On a recent trip to Brussels, we had a guide to show us the sights. “Avi” proved to be very knowledgeable and entertaining. A history buff , he was a fount of knowledge about Brussels and its growth. When we met him at the Grand Place, he asked us what our particular interests were. We told him that we wanted to see the major sights of Brussels and that we wanted to buy some Belgian chocolates . We were standing outside the Godiva shop in the Grand Place and indicated that we wanted to go there towards the end of the walking tour.
” Godiva !” our guide sneered, ” Godiva is the McDonalds of Belgian chocolates ! They’re only for tourists; no self-respecting Belgian eats them. I will take you to some shops where you will get the best.”
And so, at the end of our tour, we found ourselves making a round of choclatiers in the Galeries Royal Saint Hubert, that magnificent arcade at the heart of Brussels. There were more of them than I could have imagined and their displays were breathtaking: serried ranks of jewel like creations, each one better than the last, and all of them expensive. The three that our guide recommended as the best were Mary, Corne’ Port Royal and Pierre Marcolini. At each of these , our guide was able to get us samples to taste. Some of the other names I recollect were Leonidas, Côte d’Or and Neuhaus. By the way, one well-known brand is Guylian, which sounds Chinese to me. Couldn’t the Belgians have come up with something else?
After looking at all the shops and their creations, we were unable to make up our minds. All of them were so good! How do you choose some over the others ? At the end, to save ourselves the trouble of packing our already full suitcases,we decided to pick up chocolates at the duty-free shop at the airport. The ones we chose were Corne’ Port Royal ( one of Avi’s selections), Neuhaus and Leonidas. We did not get any Godiva or Guylian because both of them are easily available in America.
It’s been over a month since we were in Brussels and the chocolates are almost all gone. I can’t say that one of them was better than the others. Perhaps true connoisseurs can make out subtle differences in chocolate brands but , for ordinary folk, they’re all equally good and it makes sense to get the ones that are on sale.
I read that Belgian chocolates are second only to the Swiss. I’m going to have to find out for myself. These were all so good that I cannot imagine anything better.