Left virtually abandoned by my chocolate twitter pals on where the good chocolate is to be found in Belgium, I was forced to fend for myself in a barrage of terrible tourist chocolate. Bruges, the historic and beautifully preserved Belgian town, is not unlike Brussels when it comes to the onslaught of crappy tourist chocolate. Someone really needs to publish a guide book on how to navigate the throngs of chocolate shops.
Having said that, there are some saving graces. In Bruges, the saving grace is a popular and crowded little shop called The Chocolate Line. It was as though people had come from far and wide just to visit this shop. I found it online when I had a rare internet connection. Good thing I found them too. There is a lot of bad chocolate around Bruges. And it all claims to be the "Finest Belgian Chocolate."
The Chocolate Line was founded by Fabienne De Staerke and Dominique Persoone in 1992. Dominique dubs himself a "Shock-o-Latier," to push the boundaries in flavors.
The people who worked there were very nice despite the crowded shop. The pushy and rude patrons did not discourage me from getting a taste of something worth while. Although, I wished I had more time to linger and search the store. I really wanted to buy the Tequila. The gentleman behind the counter with glasses, forgive me, I can't remember his name, patiently gathered up truffles for me and even recommended a few to try like the Bacon truffle and the Sun-Dried Tomato truffle. He even slipped me a Snobifram, raspberry cream chocolate cup to try while purchasing my goods. Very generous and thoughtful. That raspberry cup was fantastic too.
Admittedly, these truffles were meant to be eaten on the boat. We were on a barge for a beer cruise that took us from Amsterdam through Antwerp, Ghent, and Bruges. I could have had them boxed, but the kind man beind the counter said it would be cheaper just to take them as is. I agreed and had intended to eat them after dinner. But our fantastic dinners on our boat were so fantastic and filling, we simply had no room to eat them. This was probably a good thing anyway. I am never stingy and will always share. Now, I selfishly have them all to myself. The condition these truffles are in are because I traveled with them from Bruges to Brussels, and then in my carry on the way home and stopped at 3 airports. They managed to survive relatively intact, but their appearance was not the way the store had given to them to me.
Sadly the one truffle that suffered the most abuse on it's journey to my house. Milk chocolate coating, smells of salt and bacon fat. Creamy peanut butter and tastes like cured ham. Small bits of crispy bacon. Perhaps a bit too skimpy on the bacon, but the flavors are full and very apparent.
Like Vosges, the bacon flavor is full but the bacon itself is lackluster. I need my chocolatiers to stop being stingy with the bacon and please put in real pieces. Go big or go home! Truffles are not meant to last so why not be realistic with the bacon? Your fans would appreciate it. Trust me on this one.
Bitter ganache with pure raspberry juice.
Firm deep rich chocolate ganache, extremely sour, tangy, and tart with the pure raspberry juice. A bit of a puckerer this one is. Full of flavor, but the raspberry is way too tart. Stick-you-in-the-glands-of-you-neck sour. While some people will surely love the extreme tanginess of this truffle, I found it to be over-the-top. Lingering chocolate on the aftertaste, but it is virtually destroyed by the raspberry. You get rich chocolate right up front and then it's all but destroyed and left whimpering on the final lingering finish of this truffle. The ganache was super rich too. Kind of sad really.
Definitely different than the overly sweet and sugary raspberry truffles on the market. But this is a palate killing truffle. The Snobifram is much better and much more delicate.
Bitter ganache, marzipan, with Japanese wasabi.
Pungent but not spicy hot wasabi. Chocolate shell, top layer of green wasabi marzipan, and deeply rich chocolate ganache. Wasabi is very dominating right up front, but quickly dies away and leaves a wonderfully rich chocolate ganache taste. Delicious truffle. This had the balance the Framboos was missing. It has very bold and strong flavors and each one is allowed to shine.
Ganache with a distillate of Havana leaves.
Again, not the prettiest shape they could be in due to traveling. But the cigar design is intact. Tastes like smoky leaves and rich chocolate. Not lit leaves, but rich natural smoky flavor. The ganache almost has a boozy quality to it. I am not sure of the distillate was an alcohol or a hydrosol, but it definitely has a boozy quality to it. That smoky tobacco leaves taste is fantastic. You won't feel like you are puffing a Cuban, but it certainly tastes like you had one in your mouth before you lit it. Definitely has nice, rich lingering tobacco notes on the finish.
White chocolate ganache with fresh basil, a chutney of sun dried tomatoes, marzipan with black olives.
I thought this one was just going to be a sun dried tomato truffle. I am very happy to lean that this is a complete foodie truffle.
It ends up being too funky. Basil dominates right up front. It tastes like a sweet candy pizza. I wanted to like this one too. The black olives are there but not as much as I would have hoped for. The tomato is there too but the sugary marzipan interferes with the natural sweetness of the tomato chutney. While the cool factor is there, it's not enjoyable at all. The chocolate does not match at all with the flavors of this truffle.
The savory flavors do end up lingering on the palate which isn't a bad thing, but the flavors shoudln't have been mixed with all that sugar.
A caramel with Cabernet-Sauvignon and pine seeds praline.
Big oak-y wine flavor right off the bat. Tangy wine mixed with soft runny caramel. It's a bit of a shock at first with that tangy wine, but then it finishes with extremely oak-y flavors. It's a bit of vinegar taste mixed with the buttery caramel at first, but then it finishes sweet with the chocolate and levely pine seeds. There is definitely a lot going on with this caramel. The wine is a bit of a shock and almost out of place but ends up being balanced or smoothed out by the chocolate, butter in the caramel, and pine seeds.
Overall I like this quite a bit. But it's a bit odd and almost doesn't work at first.
Bitter ganache with mazipan and slightly smoked "Espelette."
Another truffle that took a beating as far as it's appearance goes. But so far despie what they look like, they have all tasted fine. Fine as far as freshness goes. I can't speak for the Italiaase Javanais.
A bit of a jelly or gel-like consistency in the middle. Virtually no pepper taste at all. A mild numbing sensation on the tongue at the finish of the truffle is all you get that indicates chili pepper. There is no smoky flavor. It's just a sweet jelly-like chocolate ganache center full of rich chocolate flavors and a bit f a nmbing at the end. No heat, and not chili flavor. Bit of a let down to be honest. Chocolate and chili's are wonderful together and in chocolate, it's one of the few ways I can tolerate spicy chili heat.
Bitter ganache with Arabica espresso coffee.
Soft rich ganache but again, another let down of a truffle as far as flavor goes. Where is the coffee. Arabica espresso should have yeilded a nice bitter and roasted rich flavor. There is virtually none. I even saved this truffle for last anticipating a big robust taste. It's a delicious chocolate truffle. There is nothing bad about it. It's super rich and chocolate-y. But the coffee flavor or lack there of is weak. There is just a tiny bit of lingering coffee grinds taste on the finish. Takes a while to present itself. It's Europe people. Once again, go big or go home.
I liked these truffles. A few misses with the coffee, and bacon and a big miss with the candy pizza truffle. But this is a chocolatier who isn't afraid to play around with flavors. Perhaps maybe a bit too timid on some flavors and then over the top on others. The Havana and the Wasabi were the best. Still, this was better than 99% of the tourist chocolate crap to be found all over Bruges. Brussels is no exception. The Chocolate Line will be recommended should anyone need chocolate advice for Bruges. Maybe stay away from the candy pizza truffle, though.
My favorite way to have hot chocolate lately. Chocolate on a wooden spoon to be stirred into some scaled milk. An ingenious idea really. But this looks like a huge block of chocolate for one hot chocolate. I got it in milk because I felt like the dark chocolate would have been too rich. I think even this milk chocolate block will also be intensely rich.
I did pick up some chocolate lipstick. Will I ever wear this as real lipstick? Sure! It goes on dark and then rubs into a light brown color that isn't Halloween-ish. The only problem is, it tastes like brownies and won't last five minutes on my lips without being licked off.