Friday, April 18, 2014


Fans of Downton Alley have been taking a break as the next season will not begin until this fall.  In its PBS place is a show called Mr. Selfridge based upon the actual person from the US who established a high class department store in London. 

The show uses the same style as Downton with movie-like episodes and no commercials.  Season two, in its third episode featured a plot that focused on WWI with Belgium being hit.   To help raise money, Mr. Neuhaus came to the store to demonstrate his Belgium made chocolates resulting in a tasting and fundraiser.                          

As it turns out, Neuhaus has been around since 1857 and the actual chocolates were used on the set.  It did not make it difficult for any of the actors to act as if they were enjoying the smell, quality, creativity luxury and taste of what has to be the most delicious creations of chocolate anywhere.
Does that mean having to order online or hopping a plane to Belgium?  Not if you are in New York and a few other cities.  Here in Queens there is a kiosk at the Queens Mall.  It certainly doesn’t compare to their star location on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, run by manager Jonffen Gonzales.

The company was founded in Brussels in 1857 by Jean Neuhaus, a Swiss immigrant, who opened his first store in the Galeries St.-Hubert. In 1912, his grandson, Jean Neuhaus II, invented the chocolate bonbon or 'praline'. Three years later, Jean's wife continued the innovation with the 'ballotin' packaging, created to protect the pralines while presenting them beautifully to the recipient.  All Neuhaus delicacies are still made in Vlezenbeek, Belgium (near Brussels), and are exported worldwide.

The word "praline" has more than one meaning.  In the southern US states, we picture a creamy sugar coated patty of nuts.  Europeans (mainly Belgians) grind sugar coated nuts into a powder to use for candy, cakes and these Belgian chocolates.   I was privy to watching Jon temper a ganache of hazelnut paste and chocolate, perfect for decorating.   Classes are sometimes offered at this store.

Choosing these delicacies may be quite difficult.  I would classify each piece as being a smaller bite of an “amuse bouche”, a single bite-sized hors d’oeuvre.   However, to truly enjoy the chocolate it should be nursed into at least two bites.   The first to get the texture and flavors rolling around your taste buds.  After that the next bite will either allow you to further search your buds or re-experience what you just did an OMG to.

Ask about the cocoa contents as the higher it is, the less sugar.  Keep in mind that both milk and more sugar is added to milk chocolate vs a dark chocolate.  

With Mother’s Day approaching here are my suggestions for “You must love me” gifts starting simply with a box of Classic Truffles:  cocoa coated dark chocolate truffles. 

The New York City collection is a great choice.   You know how you look at chocolates and wonder what is inside?   It doesn’t even matter with this one!    The ultra in gift giving is “When the ‘Haute Patisserie’ joins Neuhaus.”  Nine internationally awarded Chefs Patissiers have created a unique praline for Neuhaus, guided by their own creative, cultural and gastronomic inspirations.   Each one produces a combination of flavors both sweet and savory. 

If you are a true lover of Nutella, get their much more sophisticated version of this hazelnut spread.  Forget the bread...just nurse a spoonful.   Chocolate it out

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