Archive for the ‘Belgian Food’ Category

A visit to the brasserie   Leave a comment

OK, a defintion for some of you:

In France, Flanders, and the Francophone world, a brasserie (pronounced [bʁas.ʁi]) is a type of French restaurant with a relaxed setting, which serves single dishes and other meals. The word brasserie is also French for “brewery” and, by extension, “the brewing business”. A brasserie can be expected to have professional service, printed menus, and, traditionally, white linen—unlike a bistro which may have none of these.

Technically, a bistro is the original fast food. The story is that Russian soldiers would scream “Быстро” wanting the service quickly after Napoleon’s defeat in the east led to their occupying Paris. Not sure how true that story is, but “bistro” is indeed “fast” or “quickly” in Russian.

Oh, and a cafe is where you get coffee and maybe an alcoholic drink. They generally serve not much more than a “Snack” menu, if they serve food at all: platters of cheese and/or charcuterie, maybe a couple of sandwiches like the famous croque monsieur and madame and some meal-sized salads complete with ham, cheese and vegetables. Cafés are also often home of Tabacs, selling cigarettes and lotto tickets, and tend to be the meeting point of older French gentlemen at midday. That’s what was in Amélie (or Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain).

There are a at least a couple of brasseries within walking distance of me. Not to mention one dedicated boulangerie, which specialises in bread. Pâtisserie, on the other hand, refers to pastries and where they are sold. Law restricts its use to bakeries who employ licensed maître pâtissier (master pastry chefs) in France and Belgium. Viennoiserie is the ‘bridge’ between pâtisserie and bread. These goods are typically made with white flour and active yeast cultures, which cause the dough to rise quickly and achieve the perfect flakiness. Many are made using an enriched puff pastry. Think the gooey, flakey pastries and you have Viennoiserie.

The brasserie I went to is the Rolls Royce of the lot in that it has a boulangerie-patisserie: as opposed to the patisserie nearby. That meant I was able to have bouche de noël a little late in the season. A galette des rois would have been more fun, but those you have to order: unless you want the cheapo store jobs. https://www.nouvelobs.com/food/20220106.OBS52927/5-galettes-des-rois-surprenantes-pour-celebrer-l-epiphanie-2022.html# and https://france-amerique.com/la-galette-des-rois-une-tradition-francaise-meconnue-aux-etats-unis/.

The bouche was nice and fresh. I may order one for next years réveillon, but we still have some left over in the freezer.

They were playing jazz. I thought I should be reading Le Monde, and could have been if I had my portable with me (left at home). Then, it hit me that the New York Herald-Tribune would have been more appropriate. Oh, and you can buy those T-shirts at redbubble.

BTW, I had to show ID and my vaccination certificate to get in.

One gripe I have with the US is that this kind of baked goods are hard to find. The US has a real problem with baguettes, but that’s another post.

Love-Hate about the US-Europe

I have a long post simmering where I get into some of the things I don’t like about the US. Some apply to Europe as well, but that’s easy since Europe is basically a bunch of countries which have banded together because they finally figured out trying to kill each other made no sense. Although, there are a few people who still think it does. Part of this is due to watching (wasting a couple of hours) the first two episodes of something called “Tribes of Europe”. Europe has survived serious destruction without ending up like that series.

Portrait de la contesse Fouler de Relingue

Anyway, it sort of comes down to four things: food, culture, distance, caring for cities and countryside, and transport. We could get into the Oxford comma as well, but that is francophony-anglophony. The French will eat Grandma, but prefer their lovers….

I’m not sure I should make “head” jokes, but I am very certain some of my ancestors made it through the Terror. They were able to enjoy the bals des victimes, but they exited stage right when it came to Les Mis. I’m posting the cleaned up version of coiffure à la Titus which was popular post-terror. My race memory clicked on the painting by Guérin in the Louvre.

I don’t relate to US history and always thought that the Civil War monuments commemorated the Franco-Prussian War, which was the Civil War for me. My relations fought on both sides. A direct result was that my great-great-grandfather shipped his son off to the States to avoid Bismarck’s Army. It also set off a chain reaction of events which would lead to my being born in the US. The Second World War led to my father coming to the States.

The thing is that I can get the things I like in Europe in the States/North America, and some of the things I hate about the States exist in Europe. Although, it’s hard to get something vaguely like Europe’s history in North America. People in the US prefer the myth and have done a great job of wrecking the real history, but that is changing. Just not fast enough for my taste.

Still, I would prefer Europe to the States even if there were TGVs, the cities ended at defined boundaries, and there were really cool small towns out there that had restaurants that served exciting local food. As opposed to restaurants that are exciting because everyone is carrying guns–that’s not they type of excitement I mean. I left out more obvous old settlements. Places like Cahokia and Cahawba don’t do it for me since they were ethnically cleansed from history.

I didn’t get the Hudson Valley School of Painting and the concept behind it until I spent a lot of time on the ground (can’t make a good pun of “sur-le-champ”). But no matter what the appearance is, natural resources are limited. While the Americas have been populated for millenia, the cultures that populated them have been ethnically cleansed. Or are seen as a quaint. This quotation about the “First Thanksgiving” gets to the point:

One is that history doesn’t begin for Native people until Europeans arrive. People had been in the Americas for least 12,000 years and according to some Native traditions, since the beginning of time. And having history start with the English is a way of dismissing all that. The second is that the arrival of the Mayflower is some kind of first-contact episode. It’s not. Wampanoags had a century of contact with Europeans–it was bloody and it involved slave raiding by Europeans. At least two and maybe more Wampanoags, when the Pilgrims arrived, spoke English, had already been to Europe and back and knew the very organizers of the Pilgrims’ venture.

Most poignantly, using a shared dinner as a symbol for colonialism really has it backward. No question about it, Wampanoag leader Ousamequin reached out to the English at Plymouth and wanted an alliance with them. But it’s not because he was innately friendly. It’s because his people have been decimated by an epidemic disease, and Ousamequin sees the English as an opportunity to fend off his tribal rebels. That’s not the stuff of Thanksgiving pageants. The Thanksgiving myth doesn’t address the deterioration of this relationship culminating in one of the most horrific colonial Indian wars on record, King Philip’s War, and also doesn’t address Wampanoag survival and adaptation over the centuries, which is why they’re still here, despite the odds.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/thanksgiving-myth-and-what-we-should-be-teaching-kids-180973655/

I found that while looking for this clip. I saw it when I went to the Smithsonian Museum of the Native American the day my application for European residency came through. The speaker is Paul Chaat Smith (Comanche).

Unfortunately, the westward expansion of the English Colonies meant ethnic cleansing of the Native Americans.

Anyway, Paul, my family is supposed to have been there for that First Thanksgiving, but it’s a lot more difficult for a European to move back than most people realise. And changing North America for the better is tough with monied interests blocking the way.

#BrusselsLockdown

I have to admit that if I didn’t live in London, I would like to live in Brussels.  London is top of the list for the culture and easy access to the Continent.  Brussels is a place I’ve lived and has all the access that London does (and is a short trip to get to London).

I have to admit it was strange seeing pictures of Brussels closed down the past few days, but what really struck me was how the Belgians reacted to having to be in lockdown.

They posted pictures of cats.


I have to admit to having an affinity for Belgium since the European mix in me is pretty much what would be ethnically “Belgian” down to being related to a famous Luxembourgois!

Anyway, I have to admire the Belgian reaction to a terrorist threat.

Belgian Waffles (Brussels and Liege)

Most people are familiarWaffles with the Liege Waffle if they are familiar with something called a Belgian waffle.  The Liege waffle is the one that most people think of when they think of these since they are pretty much the most common.  I know that I have to admit that the Liege waffle is the one that I think of off the top of my head.  They are sold on street corners, and I did a post on them not too long ago.

There are actually a few different types of Belgian waffles with the Liege Waffle being the most common.  These are what are most often sold by street vendors such as Belgaufra.  The next most common one is the Brussels Waffle, but they are pretty much only found in Belgium, which is too bad.  Also, most of the Belgian Waffle recipes out there are for Liege Waffles, not Brussels Waffles.

Like Liege Waffles, Brussels waffles are also made with an egg-white-leavened or yeast-leavened batter, traditionally an ale yeast. Occasionally both types of leavening are used together. They result is that Brussels waffles are lighter, crisper and have larger pockets compared to other types of Belgian waffle. Unlike Liège Waffles, Brussels waffles have a rectangular shape and deeper holes. Brussels waffles are usually dusted with confectioner’s sugar.  Both types of waffles might be topped with whipped cream (“Chantilly”), fruit, or chocolate spread.

Most waffle irons sold make Liege Waffles.  Finding a Brussels Waffle Iron is (1) Expensive and (2) hard to do outside Belgium.  In my opinion, that is why the Brussels waffle is not as common as the Liege Waffle–although both are pretty good.  But, good luck coming up with  Brussels Waffle outside of Belgium!

BTW, most of what is called a Belgian Waffle in the US is nothing like a real Belgian Waffle. First off, these are made with yeast and much lighter than what is mostly passed off as a Belgian Waffle in the US.  Also, the Liege Waffle has pearl sugar.  In short, they are weak attempts at a real Belgian waffle.

Anyway, I will repost the links to the Waffle Recipes.

See also:

Brother Thelonious – Belgian Style Abbey Ale

I have no idea of how this stuff tastes, but it came to my attention due to all the Belgian Beer related material I’ve looked at.
brand-BroThelo

You can get it here.

It puts a new twist to an Abbey Ale.  I think I would prefer a Thelonious Monk to a Trappist.

Posted 23/08/2014 by lacithedog in Belgian Beer, Belgian Food, Belgium

Tagged with ,

Belgian waffles

BelgaufraThe real Belgian waffle, (gaufre au sucre, gauff‘ au suc, Liege Waffle, Gaufre Liègeoise, or Gaufre de Liège) is a serious treat and unlike what passes for a waffle elsewhere.  I had a “Belgian Waffle” at the Maryland Renaissance Faire, which like the Faire was a total disappointment.

First off, Liege Waffles use yeast, unlike regular waffles.  The liege waffle recipe dough making process is time consuming, due to the importance of the dough rising perfectly.  Also a proper Belgian waffle contains chunks of pearl sugar. This special type of sugar caramelizes on the outside of the waffle when baked. Pearl sugar caramelized on the waffle is what makes a delicious Belgian waffle what it is. The sugar also makes the waffles sweet enough to eat plain.

I’ve tried making them and it is a whole lot easier to just buy them.  I used to go to the Belgaufra shops when I lived in Belgium.  I’ve been to a few places in other Countries where they do a proper Belgian Waffle.

Of course, one can buy a Belgaufra franchise: there is one in Egypt and even on in Beirut, Lebanon.  There is still hope for getting real Belgian Waffles out in the world

See also:

Glassware for Beer

I had a friend who did a Belgian Beer tasting for us when I lived in Belgium.  Not only did he bring a bunch of beers, but he also brought glasses forbeerglassesposter36x10 all the beers with the breweries’ logos on them.  Anyone who has spent time in Belgium will know there are loads of different glasses for drinking beers and each beer seems to have a specific glass to go with it, which makes beer drinking an interesting proposition.

If you want to do it at home…

I found a good article at the Beer Advocate in their Beer 101 section on beer glasses:

So which glassware do you use? The answer can often be overwhelming. In Europe, especially Belgium, each brand of beer will often have its own glass. In fact, some breweries have been known to engineer the glass before the beer, and many bars will also stock unique glassware for every brand of beer they serve, which could be hundreds or thousands. And while it’s always a good idea to use glassware designed by the brewery for a specific brand of beer, sometimes this is not an option. But fret not! We’ve complied a quick guide of recommended glassware that will cover most beers and arm you with a very versatile arsenal of glassware.

I say good since this covers most beers, not just Belgian Beers, but there are three ones that anyone interested in drinking Belgian Beer should have

The Wit (Bier Blanche) glasshoegaarden

I’ll be lazy and say the Hoegaarden is the classic white/wheat beer glass.

The Tulip

The workhorse of the bunch.  Libby’s 3808 16 oz. Belgian Beer glass is your best bet for these.  They also do double duty and work for Scotch Ale!

Chimay GlassThe Abbey Ale Chalice

Again, I’ll go with a big name: Chimay.

Actually, if you don’t want to spend a lot on glassware, Libby is the way to go since they do inexpensive versions of these glasses.  They won’t have logos, but they work.

If you want logos, and don’t live in a place convenient to Belgium, go to the Global Beer Network store. But with over 300 different types of beer, you would have one hell of a collection!

Enjoy!

See also:

Posted 18/08/2014 by lacithedog in Ale, Beer, Beers, Belgian Food, Belgium

Léon de Bruxelles (Chez Léon)

chez-leonsOne thing I really like is a good pot of Mussels and Chips (mosselen en frieten, moules-frites, mosselen-friet), which was one of the two things I really liked about Belgian food.  The beer is pretty good as well, but I really like moules-frites.  I got hooked at the original Léon de Bruxelles,  Chez Léon, at Rue De Bouchers/Beenhouwersstraat 18 in Brussels when I lived there.  I knew that the restaurant had spread to France since that was where we ended up eating most of the time.

I’ll be honest, the place is a bit like a Belgian McDonalds serving up moules-frites in a sit down setting with a quality and price that is pretty predictable.  I’ve had loads of better moules-frites in places like Belgo, but it was nice to see a familiar face in Paris: especially since the Parisians can be nearly as bad as New Yorkers for not making you feel very welcome.  Parisians are definitely food snobs with an inflated reputation and opinion of themselves (Lyon has a better culinary reputation).

Unlike McDonalds, Léon is a family business:

Léon Vanlancker set up his original business, a five-table restaurant called A la Ville d’Anvers in 1867. In 1893, he moved a few meters from there to 18 rue des Bouchers and opened fr:Chez Léon.  Real growth started from 1958 when Brussels became known as the capital of mussels and French fries. Since then, the Vanlancker business has continued to expand. Today, it extends to nine buildings and more than one thousand meals are served every day. The Vanlacker family opened the first Léon restaurant in Paris at Place de la République.  There are 67 Léon de Bruxelles restaurants across France.Hulot

Anyway, there were more Léon’s restaurants in Paris than there were in all of Belgium when I was there at the turn of the millennium.  Not that moules-frites aren’t French, but they are pretty much a Belgian dish.  The Irish who call mussels “famine food” somehow never put mussels and chips together for some odd reason. Although, I know that Denis Blais and Andre Plisnier will happily point out that Frites are Belgian (and gave me points on how to properly cook them).

Where this is going is that the Léon de Bruxelles headquarters appears to be in Lille, France!  Not only that, they opened a store in London in the Covent Garden area a couple of years back (that’s sort of close to Belgo Centraal).  I am also having a desire for some Léon’s moules-frites, even though I live close to a really good moules-frites restaurant! Actually, there is a recent Zagat article that mentions 8 places to get them near me and  I’ve been to most of them!

Seriously, there is this part of me that wishes that people in the US would discover moules-frites.  I know that “boardwalk fries” are something that people eat in the US, but I am not sure if there are many places to get moules-frites.  Then again, I haven’t been to the place I would like to see them, Dewey Beach, in a long while.  I’d also like to see a hotel like the one in M. Hulot’s Holiday, but I understand that one is now a five star hotel (Hotel De La Plage in Saint Nazaire, France) and you will pay a fortune for the room he stayed in.

Ain’t gonna happen.

Anyway, I no longer need to imagine I am on the Belgian coast.