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Cream of the crop of area chocolates; Survey: In an effort to get at the facts, staffers in the Sun bureau taste-test the wares of area chocolatiers.


Chocolate is spoken here in the Anne Arundel County bureau. And for all those who are thinking of communicating with confections this weekend, we took on the arduous task of sampling candies from local chocolatiers so we could best advise you.

Chocolate is no small consumer matter, even when it's not Valentine's Day. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Americans consumed an average of 11.7 pounds of chocolate each last year. That figure has crept up since 1983, when the average was 9.67 pounds.

For our test taste, we visited Uncle Bob's Fudge Kitchen, The Sweet Factory, and the Lindt Chocolate Shop, all in Annapolis, Chocolate's from the Heart in Severna Park, Morley Candy Makers in Millersville, and Godiva Chocolatier in Glen Burnie. We sampled assorted chocolates or truffles, whichever was available.

From rich and creamy to dark and luscious, here are our top three rich, cream-filled picks.

Godiva, no surprise, was ranked as the best candy of the six. The Belgium-based confectioner features hazelnuts and specializes in perfect-looking chocolates. Local stores -- one in Annapolis and one in Glen Burnie -- offer a wide variety of dark, white and milk chocolates with creams and nut fillings.

The key-lime truffle, a specialty, is a heavenly blend of dark rich chocolate and the mouthwatering sweet-and-sour taste of key-lime filling. The espresso truffle was very strong and very rich, according to one co-worker, but it made an excellent combination with dark chocolate.

A few co-workers found Godiva's fillings overwhelmingly sweet, so it may not be the best choice for the sensitive tongue. It also won't work well for those with shallow pockets. We paid $29 for a half-pound box of assorted chocolates plus eight truffles.

Lindt, a Swiss chocolatier, ranked second. Its candies are available in the Annapolis store and in other local candy shops such as Chocolates from the Heart. We picked out a box of truffles, but their boutique also offers assorted chocolates and solid bars.

Lindt gets points for presentation. Like Godiva, its candies appear flawless -- hand-dipped chocolate coating topped with a thin swirl of white or shreds of dark chocolate. Inside is thick, flavored creme -- vanilla, milk chocolate or dark chocolate. Unfortunately, there weren't any unusual flavors like key lime or mandarin orange, and a few people thought the chocolate was a little waxy.

It was probably our best bargain. The 9-ounce box -- a little more than a half-pound -- cost $12.

Morley Candy Makers and Chocolates from the Heart tied for third place.

Morley makes its assorted candies in Michigan, where the company has two stores. The Millersville shop is the only location on the East Coast. Their truffles are made in New Hampshire.

Chocolates from the Heart sells selected brands of goodies from around the globe. They offer novelty items -- chocolate roses and ties -- as well as candies by the pound, boxed items and specialty truffles.

Although a few tasters complained that the candies from each were stale, they praised the confections as rich, high-quality and attractive. The Morley chocolate had a smooth texture, and one of the specialty truffles from Chocolates from the Heart featured two cream fillings. A 1-pound box of assorted milk chocolates and a box of 16 truffles from Morley together cost nearly $26. A hand-picked box of assorted chocolates and specialty truffles from Chocolates from the Heart cost nearly $18.

Although the candy from Uncle Bob's Fudge Kitchen didn't rank with the top four in our unscientific survey of chocoholics, its homemade chocolates must be mentioned. The West Street shop featured fudge, as befits its name, but for Valentine's Day the store offered two milk-chocolate hearts -- one with marshmallows and nuts and the other filled with peanut butter. The chocolate was rich and fresh -- enough to make it into two staffers' top three picks. And at just under $4 for the two nice-sized hearts, it was a bargain.

The Sweet Factory was the most disappointing stop in our chocolate-hunting, where the choices were very limited.

Our analysis: Stick with the fancy chocolates if you can afford it. If you can't, try Uncle Bob's.

Pub Date: 2/11/99

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