These days, it seems every food has a local, natural, or organic counterpart, so why not chocolate too? Since opening their first Belvedere Chocolates shop 10 years ago, Belgian chocolatiers Johan and Han Devriese have been making premium chocolates with an emphasis on high-quality, natural ingredients. "If it's not natural, we don't like it in there," says Johan. Easy to say, but when you consider that Han and a few assistants make everything by hand in a 1,500-square-foot facility in Castle Rock, using a five-quart Kitchen Aid mixer, you realize the cost of this philosophy. Eggnog for the filling starts by breaking eggs, nuts are roasted in-house, and raspberry filling starts with washing fresh berries.
Many of the 70-plus filled chocolates are molded in elaborate shapes like flowers or mint leaves, as is customary in Belgium, where Han and Johan were born and where Han underwent her culinary training. Most of the flavor combinations reflect this heritage, though some, like cinnamon and Key lime, are designed to tempt an American palate. Don't miss the black tea, a squat rectangle with a white chocolate drizzle; the fire flower with a cayenne pepper kick; or the caramel salt cup with a crusty band of salt to enhance the dark chocolate's flavor. And certainly don't miss drizzling ice cream with this Belgian hot fudge, courtesy of Johan Devriese.
RECIPE: Belgian Chocolate Ice Cream Topping
5 ounces dark chocolate
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons milk
Place the chocolate and water in a double boiler; heat and melt slowly while stirring constantly. Add the sugar and milk, and keep stirring until they are completely absorbed, but do not let the mixture come to a boil. Pour the warm chocolate topping over ice cream and enjoy.