Chocolate

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Vir Sanghvi's Sunday column in the HT Cafe, about chocolates and chocolate snobbery, set me thinking.

I'm not as convinced about chocolate and terroir as Vir Sanghvi is, but his column triggered my thoughts about where I've had the best chocolates or chocolate confections. Here, then, is my top 5 chocolate list. I'm not claiming any particular chocolate expertise here, but I doubt you will be disappointed with any of the choices.

#1

My favourite chocolate experience has to be the city of Brugge. I know it is no longer fashionable to say that Belgian chocolates are great, but I cannot avoid putting this city at the top of the list nevertheless. Most people benchmark their idea of Belgian chocolate from the boxes of Godiva that grace every supermarket shelf, but that is doing the chocolatiers of Brugge grave injustice. Small, famous, historic Brugge is full of not chocolate stores that merely dish out mass-manufactured stuff, but chocolatiers that make the stuff in house, usually in front of you. Pick from many many kinds, in various shades of dark but remember - no one makes white like the Belgians. And if you're sated with chocolate, there are the world's best fruit pates too. I don't know which chocolatier in Brugge is the best, but I dont think you'll care.

#2

My favourite chocolate store is the Recchiuti Store in the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Recchiuti is an artisan chocolate maker, and the store is simply and single-mindedly focused on chocolates. No pastry, no ice cream, no frills and fancies. The only non-chocolate things there are - what did you expect - fruit pates. I'm particularly fond of the Fleur-de-sel Caramels. Expensive bites, but that only stops you from excess.

#3

New York is full of chocolate stores, but my favourite is Vosges, which comes to NY from Chicago. Vosges makes some incredible chocolates with spices in them - thingies like dark chocolate with wasabi or ancho chili and mexican vanilla - that works far better in the tiny ultra-modern store in Soho than in any other hands. Vosges is also my favourite hot chocolate.

#4

In London, Harrods and Fortnum&Mason both have incredible chocolate counters. More importantly, they allow limited tastings so you can really take your time choosing the perfect chocolate. Fortnum's tea service, too, has the option of coming with an array of chocolates - really the best chocolate shopping experience I've had.

#5

India isn't really known for world-class chocolate experiences, but hidden away among the innumerable chikki shops in the tourist trap of Lonavala is an old world fudge store called Coopers. It is a tiny store near Lonavala station, offers no parking or even standing room, opens very restricted hours and runs out of everything very frequently - in short, you are very likely not to get any fudge even if you braved the potholed roads and crowds. All is forgiven, however, when you finally get your hands either on the basic fudge or a few variants (my favourite is the walnut chocolate fudge). A soft, gooey, nutty mess - chocolatey rather than sweet, wonderfully textured and utterly delicious. A word of warning here: the area is full of shops trying to push fudge on you - none is very good; only Coopers is world-class.

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