You practically fall over chocolate and biscuit shops in Brussels and It’s amazing that everyone who lives there isn’t the size of a house. After a day spent shopping in Brussels I’ve concluded that Belgians do not have blood pumping around their veins, they have a thinned down version of high quality chocolate. Everywhere you go in this quirky little European capital is a shop selling food, mostly highly calorific sweet stuff that is irresistable, prettily wrapped and features chocolate somewhere.
We ended up in Brussels as something of a (sweet) treat, thanks to those nice people at Eurostar, who gave us a couple of free tickets to go for the day on Saturday, to promote the Little Break, Big Difference campaign. The idea was to see the Christmas market (more of that on a later post) but it was the chocolate and biscuits that were the stars of the day. Belgians are VERY proud of their chocolate and we had a very enlightening talk from Melanie at Planete Chocolat, a specialist chocolate store that offers lectures and demonstrations on the history and production of the stuff.
As we sipped the most heavenly hot chocolate drink (made from chocolate ganache, milk and cream) she winced at our lack of European history…”Who discovered the cocoa bean?” ummmm…”who is the most famous man in Belgium’s chocolate history?” ummmm….”what is a praline?”….we were pretty clueless when we started but damn knowledgeable at the end of the informative, foodie-heaven talk.
The chocolates were scrumptious and a praline turns out to be a sculpted chocolate mould around a sweet filling, hence the lovely antique metal moulds that were all over the shop (although they use plastic ones now, lighter and rust-proof). Melanie let us have a go at making them, and then we watched the experts in the climate controlled kitchens making trays of Saint Nicholas for the chocolate-insatiable home market.
Belgians not only make good chocolate, they’ve mastered how to sell it, with lovely artisanal stores piled high with both modern and traditional displays. They’re pretty good at biscuits too, and our favourite store for these was the family owned Dandoy close to the central marketplace. We waited in the long queue, made up mostly of locals (always a good sign) and bought the best chocolate biscuits in the world, totally.
We were on the trip with Dom Ramsey, editor of the wonderful chocablog and someone who knows a bit about chocolate. If you can’t make it to Brussels for the day (although it’s dead easy on the Eurostar) then take a look at Dom’s blog for an extensive list of fab chocolate recipes and reviews.