Thursday, July 17, 2014

Chocolate and things

I would like to say that I haven't blogged in a while because I've been SO BUSY, but that would basically be a dirty lie. Yes, obviously I'm settling in to the new job, but the truth is in the evenings I find myself with almost *too* much time on my hands. Sure, when I was getting home at 8.30 pm after being out of the house for nearly 14 hours, I dreamed of having more time to myself in the evenings, being able to relax instead of rushing to cook dinner and then fall into bed - and trust me, I'm not complaining that things have changed - but turns out I kind of adjusted to not having any spare time. So going from that to having a solid 4 hours or so till bedtime, with no social life to fill them with, is a bit of a shock. So I know, I know, the answer is to throw myself in to finding new activities to fill my time (particularly before I readjust to a life of comparative leisure). I should be getting out there and meeting people, taking a class, whatever. And yes, I SHOULD do that, but there's always a fight between the part of me that is a bit bored and lonely and the part of me that really would rather just lounge around in my PJs than do something daunting like going to a meet-up where I don't know anyone. I'm hoping when the summer break is over I can start up some language classes... That gives me a couple of months to pluck up the resolve to get out there, at any rate.

So things are ticking over. Nothing much exciting to report for the moment, although my sister's coming to Brussels this weekend, and with any luck this hot, sunny weather will stick around for it. I joined the library, which I'm pleased about since it had been years since I was a member of a library and that always makes me feel guilty (support your libraries BEFORE they're threatened with closure, people! By going there and borrowing things, not by tweeting about how awesome you think libraries are), especially since there's actually a decent selection of English books in the central branch.

Here's a few old(ish) photos from the camera, and then I'll introduce Jules' and my inaugural chocolate dégustation, mmm!

Me, Caro and Liz at Vitiloire

And at Caro's place

I feel this is representative of the way I look a lot of the time

The Tours monster claims another victim

Rosé and strawberries on the balcony with Bob

Our view of the fireworks for Luxembourg's fête nationale. Over the top of a 5-storey building, people. Tsk

So, when moving to Belgium, you'd be crazy not to sample some of their finest frites and chocolates (probably not together). And I suppose beer and waffles too, if you're that way inclined. (I am not inclined to beer, I am kind of to waffles, but they're probably not a treat I'd cross the street for if there was chocolate on my side of the street.) In an attempt to class things up and justify eating a ton of chocolate, Jules and I staged the first of hopefully many chocolate dégustations together.

Our first chocolatier was Mary, recommended in the "Secret Brussels" book my old colleagues gave me as a leaving present. The book claimed that their shop on Rue Royale was recommended as one of the 1000 places to see before you die. I was expecting ornate chandeliers, crystals, velvet, whatever. I actually can't remember what it looked like and didn't take any photos, but as far as places to see before you die go, the shop itself was evidently a bit meh. But that's not the important part, the important part is how did it taste?

We originally planned to buy 5 * 2 chocolates, but ended up getting six since it was so hard to pick. Plus we got an almond praline each thrown in for free, which was a nice surprise. The 12 (14) chocolates came to 10.50€, which seemed reasonable, although I suppose each chocolate is pretty expensive if you really think about it. After some discussion of how to rate the chocolates (Jules was rating them vis à vis each other, whereas I couldn't quite decide whether to go with that idea or try to rate them against some sort of platonic ideal), it was down to business.

Our 12 contenders line up on the grid

Caramel dominoes
Jules - 5
Gwan - 4
We started with the one I would rate as my least favourite, which is always a good way to go. I thought it was too runny and not caramelly enough, although Jules thought it was fun sucking the caramel out of the crunchy shell.

Milk chocolate truffle
Jules - 6
Gwan - 7

I thought these tasted a bit like they were flavoured with raspberry liqueur - "not bad, but unexpected".

"Gianduja with a fancy name I forget but starts with A"
Jules - 9
Gwan - 8.5

High scores from both of us, but then I do always like a gianduja (who doesn't?). I noted its nice smooth filling and that I drooled a bit while eating it. Not sure if that's the chocolate's fault.

Dark chocolate lady 2 mousse 48% bitter
Jules - 3
Gwan - 7

Opinions divided on this one. Jules thought these were "really boring". He thought maybe he just needed a rest before continuing on, so I called him a chocolate baby. I thought they had a nice cocoa-y aftertaste and the consistency was more like what I expected the truffle to be, not really "moussey". I'd like to try one of the darker ladies. Extra points for the pretty picture (matches my plate!)

Jules - 8
Gwan - 9

This one was my favourite - I love raspberries! It was a dark, smooth chocolate ganache centre flavoured with raspberry, rather than a raspberry-coulis-type affair. Yum.

Manon hazelnut praline
Jules - 9
Gwan - 7.5

I described these as "unsubstantial", but Jules disagreed, describing them as light but soft and smooth, with a moussey texture. I thought the flavour was nice, but I think of a praline as being a bit denser, whereas this was more like a light cream. An extra point for the whole hazelnut though.

All gone, so sad
It was actually a lot of chocolate for one sitting, and I say that as someone who can put away her fair share. Overall, they were nice, but I don't know if I'd go back. I mean, I might, I really like chocolate, but it wasn't an experience that made me think "oh no, I'm going to be blowing my whole pay cheque on Mary" (heh heh). But nor did I think we'd stumbed into a yucky, over-priced tourist trap. We'll just have to keep looking for Brussels' best chocolates!