Chocolate has been cultivated for more than 3,000 years but only in the last decade has it has come to Manhattan in its finest and more imaginative forms. From wasabi-infused bon-bons to champagne truffles, the city's chocolate boutiques invite you to stimulate your taste-buds with their versatile bean.
Watch chocolate being made directly from the bean at Jacques Torres Chocolate's (350 Hudson Street) glass-encased workshop. Vintage machines and skilled workers make creamy and whimsical treats like a ginger-studded chocolate bars and chocolate-covered cheerios. For novelty shapes, Martine's Chocolates (1000 Third Ave or 400 E. 82nd St) breaks the mold. They make their confections daily in their two shops, using fresh cream and butter. You can consume their Belgian chocolate as ballerinas, cellos, cars, flowers, computers, Statues of Liberties, metro cards, Yankees balls, Empire State Buildings—and two-dozen breeds of dogs.
If you're looking for more subtle artistry, SoHo is the place to go. Head to MarieBelle (484 Broome Street). Their small, square bon bons are silk-screened with colorful, modern scenes. Rich chocolate that uses 72% cacao beans and unusual flavor additions like saffron, cardamom, and Earl Grey Tea. The café will transport you to Paris with its crystal and its small, café tables perfect for enjoying a mocha or signature Aztec Hot Chocolate. You'll swear you've never tasted caramel before when your teeth sink into their tropical fruit caramels flavored with kiwi, guava, pineapple, coconut, and mango. Another great spot for hot chocolate—of the more traditional variety—is the tea room at Rockefeller Center's La Maison du Chocolat. This French shop has ganaches, pralines, truffles, and fruit-flavored chocolate. Add an éclair, macaroon, or chocolate tart.
For something truly shocking, try chocolate bacon at Vosges Haut-Chocolat (132 Spring Street or 1100 Madison Avenue). Their eclectic collection includes flower-infused truffles, organic peanut butter bon bons topped with pink sea salt, and a collection of truffles filled with aphrodisiac ingredients. Kee's Chocolates (80 Thompson Street and 452 Fifth Avenue) look elegant, but ordinary. One bite will prove that eyes deceive. Is that balsamic vinegar mixed in with those pecans? Yep. And lemongrass, lavender, jasmine, and Thai chili. Don't miss their equally exotic assortment of macaroons—from kiwi-pear to truffle oil.