Sweet, bitter, smooth, or creamy; the flavor landscape of chocolate may be vast, but there’s one thing its admirers have in common: they really, really love it. If you’re anything like us, a daily dose of chocolate is a habit you’re not willing to give up when you’re on the road. In honor of the most chocolaty weekend of the year, also known as Easter, we’ve rounded up the best ways to take your tastebuds on a sweet adventure.
Explore Belgium’s Charming Stores
Belgians take their chocolate seriously. According to The New York Times, the average Belgian consumes roughly 15lbs of chocolate per year, and there are about 500 chocolatiers in Brussels alone. While the sheer amount of deliciousness available here may be overwhelming – there’s no way you’re going to hit every store – there’s still an upside. No matter where you go, it’s all incredible.
For the artisanal chocolate lovers, the first must-stop is Mary, where the smell alone will leave you satisfied. Their collection of truffles is truly mouthwatering; make sure you taste the classic Truffette, dark chocolate mousse dusted with cocoa powder, and the Truffe Coco — a heavenly blend of almond praline and caramelized coconut flakes. Before you leave grab a box of the mouthwatering ganaches to enjoy later.
Next up is the designer chocolates of Pierre Marcolini. A “Haute Chocolatier”, many believe his treats are among the best in the world. His luxury twist on a basic chocolate bar will leave you aching for more — the Plaisir Breakfast is made with puffed rice and orange zest, and if you’re a classic milk chocolate lover, you’ll never feel the same about Hershey’s once you try their Chocolate au Lait. If you can bear to veer away from 100% chocolate, the macarons here are to die for. If you have room for one more thing on your pilgrimage, head to Maison Dandoy to taste Belgium’s other culinary treasure: waffles. A light, crispy waffle drizzled in warm, rich chocolate? Oui!
A Full-Body Experience in St. Lucia
With the picturesque Pitons, lush vistas and laid-back living, delicious food is not the only draw that brings people to this Caribbean gem. In fact, the chocolate experiences go well beyond your mouth here. We recommend starting from the outside in, beginning at the Jade Mountain Spa. Try the chocolate wrap experience, where warm and cool cocoa beans are systematically applied to the skin. The beans have been harvested right on the island, and work as an antioxidant to leave you feeling radiant and revitalized.
Up next, it’s time to nourish your brain and learn a little bit about that bean you love so much at the Rabot Estate. An extension of the Hotel Chocolat (pictured right), the expansive cocoa plantation, factory and chocolate restaurant hidden in the rainforest, offers guided tours so visitors can learn about every stage of the chocolate-making process. Top cap it all off, on St Lucia your Willy Wonka dreams will finally come true: you can create your very own chocolate bar! The “Tree to Bar” experience starts with selecting your own cacao pods, before roasting and fermenting the beans, and then crafting your own personal chocolate bar. Now THAT is a souvenir.
Where to Stay in St Lucia
All-American Chocolate in California
The iconic Ghirardelli sign illuminates the sky over San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, and as you stroll around the T-shirt shops, arcades, and inevitably stop for a burger at In-N-Out, you’ll be drawn toward the historic building for a little dessert. Ghirardelli was recently purchased by Swiss powerhouse Lindt & Sprüngli, but has retained all of its classic American charm. Its iconic squares still seem to fit perfectly in every style of purse, and the ice cream sundae sauce remain incomparable.
Chocolate is no longer made at Ghirardelli Square (the production facilities moved to nearby San Leandro), but the expansive store is the treat-filled playground you dreamed of as a child. For starters, search for your favorite square flavor combo – we’re partial to sea salt & caramel. Next, choose a few packs of chocolate-covered goodness (we’re partial to the pretzels.) Finally, round out your choco spending spree with a cherry on top: the classic ice cream sundae. The creamy vanilla soft serve topped with a generous amount of gooey warm chocolate and light whipped cream is the best company for a evening of watching the California sunset.
Become a Chocolate Expert in Switzerland
If you want to get serious about your chocolate knowledge, Switzerland is where to go. Chocolate-making schools, factory tours and museums peppered all over the country give the most dedicated chocolate lovers to take their expertise beyond their palates. At Ecole Chocolat in Zurich, the Master Chocolatier Program is a week of intensive training, where you’ll learn about the history of Swiss chocolate and the country’s most influential chocolatiers. Once chocolate is fully contextualized, it’s on to the fun part: you’ll don a chef’s jacket and learn up-to-the-minute techniques for making the good stuff.
Next up is exploring the chocolate factory at Maison Cailler. Here, a guided tour includes a cool history lesson on the Aztec cocoa ceremony, and takes you through the manufacturing process while tracing the company’s storied past. Of course, the tour ends with a guided tasting of Cailler’s best-selling products. Or, if you’re dead-set on mastering a particular type of chocolate making, the are private classes for truffle making, coeur moelleux, and pralines.
And a chocolatey trip to Switzerland wouldn’t be complete without visiting our favorite Swiss brand in its home country, Lindt. The Lindt factory, a massive, historic building right on the water in Kilchberg near Zurich, is sadly not open to the public, but the shop is loaded with Lindor truffle balls, oversized chocolate bars galore, and the best Easter treat of all: their gold-wrapped chocolate bunnies. If jet-setting to Zurich to satisfy your sweet tooth isn’t on the cards, the Lindt chocolate shop on 5th Avenue in New York City is the next best thing — the chocolate-covered strawberries and hot chocolate topped with whipped cream have to be tasted to be believed.
Where to Stay in Switzerland