- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A chocolate gift will quicken the pulse and whet the taste buds of the recipient. No one is going to store your present for an appropriate occasion or wait to grow into it. You can’t say that about a pair of socks or a wool muffler.

Your only challenge will be to select from among the tempting options being offered this holiday season. The following list, though only a teaspoon of the possibilities, represents some of this year’s trends, including hot chocolate, chocolates from specific growing regions, and chocolates with exotic fillings. The products include approximate retail price and a phone number or Web site for ordering. In all cases, shipping and handling are extra.

Schokinag Chocolate North America takes hot chocolate back to an old European tradition. Instead of cocoa powder, the drinking chocolate uses tiny chocolate chips, either flavored or simply dusted with cocoa powder. The chocolate melts into a creamier and richer beverage than what you would experience with a powdered mix.

The Schokinag line includes German Chocolate Cake, a mix of milk-chocolate chips, caramel and coconut milk powder; Extreme Dark; Triple Chocolate, a mix of dark and milk-chocolate chips; Dulce de Leche, white chips and caramel; and Chocolate Mocha, milk- and white-chocolate chips with coffee.

A 12-ounce canister sells for about $12.95. You can find the product in many gourmet food stores and natural food stores. For mail order from the company in Bakersfield, Calif., call 866/972-6879 or visit www.drinkyourchocolate.com.

Lake Champlain Chocolates capture the fruity and floral taste of Tanzanian chocolate in Tanzania Chocolate Sauce. The small-batch sauce has a high (75 percent) cocoa content, making it a bold chocolate experience.

The sauce is packaged in 12-ounce jars and sells for about $12 in many upscale supermarkets and food gift shops. For more information on the product from the Burlington, Vt., company, call 800/465-5909 or visit www.lakechamplainchocolates.com.

Woodhouse Chocolate in St. Helena, Calif., tantalizes a chocolate lover’s imagination with its filled chocolate confections. Just a few of the bite-size options are Champagne Truffles, a mixture of white-chocolate ganache with cognac; Quatre Epices, milk-chocolate ganache spiced with black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves; and Passion Fruit, a blend of white-chocolate ganache and passion fruit, covered with white chocolate.

A 12-piece chocolate assortment box sells for $16; 24 pieces for $30 and 48 for $56. For more information or to order, call 800/966-3468 or visit www.woodhousechocolate.com.

Noka Chocolate, an artisanal chocolate maker in Plano, Texas, turns chocolate noshing into a taste-expanding experience with its Vintages Collection of single-origin dark chocolates from plantations in Venezuela, Trinidad, the Ivory Coast and Ecuador.

For those who want to educate their palates on different chocolate flavors, the 12-piece box of chocolates includes origin flavor profiles and tasting instructions. It’s available for $39. (Larger packages are also offered.) For more information or to order, call 877/270-8209 or visit www.nokachocolate.com.

Sarah’s Pastries & Candies, a new Chicago company, sells Sarah Levy’s version of some candy favorites. The $50 holiday gift box features chocolate delights in white, milk and dark chocolate, chocolate-covered Oreo cookies, Rocky Road, Royaltine (crisp feuilletine wafer pieces with caramelized almonds) and coconut almond crunch. For more information, call 312/664-6223 or visit www.sarahscandies.com.

Dancing Deer Baking Co., a Boston company known for its homey-tasting baked goods, introduces breathtaking chocolate peppermint fudge brownies. The moist and rich brownies come four to a package. A gift box of two packages sells for $16.95. For more information or to order, call 888/699-3337 or visit www.dancingdeer.com.

Li-Lac Chocolates, a Greenwich Village institution in New York City, is known for its assorted filled chocolates. However, if the special person on your chocolate list prefers straight chocolate, the perfect solution would be chocolate drops, quarter-sized morsels of pure chocolate in either semisweet or milk-chocolate versions. A 1-pound box sells for $14. For more information or to order, call 866/898-2462 or visit www.li-lacchocolates.com.

Guylian Chocolaterie, a Belgian chocolate company, is known for its seashell shapes. The Guylian Perles d’Ocean selection of boxed chocolates is a 22-piece assortment, each with a different shell design. The chocolates sell for $12.99 through Amazon.com (search the gourmet foods section for Guylian Chocolates) and is available at gourmet shops.

We Take the Cake, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., cake boutique, knows how to tempt chocolate fanciers. The company’s Triple Chocolate Chip Fudge Cake comes with a small carton of dense chocolate sauce the gift recipient can heat and pour over the cake just before serving. The cake, which serves 10 to 12, sells for $26 and comes in a gold-colored tin. For more information or to order visit www.wetakethecake.com.

My M&M’s takes the classic candy and personalizes it. You can order M&M candies with your choice of 21 colors — even gold or silver. You also can request a 2-line message using 8 characters or fewer per line. Custom color orders take about 4 to 7 business days to produce; custom printing orders take 10 business days.

You also have a choice of sizes. An 8-ounce bag sells for $9.49, with a minimum order of 4 bags. A 2-ounce gift bag with a ribbon goes for $3.75, with a minimum order of 16 bags. For more information or to order, call 888/696-6788 or visit www.shop.mms.com.

Despite the name, Fran’s Chocolates Ltd. is also renowned for its caramels. This season, the Seattle company marries chocolates and caramel in a luscious new product, Checkerboard Caramels.

This assortment offers prize-winning gray salt caramels and smoked salt caramels as well as dark chocolate caramels and milk-chocolate caramels in one gift. The 15-ounce package sells for $48.

For more information or to order, call 800/422-3726 or visit www.franschocolates.com.

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