Top Pick Of The Week

February 6, 2007

. .
7:3 Chocolate Box
Any chocolate connoisseur would love a box of these. Or, bestow a box to show someone what great chocolates taste like. Photo by B. A. Van Sise.
WHAT IT IS: Fine bonbons from a creative boutique chocolatier.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: The 70% cacao couverture chocolate and ganache centers have an exciting bittersweet flavor profile: intense and sensual. The infused flavors are modern and lively.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Very high quality, both serious and beckoning. For those who enjoy a heightened flavor of fine chocolate without sweet sugariness, these chocolates hit the spot.

7:3 Chocolates:
The 70% Solution

CAPSULE REPORT: If chocolate is good for the soul, than sitting down with a box of 7:3 Chocolates is a religious experience. From the moment you open the lid of the shiny, pink-and-peach paper hatbox, the scent of fine chocolate wafts up to greet you. You don’t even have to eat it to enjoy it: We simply enjoyed smelling it for three days until it could be photographed.

These bonbons are for serious, demanding palates. All the couverture chocolate is 70% cacao, hence the name 7:3 is a play on 70% cacao, 30% sugar. (Actually, there’s about 1% emulsifier and vanilla, and depending on the manufacturer, some extra cocoa butter to offset the equilibrium, but the math is close enough.) Our first bite of the unadorned, pure bittersweet ganache piece was pure pleasure. As we contemplated our next selection, we knew it was going to be a good day. Read the full review below.

Other Great Chocolatiers

Essence of Chocolate Chocolate Obsession La Maison du Chocolat
Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate, by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg. America’s preeminent makers of gourmet baking chocolate launch their first cookbook, with more than 100 recipes for classics as well as Chocolate Chunk Challah, a homemade version of Oreos and savory dishes made with chocolate like Tortilla Soup and Chile-Marinated Flank Steak. Click here for more information or to purchase. Chocolate Obsession: Confections and Treats to Create and Savor, by Michael Recchiuti and Fran Gage. The top chocolatiers make it possible for amateurs to achieve artistry in dipped chocolates, truffles and molded chocolates. With recipes for Earl Grey tea, burnt caramel and tarragon with grapefruit ganaches, plus some delicious baked goods (Recchiuti and Gage began their careers in pastry), this book provides hours of happiness. Click here for more information or to purchase. La Maison du Chocolat: Transcendent Desserts by the Legendary Chocolatier, by Robert Linxe. Linxe has inspired many American chocolatiers, who first tasted his chocolates in Paris (he now has two stores in New York City). This volume contains his philosophy, vision, and 65 recipes for his great chocolates and pastries. Those who have never seen it can enjoy his art through the wonderful photography. Click here for more information or to purchase.

7:3Chocolates: The 70% Solution



When Yelena Malcolm attended Amherst College, she majored in English, expecting she might go on to inspire bright young people. But she herself was inspired by the world of fine food, and, admirably, taught herself to make magnificent artisan chocolates. This is no easy task. Not only is the craft of tempering chocolate and making attractive bonbons an exacting one, but the “palate genius”—knowing how to make wonderfully-flavored centers and select the right couverture chocolate to complement one’s flavor palette (the choice of centers)—is a gift. There are many fine chocolatiers across America, but Yelena’s chocolates stand out—all the more remarkable given that she has had no classes, no mentor, no apprenticeship, just exposure to tasting other chocolates and developing a vision of how she wanted her own to differ.

For three years, 7:3 Chocolates has been offering its delicious wares to those in the know, or who have been lucky enough to discover its online boutique. There is no storefront, and there is minimal customer service: As a tiny business, there is limited time to return calls and e-mails on the instantaneous basis most people expect.

But, make a selection from the drop-down menu and input your credit card number, and a beautiful box of chocolates will arrive. Prepare for a memorable tasting experience: If you enjoy the type of chocolate we enjoy—great bittersweet cacao with creatively-flavored centers—you’ll become a regular.

Bonbon Flavors

The chocolates come with a guide to 7:3’s 40-flavor repertoire—although flavors are seasonal and your box will contain 8 to 12 of them, depending on what has been made that week. The pieces that are included are checked off on the guide; you can match each piece to its picture and avoid any Forrest Gumpian uncertainty.

The bonbons are either ganaches or caramels. We didn’t have any caramels in our selection—we look forward to reporting back when we do, because we love chewy caramels and the flavors sounded so good we could have eaten the guide. But the sophisticated ganaches—in bittersweet, milk and white chocolate—couldn’t be better.

The bittersweet ganaches are unique in our experience—a thicker, “cakey” texture, reminiscent of the molten chocolate cake desserts that are so popular at fine restaurants. Yelena explains the texture is a result of creating a recipe to minimize the sugariness of the ganache so that, as with the couverture, the bittersweet flavor of the cacao can shine through. Whatever the cause, we love the effect!

The milk chocolate ganache is very caramelly (not to confuse it with the caramel centers—fine milk chocolate often has flavor notes of caramel). It is smooth, silky, and lighter than the bittersweet, allowing the infused flavors a more clarion ring. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a piece with the white chocolate ganache: This one is simply sumptuous, evoking the desire to lick the bowl.

Yelena has fun naming her chocolates—a combination of wit and personal references (inscrutable to outsiders—but they’re her chocolates, and she can have all the fun she wants).

  • For example, the curry-flavored chocolate is Raj, the espresso is Jitters, chestnut and cranberry is Pilgrim, ginger is The Movie Star and Earl Grey is HMS (get it, friends of Britannia?). Some are tough to connect: Rex, the caramelized banana flavor, means “king”; Elvis is the king; Elvis loved a peanut butter and banana sandwich.
  • Some names are literal: lemon caramel is Limonello; the habañero caramel is Habana (the birthplace of the habañero). Yet to understand the sesame caramel, you’d have to know that SimSim means “sesame” in Turkish; while the apricot caramel is Meditate and the passion fruit caramel is Obsessed.
  • While the happy-sounding Bubble is a pink Champagne-flavored chocolate, spiced rum is Trouble, and brandy and sugarplum is Bad Fairy. To us, it sounds like quite a Good Fairy.

Don’t try to figure it out—or psych it out: Perhaps Yelena has invented a chocolate Rorschach test? If so, it’s fun to play the name game before you start tasting—because after that, you will be in too happy a chocolate haze to care about any name except the URL to reorder.

7:3 Jitters Chocolate
The only jitters you’ll get from these Jitters, is waiting for your next shipment to arrive. Coffee drinkers will flip for the silky milk-chocolate ganache, deftly flavored with coffee. Combined with the bittersweet couverture and the crunch of the roasted coffee bean on top, it is a sensation of flavors and textures. Photo by B. A. Van Sise.

7:3 Domino Chocolates
Domino: The white chocolate stripes on the top hint at the glorious white chocolate ganache inside. Photo by B. A. Van Sise.

You’ll notice that quite a few of the bonbons are capped by a flavor element: a sliver of candied ruby red grapefruit peel, a coffee bean, a crystallized mint leaf, a pink peppercorn. These provide incremental flavor and texture: Those who are already marveling at the flavor and texture of the ganache and the couverture will get an extra reward.

While the complex flavors work—smoky Lapsang Souchong tea in the caramelly milk chocolate ganache, for example—so do the very simple ones. Domino, a pure white chocolate ganache enrobed in bittersweet (photo at left), is an example. Few chocolatiers make a white chocolate ganache: This one is textbook-perfect, and a better white-chocolate-and-cream experience than any white chocolate mousse. Those who don’t enjoy white chocolate in its solid form (and we would argue that they have never had the best white chocolate) should nibble on a few of these.

Perhaps not all flavors are orchestrated like Mozart: In a repertoire of 40, would one expect every piece to be a top hit? In our box of 8, we adored 6 and certainly liked the rest: Not a bad scorecard. But one thing that impresses us is Yelena’s attitude: constantly looking to perfect, a true artisan. She’s also an artist, seeking to create new and better forms, concepting new flavors and new products (keep checking the website for announcements of new items still in development).

Yelena works with Callebaut couverture—as do many chocolatiers whose products we enjoy. But even without blending, the chocolate seems to show itself differently in different hands: Yelena plays the Callebaut like Vladimir Horowitz on a 9-foot Bösendorfer.*

*Yes, students of Horowitz: We know he only played on his custom-made Steinway, never on a Bösendorfer. But “Steinway” seemed too prosaic a comparison for 7:3 Chocolates.

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7:3 Chocolate - Ginger
The bittersweet ganache inside is infused with ginger, but the crystallized ginger on top of The Movie Star adds both flavor and texture to the experience. Photo by B. A. Van Sise.

Forrest Gump was wrong in his interpretation, by the way. Life is like a box of chocolates, but not because you don’t know what you’re going to get. Life is like a box of 7:3 Chocolates: bittersweet, with creative twists; wonderful while you have a box, and sad when it’s gone.

—Karen Hochman

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to connoisseurs of fine chocolate and those who like to give impressive gifts.


Fine Artisan Chocolates

  • One-Pound Box
    Two Layers
  • Half-Pound Box
    One Layer

Orders can be customized to exclude alcohol
and nuts.

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7:3 Chocolates
7:3 Chocolates

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