Chocolate truffles are defined as a candy with a chocolate or cream center surrounded by a chocolate coating. The traditional European truffle is a bite-sized chocolate ball rolled in cocoa powder or chopped nuts to create the resemblance to actual truffles that gives the candy its name. Just like their namesakes, chocolate truffles have come to connote luxury and indulgence. To find a Valentine's gift of truffles that lived up to this promise, we conducted two rounds of testing. In the first round, we asked Cook’s staff members to judge the appearance of both the chocolates and their packaging. In the second, we asked a select group of chocolate lovers to blind-taste samples.
We ordered truffles from six specialty chocolate boutiques and two larger distributors. When possible, we chose the gifts each supplier's website suggested for Valentine's Day.
After tallying the results from our two tests, we found that if you pay premium prices, you'll get premium chocolate. Only one brand didn't earn at least an unqualified recommended rating, as tasters considered the chocolate “mainstream” and “not special.” But high prices did not guarantee a beautifully packaged gift or chocolates with universal appeal. A single chocolatier offered a flawless package: an elegantly ribboned box, candies that arrived in perfect condition, and chocolate that looked and tasted both homemade and sophisticated. And one lower-priced brand earned higher ratings in both taste and presentation than several of its more expensive competitors.
Our favorite premium extra-virgin olive oil from a previous tasting, Columela is composed of a blend of intense Picual, mild Hojiblanca, Ocal, and Arbequina olives. This oil took top honors for its fruity flavor and excellent balance. Tasters praised its “big olive aroma, big olive taste” with a “buttery” flavor that is “sweet” and “full,” with a “peppery finish.” One taster said: “It’s very green and fresh—like a squeezed olive.” Another simply wrote: “Fantastic.”
|Spain||$19 for 17 oz|
Tasters noted this oil’s flavor was “much deeper than the other samples,” describing it as “fruity, with a slight peppery finish,” “buttery undertones,” and a “clean, green taste” that was “aromatic, with a good balance.” “It has the flavor that some good EVOOs have,” said one admiring taster.
|Italy||$19.99 for 500 ml ($39.98 per liter)|
Virtually tied for second place, this oil was deemed “round and buttery,” with a “light body” and flavor that was “briny and fruity,” “very fine and smooth,” and “almost herbal,” with “great balance.” “Good olive flavor. I could smell it and taste it,” approved one taster. In a word, “pleasant.”
|Italy||$17.99 for 750 ml ($23.98 per liter)|
|Recommended with Reservations|
A clear step down from the top oils, tasters noted “overall mild” flavor and “very little aroma,” with only a “hint of green olive” and a “hint of spiciness at the end.” In pasta, it was initially “not complex,” but gradually “bloomed in your mouth.” Overall, it was “worthy of a second bite.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$12.49 for 750 ml ($16.65 per liter)|
While some tasters found this oil “sweet” and “buttery” with “medium body” and “slight spice at the end,” others complained that it had “zero olive flavor” and was “so floral it’s almost like eating perfume”; still others noted a “bitter” aftertaste. In pasta, it was “extremely mild” to the point of being “boring.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$10.99 for 750 ml ($14.65 per liter)|
Comments: The best comments tasters could muster were “mild” and “neutral.” Some liked it on pasta (though one called it “Snoozeville”), but complaints were myriad: “metallic,” “soapy,” “briny,” “hints of dirt.” Carped one taster, “I can’t imagine what is in here, but they have a nerve calling it EVOO.”
|Spain||$13.99 for 1 liter|
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