Belgian chocolate & pralines


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Belgium is one of the biggest producer of chocolate in the world. It is especially famous for its pralines, i.e. chocolate filled with a paste made from hazelnuts or other nuts. Nowadays pralines are filled with all kind of things, especially liquors, coffee, moka, cream, and flavoured pastes (vanilla, orange, lemon, raspberry...).

Pralines were invented by Jean Neuhaus in Brussels in 1857. Belgian praline makers have become very numerous in the 20th century, taking most of the world's pralines and chocolate market. Famous Belgian chocolate brands, such as Godiva, Leonidas, Neuhaus, Galler or Côte d'Or, can now be found all over the world, in airport shops, expensive shopping centers or just anywhere, depending on where you live.

There are hundreds of small praline makers in Belgium who only have one shop. Some have acquired enough notoriety to attract famous foreign visitors, like G.W. Bush who bought in Belgian chocolate at Mary's in Brussels (only one shop).

Others have expanded so much as to open shops on all 5 continents. For instance, Leonidas has branches in over 50 countries, including the Middle East, India and sub-saharan Africa ! It has 350 branches in Belgium alone, and 311 in France.

The Japanese are fervent consumers of Belgian pralines too. In fact several famous companies have branches almost only in Belgium and Japan (e.g. Wittamer, Pierre Marcolini, Debailleuil...)
Here is passage from Bill Bryson's great book Notes from a Big Country (page 306) :

"I remember the first time I tasted European chocolate. It was in the central railway station in Antwerp, on 21 March 1972, my second day in Europe as a young backpacker. While waiting for the train I bought a bar of Belgian chocolate from a station kiosk, tore off a bite and, after a moment of startled delight, began to emit a series of involuntary rapturous noises of an intensity sufficient to draw stares from 20 yards away.
You know how a baby eats a bowl of pudding - with noise and gusto and an alarming amount of gurgly drool? Well, that was me. I couldn't help myself. I didn't know that chocolate could be this good. I didn't know that
anything could be this good."

And that was back in 1972 and just an ordinary chocolate bar, not even pralines ! Belgian chocolate bars have evolved a lot since, not least with new brands like NewTree or Zaabär.

For those who don't know him, Bill Bryson is a leading American travel writer who has spent half of his life in England.
Please never eat chocolate and oranges, I did.
Orange with chocolate is an "acquired" taste. Isn't there some liquor that has that flavor?
two things:

1 - Thank you mr Neuhaus!
2 - I don't know about the liquor but there are cookies like that: Pims from LU
Thanks Maciamo for the info on Belgian pralines. I found it most interesting. I have a sweet tooth (which I have become adept to a greater or lesser degree of controlling).I was wondering if you knew which country has the best chocolate eclaires There is a place called Frankenmuth in Michigan which make the best I have ever tasted. They use Bavarian crème instead of custard and they are by far my favorite.
Kristofkuten, I have on multiple occasions been able to procure Pims from Lu here in the States to my great delight.

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