bees, fish and cats for $28 a pound. Prepackaged "Rusty Tools" are bittersweet chocolate molded as miniature hammers, scissors, keys and wrenches, dusted with bitter cocoa ($14.50 per box).
Neuchatel (1369 Avenue of the Americas, near 55th Street, and other locations) is also Swiss, but its chocolates are made in the New York area by a Swiss chef and with Swiss ingredients. Old family recipes are used to make 60 kinds of chocolates, including 12 types of truffles. The shop offers a make-them-yourself truffles kit, with all the supplies for a pound of truffles ($20).
The truffle cookies are soft, cakey truffle fillings encased in hard dark chocolate with a sprinkling of ground nuts and powdered sugar. Intensely chocolate, they cost $5 for a package of six and put brownies to shame. There are also edible truffle-filled chocolate shoes and a chocolate champagne bottle ($30 each).
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