Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Official* Belgian Chocolate Tour

It should come as no surprise that one of my favorite things about living in Belgium is the chocolate... It truly does surpass the rest in it's richness, texture and subtle flavor combinations - like biting into a little piece of heaven every. single. time.

Didz sent me this New York Times article a few weeks ago - and Stella and I took it upon ourselves to follow in the lead of the author and do our own Belgian Chocolate Tour. While our outing was not quite as extensive (we stayed mainly in the Grand Sablon area - with only one venture across town to Mary's), we took it VERY seriously, and brought home a lot of chocolate to do the official tasting with Didz (who unfortunately couldn't join us... this MBA is really cramping our style!)

From each of the six chocolate shops we went to, we chose a classic dark chocolate praline (or the closest we could find, since not all the chocolate shops had one) as our "control" and then a few varied flavors and fillings to get a fuller understanding of each chocolatiers capabilities and accomplishments, often asking the salesperson to point out the most popular selection or their personal favorites.

Wittamer (photo cred: Stella)
Our first stop was Wittamer.... with its bright pink awning and display of beautifully crafted chocolate high heels in the window, entering the shop felt like the beginning of a perfect feminine dream sequence. (If only we had busted out a choreographed song and dance routine with the chocolatiers in pink aprons doing the can-can on the glass cases behind us... THEN it would've been the perfect dream... alas...) Because this was our first stop, we were rather tame in our choosing - only two pieces each (a dark chocolate praline, and a cognac flavored dark chocolate praline).

Tough decisions at Neuhaus (photo cred: Stella)
Next, we walked down the street to Neuhaus (which is where I buy a lot of my chocolate since there's a shop just down the street from us in Leuven), where we chose a rather random sampling, including coffee truffles and their "specialty" (which Didz ate, so Stella and I will never know what was so special about it).

Alex & Alex (photo cred: Stella)
It was time for a break - so we walked around the corner to Alex & Alex, a champagne and chocolate bar, where we sat for the better part of the afternoon sipping bubbly, nibbling chocolate (the mandarin orange dark chocolate was my favorite), and chatting with Alex (or Alex, we're not sure which one) about the "elegant" champagnes and the "need" for chocolate in our lives... It was charming and lovely and delicious and might be my new favorite spot in Brussels. We chose a wide variety of chocolates to bring home - including their "legend", one called "Love Love" and a chili pepper flavored dark chocolate for Didz.

Glass #1, paired with sea salt and mandarin chocolates
Next, we went to the two story flagship store of Pierre Marcolini....

Pierre Marcolini (photo cred: Stella)
You can't help but feel a little bit swanky, and a little bit cooler when you walk in here... It's sexy, with immaculate displays, and perfect chocolates. We carefully chose a small selection of chocolates upstairs (including an Earl Grey Tea flavored one), and then picked out a small box of macarons to bring home as well (because let's face it, after indulging champagne and chocolate the only reasonable thing to do is also pick up a box of pristine macarons, too. Obviously).

Grand Place at night (Photo cred: Stella)

From there we crossed town, down through the Grand Place en route to Mary's... with a quick pit-stop at Galler....

Galler (photo cred: Stella)
... where I honestly don't remember what we got...

But Mary! Oh Mary! The selection, the choices, the beautiful little chocolates.... Mary stole our hearts. We picked out a gorgeous bunch to bring home - including a couple white chocolate pieces for Didz (he really loves white chocolate), and one called "Manhattan" for Stella (how appropriate).

After another champagne pit-stop (and a bottle for the road!), we hurried to the train, anxious to taste all of our treasured chocolates....
Texting Didz letting him know we'll be a little late... his response? "You stopped for MORE champagne?!?"

The Official* Belgian Chocolate Tour Tasting Results up next....

*Official? Maybe not. Delicious? Definitely. 


  1. At Galler we were modest with just getting truffles and the control.
    Otherwise, I'm super impressed with your chocolate recall! :)

  2. Perhaps not remembering related to bubbly intake?? All I know is I want to kick it with Alex, the other Alex, and Mary, any time.

    1. you TOTALLY want to kick it with Alex and/or the other Alex. Also, Mary makes a chocolate called "Lady," which is reason enough to go to there.