When I was in Belgium I discovered three goodies that could not possibly taste better elsewhere: beer, waffles and chocolate. For this post, I will focus on the latter because I am in love with milk chocolate! I grew up munching on Hershey bars, 100 Grand Bars, Twixes, etc. without even thinking twice about which brand I preferred until I had a taste of my first Cadbury bar in London. Gosh, that milky richness just melted into a smooth river of chocolate! Thankfully, I found that World Market sells authentic Cadbury bars in the US (make sure it says on the labeling that it is made in the UK since the ones produced in the US taste different!)!!!
Little did I know that I would soon discover the source of bliss on a short trip to Brussels: a row of chocolate shops in the main square! How is it that just about everyone there is so slim??? In any case, I had my fair share of some of the best chocolates there. We started with Godiva, the famous chocolate shop that successfully sells itself internationally (Figure 1). Of course I had to try their staple chocolate covered strawberries, but they were not exceptionally better than those in the United States.
Thus, we (my study abroad “family”) walked over to the chocolate shop next door for a more adventurous taste. Galler (Figure 2) is the type of shop to go to for something that is a bit more spiced up than your normal chocolate bar. If you like nuts, fruit or caramel in your chocolate, this is the place to go!
Leonidas, with their eye-catching red boxes, has an overly large selection of unique chocolatey confections (Figure 3) with a focus on pralines. While I was there, I did not find that the place stood out above the other chocolate brands in any way, but the Leonidas shop in Chicago has a wonderful chocolate and espresso tasting that is perfect for a date!
Now, saving the best for last: Neuhaus Chocolates (Figure 4). To this day, Neuhaus chocolates have reigned as my favorite. From their pralines to their truffles to their pure chocolate tablets. Every piece is made with the consumer’s tastes in mind. The pralines are like none I’ve ever had before, and their truffles are a burst of intense yet smooth chocolate. I am not a big fan of dark chocolate, but Neuhaus’ truffles are a must-have, especially their Speculoos truffle (which will make you fall in love with chocolate and Speculoos, a paste that tastes like gingerbread cookies). Because of this truffle, my friend purchased an entire jar of Speculoos which she forgot to check on our flight back to London. So we all stuck our fingers in and had as much as we could before the trashcan ate it (sanitary, I know). Unfortunately, there is not a Neuhaus branch in Chicago, but every time I go to NYC, I come back with a stack of Neuhaus milk chocolate tablets from their shop at Grand Central Station. Although there was the time I discovered the Neuhaus shop in the Prague airport and was able to spend all my leftover Czech Crowns on chocolate!
Even though there is no Neuhaus shop in Chicago (although you could always order online and pay an absurd shipping fee), there is something almost as amazing: a chocolate buffet (Figure 5). My boyfriend Andrew took me to the Chicago Peninsula Hotel’s weekly chocolate buffet (it’s called a chocolate bar just to be classy) for dessert on our first Valentine’s Day. We made the mistake of going to a steakhouse for an entire sampling of meats before dessert. Yet, it was quite the experience, with martini glasses of chocolate, rows and rows of pralines and of course the truffles. It is a bit pricey ($35/person when we went, but the price increase each year), yet worth the romantic experience!
I wrote this post because I had purchased Rick Steve’s Switzerland travel guide (he is my travel idol) for my trip to Zurich, and I had just read his section about Swiss chocolates. Reading it brought all sorts of chocolate memories flooding back into my mind, including those above. What really struck me is that Switzerland is the home of milk chocolate—apparently, a Swiss candle maker started it all by experimenting with milk as an ingredient. So… am I going to discover a new favorite chocolate in less than a month?!
- Get yourself some Cadbury bars, and make sure they are made in the UK.
- Go on a chocolate taste test in the main square of Brussels.
- Make sure you get the Speculoos truffle at Neuhaus.
- If you purchase a jar of Speculoos, make sure you check it with your baggage!
- DO NOT eat a large dinner before the chocolate buffet at the Peninsula.
The rating is for everything above, from the Cadbury bars to chocolate shops in Brussels to the chocolate buffet at the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago. The missing half person is due to the fact that chocolate is, unfortunately, quite pricey so watch your budget as you try out different chocolates!