Photo courtesy of Rendez-Vous Chocolat
Address: Avenue Hansen-Soulie 84, 1040 Brussels Belgium
Email: info@rendezvouschocolat [fb672814@SKYNET.be]
Hours: Mon., Tues., Thurs. and Fri. 12:00 pm – 7:00 pm Sat. 9:30 am – 7.00 pm.
Closed Sun. and Wed. (except in December).
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“You eat with your eyes,” Anca Andreitu, owner of Rendez-Vous Chocolat, explains “Each chocolate should be as much a work of art to behold as a delicacy to taste.” The marriage of gorgeous chocolates with exquisite flavors is the magic that Andreitu brings to her chocolates.
Rendez-Vous Chocolat is owned by the husband and wife team of Georges Grignard and Anca Andreitu. They opened their shop in June 2007 on quiet Avenue Hansen-Soulie in Etterbeek in an old bank they converted into a combination store and kitchen workshop.
Andreitu, the chocolatier, has a background in chemistry. She brings her understanding and appreciation for how ingredients work together to her chocolate making. Andreitu likes to point out that one of her special talents is her well developed nose; she can identify each ingredient in a product by smell alone. In fact, it is her heightened sense of smell that often leads her to new chocolate creations. Andreitu has developed a repertoire of over 80 different chocolates. All of them are homemade. Her customers come for the classic flavors, as she puts it, but equally love to ask for the “novelty of the day.”
Madame Andreitu makes her chocolates as beautiful to look at as they are to taste. What sets Rendez-vous chocolates apart from the rest is the exquisite handpainting that Andreitu does on each chocolate. Every chocolate is a work of art.
The other half of Rendez-Vous Chocolat is Georges Grignard. Grignard’s day job is as the Marketing Services Director of the Puratos Group in which you have Belcolade (a major Belgian chocolate manufacturer for the professional international market). The rest of the time he wears several hats at Rendez-Vous. Not only is Grignard the business force, but he’s also the educational director holding open houses in the shop’s kitchen. The next open house in on November 22nd from 10am-7pm.
Owners Anca Andreitu and Georges Grignard
Perhaps his most important role is as the custodian of the Belgian tradition of making chocolate. What is the Belgian tradition? It starts with the way the cacao pods are processed until the cacao becomes a fine powder, so fine that it almost acts as a liquid resulting in the sumptuous way Belgian chocolate melts on your tongue. This fine powder is then put in a conching machine that gentle kneads and heats the powder to enhance the best aromas and expel the weak ones. The chocolate then rests for the good aromas to finish developing. From here the chocolate is put into an intermediate shape of drops or buttons to be shipped to chocolate shops.
What happens next is what makes the chocolates at artisan (handmade) shops unique. Before the chocolate can be made into pralines, ganaches, or truffles, the chocolate must be tempered—a process of heating and cooling that causes the cacao butter crystals to align. It is the tempering that gives Belgian chocolates their fabulous shine. In fact, the sign of well-tempered chocolate is the shine combined with a crisp sound the chocolate makes when broken.
How a chocolate is tempered is the first secret of well-made Belgian chocolate. The second is the appearance. At Rendez-Vous Chocolat, one finds molded chocolates in the shapes of sunflowers, telephones, and hotrods. Some of the chocolates are hand painted and others are decorated with elaborate cacao butter silk-screening. One also finds chocolates with a mat finish, the result of the filling being enrobed in layers of hand dipped chocolate.
Rendez-Vous Chocolat in Etterbeek
And the third secret, the most closely guarded secret of all, is the filling. The chocolates at Rendez-Vous are as much a work of art inside as on the outside. Andreitu likes to mix flavors that take chocolate to new places, such as a praline with green tea and cappuccino. As Grignard explains it, “Putting together ingredients to make the filling is like music. Each ingredient must have its own flavor, the way each note has its own sound. When combined, the individual flavors need to blend into one the way notes blend to make a chord.”
Grignard and Andreitu named their shop Rendez-Vous Chocolat because a rendez-vous is a special moment with friends just like eating chocolate is a special moment that should be enjoyed with friends. The shop’s tag line is Faites-Vous Plaisir with a special focus on Vous. This is a play on words. In this case faites-vous plaisir can mean either “to please someone” or “to please yourself.” With the chocolates from Rendez-Vous, one is inspired to do both.