EASTER. 'Tis the season to buy chocolate.
Seems every Philadelphian has a favorite - Bayard's, in Cherry Hill; Lore's, in Center City; Old City's Shane's; Kensington's Blasius.
Right about now, such shops have lines around their counters. Question is, which ones are worth the wait - and the splurge?
Filling a midsize basket with a few pounds of locally made chocolate can easily set a bunny back $40.
In the interest of saving you time and money, the People Paper took on the tough job of taste-testing Easter candy - milk- and dark-chocolate eggs filled with coconut cream, vanilla buttercream or peanut butter.
In the interest of research, we also sampled a few pecan fudge and fruity buttercream versions. You're welcome.
The results surprised us: One filling was entirely subjective to tasters' personal preferences. Another received a communal "meh." Some of the prettiest, priciest eggs were the lowest rated.
Area confectioners said that the sweetened tropical-fruit filling remains the most popular for Easter.
Our tasters were either entirely pro or con coconut. Those who liked it had widely different opinions.
Some thought Bayard's half-pounder seemed pleasantly "handmade."
"You can actually taste the coconut," said a sampler.
Some liked the slightly grainy texture, while others offered contradictory reactions of "less cloying" or "too sweet."
Lore's dark-chocolate eggs - which can cost $19.95 for a dozen in a cardboard crate - had fans and detractors. "Neat." "Kid-friendly." "Rich, but not overpowering." "A good blend." "The coconut is moist." Others could take or leave 'em.
Asher's simple pounder, from the Souderton-based chocolatier, got "close to perfect," "coconut-y," and "best texture."
The interior of Shane's fancy, pricey half-pound egg had nary an admirer. "Mushy." "Too gooey." "Looks like prefab mashed potatoes."
Blasius' was the chewiest of the bunch. "I'm not done yet, but it's good," said a columnist.
The creamy candy filling that Philadelphians so proudly call their own received a tepid overall response. For the most part, folks found classic buttercream "gummy" and "overly sweet."
Lore's was a little salty, which some people liked; others, not so much. Some preferred Asher's drier contents, which seemed to stand up longer, should you save some for after Sunday.
Bayard's was "smooth" and "almost marshmallow" in texture, but "so sweet, it hurts my teeth."
Blasius' was "denser" and "heavy." "It's messy," said a lifelong Philadelphian. "Exactly what an egg should be like."
Shane's extra-runny filling got a few "chemical-y" comments and one "something is wrong here." Those were the kinder comments.
Call us nuts, but three varieties we tried were super easy to tell apart.
Bayard's mild, mousse-like filling won over sweet teeth. "The creaminess brings out the peanut-i-ness." "Reese's for grown-ups." "You wanna eat it with a spoon."
"The best of the bunch," said one writer.
Blasius' darker, drier filling appealed to lovers of salt-plus-sugar and fans of unsweetened, all-natural nut butters. They said, "Just tons of peanut butter." "Doesn't overwhelm you with sweet." "So . . . different."
Lore's dark-roasted take hit the middle ground. "More palatable." "It's the consistency and flavor I expect from a peanut-butter egg."
Lore's owner Tony Walter called his caramel fudge pecan ovoid "the egg people sneak in for themselves." Buttery and nutty, and softer and less sweet than its chocolate-shelled competitors, it was first to disappear from the tasting table. A clear winner, whereas Blasius' similar fudge pecan egg and Bayard's plain fudge egg underwhelmed.
Folks went wild for Lore's white chocolate truffle bunnies, 15 to a box, and for Lore's peanut butter and chocolate farm animals. Cute, too.
Shane earned at least partial redemption with its limited-edition, fruit-and-nut egg. The chocolate shell contained a thick coconut buttercream with pecans and dried cherries, pineapple and cranberries.
Late in the judging, it became a sudden hit among select foodies - the fruitcake of Easter candy, if you will.