Back to see the "Little Squirt", who was getting a lot of attention as always.
And since we were there, a visit to Grand Place was in order as well. For some reason, the Missus really never took to Grand Place....not sure why.
From here, we headed south, skirting the hills and then back up to the very popular shopping district of Ixelles.
Full of big time chains, boutiques, trendy shops....big city life. But, just head up one of the side streets and you'll find quaint little shops, apartments, and on this street a ton of construction. I was looking for a brasserie I'd read about, in several food blogs and even the New York Times, Les Brassins. The word "traditional" was sprinkled about in most of what I read, so I thought this would be a nice farewell restaurant meal in Brussels.
We'd arrived early and the place was empty except for one table....it was packed when we left. I found the place very comfortable.
Our server was very nice, relaxed, but very efficient. This is of course, Belgium, so we'd get some liquid refreshment with lunch. Nothing too heavy for the Missus; a Silly (how appropriate) Blonde (well, maybe not so much). I had a Caulier Blonde.
The Missus wanted to get Her last fix of Sausage and Stoemp. This was a nice version of the dish. The stoemp was full of greens and was delicious. The sausage well.
The "bacon" was probably the weak link, but the sauce was very nice....a good last version for the Missus.
I had intended to get the Carbonnade Flamande, the classic beef and beer stew that I enjoyed everywhere in Belgium. But all those posts and the New York Time recommended the Rabbit Leg in Cherry Kriek. So I went with the Lapin a la Kriek.
First off, I gotta say, that sauce was just plain delici-yoso! The kriek added a nice sweetness, but wasn't too cloying, that cut the richness. Also, the frites here might be the best I had in Belgium, crisp exterior, fluffy interior. The rabbit, if you've never had rabbit.....when done well, it's fairly mild in flavor, as this was. It was a bit too tough and dry for my taste though. Still, that sauce....
While I think my favorite meals in Brussels were at Viva M'Boma or perhaps Le Fin de Siècle, I don't think you can go wrong at Les Brassins.
Les Brassins 36 Rue Keyenveld Brussels, Belgium
We walked back to our apartment in Saint Gilles. It was a beautiful day for a stroll. We had our customary nap, then made dinner with stuff we'd bought at the Marche du Parvis.
So this was it huh? Last night in Brussels. The Missus and I looked at each other and instantly knew, this was not the way to end our trip to Brussels. We got dressed and headed out....and back to Moeder Lambic.
It was a bit busier than on our last visit. However, most everyone had taken a table outside. I told the Missus to shoot for the moon and I got a Hop-Ruiter, which I loved so much on my previous visit. So She did.....
I then tried a Vicaris Tripel, which was fairly creamy, though bit too sweet for my taste.
I then helped the Missus finish Her Gueuze. I couldn't help but think that this was why we work so hard. To be able to have a bottle of Cantillon at Moeder Lambic in Brussels. Life doesn't get better. Of course, eventually the glass was empty.
There was one last place for us to visit; the Holy Grail of Sours, Cantillon Brewery. And so we headed off from our apartment in Saint-Gilles. The Brewery is just a stop or two from Saint Gilles, close to the Gare du Midi Train Station. We however, (remember it's the Missus) walked.
Brasserie Cantillon is located in a somewhat gritty, industrial neighborhood, with a mix of various shops for different ethnicities. There's a huge empty lot across from Brasserie Cantillon, which seems quite low keyed.
There was no beer being made on the day we visited for our little self guided tour, but inhale and you'd get all the fragrances; yeasty-bready-sour-earthy.......
We went ahead and paid the 6 euros for the self guided tour; we'd been the first to arrive on this day, so Julie, whom I believe is the daughter of the Owner, was able to spend a good 15 minutes chatting about the building, the gueuze, and even the neighborhood. She explained that Cantillon still uses wild yeast and spontaneous fermentation, thus every year season's product is unique and different. The flavor she explained, "is in the building", we use no unnatural chemicals, our friends are the spiders who control the pests." The flavor is in the building. This isn't some shiny, bright and sterile, warehouse like structure in the middle of an industrial park.....the flavor is in the wood of the building, the breeze that comes in through the shutters. "Terroir" is a much used term these days......I had never really understood the concept as it applied to beer, until this day.
The tour itself was like travelling back in time, barrels of product.....aging for three years stacked along the walls and hallways.
Machinery, some going back to the 1930's are still in use......
For some reason, I found the walls of bottles mesmerizing....
I took way too many photos of bottles of beer stacked on one another.
At the end of the tour, you get a free drink. We decided to get whatever they had available for the day and a Gueuze Sausage, since it was still rather early in the morning and we needed some kind of sustenance.
Man, that unblended Lambic was super dry....so tart.....the finish was amazing.
The "Iris" had that nice "Cantillon sharp sour" tempered with a bit of hops and lemon-honey tones.
The gueuze sausage was better than expected; the texture of salumi, with sour tones like a good fermented sausage. Needless to say, it went well with the beer!
To me, Cantillon is a must visit when in Brussels, you are transported into the past, to how these types of beers used to be made. You walk freely along the hallways and equipment....there are no "keep off the grass" signs....they know you are here because you have an affinity for beer, they respect you, you respect them. And "le temps ne respecte pas ce qui se fait sans lui" - time does not respect what is done without him.
In our day and age of instant gratification, it's nice to know, some folks still understand that good things often take time.
Brasserie Cantillon Rue Gheude 56 Anderlecht, Brussels, Belgium
On our return trip to Brussels I booked an apartment in the Saint-Gilles neighborhood. Part artsy, part somewhat run down, quite diverse, urban, we really enjoyed staying in this part of town....it seemed quite "real".
Our flat was quite large as well.
Since we had arrived too early for check-in, we dropped our stuff off and headed out....not quite sure what to do. I had a farmer's market, Marché du Parvis (Parvis Market) de Saint Gilles, marked on my map so we headed off in that direction.
Where there was indeed a farmer's market.
We decided to take advantage of the huge kitchen in the apartment and self cater. Picking up some eggs; charcuterie, vegetables.....and a nice amount of cheese from the fromage-mobile.
Marché du Parvis de Saint Gilles Sint-Gillisvoorplein Hours: Tues - Wed 730am - 1pm Thurs 12pm - 10pm Fri 730am - 1pm Sat - Sun 730am - 2pm
We took a look around for something to eat, but decided to duck into this "brasserie"
I liked the looks of the place......
There was a huge cold case with beer that you could just select yourself and a rather large listing.....
Wanting to just have fun, we selected two beers we'd never heard of before. The Missus a blonde ale; "Den Tseut" from Huisbrouwerij Den Tseut, which was pretty disappointing; very light and "Pilsner" like. I decided to "go big" and went with a Goliath (Gouyasse) Tripel from Brasserie Des Légendes, a nice straight up tripel; very yeasty-bready, slight hops, only 6% ABV, so it really wasn't Goliath like in my book.
I'm not sure the place even serves food....but there was none on this morning. The woman working here was a hoot; she spoke not a word of English.
We opened up the cheese and charcuterie and made eating motions and she nodded in agreement. We then asked for a knife making a sawing motion....in a moment she figured out what we needed and replied to our pantomime with the knife across the throat gesture with sound effects! It was hilarious; and yes, we got our knife. You gotta love it!
Brasserie Egalite Parvis de Saint-Gilles 47 Brussels, Belgium
Instead of heading back to the apartment which I don't think was ready yet, we strolled around and actually found a friterie that I had on my list; Friterie de la Barriere, which is a little frietkot on Avenue du Parc.
It was just past 11am and there was a line. So I took a peek and one of the guys in front of me who was chatting with his friends in Flemish, turned to me and said, "no worries. this place makes the best frites in the area....." Say no more......
So I got the frites, with aioli. I thought these were pretty good, not greasy, crisp exterior, fluffy exterior, but nothing special overall. After having several versions of frites in Belgium; the Missus claimed to not get what the love of frites was all about....and then she'd proceed to attack it.......
Friterie de la Barriere 5 Avenue du Parc Brussels, Belgium
By now it was time to check-in and a nap......
We awoke made a simple dinner with what we had......
Of course the Missus had something from Cantillon, Cuvee Saintt Gilloise, which She loved. The sour-tart tones were balanced out with what I can only describe as an earthy flavor. Very nice and refreshing.
I tend to enjoy tripels, so I went with the Val-Dieu tripel. I really enjoyed this; there seemed to have an apple-honey background, while not being too "bready" or boozy. Man, his was a nice beer. I need to find a bottle of this here in San Diego....though I've found that versions of the Belgian's I've had here don't taste quite the same.
And while I really enjoyed that Val-Dieu, it was the next beer I had that really made my day. I decided to try something named "Hop-Ruiter". Man, this was really good....just enough hops for me; that would be south of an IPA; yet quite floral to the nose. The flavor doesn't quite go into dubbel-tripel territory, yet the honey flavors and some citrus tones are there. We'd return to Moeder Lambic the next night so I could have this again. I did find bottles of this here in San Diego, but the overall aroma and flavor was totally different.
The Missus tried the Caulier 28.
We really enjoyed Moeder Lambic; the folks here were very nice and it seemed less touristy than the Fontainas location.
Moeder Lambic Rue de Savoie 68 Brussels, Belgium
While the Saint-Gilles area seemed a bit more "gritty" than Central Brussels or St Catherine, it seemed to have much more of the local color which we enjoyed.
We got to sleep early, tomorrow was going to be a full day.....
We really only had one full day in Bruges. And in the end it worked out well for us. The place was beautiful in the morning and later evening, when day-trippers left, but it was still rather crowded, and like I mentioned in a earlier post, you pretty much needed reservations for the better dinner locales. Luckily, the wonderful owner of our B&B managed to get us reservations at one of the restaurants that she said were among her favorites in Bruges. A place named Rock Fort. The reservations were for two bar seats which was fine with us. We were just happy to find a place to have a nice dinner.
We headed out early, happy to meander along the side streets, watching the ducks waddling along the sidewalks.
We soon found ourselves back at the City Hall Building. And decided to take a rest as the slow drizzle had petered out.
I noticed something a bit odd and pointed out these four young ladies in various costumes standing in the square.
I wasn't quite sure what this was all about, but we just had to stay and watch. Out popped another young lady with a video recorder and they did several takes of the four of them doing sort of a choreographed strut toward the camera. After finally getting it right, they celebrated with a group hug! What the objective was, who knows.....perhaps only they do? I won't even try to explain this one. Sometimes you see the oddest things.
Rock Fort is located not quite in the center of things, but just across one of the canals; where Hoogstrat turns into Langenstraat.
The façade is subdued and unassuming.
But the interior looks quite hip and very bright white. We entered and the very nice host said that since we were the first customers of the evening, if we thought we'd be done in 2 hours, they'd like to give us a table. Very gracious, the servers hit that balance between not being too stiff, yet professional and amiable.
As the evening passed, we saw quite a few "beautiful people, on several tables there were college aged young men with older women......a middle aged gentleman, dressed to the nines arrived with an entourage, sans reservations, one of the chefs came out to greet them. Apparently they had no reservations. After a short discussion, or should I say negotiation, they ended up sitting at the bar.
As we often will do when confronted with Tasting Menus; we'd work with the staff to get both menu items and the tasting menu, which was no problem here. The Missus had some wine, while I went for a beer....as I went down the menu, looking for something suitable, the cheerful young lady would nod a slight "no"....apparently she did not approve! Finally, I asked "La Chouffe".....she smiled brightly and said; "good choice". I loved this place!
I did think the buttery popcorn that came along with the cheese and bread was fun and different.
Instead of going thru the entire dinner. I'll go over the highlights. It was actually two choices from the menu that were really outstanding.
The Entrecote of Flemish Beef - wet aged for a month, cured for a month, then dry aged for a month was outstanding.
Topped with pine nuts; this aged rib eye served raw was amazingly flavored, a deep, yet clean beef flavor. The pine nuts added a nutty and slightly sweet flavor to the dish.
The Beef Tartar was also outstanding.
Loved the scallions in this, which added just the right pungency as did the roasted garlic, balancing the wonderful clean flavors. The watercress gave just the right amount of bitterness.
The Chef's menu was no slouch...I mean; there's foie gras, well prepared seafood, and pork belly.
And yes, touches of molecular gastronomy; foams, powders, and such, but nothing got in the way.
The presentation was nice....but nothing could top the two dishes ordered off the menu.
It was by far the best meal we had in Belgium.
Rock Fort Langestraat 15 Bruges, Belgium
As we took a stroll after dinner, we noticed groups of people making their way up one of the streets.
There was some kind of fair taking place.
After wandering about for a bit; we headed back to the warmth of our room at the B&B.
Our time in Bruges was coming to a close. While I'm not sure if we'll ever return; I can say that B&B B Guest was one of our favorite B&B's we've stayed at; just two rooms, close to everything, but with enough privacy, and a nice breakfast. We took away another thing from our trip. It seemed that just about every place we stayed at had a Nespresso machine. It was nice having a little pick-me-up in the morning or afternoon. We ended up buying one when we got home. Yes, the Missus is a coffee snob, but sometimes She just needs a nice shot of espresso.
We headed off to sleep rather early. The next day, we'd be headed back to Brussels.
It was on our only full day in Bruges where we really got to enjoy the city a bit. Earlier in the morning, on a weekday, we took a walk around Market Square. Even in the drizzly mist we were able to appreciate the Belfort (Bell Tower) which has risen over the square and Bruges since the 14th Century. We wandered around the courtyard and down some side alleyways.
The buildings lining the square, housing various restaurants and tourist focused businesses are built in Neo-Gothic style. This square is considered the heart of Bruges and was once the economical center as there was a canal that came right up to the square.
It was Wednesday...usually market day, but there were bleachers set-up so we saw no market stalls. We did hear a bit of noise from the nearby Burg Square.
I guess the market had been moved here on this day to accommodate whatever event was happening in the Market Square.
It was still early; before 8 and the market didn't get going until 10am, so we just walked along the booths....
And vehicles.....we called this one the Cheese-mobile.....
I love the way this pooch manages to keep dry....under the table and in a box....
While checking out some of the cheese and charcuterie we had an idea.....
We'd ask the wonderful Caroline, who ran our little two room B&B if we could use the dining area and self cater lunch!
As we crossed over one of the canals, I saw a statue that looked familiar. It was Saint John of Nepomok! Remember him from my posts on Prague?
They call Bruges the "Venice of the North", so of course I had to include a couple of canal shots.
We headed back to the B&B and breakfast was served downstairs. It was quite a nice spread.
I'm not quite sure what it was...perhaps the sickly sweet smells that all the shops had; but I'd been avoiding waffles. I know heresy....you're in Belgium and no waffles? Until this morning. Caroline made us fresh waffles, her own secret family recipe and they were delicious.
Light, crisp and creamy, not too sweet.....just perfect. I loved them...and she made me another!
We had discussed having our own self catered lunch in the dining area with Caroline and got the green light. So we headed back out. On the way out, we passed this doorway. I stopped....this was the back entrance to the Old St John's Hospital. Which is now the Memling Museum. We hadn't visited any museums in Belgium and this one had artifacts and displays of medieval medicine as well as art. This is our kind of stuff. And we really enjoyed the Memling.
The painting is full of different vignettes of what patient care at St John's Hospital was like, from the Nuns that served as Nurses, to the fact that dogs were welcomed in the wards.
The ambulance? Well, it was a man powered sedan chair.....
Which I believe was this sedan chair.....
While checking out some of the displays, I heard the Missus go, "oh my....check this out. Those are some awesome stones" (it's not what you might think by what she said). Holy smokes! Check out those stones....kidney stones. My goodness, can you imagine the pain?
I'll not go into any great detail of how the stones were removed, but in case you're morbidly interested, here's an interesting link.
The main attraction of the museum is probably Hans Memling'sSt John Altarpiece. Dedicated to the Patron Saints of the hospital, this work was displayed on an altar situated at a height and distance so all beds in the ward could view this painting.
We then quickly returned to the market which was just starting to get into full swing.
We made our purchases, returned to the B&B, placed them in the fridge and headed off. It was still a bit too early for lunch, so we decided to grab....well...should I call it a "brunch beer"? At De Halve Maan Brewery.
You might recognize the names of the beer brewed by Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan....Staffe Hendrick and Zot. I went with the Staffe Hendrick Quad, the Missus a Brugse Zot.
I found the quad to have kind of a burnt sugar fragrance, though slightly boozy and mildly sweet. The 11% ABV sneaks up on you. Strangely, I recently had a SH Quad at Iron Pig and unlike my experiences with other Belgians it held up pretty good and tasted quite similar to what I had here.
They also have tours at this brewery but we decided not to take it.
De Halve Maan Brewery Walplein 26 Bruges, Belgium
After our liquid refreshment, we headed to a quite busy shop on the same street.
Dumon Chocolatier is quite popular.
So we decided to add to the collection of chocolates for my MIL.
Dumon Chocolatier Walstraat 6 Bruges, Belgium
We meandered a bit, then headed back to the B&B. Caroline had kindly set aside some plates and silverware for us and we had a nice light lunch.
After cleaning up, we headed upstairs for a nice afternoon nap.....
After lunch and doing a bit of chocolate shopping, the Missus decided that we needed to "stretch our legs a bit". So we headed in the direct opposite direction of the dwindling tourist crowd and followed the canals.
It seems that folks were heading for warmer and drier locales....even the horses!
Away from the crowds we could really enjoy the beauty of Bruges. Full of little quaint little streets, stately structures, canals, and wonderful churches, I could see why folks are charmed by the city.
We did find a spot we really enjoyed in Bruges, Burg Square. We'd have a seat on one of the benches in the park opposite the square and watch folks come and go. The buildings here are quite striking from the City Hall to the Basilica of the Holy Blood.
You almost get transported in time when a house drawn buggy passes in front of the gold gilded Old Recorders House.
Only to be jolted out of your day dreaming by the honking horn of a tour bus.......
Yet we really enjoyed just sitting here admiring the structures...like the City Hall Building.
The canal shots are wonderful. Like this one with the Church of Our Lady in the background.
We returned to out room, took a nice warm shower and had our ritual nap for the day.
After waking, we decided to head out to a Beer Bar that was recommended to us; t'Brugs Beertje. Unfortunately, they had just changed their hours and would be closed during our stay in Bruges.
We also found out first hand how difficult it was finding a dinner spot without reservations. Luckily we had one for the next night....but on this evening we were on our own and every spot on my list was booked solid. So, I decided on a place I'd read about serving good, unpretentious (although you could use that term for all of Belgium), hearty meals, named Bistro den Huzaar.
The place was rather cozy, perhaps the tables were a bit close together, but the folks here were quite friendly.
We ordered and some bread, herb butter, and a jar of pate was placed on the table.
The pate tasted a bit different; not overly livery, but it had a definite gamey flavor to it. I asked and was told this was Rabbit Pate....which made sense. A friend of mine told me that rabbit pate tasted faintly like urine....having never chugged "Cowboy Beer" I'll have to take is word on it.
Speaking of beer, well, this was Belgium so it made sense to have some with dinner.
The Missus ordered the Duck Confit which came with some bacon, salad, and potatoes.
It was rather non-descript. Not bad mind you, but roasted instead of seared off with crisp skin. Decent flavor and all that. What really surprised us was when a second bowl was delivered to the table...with another whole duck leg in it! So I guess you get two duck legs when you order the confit here.
I got the Lamb Stew, which was nicely flavored, good tomato, though not as rich as I would have enjoyed.
The flavor of the lamb was quite strong, which I enjoyed, though it was also on the tough side. Like the Missus, I was brought a bowl with more lamb stew in it.....
Bruges as a whole was more expensive than any other city we visited in Belgium...probably due to the amount of tourists. But at Bistro den Huzaar; you really couldn't complain about not getting enough to eat.
Bistro Den Huzaar Vlamingstraat 36 Bruges, Belgium
We basically rolled out of the restaurant and headed back to our room to recover......
It was overcast when we arrived in Bruges.....and the place was crawling with tourists. I was scouring my photos to find one, but as is the norm we try to take photos without too many folks in them.
We arrived by train and walked up to the B&B we were staying at. Located on a quite side street whose name reminded me of a certain item I used to partake of during my (much) younger days. The B&B, named B Guest had but 2 rooms and was located so close, but not in the middle of everything. Upon arriving Caroline explained a lot to us, especially the part about needing reservations for dinner. On this evening it was a bit too late, but she was nice enough to get us reservations at a very popular, up and coming spot the next night.
We then headed out to find some lunch.....
A few blocks away from the Markt Square, things seemed a bit quieter and I saw a place that was on my list. We'd been having some hearty, but also quite hefty meals in Belgium; so this little Belgian/Spanish Tapas restaurant named Quatre Mains seemed just the thing for us. I wasn't sure we'd be able to get a table, but we arrived early and was given one of the two tables that weren't reserved next to the bar.
This was actually the perfect place for lunch on this day. The menu had a nice variety of classic and not so classic tapas. The Missus enjoyed a glass of wine.
And our cozy little corner was perfect. We had a nice view of the dining area which started to fill up a few minutes after we arrived.
We could also watch folks outside on the street. People watching is one of our favorite pastimes on trips. Soon enough it started drizzling.....
We ordered a small variety of items.
We started with the Smoked Eel and Red Onion.
The nicely smoked Eel with pungent red onions, crisp toast, slightly bitter cress, and crème fraiche was quite nice.
The beef tatare was excellent.
Tender, refreshing, very "clean" tasting.
The only item we didn't care for were the Shrimp Croquettes.
The filling was basically a curry béchamel which was a bit too gluey and much too salty for us. It just wasn't our thing.
The foie gras on the other hand was definitely "our thing". Mild in flavor, but very light.
We finished off with the Beef Cheeks; which was more like a stew, as the beef had broken down.
Regardless, the flavor was intensely beefy with a touch of sweetness...almost like a cross of carrillada (Spanish style braised beef/pork cheeks) and carbonnade flamande.
The service, like most places in Belgium was quite laid back and gracious. It was just the perfect meal on this day.
Quatre Mains Philipstockstraat 8 Bruges, Belgium
After lunch, it was time for a walk......and some chocolate shopping......
There is literally a chocolate shop on every block......and we bought from quite a few of them...for gifts of course.
Knowing the Missus...there was much more walking to do.
This objective; at least on this leg of the trip was to have what many consider the best and undoubtedly one of the most coveted beer in the world, Westvleteren 12. I'd already tried a bottle in Antwerp and really didn't care for it, but there's nothing like having it at the source, which is the Abbey of Saint Sixtus. Our destination was the village of Poperinge, close to the Border of France. It was an interesting train ride; most of the folks got off at Ypres, the stop before Poperinge, probably touring WWI battle sites. We got to the village and found our way to the hotel. Our room wasn't ready, so we dropped our bags off. We asked about renting some bikes. Saint Sixtus is about 4 miles from Poperinge and other than driving, the bicycle made the most sense. Unfortunately, it was the weekend and all the rentals were closed......however, the really nice guy pulled some strings and we got our bicycles and instructions on how to get to Saint Sixtus.....along with the typical, yet somewhat ominous "you can't miss it!"
So here's the deal; the Missus recalls with such nostalgia, of riding Her bike around Beijing while in High School and College....everyone rode a bike it seems. It was such a big part of Her youth that She and I really looked forward to this. However, there was one interesting twist to all of this. I hadn't ridden a bike and even when I did, I never rode it very much, since I was in Elementary School. To put things into perspective; the last time I rode a bike Gerald Ford had just become President of the United States. Soon after getting the bike, my Mom had to sell it to buy groceries and pay bills.
Remember that old adage, "you never forget how to ride a bike"? Well, it's mostly true....I did pretty well; only falling three times..... The Missus had thought this was going to be a hoot until She saw a guy laid out and in pretty bad shape after crashing his bike in Ghent. Now She wasn't so sure....until She got on the bike. I swear I hadn't seen such a look of pure joy on the Missus's face since we first brought Sammy home. It was pure bliss for Her....meanwhile it had started raining and I was chugging along.
She would stop on occasion and take photos of the beautiful farmland while I caught up; "hurry up...hurry up....you're so slow...."
The fellow below seems to be asking me; "well, who's looking like the jacka$$ now?" After all, it seemed like the hardest part of this whole bike riding thing was getting started and...well, the other real important part.....stopping.
Eventually, we saw a little sign pointing down a side road which said "Saint Sixtus".....heading down thru the fields of hops, this area produces 80% of the hops for Belgium, we eventually came to the Abbey of Saint Sixtus.
And here we were. One quick note....this is Trappist Beer; brewed in a real Monastery, by real Monks. This is not the Stone Brewery Tasting Room and Restaurant, if you know what I mean. You can't taste beer here....you can order cases of Westvleteren, if you're lucky enough to call and make an appointment and drive to the Abbey to pick-up your beer at the scheduled time. You have limit as to how many beers you can order and from what I heard even provide the vehicle license plate number.
Unless you need a case of Westy; I'd suggest going across the street to the café owned by the Abbey; In de Vedre.
I was actually relieved to be able to park the bike and have some liquid refreshment.
The interior is quite large, very comfortable, the staff was efficient and welcoming.......
And yes; there's Westy on tap. We started with the 12 and the Blonde.
So, is the 12 the best beer I've ever had? Hard to say; I did like it, it's a quad, 10.2 ABV, but not unpleasantly boozy. There's some spice and chocolate tones and I like the "texture" as it rolled over my tongue. It was a zillion times better than the bottle I'd had. The blonde is nice; yeasty-grassy, with mild fruitiness. The Missus enjoyed the blonde but the 12 is not Her thing.
We both enjoyed a nice snack; the House Pate made with Beer....man, it was delicious.
We were probably hungry which clouded our thoughts, but man that bread was really great as well.
For dessert, I got the Westvleteren 8; which I enjoyed more than the 12. It was less boozy, had that wonderful texture and head, a bit more hops to it, and almost a bit of burnt candied sugar in my mind. I'm far from a beer snob; but this was really good.
As I was working on my beer; folks started arriving. Many of them little groups of folks on biking tours....probably biking-beers tours?
The gift shop was also doing some major business. You can buy bottles and smaller packs of Westvleteren Beer in the Café gift shop......if you're lucky. We saw four folks run out of a mini-van and charge into the gift shop looking for some "Westy to go"......
In De Vrede Westvleteren, Belgium
We made it back to Poperinge without incident. It was the weekend and traffic was quite sparse. The Missus decided we should "park our bikes" instead of returning them....just in case, you know..... We found that our room was actually a couple of blocks from the hotel. It was quite a nice room....very comfortable.
Sometimes there's no phrase more beautiful than "shower and a nap"......I was fairly soaked from the rain on the bike back from the Abbey........and in need of a nap as well.
After the nap.....guess what? The Missus wanted to ride somewhere. So we headed off in the somewhat opposite direction from Westvleteren to Watou, which was a pretty sleepy little village.
Now, Watou is a village of about 2,000 people....but they are also known for....you guessed it....a pretty famous brewery; St Bernardus. We had thoughts of visiting the brewery, but instead decided just to stop in one of the cafes.
The Missus wanted something light so She had the Watou's Wit Biere which is produced by Waotu's other brewery Brouwerij Van Eecke. Very easy to drink, citrusy, quite light.
I had a St Bernardus Watou Tripel.
Nice texture, a bit sweet....but not in the same class as Westvleteren......that's fairly immediate.
After our visit, we made it back to Poperinge without incident....for some reason, I did hit a curb and fell....but it was flat on my back so no harm was done. It was starting to come down again as we got back into town. We returned our bikes and passed this bar named.....San Diego! Go figure......
For dinner, I decided on a café in one of the hotels around the main square named Cafe de la Paix.
The place was fairly quiet........a few parties of what seemed like locals arrived...the Staff knew them all.
It was coming down pretty hard outside, so we were glad we made it here without getting soaked.
Upon being seated we were brought an amuse....which we both loved......meat in an aspic, chilled and refreshing. I suddenly recalled reading about a local dish called Hennepot.
I wanted something a bit lighter after all those high ABV beers I'd had during the day; so I went with a Omer Traditional Blonde.
On the way to dinner we passed a beer shop....in the window was something that caught the Missus's eye...in a very strange way. She loved the label......with this Nun on it. She described it in a fairly particular way. Looking over the beer list; I mentioned that they had this beer on the menu......so when the Server came over the Missus excitedly told him, "I'll have a SLUTTY NUN!" He raised an eyebrow quizzically and I ordered the Poperings Nunnebier......sigh.
I'll let you decide about the Missus's description......
So the nice woman working here came to take our order and we had another funny encounter. The Missus was famished and actually wanted some meat for a change. So She asked about the sirloin; whether it was grass fed, where it was from.....you know. The woman laughed and pointed in a direction and said, "our cows live there....and you ask so many strange questions." It's a different way of life, food is not the commodity stuff shipped thousands of miles away......sourcing locally is not an advertising point, but the way things are here.
Meal came with meh frites (man, this was Belgium...I expected more) and a nice salad. The beef was cooked a perfect medium, a bit more tender than I expected, considering it was grass fed, and full of flavor.
After our amuse; I just had to have the Hennepot....I was told it was rabbit, chicken, and veal, though it all had pretty much the same texture.
Not everyone's cup of tea I'm sure, but the gel/aspic on this makes the dish. I'm told it's one of the oldest local specialties. It's tangy, sour, and so refreshing. It was 90+ this morning when I started this post....I'd have loved to have this for lunch today.
Cafe de la Paix Grote Markt 20 Poperinge, Belgium
It was indeed a fairly rainy day......
But our room was nice a cozy and had that appliance we had so many times on our trip that we actually bought....a Nespresso. So we enjoyed our short stay......
We awoke to a serene Sunday morning in Ghent. After a nice cup of coffee we headed off for a nice morning walk through the formerly run down, but now gentrified neighborhood of Patershol, past where we got off the tram the previous day near Gravensteen Castle.
We just kind of wandered around following the few folks out walking in the morning.....
We crossed over St Michael's Bridge.
And found a small Sunday Market in the square in front of St Michael's Church.
For some reason we were lucky enough to run into a flower market in Kouter Square.
It was a charming market....full of bright flowers.
And smiling folks, just taking in the flowers, the sunshine, having a nice morning coffee from one of the stands (there's even one serving oysters and champagne!). It's these little happy mistakes that makes travelling so wonderful.
We soon saw a band warming up in the bandstand.
So we did the local thing; we had a seat on one of the benches and listened to the band.
We soon saw a family of five looking for some seats; so we waved them over and took our leave.
While listening to the music, I had gotten an idea. Why not just stay in for dinner? So we headed back to the little market in front of St Michael's Church to do a bit of shopping. The riverfront was starting to awaken on this sleepy Sunday morning.....
We made a few purchases and then headed back to the apartment; taking the long way, joining all the folks enjoying the river front.
We did see one guy who had taken a pretty bad fall from a bicycle, but he looked ok, so we kept on going. Arriving back at the apartment, we took a nice little break, more coffee, a shower to freshen up...then the decision of what's for lunch....a rather early lunch (11 am). I decided that we should head down the two blocks or so to Vrijdagmarkt and see what was open.
There was a rather nice looking place; white tablecloths and all, named Brasserie Savarin that was open for service.
Since this WAS Belgium...anytime is a good time for a beer.....
The Missus had a Tongerlo Blonde; sweet, quite foamy, fairly non-descript.
I ordered the Ommegang Keizer Karel Charles Quint - A Belgian Strong Pale Ale.
Mild hops, a bit different from what I had gotten used to, a bit "clovey"....quite a bit of head.
I had read that in Ghent they use thyme and the different beer creates a different flavor....not sure; this one was pretty much what I'd had before, honestly, not quite as good. The beef was on the drier side and the "gravy" not as strikingly flavorful.
The frites were just ok......I was still searching for some great frites in Belgium.
Things were much quieter at this time for the day.......
Which gave me a chance to take a good look around......
The Missus got a really nice Geuze from Brouwerij Drie Fonteinen. Floral with citrus tones; with a nice funk, fairly light and very pleasant.
I got the house blonde, light, pleasant, and easy to drink.
Dulle Griet Vrijdagmarkt 50 Ghent, Belgium
We then took a leisurely post lunch siesta......a very under-rated and appreciated event.
Before dinner, we got back out and took a walk.
The one place I do regret not visiting in Ghent was St Bavo's Cathedral; it was under going some restoration when we were in town. I understand the artwork and altarpiece are quite stunning. But I mostly wanted to go to see the statue of someone near and dear those who know a bit about the history of Hawaii; Pater Damiaan; more commonly known as Father Damien who was born in Belgium. I'll make sure to visit next time.
Dinner was simple affair.......chicken wings and some cheese.
We'd end up buying cheese and carrying it with us for the rest of the trip.
Taking our post dinner walk we found that even on a Sunday night the Groentenmarkt was a happening place.
We really enjoyed Ghent and would miss this town. We stood and just soaked in the sounds and sights before heading back.
As we got back to Vrijdagsmarkt we were suddenly possessed and had to make a right turn back into Dulle Griet! For one last beer; the missus had Her Duchesse De Bourgogne and I a Leffe Royale. A nice end to our stay in Ghent.
The next morning we would be off, taking two different trains, in search of what some consider to be the most coveted and best beer in the world......
Having put away a couple of beers, we thought it would be a good time to grab a bite to eat. We headed back up to St Bavo's Square. Right next to the Dutch Theatre is a brasserie that was recommended to me for typical Ghent style Flemish food named 't Vosken. The place was pretty crowded; though most of it were tourists having beer on the patio.
The menu did indeed have some dishes we were interested in.
I started with a Palm Royale; fairly sweet, apple/pear thing going....not too boozy, pretty light and easy to drink.
I ordered the House Rabbit; which came which was a nice braised rabbit. The sauce was obviously beer based and it reminded me of carbonnade.
The rabbit was decently tender and the dish came with frites (not very good) and apple sauce which went well with the rabbit.
The Missus chose Ghent's signature dish, which originated in this city; Waterzooi. 't Vosken only serves the chicken version. The dish really looks strikingly different from other Belgian type braised and stewed dishes we'd had so far.
The color comes from the combination of egg yolk and cream used to add texture to this broth.....it was originally a very simple stew, I was told that "waterzooi" basically means to "boil in water". The Missus really enjoyed this.
We finished up with a Rodenbach Grand Cru.....a favorite of mine with nice stone fruit flavors that we love in Flanders Reds. The Missus loves Her Flanders Reds....
‘t Vosken Sint-Baafsplein 19 Ghent, Belgium
Lunch was fairly heavy so we walked back to apartment.
There was quite the shindig going on at the Groentenmarkt and band playing, folks having drinks....notice the singer in the band is using a "cheat "sheet"!
One of the vendors had this beautiful looking dog......
When I bent over to pet her, she turned over submissively.....so she got a nice belly rub....
After our nap, we headed back out. We'd be eating in that evening, but decided to take a pre and post dinner walk. By this time the day trippers seemed headed back to Brussels or Bruges......
After returning and having our dinner....cheese, bread, and some charcuterie we headed back out and had a nice walk. The Town Hall was lit up nicely. The building itself is kind of odd as it looks like several buildings of distinctly different styles were grafted together. Somehow, in Ghent, it just seems to work.
The Belfry and the Dutch Theatre looked quite dramatic at dusk.....just like a movie set.
And that party at Groentenmarkt was still going strong. Different band, but maybe, the same folks were still hanging out?
On the way back, we stopped in at what is probably the Missus's favorite bar in the world; Dulle Griet.
A combination of locals and tourists, this slightly dumpy and divey joint, with somewhat grumpy staff and a beer list of over 250 was just the right fit for us. We just felt at home.
We quickly noticed that there were several people walking around with only one shoe on. Apparently, if you order a "max beer", which looks like a liter, you need to leave a shoe as collateral. It is then hoisted in a basket to the ceiling. To prevent folks from stealing the glass perhaps?
I guess once you pay your tab, you get your footwear back.
And then there's our infamous "Duchesse" experience. The place had Duchesse De Bourgogne on tap, the Missus's favorite. So we ordered it....well, we tried to order it. The woman kept going "huh?" So I showed her the beer list and she went "oooohh, Doo-Chezz....doo-chezz....ha-ha-ha-ha, snort, snort." She then pointed us out to the other server and they giggled and snorted, I guess we were the big joke of the night. Anyway, this was the best "Doo-chezz" I've ever tasted....slightly pruney, balsamic like tones...the temperature was perfect. Much better than what I've had back here in the states....even on tap. We'd noticed that something is lost when beer is transported.
My Bornem Trippel seemed so mild in comparison.....
We loved this place.......even though we were now known as the "Doo-chezz" couple.