Brussels is the city with the world's coolest carousel:
But is its chocolate as good as its carousels? Let's find out!
I started Corné. I like to start with places that i think will set a good bar. While Corné perhaps set the bar lower than La Maison in Paris, it was almost (but not quite) as good as Sprungli in Zurich. I got a truffle and a 77% dark chocolate bonbon, and both were very good. It was my favorite of the mass-produced Belgian chocolates, at the end of the day, and the one I spent my last Euros on at the airport for gifts.
Next stop was Galler, another internationally-distributed, mass-producing chocolatier that has a good reputation. I got an Extreme Chocolate bonbon, and it was legitimately bad. I avoided Galler the rest of the trip.
My next stop was Neuhaus. I have always liked Neuhaus, certainly preferring it to Godiva at that price/availability point. But compared to what I was eating on this trip, it didn't quite hold up. The dark chocolate truffle was edible, but nothing special. The marzipan/hazelnut bonbon was better, but not great. And the speculoos truffle was not too good. Overall, I think maybe their flavored bonbons are a bit better than their pure chocolate ones, which is why the place wasn't really meeting my purist needs.
Ok, having hit up the big, well respected mass producers (I skipped Leonidas and Godiva), I started on the artisanal chocolatiers. Laurent Gerbaud is quite famous. I think he has some connection to the even-more-famous Pierre Marcolini. Not having had any exquisite chocolate all day, we went a bit all out.
The 75% bar was amazing:
It's definitely my favorite Madagascar bar I've ever had. True, I am unnaturally adverse to the origin, but the nibs were the perfect counter to the somewhat citrusy bar. The best comparison I can draw is Scharfen Berger -- most of their bars are too fruity for me, but their Nibby bar is actually quite excellent. This is like that, but a step or two above. A real gem.
I then went through five different single-origin bonbons, and all were excellent. I could see why Gerbaud got his reputation. Each bonbon was chocolatey while still being unique and interesting.
While the piece of dark chocolate they gave me was too fruity, the hot chocolate was great. It was not sweet, and it had a great thickness to it -- thick for drinking chocolate, but not so thick as to be a heavy dessert. That said, it developed the same pudding-film I observed at Angelina if I let it sit for too long. I begin to suspect that this is a sign of an elite hot chocolate.
I then walked into Passion Chocolate, still equipped with my Laurent Gerbaud bag. They gave me a look. I was sort of apologetic but explained my mission. They just looked at me in that Belgian way and said, "Well... you'll see."
And I certainly did. Passion was arguably the top chocolatier in all of Belgium, taking me by complete surprise. The "Double Coeur Noir Bonbon" was exquisite, dark, and super chocolatey. The milk truffle totally blew me away. My notes say, "WOW." It was dark for a milk truffle. It was liquidier than it was creamy, which surprised me. But it was definitely delicious. Finally, the mousse bonbon was delicious, but included some crunchy-textured things that were not quite for me.
But I would be extremely remiss to ignore their 72% Carribean bar with nibs:
When I ate it I basically started exclaiming profanities out loud, in my room alone, because it was so good. This was easily one of the best chocolate bars of any percentage I've ever had.
So, okay. Haughty Belgian chocolatier at Passion Chocolate: you were right. I saw. And I am impressed.
Next stop was Wittamer. If you ask someone in Brussels who makes the best chocolate, I feel like Wittamer is often the answer you get. Wittamer is certainly more available than something like Gerbaud or Passion, but it's not like they were selling boxes of this stuff at the airport.
The summary is that Wittamer was better than something like Sprungli, for sure, and definitely better than Corne, but maybe not as good as something like La Maison.
The bar was excellent, but not too memorable:
The “Wittamer” 70% bonbon was totally excellent. It was super chocolatey, and it could hold its own next to any bonbon at La Maison. The Venazuela bonbon was also very good. It was more complex, but I preferred the Wittamer.
Bottom Line: There are still three more posts on Belgium. We're only halfway done with BRUSSELS. Be patient.