Seattle loves good food. You might even say we have a romance with it, from our plentiful farmers’ markets to our favorite destination dining experiences. It’s not surprising, then, that we have a bounty of that food that is scientifically proven to feel like love itself: chocolate.
With Valentine’s Day approaching, it is officially chocolate season—for gran, for mom, for dad, the kids, the sweetheart. And you have options (so many options) so it can be a challenge to decide where to get just the right box of truffles for the chocoholics in your life.
To help you with that decision, we selflessly gathered to eat some of the best offerings from four local chocolatiers. Each maker has a distinct style and range of products, and we only tasted a sliver of them, so (quel dommage!) you may just have to try a little more from some of them, but this will at least familiarize you with the truffles of four of Seattle’s homegrown favorites (in alphabetical order): Chocolati, Dilettante, Fran’s and Seleušs .
Founded in 2003 by Christian Wong, Chocolati is headquartered in north Seattle (7710 Aurora Ave) and has four Chocolati Cafe locations: Green Lake, Greenwood, Wallingford and Seattle Central Library. In addition to truffles, they offer a wide array of confections, including nut clusters, caramels, dipped fruits, chocolate wine sauces, and thousands of shapes of chocolate molds. The chocolate is sourced from chocolate producers Belcolade (Belgium) and Guittard (America).
At a little over half an ounce, these luscious orbs some heft to them. They have a matte sheen (that’s a good indicator of quality) and come nicely presented. Chocolati truffles are gluten and have no salt added, but do contain some soya lecithin and are manufactured in a facility that processes nuts.
The two flavors we sampled were the basic dark chocolate and their very popular cherry burgundy truffle, which glitters with a dusting of sugar and dried cherries.
Bittersweet Truffle: A solid piece of high quality chocolate, textured with an added drizzle of chocolate over its firm shell. The filling thick and creamy. It demands to be nibbled if you can resist the urge to pop it in your mouth.
Cherry Burgundy: The passionate red cherry dust has a tart, delicious zing that melds beautifully with the rich chocolate ganache. It’s a perfectly tempered bittersweetness and fruitiness with just touch of sourness. Exceptionally good.
For fans of cherry cordials, try the Cherry Burgundy truffle and you will probably never look back. For everyone else…same advice. These are dangerously good sweets that make us eager to try other flavors. They are also quite substantial, so a box ought to last for a while…if one has a little restraint.
$1.45 per truffle. Gift boxes come in 2pc, 4pc, 6pc, 9pc, 12pc and 24pc & 25pc gift boxes. 9 and 25pc boxes are assortments.
Dilettante Chocolates celebrates 39 years in 2015. It is currently owned by Kathy Taylor and headquartered with its factory in Kent, WA. The flagship Dilettante Mocha Café & Chocolate Martini Bar in Capitol Hill (538 Broadway E) is a full-service bar and restaurant. There are six other Mocha Café locations throughout the greater Seattle area, including Westlake Center, which focus on rich chocolate drinks and dessert.
Dilettante offers dessert sauces and toppings (chocolate and caramel), dragées, chocolate covered fruit, nuts and espresso beans, chocolate dipped biscotti and shortbread cookies, and its own coffee blended and roasted in-house at the factory.
In terms of heft, the Dilettante Truffles felt like a meal in themselves at half an ounce. Dense and large, they took at least three modest bites to finish. They almost looked a bit like drop cookies before being baked. The truffles are manufactured in a facility that processes nuts and gluten, but do not contain either. They do contain milk and soy and some sodium (around 5 to 10mg, depending on the truffle).
Ephemere: The super rich, pure chocolate Ephemere was more like eating a piece of rich cake than your typical truffle. However, it doesn’t hit you like a brick of chocolate to the mouth. It still comes in smooth and feels moist in the mouth.
Madame X: This is the only white chocolate truffle we tried, and the delicate flavor is enhanced with anise. Anise does not appeal to everyone, but even T.s. Flock (who generally doesn’t care for white chocolate, but loves licorice) had a second one.
These truffles pair very well with a hot beverage—coffee or tea, especially. Sarah Caples, who does not typically care for anise, noted that paired with coffee, they are rather perfect. Their size and density means you could technically even dunk them. They are rather kid-friendly, as one could satisfy as a whole dessert. We recommend them for the less fussy chocoholic who likes the extra heft, and the Madame X truffles in particular are a unique alternative.
$1.50 per truffle when purchased from the truffle case. Custom 6pc or 18pc boxes are available in store. 12pc Milk & Dark Ephemere Truffle Gift Box available for $19.00 in-store and online.
Fran’s s a family affair, established in 1982 by Fran Bigelow, who still serves as president. Dylan Bigelow, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America, is head of production and Andrina Bigelow serves as CEO. The company is headquartered in a gorgeous and newly restored building in the historic center of Georgetown (5900 Airport Way), which features a retail shop and a viewing area into the production rooms. Fran’s also has a downtown retail shop, and at throughout the city one can find their famous, award-winning gray and smoked salt caramels, which became an instant classic in 1999, long before the salt and chocolate craze had become more typical.
Known for their gourmet style chocolates, Fran’s chocolates do not disappoint in their presentation. The beautiful packaging in pink ribbon opens to reveal classic and sophisticated forms. The dark truffles were perfect squares with a fleck of gold leaf in the dark, glossy surface. The espresso truffles were the color of cafe au lait in a more traditional mound shape with a gentle swirl. These are a dark chocolate ganache made with local organic cream, infused with Café Vita’s espresso then dipped in rich 38% milk chocolate.
The chocolate is sourced from Madagascar, Venezuela, Ecuador and Mexico, using non-GMO ingredients. The truffles are gluten-free and the chocolate ones are sodium free, too.
Espresso: Soft and lightly chewy, these had a pleasing texture and delivered exactly the flavor you might expect—a gentle, smooth mocha. Sarah Caples (who probably bleeds coffee) remarked that if she had a box of these, she would probably just allow one to melt in her mouth until it disappeared. And then another…and then another…
Dark Chocolate: This is real dark chocolate, for sure. Light in texture, it packs the bitterness and zing of high percentage chocolate bars and similarly draws the moisture from the mouth. This is not the truffle for people who prefer sweet, but it’s ideal for those who love that real dark chocolate zing in its purest form.
Fran’s has a well-deserved reputation as being truly gourmet with its artful designs and sophisticated flavors. Chocolate purists will love the pure dark truffles, and they probably pair well with a fruity red wine. (We wouldn’t put them with a dry wine, for sure.) We can especially recommend the espresso truffles for the mocha lover in your life. They were very popular with our group.
$2.00 per truffle. $26 for a 16pc box. $50 for a 36pc box.
Founded and run by Alexander Long, who handcrafts every truffle, Seleušs is the new kid on the block, but truly astounded us with its presentation. Seleušs only makes truffles at this point, and each looks like the platonic ideal of a truffle: a little sphere with a dark, matte surface dusted with fine ingredients to please the eyes and nose before it even enters the mouth. Their shell has a crisp crunch to it, containing the soft ganache, providing a range of texture that also comes off clean on the palate.
Seleušs uses no sodium, gluten or nuts and and only the finest ingredients to complement its ganache filled jewels, including cordials and botanicals. It’s spring collection includes Hibiscus & Violet, Orange Blossom Honey, and Wild Lavender Honey (which we tasted).
Wild Lavender Honey: Many of the tasters were skeptical about the lavender. It has faddishly appeared in a lot of haute cuisine and sweets, but can be used to excess, leaving just a soapy taste. In spite of our apprehension, these truffles were a HUGE hit. Even though Arts Writer Claire Reiner was especially skeptical, she agreed with everyone the lavender brought together the experience in a uniquely satisfying way.
Greek Rose: T.s. Flock had tried these before and saved them for the last tasting of the night because he loved them so much. Even though we were feeling a bit full up with chocolate, these emerged as another favorite. Photographer Mitchell Dasteel and Claire Reiner remarked that the combined flavors of rose and chocolate had for them an unexpected tropical flavor, with hints of lychee. Fashion writer Anthony Lemus noted that the truffle also had an exceptionally clean finish. “It’s there, and then it’s gone.”
For the serious foodie, Seleušs could be considered a necessary extravagance. The sophisticated ingredients and perfectly crafted forms make them true culinary treasures. Even less adventurous sorts might be surprised at how much they love the play of chocolate with floral notes. And even purists who resist gimmicky flavors will probably find in these perfectly balanced creations a new way of experiencing chocolate.
$20 for a 6pc box at Finerie CoLab.