Finely Crafted, Hand-made

Here's a switch:  I'm ahead of the game for once.  The game in question, this time around, is my wedding anniversary.  The first one.  I've already drawn up a list of stuff I'd like to surprise my wife with.  One of the items is chocolates.

This might seem a bit obvious and cliche, and, well, c'mon kids, this is me your talking to.  It is.  However, there are some extenuating circumstances that I hope will make it less of a been-there-done-that situation.

I would like to get my wife some really nice chocolates, but I don't really know what to look for.  I'm fully aware that most commercial chocolate is poorly made and uses cocoa butter and sugar in lieu of real cocoa and I know not to trust the words "made by hand" on a package containing the brand names Hershey, Cadbury, or Nestle.  I want, and am willing to pay for, fine chocolate, preferably hand-made, or small batch made, using quality ingredients, and, although I'm willing to negotiate this one, is somewhat unique in design and presentation.

(A good part of the impetus for this is that my wife was introduced to the concept of peanut butter and chocolate by me, during a trip to the States, when we got Reeses Peanut Butter Cups.  Now, I love those damned things, even they'll probably kill me, and my wife is hooked on them too.  But they're pure sugar.  They're not real PB&C, not like, well Morley's comes to mind, although they're a larger brand now, and I think quality has suffered.  Anyway, I'm not sure my wife has ever had real chocolate.  I'm pretty sure the nicest stuff she's ever had has been from the chocolatiers here in Japan during holiday seasons.  Not terrible chocolate, but not great either.)

I spent some time this evening searching for various brands / chocolatiers that have been recommended by friends, websites, podcasts, what have you.  I have never tried any of these, although the first one looks especially promising.  Here are the results from the first round of Googling:

The front runner:  L'Artisan du Chocolat 

Second choice (for now):  La Maison du Chocolat 

A possibility:  Mr. Chocolate 

Another possibility:  Canelake 

Another possiblity:  Browne's 

So, now I'm requesting help.  If any of you (3) readers knows of any top-quality chocolate makers, preferably with a webstore, please let me know in the comments or via e-mail (mightytoad at gmail dot com), where I can find them and how much you recommend them. 



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