Like Ashleigh and Marie, my friend Jacqueline is a seasoned overseas traveler as well as an accomplished artist, businesswoman, parent and translator who has kindly taken pity on me and brought back some Belgian chocolate she considered a standout during her holiday there.
It looked like a beautifully wrapped gift that’s often seen on American TV but not in my real life until it slowly revealed itself to be in a much plainer box – not that it’s what’s on the outside that counts.
There were three layers of chocolates inside; a very generous selection of white, milk (28% cocoa solids), dark (52%) and bitter (77%). This thin cardboard box was looking more like a treasure chest to my greedy eyes.
And yet… and yet, even after eating at least eight of them, I found them a bit ‘sameish’, for want of a better descriptor. Just to clarify this, I kept eating a few more the next day and the day after that to see if I could pinpoint why my reaction was such a fussy one – I’m nothing if not persistent about such important matters.
The conclusion I reached was that the chocolate itself was clearly very good but the flavour combinations didn’t provide any revelations or surprises. Sure it’s obvious that the Belgians love themselves a hazelnut or two but to be honest, there’s a limit to how many permutations a chocolatier can come up with. The examples I tried included Praline With A Whole Hazelnut (done with white, milk and dark chocolates), Crunchy Hazelnut Praline, Ganache and Praline (milk and dark), Praline With Honey and Smooth Hazelnut Praline. Adding some walnut or almond praline chocolates just reinforced the same-sameness of the experience. Even having a couple of coffee and praline fillings didn’t work as a flavour departure.
The one chocolate I had that really stood out was ‘Knossos’, a dark chocolate with a distinct and deliciously complementary flavour of tea within the ganache inside. This really could be in a box all on its own. Granted too the selection is based on seasonal availability of ingredients, so it was both tantalizing and disappointing to see Gianjula Orange, Marzipan, Cinnamon Praline and Liquid Butter Caramel listed in the assortment brochure but not found in the box.
Therefore, maybe I’ll keep from announcing an offhand ‘take-em-or-leave-em’ response due to my continued puzzlement as to why hazelnuts are the bees knees in the European chocolate industry and due to not having the more intriguing combinations available.