Kriss Harvey, executive pastry chef at The Bazaar by Jose Andres, in Beverly Hills, travels regularly to Europe in search of pastry inspiration. Vienna and Paris are well known for their desserts, but Harvey says Brussels is one of the most underrated cities for chocolate and other sweets. If you have just a day, Harvey suggests wandering Place du Grand Sablon, home to the Magritte Museum, parks, and amazing patisseries. Here, he shares his favorite spots for chocolate, macarons, pralines, and more.
1. La Maison Wittamer
“The classic Brussels patisserie and tea salon, Wittamer has an amazing history of talented apprentices that walked through the doors of the kitchen, including Pierre Hermé. The glass cases are full of modern pastries, macarons, Wittamer chocolates, small sandwiches, quiche, and, of course, the famous Wittamer butter sablé cookies. The quiche is the perfect light lunch before you start eating your way through the neighboring chocolate shops. You may not be able to resist the ultra-light merveilleux, stacked meringues with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.”
2. Patrick Roger Chocolates
“Directly across from La Maison Wittamer is Patrick Roger Chocolates. Even though Roger is a Parisian, his shop is not to be missed. Housed in a former Russian restaurant, Soviet-era murals still hang on the walls and the décor is simple, allowing the chocolate to be the star of the show. His striking ‘Colours’ are a required purchase. These delicately painted half spheres of chocolate have inventive fillings such as honey ganache or a tangy combo of vinegar, grapes, and caramel. The ganache is remarkably tart. His lemon praline is a wonder to taste.”
3. Pierre Marcolini
“Marcolini is the preeminent chocolate maker in all of Belgium. His beautiful shop is filled with stunning chocolates, macarons, and dragées. Marcolini has one huge advantage over other chocolatiers: He makes his own single-origin chocolate from cocoa beans sourced from around the world. You can taste the earthiness of the Maison Grands Crus Brésil chocolate bar. Buy your sweetheart a box of his colorful ‘Love Addict’ pralines (or just keep them for yourself).”
4. Maison Dandoy
“After leaving Marcolini, stroll down the cobblestone street to Maison Dandoy and have a freshly made waffle or choose from the selection of speculoos—mildly spiced biscuit-like cookies—lined up in bowls. A Belgian specialty, speculoos are pressed in hand-cut wooden molds that leave imprints of cats, dogs, or even windmills.”
5. Café du Sablon
“Café du Sablon is the perfect stop before or after visiting the nearby Magritte Museum. The funky coffee house is decorated with mismatched furniture and is known for its excellent small-batch roasted coffee. You’ll rub elbows with university professors, students, musicians, and artists. The large corner window makes for great people-watching as you recharge with a coffee and sweet snack.”
Continue your exploration of Brussels gastronomy with the city’s best fine dining restaurants.
Photos by Connie Hahn.
© 2016 AFAR Media