In Search of the Sweet Life: Chocolate in Belgium, France & Switzerland
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
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
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
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
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.
Hotel Paris Bastille Boute
Musée du chocolat