On my recent chocolate tour of Brussels, one divine chocolatier almost escaped me: Laurent Gerbaud.
Thank goodness a lovely woman—a stylish spirit and fellow chocoholic—I met while shopping in one of Ixelle’s boutiques tipped me off to her favorite chocolatier in the city, sending me tout de suite to see what she was clamoring about.
Laurent Gerbaud has been practicing chocolate-making since 2001 but it was only two years ago that he opened his Ravenstein boutique. Like his sensibilities, it’s quiet, clean and modern, but warm and friendly. There’s an austerity to the shop as well as his chocolates, which he makes right there.
Laurent’s strength is taking the best ingredients in the world and letting them sing. “In terms of technique, there’s no secret,” he claims. I don’t necessarily agree. I’ve eaten plenty of poor chocolates, owing to technique. But I can’t argue with his belief that quality ingredients trumps almost everything. “Sometimes I find a good product, but it’s not good enough,” Laurent says.
Indeed. Figs from Izmir, ginger from Guilin, prunes from Corsica…
Cape pears, Persian crandberries, Japanese yuzu…
All simply, elegantly displayed. Admittedly, it can seem a bit boring after the bright lights and hot pink down on the Grand Sablon. But all you have to do is sample one of his chocolates and you fall deep in love.
I became obsessed with his Gare aux Noisettes, the house praliné.
Rich, savory, nutty and gritty, these little bonbons are a blend of roasted, caramelized Piedmont hazelnuts (again, the best in the world), roasted, salted cashews and just a bit of organic sugar, enrobed in a dark (or milk) chocolate shell.
Unlike other pralines where the nuts are ground very finely and consistently, there are larger bits of nuts in Laurent’s, creating a surprising, rich and deep experience. It’s like tasting real peanut butter after a lifetime of eating Jif.
It's like heaven.