Top Pick Of The Week

January 29, 2008

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Chokolaj Chocolate

They couldn’t be more delicious. From top to bottom: Pignoli Mint, Lavender Flower and Cacao 3 Ways. Photography by Dhanraj Emanuel.

WHAT IT IS: Gourmet chocolate bonbons, made with organic chocolate (Dagoba’s—read our review) and locally-grown ingredients.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: This husband-and-wife chocolatier team is committed to sustainability and the locavore philosophy, while they make chocolates that are as beautiful and delicious as anyone else’s.
WHY WE LOVE IT: A complex array of flavors: for example, Vanilla Salt Flake Caramel, Chamomile Honey, and the three above (flavors change seasonally, all are delicious).

Chokola'j Artisan Chocolates:
Handmade In The Hamptons

CAPSULE REPORT: Looking for something special for Valentine’s Day? How about something beautiful. Something made with organic and local ingredients, by a company committed to sustainability. And by the way, it’s chocolate.

Chokola'j is all these things, but none of the feel-good, au courant qualities would mean a thing if the goods weren’t standout. They are, and everyone who is looking for the next great box of chocolate will want to order one, holiday or not.

Chokola'j, pronounced cho-koh-LAH, is the Mayan verb for “to drink chocolate together.” Remember that for more than 3,300 years, chocolate was a beverage. It was mixed with maize in the Americas and evolved to the modern cocoa drink in Europe. Solid chocolate (the chocolate bar) was not invented until 1847, and the chocolate shells that enabled bonbons with soft and liquid centers did not appear until 1912. While the Mayans thus could not have conceived of using the words, “to eat chocolate together,” you, luckily, can. Go forth, buy some Chokola'j, and eat it together with someone you love. The company also makes delectable brownies, chocolate tablets and other goodies. Read more about the products in the full review, below.

  • Read reviews of more of our favorite gourmet chocolate in THE NIBBLE online magazine.
  • See the Table Of Contents of the January issue of THE NIBBLE, plus the prior issues archive and our most popular articles.
  • All of the Top Pick Of The Week newsletters are permanently archived on, in chronological order and by product category.
THE NIBBLE does not sell the foods we review
or receive fees from manufacturers for recommending them.

Our recommendations are based purely on our opinion, after tasting thousands of products each year, that they represent the best in their respective categories.


More Great Chocolate

The Essence Of Chocolate Chocolate Obsession Chocolate and Vanilla
Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate, by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg. America’s preeminent maker of gourmet baking chocolate launches its 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. Chocolate Obsession: Confections and Treats to Create and Savor, by Michael Recchiuti and Fran Gage. The top chocolatier makes it possible for amateurs to achieve his artistry in dipped chocolates, truffles and molded chocolates. With his recipes for Earl Grey tea, burnt caramel and tarragon with grapefruit ganaches, plus some delicious baked goods (Recchiuti is also a pâtissier), this book provides many hours of happiness. Click here for more information. Chocolate and Vanilla, by Gale Gand. James Beard Award-winner Gand, host of the Food Network’s Sweet Dreams and co-owner and Executive Pastry Chef at Chicago’s Tru, dazzles as usual. Recipes are both delicious and visually arresting. Those who are chocoholics may discover their inner vanilla in this book, which gives equal attention to the spice that Gand considers even sexier than chocolate. Click here for more information.

Chokola'j Artisan Chocolates: Handmade In The Hamptons



The chocolatiers at Chokola'j “inspired artisan chocolates” ply their craft in a rarified zone—the South Fork of Long Island. While the weekend-home mania has converted the beautiful potato fields of nearby Remsenburg and Westhampton into McMansions for the well-to-do, there are still fields of blooming lavender to be found, fine vineyards, dairies to provide fresh cream, quality farm stands selling local honey and organic herb farms to provide local inspiration from which the chocolatiers create their flavors. Until recently, Chokola'j products were made only for high-end restaurants on the East End of Long Island. Now, fortunately, others can order them too.

Committed to nature and the environment, Daniel and Susan Kennedy use organic and Fair Trade ingredients whenever possible, starting with Dagoba organic couverture and continuing with the locavore ingredients noted above. The company aims to make a positive impact on the environment with every step it takes, supporting local businesses, organic producers and sustainable agriculture. Recycled goods are used for most day-to-day business needs, including packaging, paper and plastic supplies.

What about the name with the unusual spelling, Chokola'j?

The name is Mayan and pronounced cho-ko-LAH; the “j” sounds like an “h.” The word means, “to drink chocolate together,” celebrating the ancient Mesoamerican ritual of drinking a frothed chocolate beverage that was so expensive, it was available only to the nobility, wealthy merchants and warriors. The first residents of Long Island, where Chokola'j is located, were Algonkian-speaking Native Americans. However, they had no chocolate. After xocolatl (pronounced cho-ko-LAH-tay) was brought from Mexico to Spain by the returning Conquistadors in 1527, it took almost 200 years for it to cross the Atlantic again. By 1712, Massachusetts sea captains were bringing back cargoes of cacao beans and Boston apothecary shops were advertising and selling chocolate imported from Europe. (From the early 1600s, chocolate was prescribed by doctors for medicinal purposes, and sold by apothecaries. Read more in the Chocolate Timeline.)
The Mayan Empire. Map courtesy of Montana State University.

While chocolate is not a health food (the high antioxidant properties of pure cacao are often processed out of manufactured chocolate, and at any rate, are negated by the added sugar and fat [cocoa butter]), a piece of chocolate a day breaks no New Year’s resolution. As any healthcare professional will tell you, your goal should be to work the foods you enjoy into your health plan, and to enjoy that beautiful bonbon with your after-dinner tea or coffee instead of 100 calories of some other fat or carb. So, let’s take a look at what you can have.


Boxed Chocolates

We enjoy munching on a bar of Dagoba organic chocolate as much as the next person. But imagine that chocolate dressed and coiffed into the most glamorous of bonbons. The finest couverture chocolate, in the hands of great chocolatiers, is transformed from something delicious into something heavenly. Every bite we took from the box of Chokola'j was well worth it.

Flavors change seasonally, so what you’ll receive now will differ somewhat than what we had a few months ago. But you’re going to enjoy it!

Valentine Chocolate
Bonbons shimmer in Valentine packaging.

In fact, it is rare that we get a box of chocolates where every piece is wonderful. We have absolutely no tepid feelings here—and we can’t really remember saying this before, ever.

There are fabulous caramels and superb, flavored ganaches. We would beg for an entire box of the Vanilla Flake Salt Caramels, but we don’t have to beg too hard because they are sold separately as well as included in the assortments. Crisp savory flakes of Australian Sea Salt give way to the tender caramel inside. Vanilla bean caviar mingles with a hint of sweet creamery butter.

The Lavender Flower  (blue floral design in box) slayed us, in a milk chocolate ganache enrobed in 63% cacao with the bright blue lavender flower cocoa butter transfer. The white chocolate Chamomile Honey heart was another special treat, the chamomile tasting very much like apple caramel. These are summer flavors, but whenever you order, you’ll get something wonderful.

We did not share one bite.

Chokolaj - Box
Boxed chocolates, each a gem. Don’t get the small box—you’ll want to try every flavor.

White Chocolate Bark
Beautiful bark. If you think you don’t like white chocolate, try the Fruit & Nib Bark.

Chocolate Tablets

The chocolate tablets—elsewhere known as bark—are simply lovely, perfection in either dark or white chocolate. They are a delicate balance of tart, sweet, smooth and crunchy.

  • Dark Chocolate “Traveler.” The dark chocolate (63% cacao) is named “The Traveler” because it has “traveled around the globe” to pick up the exotic ingredients it has enrobed: ginger from Asia, cranberries and red currants from the New World, golden raisins from the Middle East and a mixture of roasted nuts—pecans, pepitas, pignolis, pistachios—from points east and west.
  • Fruit & Nib Bark. The white chocolate bark is exquisite. Even those who think they don’t like white chocolate will melt when they taste this blend of cranberries, orange peel and cacao nibs (it’s also pretty for little Valentine gifts). While Chokola'j’s Chamomile Honey Hearts are sold in silver boxes as wedding favors, a few pieces of this white bark bark in a clear bag with a ribbon would win our heart equally, at a shower or a wedding.


Before the Chokola'j shipment arrived, we’d spent two days tasting overly-sweet brownies. These were the antidote. Simple, buttery, superb chocolate. Just enough sugar to make it right. No nuts.

Why, oh why, we ask, are there so many cloying brownies in the world, when here is evidence that it is so easy to make one that lets the chocolate speak for itself. There’s no need for excess—which is what you should say to yourself as you order a box. You’ll never feel as if you’ve indulged (much less over-indulged) after eating one. In the right hands, a well-balanced brownie will seem like positively good nutrition. We might even begin to buy that argument about the healthy antioxidants in the chocolate.


Everything is packaged in a signature cocoa-colored box and tied with a brown satin ribbon. The logo on the box shows two tools of the chocolatier’s trade. The Kennedys have learned their trade well.

An impeccable brownie.


— Karen Hochman

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to anyone who loves serious chocolate, or gives gifts to people who do.

Bark, Boxed Chocolates, Brownies, Caramels & More

  • Boxed Chocolates
    12-Piece Box, $24.95
    24-Piece Box, $39.00
  • Vanilla Salt Flake Caramels
    12 Pieces
  • Tablets (Bark)
    Half Pound Box
    Dark Chocolate, $15.90
    White Chocolate, $19.30
  • Brownies
    Half Dozen, $14.00
  • There are other confections to explore as well

Purchase online* at

*Prices and product availability are verified at publication but are subject to change. Shipping is additional. THE NIBBLE does not sell products; these items are offered by a third party and we have no financial relationship with respect to this sale. This link to purchase is provided as a reader convenience.

Chocola'j Box
This is the small box of Chokola'j; but we regret we didn’t order the large one.

Chokola'j Open Box

Read more about our favorite
chocolates and related products

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