Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Europe Part 2: Waffles, Chocolates, and Frites – OH MY!

Chuck in front of the Town Hall

Brussels

Thanks to the Chunnel, we left London mid-morning and were in Brussels by lunch. We walked over to the Grand-Place (also known as Grote Markt), the main square in the city. It is surrounded by beautiful (and grand) buildings, including the famous city hall. Chuck and I were pretty hungry and decided to eat at La Brouette, a cozy restaurant in Grand-Place. We both ordered a Croque Monsieur which came with a side salad (~7.80€) and our first Belgian beers of the trip.

La Brouette
We strolled through the city visiting landmarks such as the Manneken Pis and it's sister, the Jeanneke Pis, and eventually headed over to Delirium Café. This dimly-lit basement pub is known for it’s long list of beers, even by Belgian standards. In 2004, it held the record for serving 2,004 different beers in the Guinness Book of Records.



The inside of Delirium Cafe
Antwerp

Our next stop, Antwerp, has the most beautiful train station I’ve ever seen. We made it there just in time to meet up with my brother for dinner at my favorite restaurant in the city. Estro Armonico is not a place in which you’ll find many tourists. It is well hidden in a winding alley in the Cathedral neighborhood. There is an open fire, on which the chef toasts fresh bread and grills all of the meat offered on the menu. Estro Armonico is incredibly romantic, the atmosphere takes you back in time when Peter Paul Rubens (a famous Flemish painter) and his friends may have enjoyed a hearty meal in the neighborhood. We all ordered various cuts of lamb (~25-30€), which came with bread, olive appetizer, and a baked potato. For a restaurant off the beaten path, check out Estro Armonico.

Antwerp Central Station

The fire at Estro Armonico

Lamb!
The next day we spent time walking around Antwerp, stopping for a few beers at my favorite bars (I studied abroad in Antwerp back in 2006), frites, waffles, and of course chocolates. The waffles in Belgian are very sweet and are traditional topped with cream, sugar, fruit, chocolate, ice cream, or a combination of them all. Our favorite waffle on the trip actually came from a small stand with a black awning on the Meir. We also ordered frites from the Frituur Max in the Groenplaats square, which offers a variety of sauces for dipping.

Chuck at The Highlander

Frites from Frituur Max
Scott (my brother) and I
Chuck and I also dined at Wagamama, a chain in Europe that has opened restaurants in the US in recent years (three locations in the Boston and one unopened location in DC). My absolute favorite dish is the Chicken Ramen, so much so that I order it during every visit, no matter the location. It’s basically a large bowl of soup with slices of chicken, noodles, and a mix of vegetables and herbs. Wagamama also offers a variety of stir-fried noodle dishes, ranging from 10-15€.

Chicken Ramen from Wagamama
A must-have meal in Belgium is moules frites (or mussels and fries). Many restaurants in the country will offer pots of mussels steamed in a variety liquids including wine, beer, broth, etc. We ended up eating moules frites at Eleventh Commandment, an old tavern near the Cathedral. Although this may not be "the place" to order mussels, it is worth drinking a beer there just to check out the decor.

Bruges

Although we did not see Colin Farrell, we did have a wonderful day trip (when) in Bruges. It is a quaint town with cobblestone streets and waterways throughout. The homes are too darn cute, and although there is a tourist crowd, the town is fairly calm. Chuck and I arrived on the early side and grabbed a quick breakfast of hot chocolate and waffles at a random cafe.

Waffle Display - Common in tourist areas
The main attraction of the day was De Halve Maan Brewery. The Maes family began brewing beer at this location in 1856 and it is still a family-owned business to this day. Our tour was extremely informative, but what I found to be most impressive was the tour guide himself. He completed a 450-minute tour in three different languages, literally saying "Hello," "Bonjour," and "Hallo." The language capabilities of Europeans are simply amazing. I digress...

After a tour of several rooms in the brewery, we were taken to the room with a 360 degree view of Bruges (the 6.50€ admission was worth that alone). Chuck and I were also able to try the Brugse Zot beer. 




After our tour we decided to stop for lunch. Most places in the area offered set menus, for example, a soup and choice of entree for 12€. In the same neighborhood as the brewery, we enjoyed a wonderful vegetable soup and hearty Flemish stew without breaking the bank.

Flemish Stew
Unfortunately, most of the other tourist attractions were either closed for the day (Wednesday afternoon?) or under construction. So, we spent the rest of the day shopping around for souvenirs including lace (this is the place to buy lace) and chocolates.

Cute kitchen store in Bruges

2 comments:

  1. I love all of these photos on so many levels. -RJ

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  2. OMG waffffffffffles!

    ReplyDelete