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Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate

The never-fail holiday gift

The highlight of the Seattle Chocolate Factory Tour is the chocolate tasting at the end of the tour. Run like a wine tasting, you can try each piece and take notes on which you liked. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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There is one gift you can never go wrong giving, because just about everyone loves chocolate. For a more personal touch, shop local. Brown & Haley is a more than 100-year-old Tacoma icon with its well-loved Roca brand of candies.  The Seattle Chocolate Factory is becoming well-known for its small-batch chocolate bars and truffles made from natural ingredients and unique flavors.

Seattle Chocolates was founded in 1991 and has quickly become known for its signature: Individually wrapped truffles that come in more than 20 different flavors such as peanut butter, toffee, Pike Place espresso, Rainier cherry and many more. At the flagship store, the truffles can be purchased by the pound or by the box. Insider tip: Go for the box. You can fit almost a pound of truffles into the box at about half the price of purchasing by the pound.

The flagship location offers a factory tour that is well worth the time. The $10 fee is more than worth the chocolate samples enjoyed throughout the tour. The tour is fun and informative, and it is nice to see how spotlessly clean the factory is. Seattle Chocolates is very environmentally friendly, Rainforest Alliance Certified, a socially responsible employer and a generous supporter of food banks through its Jcoco brand of chocolate. After completing the tour and tasting a variety of samples, check out the factory store to purchase your favorites. Insider tips: On the second Saturday of the month, a limited amount of factory seconds is available to purchase at a discount.  Make sure to ask for Seattle Chocolates' very generous military discount of 20 percent.

Seattle Chocolates Flagship Store, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Saturday, 1180 Andover Park W., Seattle, 877.427.7915,

The Brown & Haley Outlet Store is located in a round kiosk that served as a ticket booth for the Seattle World's fair. It sits right beside the iconic Brown & Haley Factory (alas, no factory tours). The outlet store has a large selection of the company's products and plenty of samples. The ladies who work there are very friendly and helpful while encouraging the consumption of the various candies set up to try. The outlet offers bargain prices, and you never know what you will find. Since 1912, Roca Masters have used the finest ingredients to make the signature Roca buttercrunch candy, which is surrounded by chocolate and rolled in nuts from a secret recipe. Some of the Masters have worked for the company for more than 40 years. Almond Roca is the original, but the newer versions are equally good. Try the Sea Salt Caramel Roca; it is very good. If you do holiday baking, the outlet often has 25-pound blocks of dark and milk chocolate for sale. Insider tip: Wear pink on Tuesdays and receive 10 percent off the already generous factory outlet prices. Purchase in outlet packaging, then rewrap in clear, cellophane bags with holiday ribbon for a nice gift.

Brown & Haley Outlet Store, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday-Saturday, 110 E. 26th St., Tacoma, 253.620.3067,

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