What is worth taking home Belgian or French chocolate?
We will be in Brussels, Brugges, and Paris. What is worth taking home Belgian or French chocolates?
Absolutely Paris. Check out Patrick Roger, Jean Charles Rochoux (amazing sculptures but try his bar of the day), Pierre Marcolini, Jean Paul Hevin, DeBauve & Gallais (chocolate makers to the kings), Jacques Genin (doesn't sell to public but might if you stop by and get lucky), and of course Pierre Herme where you must buy the macarons - salt caramel especially! There are many others but these are the very top. Be prepared to pay!
One approach to walking around Brugges is to stop at EVERY chocolate shop you see and order 1 chocolate each. Our 6 year-old thought this was the best walking tour, ever. It will also give you a chance to decide where to make your big purchase. We missed a few of the shops because we were in Brugges during the height of the 2006 heat wave, and some of the shops had actually shut down due to the heat.
If you want to bring home excellent chocolates that won't destroy your budget, Leonidas is in pretty much every town in Belgium and half the price of other top quality chocolates. It's a particularly good choice if you are bringing chocolates home for people who aren't terribly familiar with high end chocolates. Leonidas will blow them away. I used half pound ballotins of Leonidas as holiday presents around the office and people raved about them.
Every grocery store in Belgium has a selection of good quality chocolate bars at reasonable prices.
Personally, i believe Belgian chocolate (and their beer) is the very best. I agree with PollyG's assessment of Leonidas (try their truffle logs, or fresh cream chocolates - the chestnut filling is wonderful). A lot of others may object, but i particularly like Neuhaus's "Astrid". These are all available around the square in brussels.
I love Mary's Chocolates in Brussels. It's a little hike up a hill from the Grand Place, but definitely worth stretching your legs to reach. There are 70 different choices. They also will ship chocolates home if you would rather not schlep them. Not cheap but then, nothing is in Europe right now. Here's her site:
Leonidas is good, too, but Mary's does not market her chocolates outside Belgium where you can buy many of the others around the world.
In Paris, I am very fond of A la Reine Astrid in the 6th. It is a tiny shop at 24 Rue Cherche Midi. When you walk in the shop, everything is laid out on a long table in front of you. The traditional chocolates are fabu, but their dark chocolate covered anythings -- almonds, candied fruit -- are wonderful, and they have a little set of chocolate tablets that go wonderfully with coffee.
They will fix up little tins for traveling and throw in a handful of candied violets and roses for decor. I thought I had died and gone to chocolate heaven.
This is only in French but it's got a photo of the shop: