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For Chocolate Lovers only
 
Chocolate cake


JUNE 2001
RECIPES



Special Section:
Where to Stay and Eat in Luxembourg and Belgium

Cheesecake Bars

"Everything" Chocolate Chunk Cookie


White Chocolate-Key Lime Mousse

Boston Cream Pie (for my Dad)



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Hi! My name is Stephanie Zonis, and welcome to the June, 2001 edition of "For Chocolate Lovers Only". Each month, you'll find recipes, tips, and recommendations on chocolate specialties. Happy Father's Day to all of you Dads out there!

Special Section:
Where to Stay and Eat in Luxembourg and Belgium:

First off, I cannot reproduce any French punctuation marks on my computer, so please forgive their omission! Some notes on restaurants in Luxembourg and Belgium: many close Sunday and/or Monday, for at least part of the day. Additionally, many are open only for specific periods for lunch and dinner, but are closed for the remainder of the day; where this is the case, opening time for dinner is often 7 pm or later. Portions tend to be vast, even for something like a salad, and "low fat" is emphatically not the Belgian way! It is incredibly helpful to be able to speak even a little bit of French in Luxembourg and in many Belgian cities, especially if your vocabulary extends to food. If you have a serious problem with cigarette smoke, make certain you ask in advance about a non-smoking section. Some places don't have them at all; in others, the "section" is merely a row of tables directly adjacent to the smoking area. Service is usually more leisurely than in American restaurants; many Europeans tend to linger over their meals. Not all places accept credit cards, so be prepared.

Luxembourg (all establishments are in Luxembourg City):
--Le Chatelet (aka Auberge le Chatelet). Boulevard de la Petrusse 2. Phone: 352 40 21 01. A pleasant 10 to 15 minute walk from both the old city center and the train station, this hotel is along a residential street. My room was the largest single I have ever seen (I have been in smaller studio apartments in New York City). Very comfortable and quiet, with a nice staff. Breakfasts, included in the room rate, are buffet-style, extremely generous, and very good.

--Chiggeri. Rue du nord 15. Phone: 352 22 99 36. I ate in the downstairs bar/café here, as the restaurant was closed for lunch on Saturday. My Tartiflette de Reblochon was an enormous portion of a gratinee of onions, potatoes, cream, and Reblochon (an excellent cheese), so hot it was still bubbling when it arrived at my table. Several kinds of cured, sliced meats and whole grain bread were served with the dish, which was incredibly rich but very tasty.

--Pastry:
Nobody warned me before I went to Luxembourg that the country is very famous for pastry. A large number of patisseries are here; many have branches that can be easily found by strolling through the various streets that make up the place d'Armes. The best shops I found were Namur and Oberweis. An der Bakens was also good, as was Cam. Grandjean. I thought much less of Kaempff-Kohler and Arens Scheer. I was unable to try both Wenge and Table du Pain. Note also that it is not uncommon for these patisseries to also have their own lines of chocolates.


Belgium (all establishments are in Brussels):
Hotels:
--Arlequin. Rue de la Fourche 17-19; phone: 02 514 16 15. I stayed here for only one night, as a result of a 24 hour work stoppage by train employees that meant I couldn't get to Luxembourg for a day after landing at the Brussels Airport. The location, just a short walk off the Grand-Place, is terrific, and the staff is attentive and helpful. My single was quite modest, but fine for a one-night stay, and this hotel is far less expensive than many in the area.

--Hotel Welcome. Rue du Peuplier 5; phone: 02 219 95 46. This tiny hotel is written up in most guidebooks. I am quite likely the only person who has ever had a problem with this place, but the problem was serious enough that I only stayed for one night. When I arrived, my room was not ready. This was not the fault of the proprietors in the least; the electricians and phone company workers supposed to show up that day had not done so. As a result, I was put into an annex across the street, half of a duplex. This arrangement was only to be for one night, as the place had no phone. The annex was beautiful and quite large, but the hot water had quit by 10:30 pm (the pilot light for the water heater had gone out, and one of the proprietors had to come over to re-light it). Worse still, when I tried to sleep that night, street noise kept me awake until after 3 am. I was promised another room in the main hotel the next day, but that room faced a similar sidestreet off the same plaza, and I wasn't about to wait around to see if the overdue workers were going to show up so that the new room would have electricity and a working phone. To her credit, the desk clerk that morning helped me find another hotel and promised that my bags would be sent over to the new place. Unhappily, it took Hotel Welcome over 4-1/2 hours (and three requests from me) to get my bags to my new room, which was all of a 7 minute walk away from them.

--Atlas. Rue du Vieux Marche-aux-Grains 30; phone: 02 502 60 06. I was immensely pleased with this hotel. For starters, they took me with no notice at all when I had a problem at Hotel Welcome. The front-desk staff answered my innumerable questions patiently and politely, and they were always genial. The location is wonderful: less than a 10 minute walk to the Grand-Place, about a 7 minute walk from the nearest metro stop, and close to many restaurants. My room, which faced an inner courtyard, was very quiet and comfortable. Though a single, it was large enough for a double or queen bed (not sure which), a minibar with television on top, two nightstands, two plush chairs, a desk, and a small separate area with a bathroom on one side and a closet on the other. Breakfasts, included in the room rate, were good and plentiful. In addition, I was given a substantially discounted room rate for a long stay, even though I had not reserved in advance.

Restaurants:
Here I must apologize to you. I had meant to try as many good-sounding restaurants in Brussels as was possible. But I made so many day trips to other cities; after a long day of sightseeing (and trying chocolate), it was usually all I could do to go out to dinner in the immediate area of the Atlas Hotel. Anyway, here's what I found…

--La Truite d'Argent. Quai au Bois a Bruler 23; phone: 02 219 95 46. A small but rather elegant establishment; I would recommend advance reservations during tourist season or on a weekend. The food ranges from good to excellent. I particularly enjoyed the delicious magret du canard fumee and the assortment of red fruits served with ice cream. Service can become increasingly brusque as the place fills up.

--Au The du Pekin. Rue de la Vierge Noire 16-24; phone: 02 513 46 42. Just on the outskirts of the Asian quarter of Brussels. Brisk but not unpleasant service and a large menu from which to choose. I can recommend the noodle soup with roasted duck--an large bowl of broth containing good-sized chunks of duck, thin noodles, and greens.

--Le Paon Royale. Rue du Vieux Marche-aux-grains 6; phone 02 513 08 68. A terrific little neighborhood café. Unlike many more formal restaurants, this place is open many hours daily from Tuesday through Saturday (closed Sunday and Monday). The interior can be smoky, but the food is solidly good and portions are large. The salade du marche was a huge plate of several kinds of lettuce, endive, tomatoes, cucumbers, hard-boiled egg sections, carrots, olives, and sprouts that looked as if it had been put together mere moments before it came to my table. Decent frites, too. If you're in luck and it's not too crowded, maybe the house dog will come out to meet you. In nice weather, tables are often put up on the adjoining Place Ste. Catherine.

--Bonsoir Clara. Rue Antoine Dansaert 22; phone: 02 502 09 90. This establishment served the best food I had in Brussels, period. A generous nonsmoking section with adequate ventilation, and the fact that the place is open every day for lunch and dinner, are real pluses. Definitely more expensive than some, and probably not the best place for kids. The interior is sleek and modern, but not jarringly so. What to order? Croquettes aux legumes et herbes (vegetable croquettes with very creamy interiors), ravioli de canard et Parme consomme aux champignons des bois (a broth of wild mushrooms with three duck-and-prosciutto filled ravioli), or langoustines aux poireaux au beurre de l'orange et la vanille (langoustines in clever leek "bundles" in a delicious orange and vanilla butter sauce with crisp fried leeks or shallots atop) are all good bets. For dessert, try the mango and coconut mousse. Portions are actually human-sized here. Textural contrast, creativity, and presentation are important to the chef, but seldom at the expense of taste. Good service, too. Reservations would be a good idea if you go during high tourist season or on a weekend.

--Cremerie de Linkebeek. Rue du Vieux Marche-aux-grains 4; phone: 02 512 35 10, between the Eglise Ste. Catherine and the Atlas Hotel. Stand with your back facing the opening of the church, and this place will be up the street on your left. This isn't really a restaurant at all. It's a cheese/sandwich shop, though you can also buy wine and a few other dairy products there. The outstanding sandwiches are sold to go; select one already made up or create your own. Inexpensive and a perfect lunch or take-along food if you're out seeing the sights. As of this writing, open Monday through Saturday--but only until 6 pm.

--Le Pain Quotidien. Rue Antoine Dansaert 16 and other locations. More of a tearoom than a restaurant, this chain nonetheless features breads, pastries, beverages, etc. of good quality and a few tables at which to enjoy your purchases (or, you can take them out). Open daily.

--Dandoy. Rue au Beurre 31; phone: 02 511 81 76. OK, it's not a restaurant, but a bakery/tearoom/patisserie. It's in a very touristy area, too--just off the Grand-Place. But the gaufres, or sweetened waffles with many choices of topping, are the best I had in the country--and I tried them almost everywhere I went. Dynamite speculaas cookies, and beautiful-looking ice creams, too, and you can buy all three to take out. I never got to the tearoom upstairs, alas.

--Restaurant I Most Wanted to Get to but Couldn't:
La Domaine d'Lhintillac.
Rue de Flandres 25; phone: 02 511 51 23. All duck, all the time. With the exception of desserts and drinks, everything served here contains some form of duck. This is a small restaurant, closed Sunday and Monday. It opens for dinner at 7:30 pm. An appealing, if limited, menu. No credit cards accepted.

--Not Recommended: La Rose Blanche/De Witte Roos, I Latini and Le Petit Chou de Bruxelles. With so many choices in Brussels, you can find better food elsewhere.

Chocolate in Belgium:
Here's where things become dangerous. For fun, I looked in the Brussels phone book under "Chocolatiers"; 81 different names were listed. This country is obsessed with chocolate. I couldn't get to every chocolatier in the country by a long shot, but I did the best I could. It is difficult to find really bad chocolate anywhere in Belgium, but some places are better than others.
Where to start? First of all, I'd suggest scratching any large chains off your list. Their chocolate isn't terrible, but you can do better, and I prefer supporting small, artisanal producers. Their products are almost always fresher and more interesting, and, without concerns about extended shelf-life, they can create chocolates impossible for the big companies to reproduce. The biggest three chains in Belgium are Godiva, Neuhaus, and Leonidas. Others include Corne Port-Royal, Corne Toison D'Or, Ovidias, and Moeder Babelutte. Even smaller chains, such as Temmerman, Daskalides, and the like, have better chocolates in my opinion.
I enjoy fresh cream chocolates more than any other kind (in stores, they are labelled as "fresh cream" or with the words "avec la crème fraiche" (crème fraiche has a different meaning in the US)). Be advised that these must be refrigerated and they do not keep for more than a few days. Most manufacturers carry a few fresh cream chocolates at any given time, but the greater part of their wares will not contain fresh cream and therefore can be kept for a couple of weeks. When you go to buy chocolates, unless you want a box, most shops do not have minimum weight requirements; you can buy as little as one or two pieces. This is a great system, because it enables you to try the products of many different chocolate "houses" to find out what you like best. If you are buying by the box, you needn't take something prepackaged. You can pick out whatever you like to fill it. If you prefer all dark chocolates, or don't like marzipan centers, specify this; clerks are very good about these requests. Don't be afraid to ask what's in the centers of chocolates. Some boutiques do not label their chocolates, so you won't know what's inside if you don't inquire.
Prices are less expensive for fine chocolates in Belgium than they are in the US. The most expensive chocolates I saw were about $35.00 per pound; you could pay a lot more than that here. Chocolates make a great gift to bring home, but you ought to purchase them as close to your departure as possible and keep them in a cool, dry place until you leave. I also recommend packing them into your carry-on bag, as they are less likely to be squashed, melted, or otherwise damaged if you do.
Speed, long shelf-life, and mass-production are not the objectives of reputable Belgian chocolatiers. Good chocolates require time and top-quality ingredients, and these chocolates are meant to be savored, perhaps with a cup of tea on a sunny afternoon in the central plaza of the city you're visiting that day. Note that many patisseries and tearooms also carry chocolates; some are their own make, and some are not. Again, if you want to try their chocolates, ask about this. Many, if not most, of these chocolates are not available outside of Belgium. Some companies supposedly have websites, and those are listed, but I have not always found the sites where they're supposed to be. Houses of which I am particularly fond are denoted with an asterisk (*).

Brussels:
--Planete Chocolat. Rue du Lombard 24; phone: 02 511 07 55. Website: www.planetechocolat.be. The most original shapes I saw in Belgium. This is a tearoom and a chocolaterie. The pastries are OK, but not great, but the chocolates are quite good. As you're choosing your chocolates, a large guide on the wall to your right will help you determine the fillings in each piece.

--*Le Chocolatier Manon. Chausee de Louvain 9A; phone: 02 217 64 09. Though not in a touristy area, this tiny boutique is an easy stroll from the metro stop "Madou". There is a good selection to choose from here. In my opinion, these are some of the best chocolates I have ever tasted anywhere, at any time.

--Wittamer. Place du Grand Sablon 12-13; phone: 02 512 37 42. Another tearoom and chocolaterie, but one of great fame. Often crowded. Good chocolates; I haven't tried their pastry.

--*Pierre Marcolini. Place du Grand Sablon 39; phone: 02 514 12 06. A tiny shop with ice cream treats, chocolates, and preserves, but the real stars here are the individual, drop-dead-gorgeous pastries that line the window every day. Decorating the shop is a statement to the effect that Marcolini is the champion pastry-maker of the world. I dismissed this claim as pretentious-- until I tried one of his miniature-artwork creations. Very good chocolates, very good pastries.

--La Maison du Chocolat Artisanal. Rue Marche-aux-herbes 67; phone: 02 513 78 92. A small shop with some good chocolates just off the Grand-Place. If you go around Easter, look for the little chocolate "rubber duckies"!

--*Mary. Rue Royale 73; phone: 02 217 45 00. If you have finished picking out your selections at Manon (see above), this shop is no more than a 10 minute walk away, even if you get lost. It's not far from the Bruxelles Centrale station, either. A larger boutique than many, and prices here are the most expensive I saw in Belgium, but the chocolates are more than worth it. Many chocolates with liqueur-based centers can be found here, too. Fabulous.


Bruges:
The Tourist Information Bureau printed up a list for me of chocolatiers in this town; there were over 25. Listed below are the ones I found walking around; I do not always have complete contact information for them. Please don't ask me to pronounce any of the Flemish names!

--Dumon. Walstraat 6, phone: 05 034 00 43. Website: www.chocolatierdumon.com.

--*Sukerbuyc. Katelijnestraat 5, phone: 05 033 08 87. You must buy a minimum of 100 grams of chocolate here, but it's well worth doing.

--Tsjokoreeto. Stoofstraat 4, phone: 05 034 25 56.

--*Sweertvaegher. Philipstockstraat 29, phone: 05 033 83 67. This turns out to be a small chain, but I can recommend them unreservedly. Excellent fresh cream chocolates.

--Pralinette. Wollestraat 31B, phone: 05 034 83 83.

--*De Clerck. Academiestraat 19. On a sidestreet a short walk from the Markt. If you continue down Academiestraat, you come to a canal with a number of pretty footbridges crossing it. Buy some of the lovely chocolates here to sustain you as you stroll.

--The Chocolate Line. Simon Stevinplein 19; phone: 05 034 10 90.

--*Van Oost. Wollestraat 11, phone: 05 033 14 54. Excellent fresh cream chocolates.

--Chocoladehuisje. Wollestraat 15, phone: 05 034 02 50.

--Prestige. Vlamingstraat 12-14; phone: 05 661 42 50. I didn't try their chocolates, but this is also a tearoom that serves decent pastry.

--Baeyens. Wollestraat (street number not known, but across the street and close by to both Van Oost and Chocoladehuisje). Again, while I didn't try the chocolates here, this is another tearoom with good pastry.

--Country Girl. Katelijnestraat 44, phone: 05 034 06 17. This isn't a chocolaterie or a tearoom, but if you're looking for a good, fresh sandwich for lunch, head over here. They boast that their sandwiches are the largest in Bruges, and it might just be true.


Antwerp:
--Sinjoorke. Handschoenmarkt 8-10, phone:

--*G. Bastin. Blauwmoezelstraat 3, phone: 03 232 99 25. A tiny boutique with very good chocolates and equally appealing small cookies.

--Da Vinci. Grote Markt 17.

--*Del Rey. Appelmanstraat 5, phone: 03 233 29 37. Website: www.delrey.be. Beautiful pastries, ice cream creations, and petits fours--and, oh, yeah, they have some great chocolates, too! A short walk from the Antwerp Centraal train station. Very well-known, and deservedly so. Their flyer states that there's a tearoom next door, which I didn't see.

--Elisa. At least 2 small stores in Antwerp. One is just off the Grote Markt; the other may be on Hoogstraat.

--*Hans Burie. Korte Gasthuisstraat 3, phone: 03 232 36 88. This is the only chocolaterie in all of Belgium in which I experienced any "attitude" from the staff. Nonetheless, they sell some very fine chocolates.

--Ambachtelijke. On Hoogstraat or Oude Koornmarkt (not sure of the exact address).

--Popoff. Oude Koornmarkt 18, phone: 03 232 00 38. This is a tiny café that serves a decent, if not spectacular, lunch. There were some very nice looking pastries here, too, which I was unable to try because I had eaten so much chocolate that day. Ambachtelijke is very close by.

Ghent:
My timing was not great for seeing Ghent. As I was there on a Sunday, many chocolateries/patisseries were closed.

--Chocolatier Jacqlin. Mageleinstraat 3.

--*Van Hoorbeke L. On the plaza of St. Bavo's Cathedral, very near the Tourist Information Bureau for the city. Stand with your back toward the entrance/exit of the Bureau, and you'll see the place just to your right. I was unable to find out an address, as the staff was somewhat giddy; I visited on only the second day they'd been open, and some of them were still drinking celebratory champagne. Very good chocolates.

--*Damme. Nederkouter 139. This shop had the best pastry I tasted in Belgium, and that's really saying something. They also have their own line of chocolates, but I think the pastry is better.


Mons:
--Le Saint Germain. Grand Place. A café/patisserie/chocolaterie. They sell excellently-reputed chocolate bars from Bonnat, as well as good fresh cream (and other) chocolates and good pastry.


Tournai:
--*Van Hove. Place de Lille 1. Very good chocolates.

--Les Jardins du Chocolat. Place de Lille 10.



Do you have a comment, question or suggestion? I'd like your input into this column. You can reach me at: sdziadwm@nac.net; please specify that you're writing regarding "For Chocolate Lovers Only." Thank you!

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