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All the chocolate in Brussels!

BELGIUM | Saturday, 7 February 2015 | Views [530]

© Patrick Roger

© Patrick Roger

We all need some time off and after the winter I’ve had I was definitely looking for a change of scenery. I booked a trip to Paris to visit a friend of mine and thought a day stop to Brussels for some chocolate would definitely lift up my sagging spirits. Booking an afternoon chocolate tour was the definite highlight of the day. As it was February the weather was a bit cold and blustery but that worked in our favor as we were the only ones on the tour that day which was awesome!

Meeting our tour guide at the Leonidas shop located inside the Royal Galleries St. Hubert, we were given a quick history lesson on chocolate as our guide pulled out his phone and showed some images of cacao beans and the involved process to become the taste that we know and love. He then pointed out the visual aspects of the store and told us take special interest in how the store was set up, the colors, advertisement, and of course, the taste.

At Leonidas we were given white chocolate with a coffee-ganache filling that is apparently a great favorite but I found overly sweet. The store seemed quite similar to chocolate stores that I tended to see in America – bright, vibrant colors and eye-catching displays.

Keeping that in mind we made our way to the next shop along the way: Neuhaus. This chocolate shop is quite old and is known for a patented fold over box for their chocolates. The store was still bright and eye-catching but the colors were a bit more muted than those at Leonidas with some pastels thrown in the mix. We were given a basic dark chocolate truffle which was quite nice with a semi-bitter finish.

The next stop was Mary across the way which was an elegantly white and gold shop that had less clutter than the first two chocolatiers. There were less boxes and less chocolates but the chocolate we were given was quite lovely. It was a milk chocolate with a vanilla tonka filling. Not having much exposure to tonka I was curious to try it but mostly tasted vanilla with hints of coconut. I found the shop to be good but I still wasn't impressed enough to buy any chocolate.

After the three shops in the mall we meandered out into the ominously dark sky and made our way across the city to the more modern chocolate shops that were a 15 minute walk away. Our first stop was Frederic Blondeel which had a beautifully muted set up utilizing rich browns and a display window full of roasted cacao beans surrounding a palm tree. We got to try a lovely dark chocolate thyme truffle. It had a crisp taste that lingered and I was quite impressed with this store. This was the first store that had single-origin chocolate bars and very unique flavor combinations. It was also the first one we bought some chocolate to take back with us. I found myself buying a raw chocolate bar from Peru which I am keen to try and my friend got a bagful of the truffles with fun flavors like rose cardamom and basil.

Moving along, the next store was called Pierre Marcolini and it also had a classy feel with contrasting black and white décor – and a higher price tag to match. Walking upstairs we were given a four space dark chocolate truffle that had a nice snap when we bit into it due to the tempered chocolate. I wasn’t into the spice profile of this one but my friend just loved it. However, I got to try a milk chocolate Earl Grey truffle which was divine and I floated around the store in a haze of bergamot oil. I ended up nabbing a few more bars of single origin chocolate and a box of cacao infusion which is apparently the cacao shell that you steep like tea. Sounds intriguing!

The final stop on our trip found us at Patrick Roger, a minimalist shop that honestly looked more like an art gallery than chocolate shop. This was the crème de la crème for chocolate shops in Brussels. We were handed a beautiful small turquoise box that looked like it should hold a ring or some other jewelry but inside we found a beautiful half sphere of glossy white and lime green on a dark brown shell. I was told to place it in my mouth and just lightly push it up to the roof of my mouth to get the complex flavor profile. And complex it was; rich dark chocolate with caramel and lime with a hint of vanilla. That might sound simple but it was simply divine. Probably the best piece of chocolate I have ever tried and perhaps the most expensive.

All in all it was an incredibly fun experience and I learned a lot about chocolate. Well worth the 30€ each for the tour. I’m exciting to be bringing good quality chocolate home and I now have an idea of what to look out for when I enter a chocolate shop to better know the quality of their products.

If you’re keen to take this tour pop over brusselscitytours.com

Happy tasting!

Tags: belgium, brussels, chocolate, tours

 

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