While there is a plethora of fantastic chocolatiers in New York (Mast Brothers, Marie Belle, Jacques Torres, to name a few), my standby favorite is actually from California.
See’s candies started in 1930’s Los Angeles by Mary See and her enterprising son and daughter in law. She started out with a tiny black and white shop on Western Avenue, and quickly expanded from there.
Her chocolate is now sold around the world and the company itself is owned by Berkshire Hathaway. But to me See’s still doesn’t feel like a sell out. I have very clear memories of growing up and visiting the See’s chocolates store in my neighborhood. They always gave you a free sample–even if you only bought the 50 cent lollypops, which I did many times–and the salespeople were so nice.
I think my type-A side has always been attracted to the immaculately clean black and white interior design. The decor somehow manages to say art deco and home maker at the same time. I read that it was designed to look like Mary See’s house, which must have been very forward-thinking for the 30’s. I think now a days her house would look something like this!
Image from InteriorDesign2014.com
The chocolates themselves are very good–mainly because they strike a balance between blinding richness (oh, Godiva) and waxy tastelessness (I’m looking at you, Russell Stover). As one of my friends declared, “See’s is such a good everyday chocolate.” This always makes me laugh and fantasize that my life (of course!) is a beautiful pile of patries, truffles and bon bons, and I merely deign to eat See’s chocolates when I’m on an “average” day. Marie Antoinette would be proud.
Nom nom nom.
All fantasies aside, if you ever find yourself at loss for a hostess or Valentine’s Day gift, get thee to See’s. My hands down favorite is the 1 lb nuts and chews, although toffee-ettes are something to write home about (just not to your dentist!).
If you just need a small pick me up, you can’t go wrong with the Divinity, described on the site as, “Fluffy white chocolate center with English walnuts covered in smooth milk chocolate.” YUM.
Locations around the world
Feature image of See’s Candies from the 1940’s and image of chocolate box from See’s Candies Archive