Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dumon Chocolatier in Bruges, Belgium

   After hitting up The Chocolate Line in Bruges (Click HERE for a review of The Chocolate Line), we wandered around the town center and somehow stumbled across one of the Dumon Chocolate shops, which had been second on my list of chocolatiers to visit.
 Seeing as one can never eat too much chocolate in a day (or so I thought before this trip), we went in to buy a few boxes for souvenirs and gifts. Even though the place was rather crowded (before of the steps down into the shop at the entrance), we were warmly greeted by Grandmother (Madam) Dumon, who took an instant liking to Keila. So much so that she gave her a piece of white chocolate as soon as she saw her. I was already liking this place way more than The Chocolate Line (as was Keila!). Dumon is a family-run business, although I'm haven't had time to do much research on it so don't  know how long it's been in operation. I do know that there's also another chocolate shop in Bruges (quite near to The Chocolate Line) called Stefan Dumon, who is obviously the son. Madam Dumon told us that Stefan still helps make chocolates for the original Dumon line, too.
  We were proudly shown the Dumon Chocolatier gift bag, featuring Madam Dumon's granddaughter on the side. One of Madam Dumon's other grandsons was also working behind the counter when we were in. Very lovely and friendly family!
 As for the chocolates themselves? Handmade daily, just like The Chocolate Line, only more traditional (no sake, lemon grass, etc here). They are a bit creamier than those of The Chocolate Line, but no complaints here! We originally picked out one box of dark chocolates (we simply asked Madam Dumon to give us a selection of mostly dark and a few milks), and they were so good we stopped back by the next day and got another assorted box. Plus Keila got another piece of white chocolate, lucky girl! Prices were much more reasonable than The Chocolate Line too---5.25 Euros for 250 grams, 11.50 Euros for 500 grams, 17.25 for 750 grams, and 23 Euros for 1 kilo. Yes, a kilo. And yes, I wish we would've bought a kilo-sized box to take home!
 Overall assessment: Dumon is my pick! Much better service, and cheaper prices for great chocolates. Although I will admit that if you want a great dark hazelnut or marzipan variety, force yourself to deal with the snobbery of The Chocolate Line and buy just a few pieces to enjoy. Then head back over to Dumon for the rest of your shopping.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Bruges Chocolate Shop Review: The Chocolate Line

  Finally, a post about our trip to Belgium! Sorry for the delay; I've been consumed by house business. Such as painting, installing child locks on cabinet doors (hello drilling) and hemming curtains. If you know me at all, you know that these activities aren't really something I tend to do often...or really like doing, for that matter (besides maybe drilling holes in stuff) it's been taking a lot longer and involved a lot more grumbling than planned. Hence the late posting about our Easter trip.
   I thought I'd start this series of Belgium posts with something inherently Belgian: chocolate!
As soon as we arrived in Bruges (1.5 hours on the train from Brussels airport), we dropped our luggage off at the hotel and headed for....The Chocolate Line! I'd done my research on chocolate shops in Bruges before our trip, and word had it that The Chocolate Line was THE chocolate shop to hit up if you wanted hand-made, quality chocolate. Apparently everyone else knows this fact too, seeing as the place was pretty crowded when we arrived. It's located in a little piazza (Simon Stevin Plein) just off the main shopping street, Steenstraat, that leads to the Markt. You really can't miss it.
  First, the bad news about The Chocolate Line. Their service is not very good. Or maybe I just got a particularly rude clerk having an off day, who knows. Once I finally managed to get someone's attention, I asked her if I could try a piece of their dark chocolate. Having read online that most shops would give you a sample if you asked, I didn't think this was an unreasonable request. Apparently I was misinformed, however. She responded that they didn't give out samples, but I could of course buy some chocolate. Just in case I wasn't aware of the fact that they did sell chocolate, I guess.
 All of this really wouldn't have been a big deal had she not then interrupted my chocolate selection to wait on some women that she apparently knew (who came in after us).....and proceed to hand them each some free chocolates at the end of the transaction!! Grrrrr.
 Still, she did return to us at that point and answered all of my questions about what was in each chocolate (the labels are only in Dutch). We ended up with a nice box of assorted dark chocolates, mostly nuts and marzipans. Marzipan is famous in Bruges, and it's goooood. Can't remember the exact price for the box, but it was something like 14 euros for 250 grams? Ouch!
 As soon as we wormed our way through the crowd out to the street again, we opened the box and dug in. Don't get me was REALLY good chocolate! And very beautifully presented, too. Some of my favorites were the sake-infused one, of course the marzipans, and the cola chocolate. I definitely wouldn't refuse them if someone offered me another box!
 But, that being said...I really don't know if The Chocolate Line chocolates were as good as double the price of other places in Bruges (review on Dumon Chocolates to follow shortly). They really weren't good enough to justify the attitude of the place!
 So, if you go...expect mediocre service and good, really good chocolates. Just don't expect them to be life-changing.

The Chocolate Line
Simon Stevinplein 19 8000 Brugge, Belgium

                                  Chocolate Line box

                            Our selection of dark chocolates from The Chocolate Line

                                  A wasabi-infused chocolate from The Chocolate Line

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Keila's (Belated) 17 Month Update

   Here's Keila's 17 month update, almost a week late due to the fact that we were on our way to Belgium last Friday, when she turned 17 months. Expect more posts about Bruges and Brussels to follow shortly...whenever I get the new house cleaned and unpacked, that is! Oh, and excuse any typos in this post. I'm pushing it to even get it posted as it is.
  1. Speech. Oh boy, can this kid talk now. As of yesterday she's started saying 'I love you', although it so far sounds more like Aww wuh wuu. I'm trying to teach her 'I love Dada', so far she says 'Aw wuh Dadadadadada!' and then gets really excited thinking he's going to come home soon. 'Papa' now stands for paci, parsnip, apple, and pizza. At least she can say her p's though! Keila also says Sushi pretty well now, and she's obsessed with clothing: 'shoes', 'shirt', 'coat', you name it. They're not full words but pretty close.
 2. Still holding steady at 16 teeth, although she's been drooling a lot the past week so maybe more to come in soon?
 3. Sleep has improved a bit!! Keila is still adjusting to the new house (and the poor girl went through a lot, first moving out of our apartment into a temporary apartment, then into the house, and then going on vacation)! Now, although she'll still cry a bit when I put her down at night, she's tending to sleep through until maybe 3 am, then will go back to sleep until around 6:30. All in her own bed in her own bedroom!!! Hopefully by this time next month, she'll be going all the way through the night!
 4. No problems with walking, and she's started running a bit too. Which led to her conking her head on a chair leg today at play group....will try to get a picture of the massive goose egg she's now sporting. It swelled up before I could even get ice on it, ouch.
 5. Food. Keila's allergy bloodwork came back finally, and it was not the least bit helpful! Everything showed negative, even peanuts! So we've got to continue avoiding peanuts, sesame, bananas, and pineapple until her appointment NEXT YEAR. Hopefully by then she'll have at least grown out of the fruit allergies, though.
 Keila's new favorite food is egg (oh yeah, another word: 'Go go', short for 'tamago' which is egg in Japanese. One day she ate 3 eggs; I've since had to cut her down for fear of her becoming the first-ever baby to have a heart attack at the age of 1.5. At least her protein issues seem to be gone: besides egg, she'll also happily eat salmon again, along with ground meat too.
 6. New actions: Keila will sing and dance to her little music board, clap her hands when it tells her to, etc etc. She understands just about anything you tell her, although of course she doesn't always listen. Smart girl! Song of the week is Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, although just about any sort of music will make her happy.
 Temper tantrums are quite common now when she's tired out, so we try to make sure that nap time isn't ever late!
 7. I weighed Keila on our scale last week, and it said she weighed over 11 kilos. Looks like she's finally chunking up a bit. All the french fries and chocolate in Brussels probably helped add a bit more, too!
  That's all on Keila for this month!