The chocolate counter at Neiman Marcus Honolulu

From chocolate covered Bugles to 100 percent cacao chocolate bars, chocolate senbei clusters to Armagnac soaked cherries encased in chocolate, Neiman Marcus has the most extensive chocolate selection in town.

The strongest items in the Neiman Marcus collections are the chocolate candies and milk chocolate varieties, such as the aforementioned chocolate-covered cherries that gush sweet liquor when you bite into them; creamy Amedei gianduja (hazelnut) truffles; rich John Kelly truffle fudge bites topped with sea salt and even one with caramel and alae sea salt.

The French, and to a lesser extent, Italians, rule the chocolate world, and the glass chocolate case reflects this. The French brand Pralus offers little tasting packages of French colonialism in the form of single-origin chocolates from Madagascar and the Dominican Republic, though the way Pralus processes the cacao, the differences are very subtle. It's Pralus, too, that makes the 100 percent Madagascar cacao chocolate bar, which I tried out of curiosity. I like my chocolate dark, but this was too much.

Left: Madecasse chocolate bars, right: chocolate-covered Armagnac-soaked cherries

Surprisingly, though, while the French and Italian are famous for their chocolatiers, it's the single-origin chocolates from elsewhere that are more impressive. One of the few under $10 bars, Madecasse, comes from former Peace Corps volunteers that actually make their chocolate in Madagascar. While 70 percent of the world's cacao comes from Africa, less than 1 percent is made there. This is fair trade chocolate that tastes great. On the other end of the price spectrum (4 ounces for $50!) is Danish-made Oialla chocolates, sourcing wild cacao from Bolivia. The result: delicate chocolate with hints of red wine. Oialla also makes dark chocolate caramel and fondant pieces packaged in a beautiful wooden box, but to me, Oialla's strongest suit is the nuances of its plain chocolate, all of which get overwhelmed when other flavors are added.

Word is that Manoa Chocolate is working on a Neiman Marcus exclusive bar. Look for it soon.

Neiman Marcus chocolate counter on the third floor just outside of Mariposa, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd.,951-8887