In Search of the Sweet Life: Choco­late in Bel­gium, France & Switzer­land

Taste & Flavors - - CONTENT - by Amy E. Robert­son

FROM MOUTH­WA­TER­ING BÛCHES DE NOËL TO CANDY-FILLED AD­VENT CAL­EN­DARS, CHOCO­LATE ABOUNDS DUR­ING YEAR-END FES­TIV­I­TIES. HEAD TO EUROPE’S OLD-WORLD CITIES TO SUR­ROUND YOUR­SELF IN SOME OF THE WORLD’S FINEST SWEET CON­CEPTS BRUS­SELS, BEL­GIUM SEE Brus­sels is the cap­i­tal of both Bel­gium and its choco­late in­dus­try. Much of the city is modern, but its old-world squares, Grand-place and Place du Grand Sablon, are key stops on a choco­late-fo­cused itin­er­ary. A stone’s throw from the Grand Place is the 320-year-old

Mu­seum of Co­coa and Choco­late, trac­ing the history of co­coa from its Mayan ori­gins to modern-day pro­duc­tion in the Ivory Coast. In ad­di­tion to the stan­dard five-euro visit, the mu­seum of­fers a €150 tour­gour­mand of the his­tor­i­cal cen­ter of Brus­sels, with an em­pha­sis on choco­late.mucc.be The Grand Sablon is a quaint square dot­ted by an­tique shops, and Brus­sel’s epi­cen­ter of choco­late, with one choco­latier af­ter an­other. Out­side of the city cen­ter, the pop­u­lar Con­cept

Choco­late of­fers tours of its factory, which can be com­bined with work­shops as well as wine or beer tast­ings. con­ceptchoco­late.eu EAT With more than 2,000 choco­late shops in Bel­gium, it’s hard to choose just a few. Global brands in­clude Calle­baut, Cote d'or, Guylian, Leonidas and Neuhaus, but Brux­el­lois tend to pre­fer ar­ti­sanal choco­lates. A few to sam­ple are: Mary – this 98-year-old choco­latier is a fa­vorite of the Bel­gian royal fam­ily, and its branch in the glit­ter­ing Ga­lerie de la Reine is right next to the Grand-place. mary.be Wit­tamer – with a branch at the Grand Sablon, this cen­tury-old fam­ily-owned choco­latier en­chants both lo­cals and tourists with its her­itage recipes. wit­tamer.com

Alex & Alex –not far from the Grand Sablon, this café pairs Cham­pagne with choco­lates made by Frederic Blon­deel, con­sid­ered by many as some of the best in the city. alex-alex.eu/frederic-blon­deel.be Pierre Mar­col­ini – head to the two-story flag­ship store at the Grand Sablon and be sure to try one of the sin­gle-ori­gin Grand Cru choco­late bars. eu.mar­col­ini.com

STAY

Guests at the cen­trally-lo­cated, five-star

Ho­tel Amigo will f ind Galler choco­lates in their rooms, and a Choco­late Af­ter­noon Tea cre­ated by the famed Pierre Mar­col­ini in the ho­tel bar. roc­co­forte­ho­tels.com, dou­bles from $335.

Al­ter­na­tive: The com­fort­able Ho­tel Mari­vaux of­fers a “choco­late week­end” pack­age: one night for two in­clud­ing break­fast and a three-course din­ner, a hot choco­late wel­come drink, a choco­late sur­prise in the room, and two tick­ets to the Mu­seum of Co­coa and Choco­late, all for $190. hotel­mari­vaux.be

SEE

The choco­late mar­ket in Paris is dom­i­nated by ar­ti­sanal choco­latiers, cre­at­ing de­li­cious bon­bons (f illed choco­lates), tablettes (bars) and truffes (truf­fles). Cre­ate along­side the masters at the work­shops at the Con­corde branch of Ed­wart Choco­latier, where choco­late en­thu­si­asts are taught sim­ple recipes that can be recre­ated at home. Ed­wart won an award for cre­ativ­ity at the Paris Salon du Cho­co­lat with its Pra­line au Curry Madras, and the work­shop teaches how to use imag­i­na­tive in­gre­di­ents such as truf­fle or eu­ca­lyp­tus. ed­wart.fr

Work­shops for both kids and adults are also of­fered at Choco-story. This three­part mu­seum starts with the history of co­coa in the Amer­i­cas, ar­rives at the in­tro­duc­tion of choco­late in Europe and its modern man­u­fac­ture, then ends with an all-you-can-eat tast­ing. Spe­cial Christ­mas­themed work­shops run in De­cem­ber. musee­du­choco­lat.fr The web­site Cho­co­paris is chock-full of re­sources for the choco­late lover, with com­pre­hen­sive listings of choco­late shops by ar­rondisse­ment, three “do-it-your­self ”

choco­late walks, and a list of choco­latemak­ing classes around the city. cho­co­paris.com

EAT

Jean-paul Hévin – Con­sid­ered one of Paris’s finest choco­latiers, Hévin is renowned for both qual­ity and cre­ativ­ity (choco­lates filled with goat cheese ganache, any­one?). Head to the branch on Rue St-honoré for a cup of his leg­endary hot choco­late. jean­paul­hevin.com

Pa­trick Roger – A des­ig­nated MOF, or Meilleu­rou­vri­erde­france (the high­est rank for a French choco­latier), Roger does not dis­ap­point. Tell shop staff your palate pref­er­ences (fruity? spicy? smoky?) and they will guide you to the per­fect piece of choco­late. patrick­roger.com Jean-charles Rou­choux – Seek out Rou­choux’s sole bou­tique to try his im­pec­ca­ble bon­bons, as well as whim­si­cal horses, hedge­hogs, the Eif­fel Tower and tiny tod­dlers, all crafted out of the finest choco­late. jcro­choux.com Pa­trice Chapon – A Paris “must”, Chapon is famed not only for his flaw­less bon­bons, but also for his choco­late mousse bar, where guests can choose be­tween five va­ri­eties of silky sin­gle-ori­gin mousse. cho­co­lat-chapon.com

STAY

Where else to stay than the Ho­tel Paris

Bastille Boutet, a for­mer choco­late factory con­verted into lux­ury ho­tel in the 11th ar­rondisse­ment. True to its choco­latier roots, the spa of­fers treat­ments with or­ganic co­coa oil, and luxe hot choco­late is served at the bar. sof­i­tel.com Dou­bles from $300.

Al­ter­na­tive: With over two dozen choco­latiers and patis­series in the 6th ar­rondisse­ment, Saint-ger­main-des-prés is the city’s un­of­fi­cial co­coa cap­i­tal. Three-star Ho­tel

La Perle is a beloved bud­get-friendly choice in the neigh­bor­hood, with cozy rooms and at­ten­tive staff. ho­tel-paris-laperle.com Dou­bles from $160.

Grand-place, Brus­sels

Pierre Mar­col­ini

Ho­tel Paris Bastille Boute

Ho­tel Amigo

Mary

PARIS, FRANCE

Pa­trick Roger

Musée du cho­co­lat

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