Brussels, Belgium - Part 2

Markt Square. Brussels. Belgium

We took the Sandeman’s New Europe free walking tour and were treated to some excellent stories of the city. One of the stories we were told was of the Town Hall in the Grote Market. Town Hall, Brussels. BelgiumThe town hall has two wings built outward from the gate and one is shorter than the other. There is a myth that says that the architect upon seeing this error went to the top of the gate tower and hurled himself to his death. This is a myth, as the building was not a singular construction and the shorter wing is only that way because they ran out of space. The tour took us through many beautiful parts of the city, which like all of Europe has many stories. Our guide was from Scotland and his passion for Brussels was evident in every words he spoke. Every stop along the way he told his stories passionately, enthusing us with a desire to know more of the history of this country and city as well as a little of the Belgium Waffle - There is no such thing.

Brussels. BelgiumWhat is widely understood to be the Belgium Waffle is actually a Brussels Waffle, square with large pockets and dusted with Confectioner’s Sugar. What most people believe to be a Belgium Waffle is actually a variation of this and in Brussels they call it the Tourist Waffle – a Square Waffle covered in Cream, Sugar, Fruit, Nutella, any topping you can think up. There is also a third style available in Brussels, the Liège Waffle, in which there are chunks of sugar on the outside that are caramelised while cooking then served plain or with either cinnamon or vanilla dusting. Fries are a common snack in Brussels, and it is commonly thought that the name French Fries comes from American soldiers in World War 1 believing they were being served the dish in France. Fries are commonly served in cardboard cones and topped with a variety of toppings and served with sauce (of which there a dozens, many of which do not match the same such as the Samurai which has no Japanese flavours at all). There are many places in Belgium that say they have the best fries, but this is highly subjective, and you must make your own decision as to which you find the better.

Brussels. Belgium

Being that Belgium is a chocolate producer renowned the world over, we took a walking chocolate tour with Bravo Discovery to discover some of the boutique outlets and the reason for the notoriety. On the tour we were able to sample a few of these stores but not at all, which I found strange since this was a paid tour. At the start, the Grote Market, we were told the same story of the architect’s suicide before beginning our tasting of chocolate.

Chocolate, Brussels. BelgiumThe first store was Galler, which was the first chocolatier to offer the praline as a bar, revolutionising the industry. Next came Darcis, a young chocolate company that utilises a ganache with no sugar or added flavourings, and offers a range of origin chocolates. We tried a Madagascan chocolate which is a beautiful middle chocolate lightly bitter sweet that our guide described as being the Merlot of the chocolate world. Maisson Dandoy, a boutique cookie manufacturer, followed by a visit to Pierre Ledent next door. Pierre Ledent makes Chocolates and Macrons of seasonal fruit and other exotic flavours. What really sets them apart though is the presentation. Pierre Ledent supply their wares in ornate boxes reminiscent of fine jewellery. Then came Leonidas, the oldest industrial chocolate maker and probably the most widely recognised. Their chocolates are not the premium Belgium chocolate but are still very good and are widely distributed. In the Queen’s Arcade we visited Méert, and tried an old fashioned waffle with a vanilla butter filling made to an original 1851 recipe. Godiva (where we did not receive a sample), which modified their recipes for the US market increasing sugar and fat content. Marcolini (another place we didn’t receive a sample), producing pralines of higher quality but smaller size. Neuhaus (another place we didn’t receive a sample), the original large praline invented by a pharmacist. Mary, supplier to the royal family, and Elizabeth whose chocolates include a variety of herbs and spices that stood out amongst the rest for the ingenuity and variety of flavours.

Chocolate, Brussels. BelgiumChocolate, Brussels. BelgiumChocolate, Brussels. Belgium

The chocolate tour was fascinating and offered some wonderful insights into the history and culture of Belgium Chocolate, as well as the appreciation of chocolate as a whole. What we learned was that the great chocolatiers of Belgium pride themselves on utilising the highest quality chocolate, sourced from across the globe, with only the best ingredients to produce their signature flavours. Many companies state that this is what they do, but when you scale up any manufacture process there is a loss in quality. Many of these boutique chocolatiers have scaled up their operations but only to the point where the quality is still high and so is the price.

Other articles in Belgium:

Brussels, Belgium Part 1

Brussels, Belgium Part 3

Brussels, International Jazz Day


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