Sweet Nothings, Travel

Chocolade Culture

Rows of handmade chocolates at Sweertvaegher Chocolaterie in Kortrijk, Belgium

Now for the moment my chocolate-loving readers have all been waiting for: I give you a post devoted entirely to the sweet treat for which Belgium is most famous…In Dutch it is called “chocolade,” but I think a universal term for it should be “yum.” At first glance, there is not much difference between chocolates in Belgium and the fine chocolates sold in artisan candy shops back in the United States, but oh how deceptive first impressions can be. I learned this lesson most decisively this morning when my fiancé’s friend (a local) pointed me to the Sweertvaegher Chocolaterie, which he talked up as his favorite chocolate shop in all of Belgium. And let me tell you, his talk didn’t even do the place justice. The shop’s muted green awning and sign are easy to miss amidst a bustling town square, but the handmade chocolates inside this hidden gem boast a freshness I’d never experienced in dessert form before. One confection in particular makes my tongue tingle just thinking about it; this delicacy involves whipped-cream encased in dark chocolate and dusted with cocoa powder, and it is only made during winter months to prevent melting. The crunch of the hard chocolate shell sings as it gives way to the heavenly texture combination of powder and foam, making any traveler glad they braved the Belgain winter for this taste-bud pilgrimage. I sampled several other treats from this shop that feature foamy hazelnut fillings, which make me never want to touch a Mars Bar or Godiva bonbon again. There really are not enough words connecting my palate and my pen for me to adequately describe the tastes I experienced here.

Another chocoholic haven I thoroughly enjoyed was Chocolatier Dumon. This shop features progressive candies with unique flavor combinations, such as chocolates flavored with sea salt, chili pepper or flower petals just to name a few, and I had some chocolate-dipped candied oranges from here that were to die for. Dumon also sells hot-cocoa packets the likes of which I’ve never seen; you buy a spoon with a hard cube of chocolate at its end, dip it into hot milk, stir and enjoy. I have one spoon of lavender chocolate and another of salted-caramel chocolate that I can’t wait to plop into mugs of warm milk and trade back and forth with my sweetheart tonight.

Don’t you love all the intricate shapes used in these Sweertvaegher chocolate molds?

Countertop filled with chocolate pralines at Chocolatier Dumon in Kortrijk, Belgium

Makings of hot chocolate from Dumon – just dip the spoon in scalding milk and your sweet beverage will be ready in moments

Psst: Whether you are filling your belly with chocolate or burning the midnight oil on an empty stomach, I hope you stay warm and toasty tonight. I can’t wait to share more sweet details of Belgium with you next week, and I’m even more excited about all the tales I’ll have for you as I travel through Amsterdam over the next eight days. Wishing you a most splendid weekend!

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  • Reply Megan C February 2, 2011 at 5:04 am

    Oh my, this post is making me die for some coco!

  • Reply J. R. Coté February 2, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Yes, Megan, aren’t sights and smells of Belgian chocolate the toughest tests on one’s willpower? 😉

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