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Amsterdam Good Chocolate

It was humanly impossible to pass by without a sample. "We could split one," I offered. "Get your own," Karen replied.

"We could buy little boxes for Christmas presents," I said.

Diners indulge at the Supperclub's chocolate dinner in Amsterdam. (Karen Tam)

"Right, like they would make it home."

In addition to the handmade bonbons, Puccini has bags of white chocolate and dark chocolate paddles, hagelslag and chocolate-covered fruit, my favorite being a tart dried cranberry, a yin and yang of flavor. The lemon grass was delicate, a strong second place.

Napoleon went to war with chocolates in his pocket for energy on the battlefield. We stormed Waterlooplein with renewed vigor. Passed up the used Doc Martens and silver service. Got the pink candlesticks, sweater with hood, china doll hands, Virgin of Mary statuette and -- bingo! -- bonbon dish.

While Puccini is quiet and dignified, the Australian Homemade chocolate store we popped into on Leidsestraat resembled an American fast-food joint more than a European chocolate shop. Youthful staff in sweatshirts, bright lights, a dirty floor and P. Diddy blasting on the sound system did not appeal. The chocolates, however, tasted much better than the place looked and were decorated with intricate Aborigine symbols for an added attraction.

Cold and shopworn, we spied the chocolate brown-and-white striped awning of Patisserie Pompadour in the quaint Nine Streets quarter, where we had been patronizing vintage clothing stores and stationery shops. We lugged our parcels and tired feet to the raised dining area and ordered, what else, hot chocolate. We sipped the creamy fragrant liquid, eyed the tempting treats on the display tables below and watched eager customers make agonizing decisions.

Raspberry and truffles were favorite selections. Most customers ate a bonbon (or two) at the counter before ordering a box to go -- sometimes several boxes. It was a slow process, the chocolates being unnamed. Customers pointed and clerks identified, their responses a sweet lullaby: nougat, Grand Marnier, cinnamon, rum java, bitter orange, Cointreau.

"You can tell Americans. They always ask for peanut butter," our waitress revealed. "We don't use peanuts in any of our chocolates. Hazelnuts, yes -- peanuts, never."

With six marble-topped cafe tables and an ornately carved wooden stairway leading to the kitchen on the second floor, Pompadour feels like an Old World chocolate shop. It was our favorite, serving salads and sandwiches as well as four-inch-high chocolate mini-cakes filled with fresh raspberries, chestnut puree or various liquors and fruit mousses. Some have a slab of dark chocolate on top; others are studded with almonds and candied ginger, a piping of truffle frosting, a dusting of coconut.

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