Chocolate, Waffles & Fries, Brussels
When visiting Brussels try to be kind with the natives. We are a bit depressive as we don't know if our country will still exist at the end of this year.
So avoid upsetting genuine Brusseleirs like me by writing here repeatedly about "fries" or worse 'French fries".
The "frites" (in French) "fritten or frieten" (in Flemish) originate from Belgium. All most serious historical, gastronomical studies agree on this. "French fries" are fake products; they are an infringement of Belgian proprietary rights!
By the way, have you ever heard a Frenchman use the term "French fries" "Frites Françaises"? The French, although well known for their chauvinism, recognize that Belgium is the champion of the frites. In France the nickname for Belgians is … "frites"!
This being said and understood I will explain here how we Belgians prepare our FRITES-FRIETEN.
Potatoes should be of the "Bintje" type. This species exists since a century and was developed in the north of the Netherlands (Friesland).
There are two possibilities for frying: in ox fat ("blanc de boeuf" "ossewit") or in groundnut ("arachide") oil. The (white) ox fat is generally used in the shops and restaurants. The oil is often used at home (can be filtered when cold). It is essential to renew frequently the fat or oil in order to avoid the occurrence of carbonised particles and the chemical degradation of the fat or oil by the heating at high temperature. In Belgium there is a regulation concerning the choice and use of the frying fat. A two phase process at different temperatures is essential. A first cooking at a fat or oil temperature of 150°-160 C for some minutes. This first stage takes the water out of the potato, then immersion at a higher temperature of 180-190°C to get the frites crusty.
Is that enough to have good frites? Absolutely not! Belgian expertise is needed otherwise you have french fries, english chips, american, spanish, italian, greek more or less fried potatoes but no "frites".
Genuine Belgians use the word PRALINES for what is called "chocolates" by tourists. If outside the touristic centres you ask for chocolate you will get a bar of chocolate.
The production of pralines in Belgium is now in hands of a number of companies who have industrialized the process what does, fortunately, not mean that quality has diminished. These larger companies have oriented their production to the export making of the Belgian pralines a luxury export product of world wide fame. There are also a good number of artisanal workshops. Belgians consider that brands like Neuhaus, Godiva, Corné are the better ones at least among the big producers. Leonidas is lower in rank but also in price. When a Belgian offers pralines, he will buy the better rated ones, but for his own use he might take the Leonidas because the difference in price is wider than the difference in quality. When offering pralines we usually buy a "ballotin" (box) of 500 or 750 gr. mixed ("assortiment"). For our own use we select the types we like most. My favoured praline types, for example, are the "manons" especially the "manons sucrées" from Neuhaus. I prefer to stay with the traditional Belgian taste of the pralines so that a Marcolini is not on my list.
What is remarkable with Belgian pralines is the significant price increase as soon as they cross the Belgian border. Worst increase of price is when they are sold at luxury shops like Harrods in London. Multiplication by 2.5 of the Belgian price. I can understand that the poor Londoners buy Belgian pralines at Harrods by only one or two pieces at the time! Therefore, when you leave Belgium buy some kilos at the Brussels airport. There are good shops with a large variety of the best pralines.
A price idea: 40 - 50 €/kg.
Are pralines good or bad for health? They are certainly good for the moral, they induce a euphoric feeling. Some addiction to pralines has been reported. I am one of these praline addicts.
Of course, you can't leave Brussels without bringing a "ballotin" of "pralines".
How do you tell which one is good? A quality chocolate at a reasonnable price is Leonidas. Made with fresh ingredients, they have to be eaten quickly. You can find Leonidas stores all over Brussels. There's one near Grand-Place and one on Boulevard Anspach, between Place de Brouckere and the Bourse.
Warning: Belgians often bring chocolate as a gift for a party, a birthday... any occasions really. DON'T bring Leonidas (unless it's for the kids) as you will be regarded as being a cheapstake.
The one that started it all was Neuhaus. Mr. Neuhaus, son of a Swiss immigrant, started the whole Belgian Chocolate craze in the 19th century. His first store was, and still is, in the Galleries St-Hubert. Mrs Neuhaus deserves credits to have invented the "ballotin", that characteristical little box to keep your chocolate. Neuhaus is still top notch.
Godiva is now exporting itself quite well (see your local department store like Marshall Fields or Macy's) or your local coffee-shop. The flagship store on the Grand'Place is a little chocolate heaven... yummy but really overpriced, I think!
Amongst the newcomers (and expensive) in the Belgian chocolate worls is Pierre Marcolini. I never had the opportunity to try it but I heard it quickly became one of the most sought after brand. His chocolates with subtles mixes and unusual flavours would be best suited for real chocoholics who know what they're about to taste.
He has a shop on Place du Grand Sablon, 39 and also one on Avenue Louise, 75M.
Galler is the brand prized by the royal court. Its specialty is chocolate bars (coconut filled white chocolate, champagne filled dark chocolate...). The main store is located off Grand'Place (Rue au Beurre 44) but you can find the bars at most grocery stores. They also make "Langue de Chat", a special chocolate designed after one of Belgium's most beloved comic-strip cat :Philippe Geluck's Le Chat.
Everyone knows before they travel to Brussels they will be swamped with the choice of chocolate. We purchased small amounts from a variety of shops on most days and found it all to be of good quality.
By purchasing small quantities on a daily basis we never over indulged and had tummy ache. The chocolate is so smooth and rich you do not need much to be satisfied.The presentation in the shops is very attractive and you can always see people window shopping or tasting the free samples.
We thought the chocolate shops in Galeries St-Hubert were excellent.
When in Belgium, make sure you try out their chocolates! Did you know that this country produces 172,000 tons of chocolate per year?
The quality of the ingredients is maintained by adhering to Old World manufacturing techniques – with chocolates being made by hand in small chocolate stores using the original equipment.
Even in the 18th century, Belgian chocolate was popular. But then in 1912, Jean Neuhaus created a process that made the chocolate even more popular! He created the “pralines” or “couverteur” (cold shell).
These pralines can be filled with flavoured nougats in wonderful coffee, hazelnuit or fruit flavors. Leonidas, Neuhaus, Godiva and Nirvana arethe contemporary companies famous for their gourmet pralines.
So, indulge! I and my daughter are guilty of being CHOCOHOLICS!!!
Everywhere in the city you'll find chocolate shops. There's chocolate and pralines for every taste. You should try out different sorts.
The chocolate shops around the Grand' Place are open until 9.00 or 10.00 pm.
In Belgium they produce 172.000 tons of chocolate a year and there are about 2.000 chocolate shops :-). Every town and even small villages have chocolate stores !
Many chocolatiers make their pralines still by hand.
If you don't want to blow your budget, may I recommend Cote d'Or. It is owned by a Swiss company now but the quality is just as good and they have so many varieties it's hard to choose from (I personally love their Advocaat-filled dark chocolate bar). You can find them in the touristic area at the Delhaize grocery store near the Bourse or at the GB store in the City 2 mall. Don't buy them at the many little stores you see in the centre, they are overpriced. Go to a real grocery store!
There are also a lot of other brands bit unfortunately, I can't comment on them as I have never tried them. Wittamer is quite renowned (shop and cafe both on the Place du Grand Sablon), Mary Chocolatier is on 73, Rue Royale (you can order her pralines online at http://www.marychoc.com/.)! Seems like president Bush went out of his way to get some there when he was in Brussels.
Now... I REALLY need chocolate!
Fondest memory: Relative to chocolate? I was going back home from school and finally decided to stop at Jeff de Bruges on rue de l'Etuve (Manneken Pis' street) and got a bag of butter cream praliné-filled dark chocolate pralines. As it melted in my mouth,I stopped on my track... It was so damn good! I assume I must have had a "gustative orgasm". But to my horror, the store closed and I dscovered that "Jeff" who's said to be from Bruges is in fact from France and they closed all of their stores in Belgium.
Yes, It's very belgian! I myself like waffle so much. Availabe in Belgium whole year round.
2 types of waffle; Brussels waffle and Luik waffle.
Fondest memory: Waffles in different toppings variations like melted warm chocolate, fresh cream, with strawberry ( mostly in summer time), rather plain white powder sugar or brown sugar.
In winter, just enjoy warm waffles in Brussels streets : near Grand-Place area, place de la Monnaie, in several metro stations... I love the smell of the burnt crispy sugar... Mmmmm
Fondest memory: Brussels waffle and chocolate are amongst things I miss when away from Brussels. Personnally, I prefer warm waffles, in winter, without any topping neither fruit in it: gauffres de Liège (Liège waffles), not gauffres de Bruxelles (with toppings and cream ).
It isn't that unusual for us to swap
restaurants for having dessert somewhere else.
That has nothing to do with the restaurant we
are in at that moment. I just don't like to sit
too long or I know something in the neighbourhood
that just sounds better.
After our dinner in 'le p?cheur' I knew such an
address in the 'Baljuwstraat' not far from the
' Le Framboisier Dor!'
Doesn't that sounds great?
One problem , my information seemed to be
a little overtime. The place was closed.
My paper sais 22h and in fact 19h it closes down.
So had to miss out on that great homemade
icecream , waffles , ...
I can't stand that and I didn't wanted to go to
bed without my icecream. Even if it was freezing.
Thank god we found 'Island' ice cream
on the 'waterloolaan' not far from the ugc-cinema.
They had this fantastic Belgian flavours like
-speculoos , pain d'?pices , cookies....
Never give up if you want something
really bad. Always look for an happy ending. hihi
Chocolates and Waffles are most famous from Belgium and guess what I did? I bought 4 different brands of chocolates. It was really tempting, I walked into every chocolate shop and never leave the place empty-handed.
Just walk around the streets and you can find a lot of chocolate shops.
Favorite thing: ...you are pretty much out of luck in much of Europe. This is the land of espresso. Tiny cups of COFFEE. Sure, it's strong, but a few sips does still not a cup make when what you are dying for is your favorite Starbucks mega-mug. So it is a good thing I can tell you about what to expect at Brussels International Airport, COFFEE-wise. You'll find multiple kiosk locations of a smart invention called COFFEE CORNER, excellent for last-minute caffeine fixes. And last-minute waffles. Nice, thick, chewy-and-sugary-crunchy waffles. Enjoy them now, while you can. Mmmmmmm...
Favorite thing: Anyone who likes chocolate should be prepared to buy some here and bring it home, for this is home to the world's finest chocolate. There are countless varieties served in the shops. Most people get a variety of samples to take with them. These chocolates are much fancier than what most people are accustomed to. Many of them are liquor chocolates, so be careful what you are getting if you are buying some for children. Chocolate shops are everywhere. You have the mainstays such as Godiva, however it is good to look at some of the other places as well.
Everyone knows about and has probably tried Belgian Chocolate.
This is got to be the ultimate home of great chocolate. It’s impossible to walk 100m without coming across a chocolate shop selling the most magnificent selection of Chocolate. There are so many options but for me the best has got to go between Leonidas and Neuhaus. To be fair Leonidas has brought Belgian Chocolate far beyond the shores of Belgium. You can get their chocolates almost everywhere including Dublin. The chocolates are beautiful, so I cannot pass one bad word against them. However I cannot get Neuhaus in Dublin and therefore this is the one I went for. Just Magnificent.
Simply one of the best things to come out of Belgium apart from the beers.
Handmade pralines by Wittamer, Nihoul, Neuhaus, Godiva and Leonidas are worth getting as presents for people back home...if they make it that far.