Brussels may be one of my most beloved cities visited thus far in Europe. Over a month ago I visited with the family for 24 hours of: walking, drinking, eating. I missed big art exhibition and tour in favor of just hanging out all day with my dad. The gorgeous architecture, the friendly sun, and the european flair served as the exquisite foundation for a day of CULINARY SCORES!
I had clear “culinary” must-dos for this day. First up? Well, 10 am and of course, it’s WAFFLE TIME. Brussels offers them every few blocks or so made up fresh in stands on the side of the road. Almost carnival like….
Taking a bite into this book sized pressed dough ball, well, words fail to even crack at the easyness of the butter, sugar, flour slowly, but with clear articulation, beginning the digestion process.
The theme of the day pressed forward with this bite:
GET IT WHILE IT’S HOT….Not like anything ever tasted.
Next stop? Well, beer, naturally!
Beer! We visited Cantillon Brewery, the oldest brewery in Belgium that continues to use spontaneous fermentation. The ingredients are kept in any open air room in the winter and the yeast FROM THE AIR ferments the liquid. This family still uses organic cereals from the local region, and the result is a “wine beer” … a mixture called Lambic. The beer produced is authentically Belgium, called Guezue (Goo-useh).
Tasting Notes: UM…don’t say this often, but YUCK! The overall effect is like apple cider vinegar with a hoppy undertone. Everyone around us looked happy and to enjoy it A LOT. Like a beer hall and all I was thinking was, WHAT THE HECK? Are these people already a little lit? Did my mouthwash ruin the flavor? Did the high of the waffle simply make everything else, taste…well, like it went bad? Can wine go bad? Can beer? Well, try it for yourself, because you have to at least once…and then put the glass down and move onto the next traveling experience…
After BAD BEER…and some serious walking around, we happened upon an organic bakery I had read about from another blogger. Belgium has some significant french influences, and this means they seriously worship their carbs, sauces and highly seasoned ingredients. The notion of “manna” suddenly hits the core of your being when sinking teeth into french bread….
Le Pain Quotidien equals nirvana for bread-o-philes. Even after entering a new dimension with that street waffle, the sunlight filtering through the covered terrance shone down on the shabby chic communal table and announced salvation.
Old world bread, skimmed steak tar-tar, light pesto olive oil, prano shaved into swirls of pure ecstasy aged for 9 months, little pillow of tomato that burst into the back of the tongue with subtle bitter sweet pressure, tawny lemon and sensationally mimaic salt. Best Sandwich in Brussels. Yep, be jealous of my life (almost a month later, and I am still transfixed).
After lunch you’d think we’d be satisfied…and we knew we’d want some chocolate, but being “sensible” wanted to hit up salty before the sweet…so the hunt was on for FRIES (Pomme Frites). Sometimes, the best advice is not to plan on where to hit up the “best” what-ever-the-place-is-known-for and inquire with two or three sales clerks…”so, where do YOU eat pomme frites?” Their opinion counts big time in my book, and of course we stumbled upon the best fries this side of the meridian…
After about a dozen dips, I felt contentment and allowed dad to polish it off. You know those first few salty crispy lightly oiled clouds just hit that “AHHHH!??” spot? Honestly? Mcy-Ds, BK, even Chick-Fil-A ain’t got nothin on these babies…
And then…to top of the day, what better search than walking, walking, walking for…
When you imagine the BEST chocolate in the world, you should conjure up some beauties from the land of Belgium. I asked a woman at one of the many culinary stores “What makes it the best?” and after conversing with the head chef, he came out and in a very convincing accent, informed me “Duh, WHAT WE PUT IN IT.”
Belgian chocolate has been popular since the 18th century, but in 1912, a new process created by Jean Neuhaus increased its popularity ten-fold. Neuhaus whipped up ‘pralines’….but not our US version of caramels. Belgian chocolate pralines could be filled with a variety of different flavored nougats or creams, such as coffee, hazelnut, fruit, or even more chocolate. Few other chocolatiers in Neuhaus’ day could duplicate the complex flavors of his pralines. Many of the Belgian chocolate praline companies are still in operation today – Leonidas, Neuhaus, Godiva and Nirvana are famous for their gourmet pralines.
Confession: I am not much of a chocolate lady. And thus, it was a little sad not to share this experience with someone excited about NOSHING ON THE BEST CHOCOLATE IN THE WORLD. Stopping by Neuhaus I had to select some for my lovely aunt and expedite them her direction (tip: wrap each chocolate separately to avoid “mushing”…but it was the best “mush” she received all year, I hope!).
If Portugal won my wine find for the year, Brussell’s won my food find..
Seriously, some of the best “bites” experienced in the last year. Beat spain for my birthday, and possibly spain at thanksgiving. Whip Cream, Mayo, or Cocoa on Top, of course!
Hands down, though…the best city I’ve encountered for eating and drinking…now, need to go back with a foodie…any takers?