Tag Archive: chocolate travel


I met Jean Galler, The King’s Chocolatier, at his office in Liège, Belgium and was immediately enamored with his charm and style. And that was before I’d tasted the chocolate of Galler Chocolatier!

Jean Galler proudly introduces us to his finest chocolates

Galler emits passion and excitement in his every word, movement and action. He is without question the most elegant and sophisticated chocolatier on the planet and there was no doubt that he would deliver that passion and elegance in his chocolate creations. We were not disappointed. Galler’s chocolate is complex and multi-faceted. He has something to please everyone with a discerning taste for fine chocolate. He is all about freedom to choose. So from Galler, you can expect a wide variety of chocolates to please virtually any palate.

Galler has been making chocolate since 1976 and in 1993, was the first of Belgium’s chocolatiers to launch a 70% cocoa chocolate in which he found the perfect blend between bitterness and sweetness. In 2008, he launched a series of four blended chocolates. “It is a very similar technique to blending grape varietals for wine such as Bordeaux,” says Galler, whose passion for chocolate focuses on the finest quality.

“Today’s reality is that the consumer wants excellent quality but a small quantity.” So Galler launched a series of mini gourmet chocolate bars that have become extremely popular. He also has a series of products for children.

Jean Galler's playful side shows us his children's line of fine chocolate products

What does chocolate symbolize to the man who makes chocolate for the King of Belgium? “For me, chocolate is freedom. So in the box, I put freedom to choose and to change.” Galler Pure Cocoa has more than 40 chocolate shops around the world, including the Grand Place in Brussels and eight shops in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

In 2008, Galler launched Chocolat-passion, a wine-matching concept in which he employs a sommelier at each of his second-generation shops to help customers purchase just the right wine to enjoy with their chocolate purchases. You will find 32 wines from 22 different countries at Galler’s Chocolat-passion locations, in addition to multi media all about chocolate. What could be sweeter?

Galler also had a tea matching service for his chocolate creations at his Chocolat-Thé locations, at which you can enjoy any of 30 different teas in the traditional way with your Galler chocolates. And a new, third concept for chocolate appreciation can be found at his signature, Liège location. Visit the Chocolat Bar for a chocolate experience you will never forget.

Liège is a short drive from Brussels and is also accessible by train. They have an impressive new train station that I’m told took 13 years to build! The city itself is an industrial hub and more of a place to visit rather than stay.

When you are in Belgium, be sure to visit more than one of Galler’s locations and experience the extent of his creativity and ingenuity. And enjoy the elegant and exotic nature of his chocolates. You will never forget them, just as I will never forget meeting Monsieur Galler.

For those of us on this side of the pond here in North America, Happy National Chocolate Day on October 28th! I’m sure we’ll all be celebrating with a great piece (or two!) of fine chocolate. And as it’s also Champagne Day, you might like to enjoy some champagne with your chocolate!

Please join us back here the week of Nov 7th for our next post.

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I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing I could hop the pond and be in London this week for the celebrations of Chocolate Week. As I’ve previously written on this blog, you will definitely find some of the best chocolate on the planet in the UK.

But as it’s not in the cards for me to make another epic chocolate journey at this particular moment in time, I’ll just reminisce about some of the best chocolate I’ve had the privilege of tasting and introduce you to several of the charming men who are making it in Belgium.

some of the amazing chocolate I brought home from Belgium

A chocolate expedition to Belgium should begin at La Maison des Maitres Chocolatiers, a wonderful shop located right in the Grand Place of Brussels which features the chocolate products of 10 of Belgium’s best.  The idea behind this inspirational place of chocolate is to introduce you to selected offerings from a variety of Belgian chocolatiers, saving you time and effort. If you’ve only got a short amount of time to make your chocolate discoveries, this is the place for you! You’ll see chocolate demonstrations and have the opportunity to taste a selection of chocolate to help you find your favourite.

tasting some succulent drinking chocolate at La Maison

Two of my personal favourites do happen to be represented at La Maison. The chocolates of both Laurent Gerbaud (who has a beautiful new shop in Brussels) and Edouard Bechoux, owner of Les chocolats d’Edouard of Florenville, Belgium can be found at La Maison.

Laurent Gerbaud Chocolatier has a strong connection to Asia, as Laurent lived in China for two years. He takes great pride in the purity of his chocolates, with no added sugar, butter, alcohol or preservatives and offers a terrific selection of exotic fruit such as Egyptian prunes, figs from Turkey and South African apricots that are happily covered in thick dark chocolate.

the very charming, Laurent Gerbaud

Laurent is upbeat and enthusiastic. Edouard Bechoux has more of a reserved nature, but he is equally creative, and started his culinary training at the young age of 14. He spent several years living in Tuscany and brings that influence to the kitchen in his bistro, which by no surprise, serves a lot of chocolate on the menu. I enjoyed beef served with a Ugandan chocolate sauce. It was most delectable!
Edouard also specializes in drinking chocolate and has 17 kinds of hot chocolate, 12 kinds of cool chocolate and 35 desserts for sale in addition to the extensive selection of  fresh chocolates, all made on site.

Edouard Bechoux's creativity with chocolate is sure to please

Please return the week of October 24th, when I will introduce you to Monsieur Galler.

To match the excitement of the fall migration of geese happening here on the Canadian Prairies right now, I thought we’d celebrate with our own migration! I’ll be migrating some of the content from my lifestyle blog over to this blog in order to fill in the blanks regarding my research for Chocolatour, which formally began 2 years ago … in the fall of 2009 … with a trip to Belgium, France and Switzerland.

Rather than repeating those posts (which you can still read over at the Blogger blog,) I’ll update them by giving you choco-centric information that will be a teaser for what you’ll find in Chocolatour: Your Guide to the Faces and Places of Chocolate.

Let’s start with Belgium, and our glorious time in Brussels, Florenville and Liège, Belgium. I visited those three particular cities as they are home to three of Belgium’s finest and most innovative chocolatiers.

the squares in European cities are wonderful, with the Grand Place of Brussels being no exception

I will devote a future blog post to each chocolatier, their products and communities in my top 3 picks for innovative Belgian chocolate. But for this week …

My Top 3 Reasons for Loving Belgium:

1) Chocolate! (But of course!) There are probably more chocolate shops in Belgium than any other place on the planet! In Brussels and Bruges, in particular, you’ll encounter a chocolate boutique every few steps. And the chocolate is amazing. In most cases, it’s handcrafted by local chocolatiers, each with his or her own unique style to entice you. Experiment! Try many and find the right chocolate personality to match your own. Think of it as chocolate dating, and what can be more satisfying than that!

2) The Belgians are really nice. You’ll find most Belgians to be a friendly, helpful people. Try to engage in conversation. Knowing a little French will be helpful, as French is the principal language spoken in Brussels. But you will find the Belgians to be much more humble and accommodating than their French neighbours, making a trip to Belgium pleasant and engaging.

3) Beer! I’m not a big beer drinker, but the Belgians really know their beer, and if you’re fortunate enough to visit during the warm summer months, nothing will refresh you better than a frosty mug of Stella Artois on one of the gorgeous patios!

Please share your own special memories about Belgium. We’re celebrating World Tourism Day today, and I can think of no better way to do so, than to celebrate the attributes of other cultures with our fellow lovers of travel.

See you back here the week of October 10th, when we’ll meet some amazing men of chocolate.

Thanks to everyone for sharing your favourite thoughts and highlights of Montreal. If you haven’t visited the site since the last post was uploaded, please take a moment to check out everyone’s contributions in the “Comments” tab at the beginning of the last post.

This week, as promised, I’d like to focus on the sweeter side of Montreal, the city where Chocolatour  was officially launched back in October of 2009.

There are a plethora of excellent chocolate bistros around the city that not only offer a tempting selection of handmade fresh chocolates to take home, they serve sensuous chocolate creations that can be the main focus of your meal or the perfect ending by way of a make-you-squeal dessert.

I really enjoyed lunch at Juliette & Chocolat located at 377 Laurier Ouest. The atmosphere is perfect for lunch with the girls, and the menu offers some really unique offerings such as the chocolate salad! The Juliette & Chocolat Salad is served with seasonal fruit, and goat cheese with buckwheat crepe slices, topped with a chocolate raspberry vinaigrette. Delicious!

the Juliette & Chocolat Salad comes with a special chocolate raspberry vinaigrette

Juliette & Chocolat is also famous for its drinking chocolate, offering an exotic list of chocolate origins to choose from. This picture of a friend enjoying her drinking chocolate tells the story of complete satisfaction.

savouring one of the amazing drinking chocolates at Juliette et Chocolat

The chocolate selection is lovely, too, and take time to peruse the “Chocolate Bars” on the menu which provide interesting tidbits about chocolate and cocoa around the world. This is truly a place for chocolate lovers!

the selection of fresh chocolates at Juliette et Chocolat is tempting and creative

I also enjoyed chatting with chocolatier, Marlain Jean Philippe, owner of Marlain Chocolatier, located at 21 Cartier in Pointe Claire, a suburb of Montreal. The small shop is located in a historic house and don’t be surprised if you’re welcomed by the ear-to-ear smile of the proprietor when you walk in the door. He is French-trained (in Paris) and carries the designation of Maitre Chocolatier-Confiseur, so you know that he knows his chocolate!  I absolutely loved the Obama chocolates made from soft nougat, pineapple, ginger, coffee beans, almonds and the finest dark chocolate. They had an amazing flavour and texture that I shall always remember.

Marlain Jean Philippe is the creative force behind Marlain Chocolatier

And Marlain doesn’t stop at edible chocolate! He offers an assortment of cocoa-based creams and cosmetics to make your body as smooth and silky as the delectable chocolate he’ll box for you to take home and savour.

There are many other exquisite chocolate shops in Montreal. What are some of your favourites?

Please join us back here the week of September 12th, when we’ll enjoy more taste-tempting travels.

How appropriate that the next post on my chocolate travel blog will come on Chocolate Day! Chocolate truly is the international language of love, as no matter where you go in the world, if you arrive with a fine box of chocolates in hand, you will be well received.

The British certainly love their chocolate, and based on figures detailing chocolate consumption around the world, the Brits are near the top on every list I have seen. And they seem to be willing to spend more on their chocolate, as I have found their chocolate to be quite pricey. But definitely worth it!

In the last post, I introduced you to two of my favourite chocolate masters from the UK. But there are so many more! In our celebration to Chocolate Day, I’ll briefly introduce you to a few more.

I was fortunate to be in London for the launch of Hotel Chocolat’s signature
66% dark chocolate, introduced at their Rabot Estate chocolate boutique in Borough Market in London. I loved exploring Borough Market and meeting Angus Thirlwell, co-owner of Hotel Chocolat and the Rabot Estate. I can’t wait to get to St. Lucia and visit their cacao plantation and chocolate spa that makes Hotel Chocolat stand out as the chicest of chocolate makers.

chocolate tasting at Rabot Estate, Hotel Chocolat's boutique bistro in Borough Market

If you’re looking for chocolate with a feminine flair, then Rococo Chocolates is the place for you. Founded in 1983 by Chantal Coady, Rococo was the first brand of luxury, artisan brand chocolate in the UK and is characterized by the labels and packaging that show off Chantal’s amazing talent as a textile designer.

Chantal Coady, the creative force behind Rococo Chocolates

This is designer chocolate in a soft, subdued fashion, offering 25 flavours of fresh truffles and exotic bars with flavours such as Cardamom, Caramelized Onion and Moroccan Mint. Rococo makes some of its chocolates from cocoa beans grown on their plantation in Grenada.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Paul Wayne Gregory of Paul Wayne Gregory Ltd. How could I not love a guy whose motto is “Indulgence is everything”? Paul is another extremely creative chocolatier with a Caribbean connection. His family hails from Jamaica, and many of his chocolate flavours celebrate tropical treats such as passion fruit (Paul’s personal favourite as well as mine) which took him 18 months to perfect! Yes, Paul admits to being a perfectionist and it shows in his creations. They are simple, yet delectable.

Paul Wayne Gregory's chocolates are simple in design and intense in flavour

This post has introduced you to three more exotic masters of chocolate from the UK. There are many more! I hope you’ll now realize why Britain is leading the Chocolate Revolution and changing the way we make, eat and enjoy chocolate.

Please continue to share your thoughts with everyone here. I love hearing from you! And come back the week of July 18th, when we’ll take our next chocolate journey along the Chocolatour.

The best thing about my job as the author of Chocolatour is that I get to eat an abundance of tremendously wonderful chocolate and that I get to meet a lot of amazing chocolate masters who are generous with their chocolates. That is also the worst thing about my job. Once that chocolate is in my possession it is quickly eaten unless I give it away. But I can’t give it away and still get to eat it (and test it, savour it, review it, write about it.) So there is a bit of a dilemma I have to deal with, in addition to the expanding reach of my waistline. Believe me. I share as much of the chocolate I am exposed to as I can, but for the most part, the tasting, comparing, analyzing and appreciating is mine to do.

It’s wonderful when the chocolate has a shelf-life of at least a few weeks. That gives me time to taste and share while the chocolate is still at full quality. But that’s not always the case.

Some freshly-made chocolates, like the truffles of Paul A. Young of London only have a shelf-life of one week. It is not the kind of chocolate that you can take home and savour for awhile. It pretty much needs to be eaten within a few days of leaving the shop for optimum flavour. And it cannot be frozen and should not be refrigerated. But it’s still worth a trip to one of Paul’s intoxicating London locations, as there are other options that have a slightly longer shelf life and will better survive a journey.

Paul A. Young will be launching his recipe book in New York on November 11/11

Just walking into his shop is worth the visit. You are nearly bowled over by the potent smell of fresh chocolate. All the chocolate sold in the shop is made on site. I mean it when I use the word “intoxicating” to describe Paul’s chocolate — and his brownies! Those brownies are a hybrid that marries deep rich chocolate with salted caramel and pecans. There is absolutely nothing better in my opinion than Paul’s soft, moist dark chocolate brownies. They are individually wrapped and come in squares large enough to satisfy the chocolate cravings of any die-hard chocolaholic.

Every one of Paul’s staff is highly knowledgeable and passionate about chocolate. They are there to help you find the right chocolate creations that are just right for you. And Paul’s chocolate shops are unique in that many of the chocolates are unwrapped and unadulterated.

a visit to a Paul A. Young chocolate shop is truly a captivating experience

They are displayed openly, for you to smell and admire, making the chocolate shopping experience more enriching, personal and satisfying. It truly is intoxicating, and a chocolate experience that no chocolate loving chocolatourist  in London should miss.

I also really loved the chocolate of William Curley. William originally hails from Scotland, and his wife, Suzue, from Japan. This cross-cultural heritage not only makes for an interesting marriage, but an amazing collaborative process in the chocolate lab. You’ll find chocolate with a strong Asian influence, with sake, sesame seeds and mustard providing subtle enhancements to the chocolate.

William’s shop is elegant and inviting. You can linger inside at a few tables, or outside at tables in front of the Belgravia (Westminster District) shop.

I adored the Sea Salt Caramel Mou — dark chocolate covering soft caramel enhanced with a taste of sea salt from Brittany. Absolutely astounding, and not too sweet at all. The chocolate is wonderful, and the caramel, a perfect blend of sweet and salty. All that quality, and a shelf-life of four months makes this a terrific take-home souvenir of your Chocolatour.

William Curley's marzipan mushrooms (on left) are truly divine

Another really unique offering from William Curley are the dark chocolate marzipan mushrooms! They look like exotic mushrooms and are filled with tasty marzipan. William was originally trained as a pastry chef and continues to offer an amazing array of exquisite pastries in addition to his enticing chocolates.

I’ll have more to say about the amazing chocolate revolution that has changed the face of chocolate in London and area in the next post, which you’ll find here during the week of July 4th. Until then, please enjoy surfing the sites of Paul A. Young and William Curley and you’ll see why these are my two favourite men of chocolate in the UK.

Today is my birthday, and without question, the best present anyone can give me is their presence. So later today, I’ll be enjoying the presence of a dozen or so close friends for a little dinner party. (Believe me, if the weather was better, I’d have extended the guest list. But we’ve been having pretty dreadful weather much more than the hot and sunny I love for BBQ parties, so I stuck with the safety of a small group we could sit comfortably indoors.)

Being one who has the good fortune to travel often and quite extensively, I have made many dear friends in other cities, and would like to thank my dear friend, Virginia, of Toronto, for having sent me the best birthday present this chocolate-loving girl could ever hope for: SOMA chocolates. Virginia knows good chocolate as she and I visited three European countries last fall and ate chocolate until we had to resort to storing it in our cheeks because it wouldn’t go down.

some of the amazing chocolates at SOMA

For those of you who have never tasted the ecstasy  known to me as SOMA chocolate, you are truly missing out. It is without doubt, the best Canadian-made chocolate I have ever eaten. I adore their dark chocolate truffles filled with ganache made from poignant flavours such as Douglas Fir tree sap, bergamot, Arbequina Spanish olive oil, 8-year-old balsamic vinegar, and local Canadian whisky.  They are artistically designed and made from cocoa beans roasted and ground right on the premises.

cocoa beans ready to be made into sumptuous chocolate at SOMA chocolatemaker

Virginia was kind enough to send me 2 of SOMA’s delicious mini bars. Just 65 grams each and divided into tiny squares so that those who feel they must practice restraint can easily do so. Unfortunately, SOMA chocolates are best eaten within 10 days of purchase, so I’m just doing my duty in making quick work of it. And yes, my dear chocolate-loving friends, eating chocolate is indeed work for me. I am one of those lucky individuals who LOVES my job!

On my chocolate quest to Toronto this week, I shall be making a trek to SOMA chocolatemaker to indulge in their single origin truffles. It’s been a year since I’ve been to their shop and I’ve eaten truckloads of high-end chocolate from all over the world during that time.

My palette has become much more refined (it’s kind of like drinking wine — you’ve got to keep trying different ones to be able to differentiate between them and to find the ones that you particularly like or don’t like and be able to determine why.)

I’m now ready to put SOMA’s single origin truffles to the test against Norman Love’s BLACK collection. I can’t imagine anything being better than them, but then … I haven’t yet experienced SOMA’s product of quite the same grade.

That’s the thing you’ll learn after eating a lot of great chocolate. There are often several different grades of chocolate right within the same small shop. As in the case of SOMA, Norman Love and other fine chocolate makers … they are all good.  But it is when you get to the purest of chocolate such as the single origin truffles, that you get the flavour, texture and appearance that sets the best several grades above the rest.

To me, really good chocolate is never too sweet, too bitter or too gritty. It should be silky smooth (in texture), pure (in ingredients) and intense (in flavour.)  And I know I will always find that in the remarkable quality of chocolates I get from SOMA chocolatemaker of Toronto.

I’m actually going to Toronto this week for the annual conference of The Writers Union of Canada (TWUC.)  It will be my first time attending a national TWUC event and I’m looking forward to it. Following that, I and my next chocolate-tasting partner in crime, Suzanne Boles of London, Ontario, will be taking the Chocolatour to London, England  to meet with some amazing British chocolate makers. So we’ll have lots to talk about in the upcoming posts.

Join me back here the week of June 6th for the next post. But until then, let’s talk! What has been the best chocolate that has ever passed your lips?

This … my chocolate loving friends is the post you’ve been waiting for. As today, I will introduce you to one of the finest masters of chocolate in North America!

Our recent trip to Florida had one major goal. To meet Norman Love. I’d heard of Norman when I was at the World Chocolate Masters Championships and Salon du Chocolat in Paris in 2009. He is revered by many experts and chocolate lovers as being the finest chocolate maker in the USA.

So we made our way down to Fort Myers Beach with the kind assistance from the folks at the Lee County Convention & Visitors Bureau. I will be forever grateful to them for introducing me to Mr. Norman Love.

you can’t help but love Norman Love – chocolates

Love is one of those passionate individuals who lives and breathes chocolate. His shop is a mecca for chocolate lovers. I pulled up to the Norman Love Confections shop in Fort Myers, only to find another woman taking a picture of it! I could see myself doing that, for the purposes of Chocolatour, but she was simply a chocolate lover who was documenting her journey to this place of sensual wonders.

some of the captivating chocolate creations of Norman Love

You walk in the door to the small shop and you are blown away by colour. The packaging is so beautiful it’s mouth watering! And the display of chocolates and fresh pastries is so enticing, you’ll probably gain a pound or two before you even walk out the door.

But it wasn’t the fanciful packaging or luscious pastries that won my heart. It was Love’s BLACK Collection. A simple black box containing the most elegant and sensuous chocolate I have ever tasted.

Love is a purist in that he tries to keep flavours recognizable. In the BLACK Collection, you will indulge yourself in single-origin chocolate from five of the finest cocoa producing areas on the planet: the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela and Madagascar. I have been to the DR, but the remainder of the locations share a place at the top of my wish list.

Eating that box of BLACK was one of the most intoxicating experiences I’ve ever had. In fact, when I was in Fort Myers tasting with Love, I admitted to him that I was getting high. The cocoa is so pure and perfect that someone like me (who has a sensitivity to caffeine) finds herself giddy like a school girl and lost in the love of chocolate. I think you diehards know what I mean.

Let’s just say I loved each and every piece in that box of BLACK. But to give you a brief synopsis, the Madagascar was my favourite. It’s created from 64% cocoa mass produced from trinitario beans (which possess a natural fruity flavour) blended with roasted hazelnuts and a subtle hint of clove and cedar! The Maracaibo Clasificado from Venezuela was my least favourite, but don’t think I didn’t like it. They were all magnificent, and make me wish I lived closer to Fort Myers so that I could be one of the regulars that Love knows by name. With any luck, someday soon …

I’m an island girl. A beach baby. All my favourite places on this planet are surrounded by beach, beautiful vistas and water, so it’s no wonder I love Fort Myers Beach. The white sand beach seems to be never-ending, the ambiance of Fort Myers Beach as a destination or community is unpretentious, and it’s quite accessible to other parts of Florida, being just three hours (less than 200 miles) southwest of central Florida and our previous destination of Orlando.

We were fabulously fortunate to be hosted by the GullWing Beach Resort, located on a wide stretch of Fort Myers Beach. The GullWing is part of the Sunstream family of properties and top-notch in every way. Our expansive suite was so large, we occasionally got lost in it! The spacious screened-in lanai overlooked the beach, and it was just a short walk before we were immersed in the welcoming waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

our beachfront suite at the GullWing had a beautiful lanai

We also enjoyed the pool and the poolside hot tub. There are no restaurants on-site as the GullWing is a condominium property. Each suite is owned by individual owners, so decor varies from unit to unit. I can tell you that Suite 306, decorated throughout in shades of green and blue, was most pleasing to this nature-loving water baby.

Most of the “action” happens at the north end of Fort Myers Beach, just as you come off the  Matanzas Pass Bridge (also known as the “Sky Bridge” because it seems to touch the sky) onto Estero Blvd, the road running from the north end of Fort Myers Beach to the less populated southern end. The GullWing is located more towards the southern end of the strip, but just a short drive to the rest of the action. And we liked it that way. Less traffic, fewer people and more birds.

brown pelican enjoying the sun at the Fort Myers Beach pier

I do love the pier at the northern end of Fort Myers Beach. You see many kids and adults fishing, a few brown pelicans resting peacefully in the sun and a terrific view of the entire beach. And right at the foot of the pier, you’ll find Kilwin’s, who make terrific chocolate goodies. Try the dark chocolate “Sea Foam.” It reminded me of sponge toffee. Now, doesn’t that bring back some warm childhood memories? Kilwin’s is also famous for their fudge and ice cream. But I can only swear by the chocolate, and it was indeed, good.

Yes, you’re right! I hadn’t come to Fort Myers Beach strictly for the beach. (You know me better than that!) I came for the chocolate, as it was the next research stop for Chocolatour. Please join me here the week of April 25th for more on a find that is perhaps the best chocolate that has ever passed these chocolate-loving lips.

In the meantime, please share your thoughts about Fort Myers Beach, your favourite place in Florida, pelicans, sponge toffee, or anything else that makes you smile.

Visiting Pisa as described in my last post wasn’t what it was all about for me. Yes, I totally enjoyed the local culture and cuisine, and learned much visiting the historic relics. But I was there for the chocolate. And I was not disappointed.

We were lucky with the timing of our visit in that we were in Pisa for dolce Mente, a festival of sweets. The man I was looking for was to be there. I had come a long way to meet him, but somehow knew it would be worth the effort. I was so right.

We entered the festival in time to see Dutch-born chocolatemaker, Paul de Bondt, stirring up a pot of what looked like dry ice, causing considerable smoke and excitement in the room. Turns out he was making a very special and delicious gelato.

Paul de Bondt making his very special chocolate gelato

Paul de Bondt and his Italian wife, Cecilia Iacobelli are the dynamic duo behind de Bondt Cioccolato Originale. Spending two hours with this chocolate master was all I needed to help me tighten the focus for my chocolate book. He enabled me to get inside the mind of a chocolate master.

“It’s the small details that make the big differences, so we really put a lot of attention to the small nuances of flavours,” said de Bondt. I totally understood what he was telling me, and tasting his chocolate brought it all together for me. It made me realize we are cut from the same cloth. We are chocolate purists, and although we may appreciate the excitement that can come from adding fruits, nuts and other enhancements to chocolate, it is the quality of the cocoa beans that is of utmost importance to the final chocolate product.

some of Paul de Bondt’s chocolate barks — all awesome

I could tell you much more about Paul de Bondt. And I will. In my book. Chocolatour is on its way to becoming a reality, and by the end of this year I hope to be toasting Paul and Cecilia at the Italian launch of the book.

More on that to come. But before we go, I have to take a step back. In my last post I neglected to thank our wonderful guide in Pisa, Vincenzo Riolo. He’s the same guide who showed American travel writer, Rick Steeves, that Pisa is so much more than the Tower. See both of them in this pic. I must say that in each of the European cities we have visited, it has been the knowledge and insights of our local guides that has made the visit much more than a superficial fly by. Vincenzo is truly a master of his profession. You can reach him via the Pisa Guides website.

If you plan to visit Pisa, right now is a very good time! The weekend of March 25-27, 2011 will be filled with events through Pisa province, with special tours, and yes … a Chocolate Festival to be held in San Miniato e Tirrenia. More on this month’s events at: http://www.pisaunicaterra.it/en/Focus/pisas-new-years-day.html.

Be sure to join us back here on the blog the week of March 14th, when we’ll wrap up our visit to Italy with a whirlwind tour of Rome.

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