Chocolate fit for Champagne at Alex & Alex
Alex & Alex is an funny little shop. They sell chocolate and champagne, both indulgent foods that bring happiness. Funny enough, neither of the owners is named Alex; they chose the shop's name because “Alex” is both masculine and feminine, and the interchangeability of the names seemed to suit the happiness that both chocolate and champagne bring. They offer a tasting featuring three flutes of champagne and three chocolates for €21. I liked these little mendiants topped with raisins, dried apricots, pistachios, and almonds.
Hazelnuts galore at La Maison du Chocolate Artisanal
I always visit a little shop called La Maison du Chocolate Artisanal. They always have an interesting assortment of chocolates, and I was particularly impressed with these two nutty little gems: on the left, a chocolate cup filled with hazelnut crème and topped with chopped hazelnuts; on the right, a whole hazelnut enrobed in ganache, dipped in more chocolate, and topped with chopped hazelnuts.
Rue du Marché aux Herbes 67, 1000 Brussels, Belgium (map); +32 2 513 78 92
Housemade truffles at Côte d’Or
European chocolate brand Côte d’Or is what I'd call a premium supermarket brand, sort of like what Grey Poupon is to mustard. In 2008, in honor of the brand’s 125th anniversary, they established this "concept store" in Brussels and it has remained open due to wide popularity. In addition to selling every variety of Côte d’Or chocolates (there are close to 100), they also serve freshly made hot chocolate and prepare fresh truffles topped with all manner of dried fruits and nuts. In the background, you can see one of their chocolatiers spreading warm chocolate on a temperature controlled slab, preparing to place it into the molds.
Speculoos almonds at La Belgique Gourmande
La Belgique Gourmande is a small chain of tourist-oriented sweet shops offering the usual round of Belgian and Belgian-esque chocolates. Rarely is anything in these shops unique. However, this was the only place I spied speculoos almonds. Ever since Lotus launched their Biscoff speculoos spread in Europe and more recently the US, it seems that everything is turning up speculoos. These almonds did not disappoint—they were in fact double dipped, once in what tasted like pure Biscoff and then in the sweet confection that makes up their outer layer.
Pistachio Hearts at Leonidas
The first "grown-up" chocolates I ever bought in New York were from Leonidas on Madison Avenue. I was trying to make a good impression, and boy, did they do the trick. Leonidas started in Belgium, where there are over 350 locations, with over 70 in Brussels. Who can resist a white chocolate heart filled with pistachio cream?
Cognac truffles with almonds at Neuhaus
There are a few Belgian chocolate shops that proliferate, and Neuhaus is one of them. Their shops are everywhere, and locals often pop in to buy just a few pieces to sweeten up their day. I was drawn to these cognac truffles, covered in sliced almonds. The combination of chocolate, cognac, and almonds was intense.
Chocolate peanut bon bons at Passion Chocolates
With the exception of cocktail peanuts at a bar or pub, I rarely find anything peanut-related in most European cities. I nearly knocked over the chocolate display at Passion Chocolates when I saw these peanut-shaped bon bons with a peanut praline center. What a sweet find!
Marzipan menagerie at Patrick Roger
No visit to European sweet shop would be complete without marzipan. France’s Patrick Roger has an outpost in Brussels that features a whole menagerie. The marzipan mouse even comes with a piece of marzipan cheese! If you stop by, be sure to check out the life-sized orangutan sculpted from chocolate that sits in the window.
Walnut-topped walnut-shaped chocolates at Mary
The chocolate shop simply called Mary was founded by Madame Marie Delluc in 1919 and was the first chocolate shop started by a woman in what was then an all-boys club. Mary holds a royal warrant from the Belgian court. Everything there is delicious, and the packaging—featuring original designs from the early 1920s—is beautiful. These walnut-shaped chocolates topped with walnut halves called out to me and were particularly delicious.