Best Box Of Chocolates

There are chocolates made with chili pepper and passion fruit for the adventurous and, of course, plenty of traditional chocolates to melt your heart.

U.S. chocolate sales are forecast to reach $18-billion by the year 2011. In all its variations, chocolate is one of America's favorite flavors.

Consumer Reports just sampled nearly two dozen gift box chocolates ranging in price from $8 for those sold in drugstores or supermarkets to $97 for boutique chocolates.

Consumer Reports' Ellen Klosz says that flavor and texture are key. "The best assortments taste fresh and are made with high-quality ingredients. They had well-blended flavors that tasted real, not artificial. And you look for that ultra-smooth texture."

One of the nine gift box chocolates that rated excellent is from Candinas. It's a Consumer Reports best buy.

Candinas traditional 36-piece assortment has ultra-smooth milk and dark chocolates with hints of fresh cream and butter. The 1-pound box costs $43.

Three other traditional gift box chocolates that rated very good are also best buys. All contain traditional milk and dark chocolate selections

The least expensive was See's famous old time assorted chocolates for about $15 a pound. Leonidas assortment costs $34 a pound. And Godiva's gold ballotin is $38 for a little less than a pound box.

If you can't buy the chocolates near you, you can order online or by phone. But be sure to factor in shipping costs.

Candinas and Leonidas chocolates can be purchased online.

When ordering, keep in mind that chocolate shops often require overnight shipping to retain the chocolate's quality. That can add $20 or more to your bill.

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