On the Chocolate Express in Brussels
Every chocolate lover is sure to have been fascinated by Willy Wonka's spectacular chocolate factory; beautifully visualised in Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Belgium is its equivalent in the real world. When Terry Moore uttered his famous quote, "The chocoholics 12-step programme: Never be more than 12 steps from chocolate!" he was probably talking about Brussels, because here, you're literally never more than 12 steps away from chocolate. To ease your dilemma, we picked three of the most well-known chocolate brands in Brussels to unravel their flavourful journey.
Inventor of the renowned Belgian praline and the widely replicated ballotin box (a box for pralines that protects chocolates better than other packaging), Neuhaus has held its position as Belgium's premier chocolate-makers since 1895. The brand even earned the distinction of Accredited Supplier to the Belgian Crown in 2000 bestowed upon them by Majesty King Albert II. When it comes to chocolates, most would agree: the more, the better!
Neuhaus knows that all too well as they offer more than 70 kinds of chocolates filled with crème fraiche, ganache and pralines, among other fillings. They are also known for two delicious chocolate inventions, the Tentation (toffee filled with coffee ganache and covered in milk chocolate) and Caprice (toffee filled with vanilla fresh cream and covered in dark chocolate). Neuhaus also has special collections every now and then, such as their Tintin Collection, where the packaging reflects the comic book character, or the Lady Chefs Collection that featured nine different pralines created by nine renowned female chefs from across the continent.
As children, we all dream big; but seldom does a child dream of being a chocolatier some day. Italian-born Pierre Marcolini presents one such success story. Raised in Belgium, he knew, even as a child, that chocolate would mould his career. As a teenager, he apprenticed with several pastry chefs, while practising the art of making chocolates, but only gained recognition in 1991, when he earned an award for the Premier Belgian Ice Cream Confectioner.
Creative flavours that include ingredients like pepper, chestnut, sandalwood, oak and earl grey, as well as unusual fruits-like apple, pear, blackcurrant and melon- enveloped in chocolate led to the dramatic rise of Marcolini's popularity. Some of his special treats are: Calin Fondant (chocolate-covered almond flour crisps with Tahitian vanilla and caramel), Baies Roses (a bitter ganache, flavoured with Moroccan pink pepper berries), Au Citron (a bergamot infusion combined with fresh lemon and lime zest) and Caraïbe Grand Cru (a bitter 72 per cent ganache, flavoured with vanilla pods from Madagascar/Tahiti).
The brand Corné was established way back in 1932 by Maurice Corné. But with his success came competition; sadly, in the form of his own siblings. And so, Maurice rechristened his brand Corné Port-Royal to differentiate it in the market. In 1990, the brand was purchased by chocolate-maker Englebert Vanparys; a move that drastically changed the path of the brand and made it available worldwide. In a curious incident, the year 1997 marked the comeback of its original owner Maurice Corné, who bought back the store in Stockel, Brussels. However, there is something that has never changed at Corné: their traditional recipes. More than 50 skilled craftsmen work daily to carefully create these chocolates by hand, using recipes that have been consistently maintained for almost 75 years.
Aside from their range of truffles, pralines, ganaches, giandujas, liquor fillings and marzipan, they also introduced an exclusive range of single-origin chocolates that offer a selection of four different types of cocoa beans from Vanuatu, Uganda, Tanzania, Mexico, Peru and New Guinea. To excite the chocolate lover further, they package it in custom-made boxes depicting distinct symbols of the respective regions. With limited production and unparalleled taste, this is one collection you'd want to get your hands on!