Tag Archives: sausage

Brussels: Food, Lack Thereof…

18 Jul

Last time I posted, I had just gotten into Brussels from London.  I was exhausted and penned my English sagas on a comfy leather couch in the lobby of my hostel/hotel.  I am once again exhausted on that same couch, mulling over the last week.  You see, I feel you have to go kind of hard at least one night in each city, and last night was kind of it.  So I’m sitting here with a fat bottle of sparkling water and a (hopefully) safe “sandwich Americain”—steak tartare on a baguette.  Tales of last night come later.

To preface this post, I will mostly be discussing activities rather than food, because I barely ate here.  What?  No Belgian food?  I know.  Well, I ate a little, but I can basically count the items on one hand, because I drank so much beer that I was basically running on straight abbey ale the whole time.  Sorry.  For a detailed run-down of the beers I tried here, check out my post on Getinmegullet.  I know it seems sacrilegious not to consume all these great beers alongside classic Belgian dishes, but to be honest, I have a budget and little interest returning to the US the size of a sumo wrestler.

I arrived in Belgium Friday and had a kind of relaxed evening.  I got settled in the hostel, which is really actually a very inexpensive awesome hotel (Hotel Meininger).  The only reason it’s cheap is that it’s six to a room, but there’s housekeeping daily, a full bar, a roomy lounge, a kitchen, a pool table, outdoor tables for sunny weather drinking—pretty much everything you could think of short of a full restaurant.

full bar at the hostel--holla!

full bar at the hostel–holla!

Anyway, I met this Aussie girl in my room when I got in (these Aussies are everywhere; I guess there was a prison break down under).  We decided to go to the bar and drink, since it was kind of late to start exploring.  We got talking with another Aussie (told ya) and a “lad” from Scotland.  It was then I found out that no one stays in Brussels very long.  Each of these travelers was only staying the night, and I was staying six days.  Cool!  Well, it was for the best, since fitting in all my beer and food into one day might hurt a lot.

The next day, I walked around Brussels for a while and went to A La Becasse, a beer bar recommended to me by a friend.  I got a flight of sour ales, which was delicious and a good start to the trip.  Afterwards, I went to Delirium Café, the destination beer bar with a record number of beers in stock.  I had a few beers and then joined some random British dudes for a round of framboise lambic.  They were pretty entertaining, and because of my high level of beer consumption, they were enthused about becoming fast friends.  Even if I couldn’t even really understand one of the dudes due to some awkward other-English accent he was rocking.  I left them to their English devices after the bar and went to grab some dinner.

At one of the cafés near the center of the city, I got a behemoth order of moules frites.  It was pretty good.  The mussels were a little small, but it was a whole pot of mussels, so I found it worth the price (over $20).  To be honest, I couldn’t stop eating the fries with mayo, which was really the saving grace of the meal.  I think I just went back to the hostel and passed out after that, because all the beer followed by a big meal sort of snuffs a person out.

moules frites

moules frites

The next day, I got up at a decent hour to go to the international market a couple miles from the hotel.  It was pretty cool but very crowded.  For the first time since I’d gotten to Europe, fresh fruit and veggies abounded, so I got some apricots, a giant fig, and some tomatoes for breakfast.  And then I grabbed a demi baguette.  And then I couldn’t resist trying this bread that looked like a twelve-inch English muffin, so I got that too.  But it lasted for days, so I didn’t have to buy food until about Wednesday.

After the market, I went back to the hostel and chilled.  One of the girls that arrived the day before was down to go out for beers, so we walked to a Delirium Café offshoot.  She was stressed about her adapter getting stolen, so I insisted she drink it off.  Just one Delirium Nocturnum later, she was telling stories of her boyfriend who enjoys listening to Taylor Swift.  Since I was on a comfortable drip of Tremens, I was OK with it, though.  And T-Swift doesn’t kill me too bad.  When we got back to the hostel, I grabbed an Orval downstairs, because sometimes enough is never enough, and beer for dinner is usually OK with me.

Delirium Tremens, AKA my appetizer

Delirium Tremens, AKA my appetizer

Monday, I mostly subsisted on some remnants of bread and tomato and sort of vagabonded about, drinking beers at various cafés and bars along the way.  I believe Monday is the day I went to see a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit in a museum.  What that basically entails is that the museum was showing constructed machines/inventions from da Vinci’s notebooks.  It was a little depressing, because most of them seemed really funny and apparently would never have worked.  But actually, da Vinci’s shit really paved the way for much of our modern engineering, so yay for da Vinci.  I am bad at museums.  They make me really tired, and I always feel like I should be more excited while walking through them.  Maybe they should have Red Bull check points along the way.

Da Vinci designed this scuba suit...

Da Vinci designed this scuba suit…

Most of my entertainment Monday and Tuesday came from these two new Australian girls in my hostel room.  They were really chatty and kind of just sat in bed all day eating Belgian chocolate and watching British and Japanese game shows.  I don’t really know what they were doing.  But they probably didn’t really know what I was doing either, because a lot of my days involved taking beer naps around three in the afternoon.

As an aside, I am really digging this steak tartare sandwich.  It’s doing wonders for my head.

So Tuesday, I again ate a little bread and a tomato.  Sorry.  Mostly, I walked all over Brussels to find out how much there was outside the center of the city where all the tourists hang out.  I found a couple of churches, the financial district (yawn), some cool little streets with cafés and boutiques, and that’s pretty much it.  I scored a fairly inexpensive Van Halen record, which is always nice.  During my sojourning, I happened upon a beer bar I meant to go to—Moeder Lambic.  The bartender was really friendly, and he guided me to some cool beers that really hit the spot after all that walking.  I meant to go back there, but it’s a little depressing, because they have a cool bottle selection that is mostly 750 ml bottles and therefore out of my loner price range.  It’s cool, though.  After that, I went back to the hostel to hang and drank double gin and tonics for dinner.  Always a good choice.

A church.  Everywhere's got em.

A church. Everywhere’s got em.

Yesterday was Wednesday, and if you already haven’t stopped reading this fairly mundane post, you will find out that I finally ate some Belgian food.  I got a waffle for breakfast, which had to happen at some point.  It was good, but nothing beyond my expectations.  For lunch, I got sausage stoemp, one of the quintessential Belgian dishes I’d been hearing about.  Yep, it was just mashed potatoes and sausage.  But it was good, and it went well with my Kwak beer.  It was also really filling, so I kind of rolled home after it.  Later yesterday evening, I kind of craved some sort of nightlife.  Or something.  Maybe a social environment.  So I went to Celtica, a bar that serves decent beers for two euro a pop.  And I drank three strong beers in rapid sequence.  I was talking to a dude at the bar who was fairly impressed with my beer-consuming abilities, but he didn’t offer to pay for any of them.  It’s really a shame, but I read somewhere that the Belgians think of it as feminism.  I think feminism is when girls never have to pay for alcohol.  So that’s the one downfall of Belgian culture.

Sausage stoemp.  Had I eaten more than half of it, I might've had a chance later that night...

Sausage stoemp. Had I eaten more than half of it, I might’ve had a chance later that night…

Anyway, after beer 3 and no solid food, I realized I was full on beer but also tanked.  I decided to leave but got a little lost, which is pretty hilarious considering I’ve made that walk many times since getting here.  I stopped somewhere on my way home and got a drink, but then I must’ve gone back the way I came, because it took my about an hour to get home when it should’ve taken about twenty minutes tops.  But I have to admit, some of that beer needed to be walked off anyway.  And I might’ve gotten some frites with mayo somewhere in there.

Anyway, it’s time to leave Brussels.  I don’t know if I would have liked it so much if the first map/guide I read hadn’t started with something like, “Brussels is ugly, but you have to either love it or accept it.”  It really kind of is in a lot of ways.  When I got here, I was like, ‘da fuckk?’  But because of the self-deprecating honesty of the guide writers, I became psyched about it.  I would say Brussels wins the beer category, gets a decent mark in the food category, and loses in the feminism category.  In addition to the non-purchasery of drinks for girls, there is a high incidence of street harassment happening here.  And I’m like, if I lived here, I’d want to wear a burqa every day too (fairly present Muslim population here).

Tomorrow, I’m going to Munich.  The moral of this story is: you can successfully replace food with beer as long as you drink water.

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Mmma Peche.

29 Jan

It was a last supper of sorts–on my last night home before heading back to Ithaca, I went to Ma Peche with my sister, Sydney.  Even though I was home in New Jersey for a while over winter break, I did not really venture into New York City as much as I thought I would.  But, dear friends, I care more about the quality of my days in New York than the quantity of days I go there.  And Ma Peche was quality.

Upon stepping into the dim corridor out of the frigid January night, we arrived at the host stand and yet another outpost of…Momofuku Bakery!  Nice.  Our hostess directed us into the main dining room promptly, and I was surprised by how much bigger it was than any of the other Momofuku restaurants.  We passed the beautiful raw bar on our way to our seats and then took our place at a quasi-communal set of tables against the far wall.  Although I felt the seats were pretty close together, I realized that I didn’t really feel weird about it after a couple minutes.  The restaurant was not too loud, but there was enough din to make me feel like our neighboring tables could hear every word of my conversation.

OK, OK, I’ll get to the food already.  Ma Peche offers a menu not unlike its Momofuku siblings’, but the menu’s categories reflect its French-Vietnamese flair.  Our menu looked something like the one on the restaurant’s site, offering everything from small plates to entrées and cheeses:

ma peche menu pt. 2

Once our server gave us the menu, she explained that Ma Peche encourages sharing plates for a more communal experience.  At first, I wished that meant it was acceptable for me to dig in to the plate in front of the man to my right, but I refrained.  I figured I could deal with sharing with just my sister.

We really couldn’t decide what to order after perusing the menu for a bit, but since our waitress seemed antsy to take our order, we decided to bite the bullet and pick some stuff.  What could be bad?  Neither of us habitually eats like a linebacker, so we ordered two small plates, an entrée, and a side.

Our first dish was a bowl of Burgundy snails with a fat little link of pork sausage and a piece of crusty baguette.  Although my sister never tried snails before, she loved them, as did I.  A take on the classic escargot, the dish had a delicious pool of buttery garlic-tarragon sauce (instead of the classic parsley-garlic).  A swipe of violet mustard on the side added some floral and sharp contrast.

snails with sausage, tarragon, and garlic

Next, we tried the mackerel with black garlic sauce, horseradish, and apple.  Not only was it a beautiful, simple looking dish, but it was refreshing after the rich snails.  The mackerel was served sashimi-style, with its accompaniments judiciously plated so as not to overwhelm the fish.  Although mackerel can be fishy, it was fresh tasting and meaty, perfectly complimented by the tartness of the apple and deep umami of the black garlic sauce.

mackerel

When the our main dish finally came out–our duck breast with sausage, spaetzel, and scallions–after a relatively long wait, I was surprised by the small portion.  Three slices of duck breast, one duck sausage patty, and spaetzel that amounted to a garnish-like portion?  Methinks I shouldn’t be charged $28 for something nearly as small as appetizers half that price.  Hm…Furthermore, unfortunately, the food was not incredibly hot.  Did something go awry in the kitchen?  Did someone misplace our plate on the pass?  Luckily, the flavors made up for the wait and the portion size, and as I knew of the farm the duck was from (Jurgielwicz), I felt good about eating it.

duck

Our side dish, unlike the duck dish, was enormous.  Our bowl of charred cabbage with beef tongue was big in both size and flavor.  Such a simple dish, but so smart and well-executed.  The cabbage was charred but still crunchy, and the beef tongue was extremely tender and delicious.  Even though we could not make it through the bowl in one sitting, I went for it and got my cabbage doggy-bag on.  So worth it.

cabbage I could not leave behind

Last but not least, we ended our meal on a cheesy note, ordering the Oma and Vaquero cheeses for dessert.  The Oma was smooth, farmy, and rich, and the Vaquero was bold and creamy.  Not a bad ending at all.

All in all, I think Ma Peche is doing great in its early years, as evidenced by the full dining room we sat in.  Although it may take some time for customers to get used to the communal vibe (the couple next to us was pretty awkward about sharing a stack of napkins with us), the idea will catch on.  People like to share their eating experiences.  In my opinion, there is no crime in getting excited over food with those at the table next to yours.

And Now–The Holiday Countdown: Reasons I am Currently Fat

27 Dec

When I said I was ready for the holidays, I must have seriously been ready. For the past week, I’ve been cooking my ass off and turning out as much food as elves turn out toys around this time of year. Not only was I busy with my own holiday “tomfoodery” as I like to call it, but I was also caught up in a storm of orders from friends for holiday baked goods. You see, I felt that sending out an e-mail to all my mom’s friends to notify them that I was coming home and was available to bake holiday treats would be a fruitless effort, but it actually warranted significant response! So, through making food for my family and food for others, I made more holiday food this year than any other and probably gained more weight. Here we go:

1. Chanukah Dinner.
The first day I was home from school, I was back in my lovely kitchen, cooking for Chanukah dinner. Since it was a last minute affair, my mom and I decided to make chicken marsala (random); latkes (traditional); green beans with almonds; and a salad of grilled zucchini, chickpeas, goat milk feta, and olives. It was all delicious, and even though I didn’t make dessert, we really didn’t need it.

2. Momofuku Bo Ssam.
One of the first nights I was home from school, I decided to make the Bo Ssam from the new Momofuku cookbook that my mom got me for Christmas (it’s a long story, but I got the book early…) I made the shoulder, roasted with salt and sugar, and then made all the sauces (although I had to use onions instead of scallions because I am an idiot and didn’t buy scallions.) Everything was great!! We are still eating that pork, though; it was a lot for our family of six, even. The pork makes a great quesadilla!

3. Gemelli pasta with a basque style cream sauce.
This dinner was actually just a last-minute thing I made for my dad and my siblings. I was too tired to make sides, but I flavored a basic béchamel sauce with a stick of cinnamon and smoked paprika, and then I woke it up with some sherry vinegar. I tossed the pasta with some roasted cauliflower and green pepper and topped it with some julienne orange pepper.

4. Christmas cookies.
What are the holidays without some fuckin cookies? My cookie monster ginerbread man says, “Nothing!”

I made vanilla kipfly cookies, chocolate-toffee bark, s’mores bars (a new invention I made by making a graham cracker crust filled with fudgy brownie, and then topping it  with meringue), lemon sandwich cookies, and date-nut bars, and my mom made french macaroons, peanut blossoms, and pecan tassies.  A pretty good spread if I do say so myself.

s'mores bar!

5.  Stollen.

One of our favorite Christmas traditions is making a holiday stolen.  I always make it earlier in the week so we can cut pieces of it at our leisure for days.  I really despise store-bought candied peel, so I make my own candied kumquats every year.  The fruit I use depends on what I have at the time I make the stollen, but this year I soaked my kumquats, raisins, and chopped dried apricots in rum before adding them to the dough.  I always use the Joy of Cooking stollen recipe, and I am always pleased with the delicious, yeasty dough, which I think is greatly improved by the addition of a few teaspoons of vanilla.  Of course, the best part of the stollen is the almond paste or marzipan center.  To make my stollen festive, I usually decorate it with a Christmas tree pattern using almonds, cherries, and candied fruit, but this year I made a stocking with dried cranberries, almonds, and toasted coconut.

this year's stollen

6.  My baking business.

Before I get into what else I made for greedy little me, why don’t I tell you about all the delightful goodies my neighbors and friends bought from me for their holidays?  My favorite holiday treat, a crazy item I created last year, is a mincemeat sticky bun with hard sauce.  Nothing can really beat this, nor should anything try to beat this.  It’s just ridiculously beautiful and glorious.  The hard sauce oozes awesomely over the puffy, rich dough–a dough that tries to delay the deluge of mincemeat filling from spilling out everywhere–and barely succeeds.  The cloak of heart-warming hard sauce is the perfect answer to icing on a regular cinnamon bun, and it’s almost unfair how sadly the latter compares.

I also made over a hundred gingerbread men, chocolate-dipped orange-cardamom biscotti, two chocolate yule logs, and pecan sticky buns.  Everything was phenomenal, and I hope my customers thoroughly enjoyed the baked goods.

rolling out sticky bun dough

7.  Christmas eve dinner.

My mom likes the idea of having a spread of hors d’oeuvres on Christmas eve, and since so much fish is available around the holidays, we went a more aquatic route.  I made braised artichokes with maple, bacon, parsely, lemon, and shrimp (really amazing) and put them on top bread pudding that I infused with a shrimp demi.  Even if the dish seems far out, it was worth trying something new.  I also made crostini with shaved bottarga, olive oil, and lemon; my mom made oysters rockefeller; and we put out some cheese, gravlax, and matjes herring.

shrimp and braised artichokes on shrimp bread puddings

8.  Meanwhile: Cassoulet.

I’ve always wanted to try my hand at cassoulet, and finally I got all the ingredients to make it.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know when I’d have the time to finish it, so we would have to be ready for it when it was ready for us.  I made the duck confit myself, and it came out great.  I used navy and cannelini beans, one and a half heads of garlic, wild boar and venison-pork sausages, pork shoulder, and fresh ham.  Ultimately, I brought it to my aunt and uncle’s abode for a Boxing Day party, and it was great.  The duck skin and pork skin I lined the casserole with were amazing, the flavor was delicious, and the meats were extremely tender.  Even the ham!  I had little faith that such a lean cut would braise well, but it did.  MMMMM.

cassoulet: browning the meat

cassoulet: simmerrr

cassoulet: simmerrr

9.  Christmas dinner.

On Christmas dinner, we kind of winged it.  The only thing I had prepared was a lobster dish from Eric Ripert’s book, On the Line. It was a lobster timbale with blached vegetables and a champagne sauce.  It was great, and my mom made a nice salad with radicchio, orange, olive, and herbs and some creamed spinach.  Sound like a mish mosh?  It was.  But it was a delicious mish-mosh.  My brother and sister asked about dessert, and since I had none and lied that I did, the best thing to whip up in a pinch was pudding-thick peppermint hot chocolate with barely-whipped cream spooned generously on top.  YEAH!  Even though I was exhausted, that Christmas was a great one, and the food was very nice.  We enjoyed a bottle of rose cava from my dad’s friend.

10.  A new cocktail.

For my mom’s Christmas gift, I decided to try infusing some vodka and making her homemade grenadine syrup from fresh pomegranates.  I ended up making her toasted cardamom and vanilla infused vodka and saffron infused grenadine.  She shook them together over ice, and the drink was very delicious.  Instead of being a light, glassy color, the reduced pomegranate, enhanced by the bright saffron, turned it a deep red, and the flavor was spicy and had the punchy strength of a good manhattan.

11.  Boxing Day

Because my aunt works in a hospital on Christmas, she and my uncle have been inviting our family over for Boxing Day on the 26th for a few years.  This year, my uncle invited me to bring some things and to come help him prepare the meal.  I brought the cassoulet, which was finally ready; a country pate with chicken livers in the middle; chopped chicken liver that I made with reduced balsamic and shallots; homemade grainy oatmeal-stout mustard, and a two-year old fruitcake I made and have brushed with liquor to improve over time.  When I got there, I helped make a salt-cod gratin in puff pastry cups, mashed rutabagas, and a kale salad, and my uncle made a mac and cheese with kale, a 20 pound ham, a lamb and lentil soup, and a cranberry trifle.  What a delicious feast!!  Perhaps the best part was when my aunt and uncle’s friend–an Englishman–complimented my fruitcake.  Only the English appreciate good fruitcake.

Now I am very fat; I never really said no to anything this holiday season, and all I can do is say, “at least I enjoyed it.”  It’s not as though I can cook with such vigor at school.