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November 2008 Archives

ChocolateSo you just read my last entry on how I found my way into the world of fine chocolate. Maybe you got a little bit inspired, and now you want to try out some fine chocolate for yourself but you don't really know where to start. Traveling to Belgium just to sample chocolates might be tempting, but due to cost or other concerns I expect that most people would like to start off a little closer to home, like at for instance their local grocery-store or a nearby deli. Picking out the right chocolates in such locations can be a challenge however, so here I'll provide a few pointers on how to put quality into your chocolate enjoyment.

First things first: The wrapping. This is usually the only thing you have to go on when picking out chocolates at a regular store, so its naturally one of the things you must pay close attention to. It is well known that the branding and presentation of foods can have a great deal of influence on your perception of taste. This means that chocolates from a brand that is exquisitely wrapped or advertised to be a product of quality and luxury will often be a good buy, if only because the presentation will make you think it tastes better than the other brands.
Also you will rarely find high-quality products in a lousy packaging, so by going for the pretty boxes you have at least reduced the chance of making a bad choice. Note however that many manufacturers tend to wrap poor products in quality packaging to sell more or to fetch a better price, so only going by the quality of packaging is far from a sure thing.

neuhaus_venezuela.jpgEver since childhood I have been especially fond of the filling round taste of dark chocolate, something that may have originated from me habitually sneaking bits of Mom's baking-chocolate from the kitchen-drawer, a preference that stayed with me ever since. Naturally I greatly enjoyed most other kinds of Norwegian chocolate too, and while growing up I gradually expanded my chocolate horizons. Early in my travels I discovered Swiss Toblerone, and later I randomly came across the amazing Cote d'Or and Guylian imports from Belgium. With my studies abroad I found myself delighted by Australian Cadbury and American Ghirardelli, but I always treasured the one special kind of Freia baking-chocolate called "Selskapssjokolade" from my childhood far above all others.

This all changed in 2006 when I started traveling regularly to Brussels to visit my girlfriend living there. Flying down so often allowed me to thoroughly taste my way through all of the amazing chocolate-shops we came across on our travels around Belgium, and I got to try an amazing range of delicious pralines the like of which I could never have imagined, as well as the wide selection of Cote d'Or, Galler, Jacques and a host of other brands available in the grocery stores. But one day I came across something different, namely a set of three country-labeled chocolate bars in the display-window of a Neuhaus-shop. The label "Occumare Venezuela" especially piqued my interest, so I simply had to try one...