Dark chocolate goodness melted in my mouth, and it was only 9am. Now this is how you begin a day right in Brussels!
The Brussels Chocolate Walking Tour and Workshop started at 9 in the morning–a strange time to eat chocolate, but I figure there is never a bad time to eat chocolate! Our fist stop was Godiva. They catered to the refined Belgian chocolate palate, mainly serving dark chocolate with a high cocoa bean content. There is an art to tasting those chocolate–much like wine tasting. As much as I wanted to just eat the pralines like a handful of M&M’s, our guide instructed us to restrain ourselves and consider the tastes and textures.
We walked on to Chocopolis where they make pralines every day. Pralines were actually invented in Belgium by Jean Neuhaus in 1912. They are basically hard chocolate shells with filling in the middle. All of the chocolate houses in Brussels make pralines, but Chocopolis is one of the few making them daily.
Our guide, Marc, continued to lead us throughout the streets of Brussels offering up nuggets of history laced with his fun personality. We not only learned about chocolate, but we learned about Belgium culture–a truly informative overall experience. I also really appreciated the fact that Marc stressed to us we were under no obligation to purchase chocolate at any of the shops we went into. I never felt any pressure to buy, as the cost of the tour included our tastings.
Our next stop was the Grand Sablon, a small triangle neighborhood with the historic Notre Dame de Sablon church at its head. Lining the streets are cafes, bars, restaurants and shops–most notably the best selection of chocolate shops in Brussels is located in the Grand Sablon. All the shops seemed to have their own ‘niche’ which made them special; organic, high end, fruit, and even packaging. Pierreledent offered beautiful boxes which honestly looked like they were more complicated to make than the pralines!
Then there was my favorite Chocolatier–Laurent Gerbaud’s Boutique Et Atelier. He was somewhat new to the Belgian chocolate scene because he had spent his early chocolate making years in Shanghai perfecting his tastes for Asian spices. His logo is even in Chinese, with the characters meaning ‘Chocolate’. He presented us with an amazing combination of flavors such as dark chocolate mixed with additions such as peppercorns, sweet chili, Japanese citrus, bergamot, ginger, and apricot. One final surprising thing about Laurent’s recipes was they contained no sugar, butter, or artificial flavoring.
Not only did we taste his unique chocolate, but we were able to get hands-on and learn how to make our own chocolate. We each had a chance to learn how to fill chocolate molds, garnish them with various nuts, and package them. He also took us through a detailed chocolate tasting with an array of flavors and textures. We were all literally buzzing at the end of our hands-on portion of the tour!
We wrapped up the tour saying goodbye to all of my new chocoholic friends. I have a feeling most of us were off to take a chocolate nap that afternoon! I’m happy to report, the impossible was achieved that day; I was officially full on chocolate.
Read more about What to Eat and Drink in Brussels
– Sherry Ott