Most people will not picture a city like Beirut teeming with chocolate shops at every corner. In Beirut, chocolate shops are not only a tradition but a must; every neighborhood has not just one but usually several chocolate shops. In some shopping districts like Hamra, a single street will boast two or three chocolaterie-confiserie each more exquisitely appointed and glittery than the other; these are not franchised chains, these are mom-and-pop stores with handmade chocolates and to-die-for confections.
Beirutis love chocolate stores for one main reason: What better gift to bring to someone than a box of chocolates, beautifully wrapped with a satin ribbon? Social obligations being what they are in this city, when a close or not so-close friend or relative invites you to tea or lunch or dinner or is convalescing in the hospital or is celebrating a birth, a baptism…anything! then a box of chocolates is in order. At the homes I visit in Beirut, I always notice little bonbonnières filled with chocolate candy in a gold or silver wrapper.
Every family favors one chocolatier over another; in my extended family, Nougatini is it! I can’t say how long my parents, aunts, cousins and other relatives have been shopping there, but the agreement is unanimous: they make the best chocolate in town. My mother favors the dark, three-tiered one with toasted hazelnuts, I like the one stuffed with candied tangerines and my aunt likes the ones shaped like a daisy. Plus we adore the Barrage family that owns and runs the stores. I was there on my last day in Beirut to pick up a half-kilo box.
However, I haven’t met one chocolatier in Beirut I did not like!
The store has several branches and is on the web at: www.nougatini.com
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