BITTER, SWEET ROMANCE

Every country has its chocolate, but Belgium’s is believed to be the finest in the world. Baroque Access takes a look at the Flemish chocolate revolution and offers a choice of three different brands, all worthy of spoiling somebody with this festive season

 

Belgium is believed to be at the cutting edge of the chocolate culinary revolution – and if you have sampled some of the delights that are produced in this little European country, you will have to agree. After all, they have been producing this melt-in-the-mouth delicacy since the 17th Century. These days, Belgium produces more than 200,000 tonnes of chocolate every year.

 

As chocolate is the candy of choice in Belgium, the producers of this candy haven’t been resting on their laurels. The gourmet chocolatiers in the country’s cities, including Brussels and Antwerp, have been perfecting their trade in time for the Festive Season. And if you’re looking for the ultimate gift to wish somebody a sweet 2015, look no further.

 

The Best of the Best

Belgian chocolate connoisseurs Godiva and Neuhaus have been delighting the world’s palate for decades already – and with good reason. Jean Neuhaus opened his first store in 1857. About 50 years later, his grandson Jean Junior invented the first chocolate filled shell, the praline, and his wife created the very first box of chocolates. Of course, today Neuhaus has more than 2,000 outlets in 50 countries, including the US. Online you can purchase .55kg of delectable delights from Neuhaus for around € 31,50 (that’s approximately US$39 for just over half a kilo).

 

The Neuhaus store in Brussels sits directly opposite Godiva’s flagship with its famous pink canopies. Godiva’s first store was opened in 1910 by Henri Wittamer, and the business is also still family-run to this day. Godiva is currently ‘Suppliers by appointment to the Count of Belgium’ and is listed as being one of the finest chocolatiers in the world by numerous experts. The flavors, fillings and moulds are commissioned from all over Belgium and cocoa is supplied by top companies in both Venezuela and Madagascar. Of course, it goes without saying, that this is the haute couture of chocolate. A kilo of Godiva’s classic and elegant ballotin will set you back in the region of 105 Euro (approximately US$128.74). For this price you will enjoy a rich assortment of premium chocolates, meticulously selected to offer a wide range of fillings to suit every taste.

 

Extraordinary Tastes

Of course, there’s a whole new generation of chocolatiers emerging to keep up with the demand for Belgium’s fine confectionary. These include chocolate maker extraordinaire Dominique Persoone, who has become famous throughout Europe for his delectable concoctions, which are often as outrageous as they are delicious. He worked under legendary Belgian chocolatiers Pierre Hermé and Pascal Brunstein, and founded "The Chocolate Line" in 1992, an old-fashioned chocolate store that gives no hint of its uniqueness. Inside one finds carefully crafted chocolates to delight, some traditional (the hazelnut is sublime) but others that defy chocolate heaven, as they include anything from wasabi and tequila to bacon.

 

Somehow Persoone manages to balance the flavors and create a taste sensation – he is, after all, an innovator. And he’s obviously doing something right, because he has stores in both Brussels and Antwerp, and his concoctions are sold to top restaurants in Holland as well as Belgium.

 

Persoone calls himself a ‘shock-a-latier’. He sells everything from chocolate lipstick and chocolate paint to floating helium mousse. He once even designed a chocolate dress for Miss Belgium.