IT IS NOW 100 YEARS AGO THAT JEAN (II) NEUHAUS INVENTED THE PRALINE IN BRUSSELS.
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 (assortment). For our own use we select the types we like most. My favoured praline types, for example, are the "manons" especially the"manons sucrées" of 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.
“If you are not feeling well, if you have not slept, chocolate will revive you. But you have no chocolate! I think of that again and again! My dear, how will you ever manage?”
— Marquise de Sévigné (1626-1696)
We managed by enjoying chocolates every day.
The House of Wittamer was established in 1910 by Henri Wittamer on Place du Grand-Sablon. Today, Henri’s grandchildren continue his work. Wittamer supplies the Royal Court of Belgium and created the cake for the December 1999 wedding of Prince Philippe to Princess Mathilde. We bought chocolates from Wittmers; what is good enough for Belgian’s royal family is good enough for us.
What to buy: All the chocolates in the place!
What to pay: Whatever the price is pay it! The chocolates are a treat.
“Twill make Old Women Young and Fresh;
Create New Motions of the Flesh.
And cause them long for you know what,
If they but taste of chocolate.”
— from “A History of the Nature and Quality of Chocolate” by James Wadworth (1768-1844)
Pierre Marcolini won the World Chocolate Championship in 1995. Today, three exquisite chocolate shops in Brussels bear his name (Avenue Louise, 75 / 02 538 42 24; Rue des Minimes 1 / 02 514 12 06; and Rue des Minimes 1, Place du Grand Sablon / 32 2 514 1206). In addition, he has outlets in Paris, London, New York, Kuwait and Tokyo and many in Belgium.
It is said at the Brussels-born Mr. Marcolini produces the most expensive chocolates in the world. The pralines that Mr. Marcolini makes include ganaches flavored with exotic teas. This master chocolatier flavors his confections with fruit, such as apple, pear, black current and melon as well as ingredients such as pepper, chestnut, tonka beans and even patchouli, sandalwood and oak.
In addition to chocolates Mr. Marcolini creates a fine line of macaroons, on display at his store in Place du Grand Sablon (see photos).
What to buy: Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate!
What to pay: It is a treat! Pay what is asked.
“Chocolate is a perfect food, as wholesome as it is delicious, a beneficent restorer of exhausted power…it is the best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits.”
— Justus, Baron von Liebig (1803-1873, German chemist)
PERFECTION Chocolate is the best friend of travelers, too. We enjoyed chocolates every day.
Established in 1919 by Madame Marie Delluc, Mary Chocolate has been located along Rue Royal since its founding. In 1942, under Léopold III, King of the Belgians, this chocolatier, housed in a delightful Rococo-decorated shop, was awarded a Royal Warrant (see photo #2) to supply Belgian’s royal family with chocolates.
What to buy: Chocolates! Chocolates! Chocolates!
What to pay: Whatever you pay, it will be well worth it.
“The superiority of chocolate, both for health and nourishment, will soon give it the same preference over tea and coffee in America which it has in Spain.”
— Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Le Chocolatier Manon, located at rue du Congrès, 24, specializes in handmade, hand-molded and hand-dipped chocolates. Each piece of chocolate is created as it were a jewel! Experts consider the chocolates sold by Manon the best in Belgium.
Le Chocolatier Manon has received First Prize at Fancy Food Shows in New York, 1982 and 1993; in Chicago, 1988; in Atlanta, 1989 and in Brussels, 1995.
It is possible to tour the factory of le chocolatier Manon at Jette, Brussels.
What to buy: Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate!
What to pay: The chocolates are well worth the prices charged.
This year is the centennial of Belgian chocolates beginning to be regarded as among the finest chocolates in the world.
Belgium produces a dreamy 220,000 tonnes of chocolate per year. Its unmatched reputation for sublime chocolate derives from the silky smooth texture created by extended conching (stirring) during the production process, and from the use of pure cocoa butter. The turning point for Belgian chocolate came in 1912, when pralines (filled chocolates) were born in Brussels. On that city’s magnificent Grand Place, La Maison des Maîtres Chocolatiers Belges unites 10 of the country’s choco-craftsmen in an upmarket boutique that also offers demonstrations in English (and the all-important taste-tests) at 4pm Saturday and Sunday.
Also stop by a Pierre Marcolini store. His innovative chocolate creations are a top choice for Belgium’s wealthy and fashion conscious.
What to pay: Too much
A manufacturer of premium chocolate GODIVA CHOCOLATIER was founded in Belgium in 1926 by Joseph Draps, who opened his first boutique in the Grand Place in Brussels. Godiva also sells truffles, coffee, cocoa. biscuits and ice cream.
Godiva operates more than 450 retail boutiques in the U.S. Canada, Europe and Asia.
Godiva's signature package is the gold ballotin (french for "small, elegant box of chocolates).
IanGrace's husband Werner, surprised me with a box of Godiva Chocolates. Thank you Werner that was so sweet and thoughtful of you. The picture here is courtesy of IanGrace, used with her permission.
Founded in Brussels in 1857 by Jean Neuhaus, NEUHAUS CHOCOLATIER makes luxury Belgian Chocolates, biscuits and ice cream. Jean Neuhaus opened his first store in the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. The pics shown here are of the shop in the Galeries.
Today, Neuhaus has over 1,000 stores in 40 countries. All Neuhaus products are still made in Viezenbeek, near Brussels and are exported worldwide.
Around the Manneken Pis there's a lively chocolat business. Several shops rival displaying the most inviting chocolat candies, some of them with fruits. It's difficult to resist, and more difficult to choose the right shop.
Skip this area if you're in a diet!
The shop is very small and quaint and filled with the most wonderful handmade chocolates you could imagine. The shop keeper was very friendly and helpful. It is located just one street over from the Grand Place. We visited many chocolate shops in the area. None compared to this one. La maison du chocolate artisanal is our very favorite.
What to buy: This chocolate shop offers the best pralines in Belgium.
De Sadeleer Lucas Chocolaterie is just meters away from the famous statue of Mannekenpiss.
It is also a patisserie, glacerie and salon de degustation. they call themselves the artistic chocolatier in the area of St Jacques. Its open all days from 10-18, till 20 Thursday and Friday and till 22 on the weekends. Its closed on Wednesday. This place really offers a wide variety of choice. Packages are from 8, 16 and 32 euros which I find extremly steep. However,that is pretty much the average price for hand made chocolates. Your alternative is Cote D Or which you can also probably find in your local supermarket at home, just like Guylain.
What to buy: Praline
I had bought chocolates in Brugge for my self and gifts for friends. Passing the Neuhaus on our last afternoon in the city I could not resist the hand dipped fresh strawberries which were tempting my taste buds through the window. Ah heavenly to eat in the sunshine and save one box to bring home. I couldn't buy the flowers from the market as I had seen this two days previously. The flower market is on Tuesdays and Sundays 8.00 - 18.00. The rest of my shopping was the usual way I like to shop = just window shopping, I did like the Easter theme of their window dressing. My last shopping errand was to buy my favourite thing from trips = postcards, I can never have enough but can't quite work out what to do with them!
What to buy: Oh Chocolates of course so many chocolate shops with so much choice;
What to pay: Depends on how many chocolates you buy all the handmade chocolates are priced as single so they can add up to be expensive.
I didn't buy any chocolates here, i wanted to check out this shop because i heard a lof of it. They pralines looked delicous, the price is to probably LOL. They also deliver for the royal family. I only remember the icecream was 2,50 for 100grams !!!
What to buy: chocolate !!!!
What to pay: a lot of money
To say I don't like chocolate is a bit of an understatement. However, even I can spot chocolate class when I see it. Wittamer is a real Brussels institutions: its shocking pink trademark packaging being as sought after as the contents.
As if the content of the shop weren't enough, you should just see the window displays! They are very tipical. In the photo you see a detail from their 2004 Valentines Day display. I've seen the World Cup tournament in chocolate, Louis Vuitton in chocolate, Jacques Brel in chocolate... kids just love it.
What to buy: And what contents, what a spectacle... I'm afraid that my powers of expression cannot do justice to the Wittamer wonderland, so I let them speak for themselves. Ths following is taken from their website:
The Wittamer constellation speaks all languages of celebration and good taste, interpreted in inspired boxes of delicacies - chocolates, almond paste, marrons glacés, natural fruit paste sweets, jams and jellies, caviar, champagne and the finest Clarets.
What to pay: Their prices start from a couple of euros for small decorative marzipans, up to around €35 for 1kg of chocolates.
For all you armchair travellers and virtual tourists out there, they even do mail order! here is a selection of prices - these include DHL delivery to Belgium: more information on the website below for other arrangements:
Mini-box G 5.50€
Box, 300 G 12.90€
Box, 500 G 21.50€
Box, 750 G 32.25€
Box, 1 KG 43€
When Pierre Marcolini decided to open his flagship chocolate shop right across the road from the ultimate chocolate artist, Wittamer, it was generally felt to have been a very bold decision. However time has shown that there is space and custom for 2 fine chocolatiers on the Sablon.
Pierre Marcolini specialises in elegant creations with high cocoa content. He is a world champion patissier.
When his shop first opened in the Sabon, there was a fountain of chocolate (I couldn't even get through the door because the smell made me feel unwell). It's no longer there, but while it was people could help themselves with the aid of spoons!
The website is a complete tribute to the cocolatier's trade.
What to buy: Vakes, pralines and other chocolate products. Taste, quality and elegance are the trademarks, as much with the packaging as with the products themselves.
Easter eggs to die for if you happen to be in town aat that time. Othewise, beautifully presented selections of chocolates.
What to pay: More expensive than other chocolatiers in brussels... up to €45 for 1kg.