For those who are wondering how on earth one could write three entries in a blog about Belgium and not go into detail on chocolate… Here’s what you’ve been waiting for!
Actually, Belgium rarely gets full credit for some of its best features. Take chocolate for example. Aren’t the Swiss claiming to be the best chocolate makers in the world? Or the French even? But what have they got to show for compared to the Belgians?
True, there are some wellknown Swiss brands, like Suchard and Lindt. And the Swiss invented some machinery for chocolate making.
But Belgium has done so much more with raw cocoa. We own a whole series of globally renowned trade names to start with, such as Côte d’Or, Chocolade Jacques, Callebaut, Godiva, Neuhaus, Leonidas andGuylian.
What’s more: the Belgians came up with the concept of the praline (not to be mistaken for praliné, which is a chocolate filling made with hazelnuts), an individual chocolate bonbon with a filling. As well as its traditional packaging, under the patented name ballotin, which is a rather simple, heavy duty paper box.
Apart from the bigger manufacturers, Belgium boasts hundreds of chocolate artisans. Nearly every self respecting town has its own chocolatier. One of them is Bruges’ supertalent Dominique Persoone who owns two exclusive chocolate boutiques (Bruges and Antwerp). The Chocolate Line is one of only three chocolate shops featured in the prestigious Guide Michelin. He is a member of Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck think tank and works closely with other top chefs such as Ferran Adrià (chef of former 3 Michelin star restaurant El Bulli)
Persoone’s creativity reaches sky high. He created a gimmicky chocolate sniffing device called the Chocolate Shooter for Rolling Stones Ron Wood and Charlie Watts’ birthday party.
Watch the video here (his accent is pretty awful, but who cares, the guy makes great chocolates!):
His first book CACAO – de chocoladeroute (in English: CACAO – the roots of chocolate) was internationally welcomed as best book about chocolate in 2009.
The second one, Shock-o-latier, has a much more extravagant feel to it, featuring somewhat “controversial” photos and being judged too edgy by US and Canadian publishers.
Persoone is a chocolatier and a rock star in his own right. However, he is also a man who takes his business very seriously. He draws on scientific research to look for new flavor combinations and uses only top quality ingredients. Most of us wouldn’t dream of mixing chocolate with bacon, curry or cauliflower. But Persoone’s strange combos work… and are a hit among foodies everywhere.
My personal favorite from the Chocolate Line is Marrakech, a praline filled with white chocolate ganache and fresh mint leaves.
Here are some more Belgian chocolate makers worth checking out on your next visit (or I could also bring some of these goodies on my next overseas trip of course): Chocol@, Pierre Marcolini, Daskalidès
HOT TIP: try googling “chocolatier” and “België/Belgique” and you will find literally one in every city or town!
More on all the best things Belgium has to offer: Three Kisses From Belgium blog