I specifically have two books that delve into the foodie travel-world: 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die & Food Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 Extraordinary Places to Eat Around the Globe. As much as we try to taste of these new foods while traveling, it is impossible to cross off the entire list. Below are the food items we specifically ate while in Belgium and the Netherlands this past spring break that ALSO appear in these two books.
Moules Frites (Mussels & Fries)
The mussels are cooked in white wine or one of Belgium’s wheat beers seasoned with shallots, garlic, and parsley. Although you can get lots of different combinations, I went with the “classic” style. The fries were a nice balance to the mussels and I liked the combination of the seafood and salty fries.
These waffles are actually street food, not a breakfast staple. There are a ton of different toppings you can put on these, from powdered sugar to fruit to a mountain of whipped cream. Personally, I am also not a fan of fruit syrups so we stuck with good ole fashioned Nutella.
If you prefer, you can also have savory waffles, with bacon, mushrooms, spinach and cheese, and more, but they are certainly not as popular as the sweet variety.
The Fine Art of Oysters
So this isn’t actually about eating anything, but art instead. The Dutch Masters painted a lot of still-lifes that include fruits, vegetables, domestic items, musical instruments, and cut flowers. Each items is symbolic, usually a reminder of that the luxuries of this world are temporary and will all shorty die.
Oysters were very popular in these table still-life paintings; they were challenging to paint and a luxury item. The rocky exterior contrasted again the shimmering, smooth interiors and the translucent oyster itself. Many times these oysters were accompanies by drinks, lemon wedges, and loaves of bread.
(Great AP Art History connection to Rachel Ruysch’s still-life Fruits and Insects.)
Confiserie Temmerman, Ghent
Temmerman’s shop in Ghent felt like entering into a mini Willy Wonka store-front with its jars filled with candies of all colors and shapes. Their specialty is the cuberdon, a pyramidal-shaped filled with raspberry jam. Will really liked these candies, I however, did not.
These are like hot dog stands in New York and you can add ingredients to make this a “full” meal,” albeit not a healthy one. The quality of Belgian fries are decided by four factors:
- Starchy potato like the local bintje
- Potatoes are cut to the right size, about a pinky finger
- They are fried in clean, hot oil until they are soft and removed to cool
- Fried a second time until they are crispy and golden
Beer in Bruges
Belgium is famous for their beers and they vary in alcohol content (5-12%), styles, and labels. I actually really loved the gueuze (sour) beer for its citrus flavor. We went on a brewery tour of De Halve Maan Brewery which is the only one still producing within the city limits of Bruges. It was a great and informational tour with a free beer at the end!
Ok so we went on a wild goose chase looking for this Dutch gin for a few nights but we eventually found it! Jenever is a 300-year old Dutch gin recipe. According to our waiter and the book I have, this drink was invented in 1650 by adding juniper berries to distilled spirits of course for medicinal purposes.
There are two types of Jenever: the oude (old) and jonge (young), the young version was introduced around 1900 and has a lighter flavor (we tried both of course). Personally, I don’t like gin but the rest of my crew enjoyed the experience.
Chocolate in Brussels
This was literally one of the reasons I wanted to go to Brussels – I love, love chocolate! Especially the dark, expensive variety. 🙂 The area around La Grand-Place has numerous boutique chocolate shops such as Corné Port-Royal, Godiva, and Neuhaus (I only window shopped and drooled at these!).
We did a little tour of the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate which included a lovely tasting (or two!) and interesting demonstration and exhibit.