TOP TEN CHOCOLATIERS IN THE US – #6 Kee Ling Tong

KEE’s Chocolates in New York City is Number Six

The Artisan:

Kee Ling Tong is a Macao native ad a graduate of the French Culinary Institute (FCI) in New York City. During her training at FCI, she realized that she likes sweets the most, so she launched her chocolate shop on Thompson Street in 2002. Since then her chocolate creations were named the “Best chocolate in New York City” in Zagat’s 2005 Gourmet Guide. She does not need to advertise or promote her business – her chocolates doing all that for her. She still makes her chocolates the old-fashion way – in small batches, by hand. She creates the recipes, mixes the ingredients, fills the molds, stocks the displays, and serves the customers. This artisan’s unique touch is what makes the chocolates at Kee’s so remarkable.

The Chocolates:

Kee designs her products around the seasons and selects only locally available ingredients to be incorporated into the ganache. That is the reason that she does not have the same chocolate products every day and customers my get disappointed when they visit the store to purchase their favorite chocolate, only to learn that it will not be available for another four weeks or so.

The ganaches of Kee’s are melt-in-your-mouth delights. She is constantly striving to create innovative, unique chocolates and she is quite successful in achieving her aim.  If you taste her signature chocolate made with extra-bittersweet chocolate filled with creme brulee, you will never buy bonbons from any other chocolatier again. The combination of black sesame, blood orange and blended pepper are extraordinary and the cherry cordial made with griottes (a tart morello cherry), as compared to the usual maraschino cherries, are refreshing. Thumbs up to Kee for omitting the unbearably sweet fondants from these chocolates. The slightly savory orange ganache with a touch of saffron, enrobed with white chocolate and decorated with crushed pistachio is not to my liking, but people swear by it. It is certainly a “looker.” The jasmine tea truffle, with just enough edge to balance the dark sweetness of the chocolate is a match made in heaven.

Another interesting part of this small SoHo store is that you can see how she makes the chocolates; she is there every day for long hours, so you can be sure that you will have the opportunity to watch her at work or ask questions to which she responds gracefully and professionally (but does not return phone calls if it is not an order). She recommends that you eat the chocolates fairly quickly following purchase, because it tastes best while fresh and she does not use any preservatives, stabilizers, or other similar pharmaceutical fillers in her products. However, I must add that she is not the only one that does not use preservatives in their chocolates, yet they remain delightfully fresh, tasty and do not lose their appearance even after being kept in a chocolate box for an entire week (i.e. Recchiuti, L A Burdick, Richart, La Maison, etc. etc.). She advises everyone not to place the chocolates in the refrigerator, because it would be risking to get a condensation on the surface which alters the shelf life, as well as the taste of the product.

Despite some misses, Kee’s chocolates are a true ”must haves”, but please do not take my word for it; she earned 29 of 30 for the quality of her products from Zagat which is equals to a four star restaurant.

How to purchase:

It is best to visit her stores (either in the SoHo or the Midtown Location) personally, because of the variations in availability. Moreover, you can enjoy to watch how the chocolates are made. The online address is: http//www.keeschocolates.com