15 Chocolate Companies You Have to Try

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There’s no such thing as bad chocolate, but some companies certainly go above and beyond. Worldwide, we consume a staggering 7.3 million tons of chocolate, but today there's far more to chocolate than just dark, white, or milk. And thankfully, there is no limit to the creativity these 15 companies put into their chocolaty confections.

1. CHUAO CHOCOLATIER

Chuao Chocolatier (pronounced chew-WOW) is a master of textural wonderment, known for their diverse range of unique chocolate bars including the Firecracker—a dark bar infused with sea salt, chipotle, and popping candy that explodes in your mouth. Founded in 2002 by Master Chef Michael Antonorsi, the company is named after Venezuela’s legendary cacao-producing region of Chuao and recognized as the first Venezuelan chocolatier based in the United States. Since introducing their original signature flavor, Spicy Maya, the company’s one-of-a-kind menu has expanded to include chocolate bars, bonbons, truffles, and drinking chocolate in extraordinary flavor combinations like coconut hibiscus, raspberry rose, caramel apple, and cinnamon cereal. They have two chocolate cafes in San Diego County, California and can be found in specialty retailers such as Whole Foods, Dean and Deluca, and Crate & Barrel.

2. ASKINOSIE CHOCOLATE

Named one of Forbes' 25 Best Small Companies in America and Oprah Magazine’s "15 Guys Who Are Saving the World," former criminal defense lawyer Shawn Askinosie started Askinosie Chocolate with his wife in 2005 from their Springfield, Missouri home. Using a 6000-pound antique granite melangeur from Europe (fancy phrasing for tabletop grinder) to whip up their first batches, Askinosie Chocolate took off and the owners have never looked back. Their cocoa is sourced direct from farmers in Honduras, Ecuador, Philippines, and Tanzania. Askinosie features a CollaBARation™ line of bars made possible through partnerships with complementary businesses to produce flavors like Dark Chocolate + Intelligentsia Coffee and Dark Chocolate + Crunchy Sugar Crystals.

3. THE CHOCOLATE SMITHS

The confectionery offerings at The Chocolate Smiths are as entertaining as they are unusual—perhaps summed up by the name of their signature line, appropriately called Bizarre Bars. The company specializes in "luxury chocolates with the fun left in." From Scorpion Chili (made with the world’s second hottest pepper) to Bubblegum (mixed with creamy white chocolate and vanilla), the chocolatier uses only high-quality Belgian couverture chocolate to deliver a unique candy experience. Located in Benton, Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK, The Chocolate Smiths ship worldwide and can be found in independent delicatessens, department stores, and major tourist attractions across the globe.

4. VOSGES HAUT-CHOCOLAT

Take a walk on the wild side with Vosges Haut-Chocolat. Their use of exotic ingredients like Hungarian paprika, Indian curry, and Chinese star anise makes them a chocolate lover’s paradise with a twist. Founder Katrina Markoff’s love of travel is reflected in the company's premium chocolate that nurtures awareness of and appreciation for the world’s diverse cultures. Vosges has retail locations in New York, Chicago, and Las Vegas.

5. CHOCOLATES EL REY

Award-winning Chocolates El Rey, one of the oldest chocolate manufacturers in Venezuela, has been making premium-grade chocolates since 1929. A socially responsible and eco-friendly company, El Rey offers consumers gourmet chocolate made with fairly traded cacao beans direct from small- and large-scale Venezuelan growers. Their products, which include the Carenero Superior, Rio Caribe, and Special Reserves lines, are crafted with specialty beans from various regions of this breathtaking South American country.

6. MAST BROTHERS

Artistic elegance describes brothers Rick and Michael Mast’s product line, who name collections of their bean-to-bar chocolate after their flagship locations in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, and London. They're the only ones in the world offering bars like Rhubarb and Custard, Black Treacle, Tea and Milk, and Tahitian Vanilla, made with ingredients sourced from some of the most beautiful places on the planet. Sea salt from Iceland? Delicious. Founded in 2007, Mast Brothers wraps all their confections in ornamental wrappers almost too pretty to open. Almost.

7. CACAO ART CHOCOLATES

This Florida treasure features some of the most artistic chocolates ever. Case in point: their decadent Anís y Papelón truffle (an International Chocolate Awards winner), made from sweet anise and raw cane sugar and inspired by the traditional Venezuelan pastry. Sisters Susana and Isabel Garcia started the business in Venezuela but later relocated to Miami. Their goal is to recreate the flavors of their childhood while capturing the growing arts scene in South Florida.

8. MOONSTRUCK CHOCOLATE COMPANY

Master Chocolatier Chef Julian Rose was named one of the best chocolatiers in North America for a reason: He creates chocolate of a near-addictive quality. Much like the Apollo moon landing, Moonstruck is exploring new ground—they just do it by introducing the world to unknown chocolate varieties. Their signature bar, Fortunato No. 4, is made from a Peruvian cacao bean once thought to be extinct. In addition to their four cafes in the Pacific Northwest, Moonstruck Chocolate is sold at specialty retailers and gift shops across the United States.

9. FRENCH BROAD CHOCOLATES

French Broad Chocolates, owned by husband and wife team Dan and Jael Rattigan, is named after North Carolina’s French Broad River—which happens to be the third oldest river in the world. Their truffles—packaged in fanciful collections featuring flavors like cider, beet, ginger, bourbon, lavender, grapefruit, and more—are of colossal proportions. Both the French Broad Lounge and French Broad Factory & Tasting Room are located in Asheville, North Carolina.

10. 2 CHICKS WITH CHOCOLATE

After a life-altering car accident prevented Barbara Wassung from commuting to work, she and her daughter, Elyissia, got serious about launching their chocolate company from their home kitchen in Queens, New York. What started as a home-grown, door-to-door small business has now blossomed into a fledgling chocolatier specializing in hand-crafted chocolates. Their 12-piece signature collection includes a designer box and mouthwatering flavors like passion fruit caramel, raspberry ganache, champagne ganache, and marshmallow fluff. Find their goodies online and at their stores in New Jersey towns like East Brunswick, Metuchen, and Middletown.

11. NORMAN LOVE CONFECTIONS

Based out of Fort Myers, Florida and founded by Norman Love and his wife, Mary, in 2001, Norman Love Confections offers unique, vibrantly colored chocolates that often incorporate fruit—like tart raspberry and passion fruit. Each piece resembles a shining bit of finished marble—exquisite, yet edible. Their recently launched Norman Love Confections BLACK collection combines chocolate from five different regions including Maracaibo (Venezuela), Peru, Ghana, Tanzania, and Hispaniola (Dominican Republic). Find their delightful treats at one of their store-owned "salons" or at hotels, florists, and fine restaurants in the United States.

12. GAIL AMBROSIUS CHOCOLATIER

Shiitake mushroom is just one example of the many adventurous flavors found in Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier chocolate bars and truffles. After a school trip to Paris when she was 17, Ambrosius fell in love with dark chocolate and knew she had to start her own company. She finally had the opportunity to make a fresh start when, more than two decades later, she found herself suddenly laid off. Try the company’s Beerific Taster's Box, which can be found online, at the store in Wisconsin, or other retailers in the greater Madison, Wisconsin area.

13. CHOCOLATE FOR THE SPIRIT

Does the Midwest have spirit? You bet it does! Enriching lives through thoughtfully created confections is the name of the game at Chocolate for the Spirit in Carmel, Indiana. Their Tall, Dark & Handsome bar is a Grand Cru single-origin bar with licorice notes, hints of coffee, and blended-in Swiss milk to create a memorable experience for chocolate connoisseurs.

14. COMPARTÉS

A favorite among Hollywood celebs—including the late Marilyn Monroe—and supplier to major events such as the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards, Compartés has been putting a hip spin on chocolate from their Los Angeles location since 1950. Recently taken over by chocolate prodigy Jonathan Grahm, the chocolatier uses only chocolate sourced from South America, along with local ingredients found at California farmers’ markets. Try Jonathan’s Signature Truffles, which come in various prints and designs and are filled with a rich chocolate ganache.

15. DIVINE CHOCOLATE

Divine Chocolate is, unusually, a farmer-owned chocolate company. Co-owned by the 85,000 farmer members of Kuapa Kokoo, the cooperative in Ghana that supplies the cocoa for each bar of Divine, the chocolatier got its start in the UK before relaunching in the United States in 2007. Each wrapper includes a variety of Adinkra symbols which date back hundreds of years and convey traditional Ghanaian values and wisdom. Check out their popular Dark Chocolate with Pink Himalayan Salt.

Why You Shouldn't Buy Your Cereal at Costco

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iStock.com/RapidEye

Scoring deals at Costco is an art. Smart shoppers know which price tag codes to look for and which delivery deals to take advantage of at the bulk discount store. But when it comes to navigating the food section, there are some tips even longtime members may not know about. A big one concerns brand-name breakfast cereal: When shopping for groceries at Costco, you should leave the cereal boxes out of your cart if you want to save money, according to Yahoo! Finance.

It doesn't make sense to buy perishable items in bulk, but even products with a slightly longer expiration date, like cereal, can end up costing you in the long run if you stock up on them at Costco. The cereal at Costco costs about $0.17 per ounce, which is comparable to the cereal prices you'd find at regular grocery stores on most days. But to reap the most savings possible, you need to visit the supermarket on days when certain cereal brands go on sale.

During different times of the week—usually weekends—many grocery stores will pick a popular cereal brand, like Kellogg's or General Mills, to sell at a lower price. At their cheapest, brand-name cereals can be purchased for $0.13 cents per ounce on sale days, or $1.50 for an 11-ounce box.

While you may be better off buying your boxed breakfast staples at the nearest grocery store, there are still plenty of reasons to shop at Costco. To many loyalists, their $1.50 hot dog and soda combo alone is worth a special trip. The store's addictive pizza slices (which are perfectly sauced by a pie-making robot) and dirt-cheap and delicious rotisserie chickens are yet two more reasons. Just be prepared to show your receipt when you're all done (and don't for a second believe it's because the employees think you might have pocketed something). 

[h/t Yahoo! Finance]

A Shrine to Brine: The Mysterious Case of Missouri's Highway Pickle Jar

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iStock.com/MorePixels

No one knows how it started. No one knows who was responsible. Some may even have dismissed it as an aberration, a glitch in the scenery that would soon be corrected. But eventually, drivers in and around Des Peres, Missouri who took a highway off-ramp connecting I-270 North to Manchester Road began to notice that a jar of pickles was sitting on a dividing barrier on the ramp. And it wasn’t going anywhere.

Since 2012, the pickle jar has confounded drivers and internet sleuths alike, according to Atlas Obscura. Some have speculated that someone was trying to send a secret message or share a private joke. Perhaps someone pulling off to the side due to car trouble felt the need to place the brine-filled jar on the concrete wall and then forgot about it. Maybe someone thought it would be a kind of three-dimensional graffiti, incongruous amid the bustling traffic. Maybe it’s an indictment of commerce.

Whatever the case, once the pickles appeared, advocates refused to let them go. Jars that end up toppled over or otherwise damaged are replaced. Sometimes they reappear in protective plastic containers or with a holiday-themed bow. Sightings are photographed for posterity and posted on a Facebook fan page devoted to the jar, which currently has over 4200 members and has morphed from a place to theorize about the mysterious jar's origins to a place where people swap pickle-related recipes and stories.

There are dry spells—no one has posted of a pickle sighting in several months—but followers remain optimistic the jar will continue to remain a presence in Des Peres even if the motivation for placing them near the roadway remains as murky as the briny juice inside.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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