Proud to be a Belgian

One should always be proud of its local products! Me for example I ‘m very proud to be Belgian and Italian (I’ve got both nationalities). Lucky for me that these 2 countries are filled with products from a very high quality and that are world renowned! Yes both countries!! I’m sure you’ll probably be able to some up more Italian products than Belgian products or Brands. I think a reason for this might be that sometimes you know the name (or heard of it), but you didn’t realize that it is actually a Belgian product. A perfect example of one of these products is “Mandarine Napoleon”, I always thought it was a French brand… but boy was I wrong 🙂 This product is 100% Belgian.

For who doesn’t know “Mandarine Napoleon”, I’ll give a little history lesson which will explain more about the background from this drink of Emperors.  What you first of all need know is that “Mandarine Napoleon” is a Belgian fruit liqueur. Although the liqueur originates around 1892, it was actually much earlier that the “foundations” for this liquer got discovered. Around the end of the 18thcentury and begin of the 19th century one of the main ingredients of “Mandarine Napoleon” (Mandarins 🙂 ) were seen as a luxury product as they could only grew in China and you can imagine how long a boat trip from China to France around 1769 would take. A bit later they discovered that mandarins could also be grown in places like Corsica, Andalusia or Sicily (basically they need very hot temperature to grow). One day a guy named Antoine-François de Fourcroy (aka Napoleon Bonaparte’s doctor) had the idea of soaking mandarins in a mix of alcohol and cognac (and of course distillate it). I’m not sure, but I also think it was because the mandarins were already cheaper than the time they had to be imported from China (so more affordable)so easier to start experimentig with them. FYI I’m imagining a dude with long white curly hair and white tights, you know like the English people in the House of Parliament in front of a copper distillery. I know this is not relevant info, but I needed to share it :-). (But the picture below shatters the image in my head) Anyhow, so to make a long story short, Napoleon tried the “drink” made by Mr. de Fourcroy and liked it a lot and dranks lots of them during his life! As I said it was after that only around 1892 that the Froucroy family (Belgians from around Brussels) decided that refine the Antoine-François’ drink by adding herbs and spices (the same recipe still gets used today). This resulted that on today’s day Napoleon gets exported to 137 countries and gives everybody who drinks or tastes it the same pleasure it gave Napoleon Bonaparte 200 years ago (maybe even more, because of the extra ingredients)….

What a nice piece of history, isn’t it? I have to be honest that I had never tried “Mandarine Napoleon”, not until last week that is! Last week the owners from “Mandarine Napoleon” had asked the Belgian/Dutch from Antwerp Michelin star awarded and Njam chef Roger Van Damme (het gebaar) to create 2 desserts that would match with a glass of Mandarine Napoleon on the rocks and with a cocktail based on Mandarine Napoleon. FYI, for making the cocktail they had asked the renowned Manuel Wouters (who knows really everything about cocktails) from Sips bar, who made a really beautiful and yummy cocktail (one of those that you don’t notice that you’re drinking alcohol)

It is obvious that it wasn’t an easy job for Roger to find and create a dish with this Liquor (or any drink for that matter), but during a small workshop in his kitchen Roger told us how and which steps he took for making this exquisite and beautiful dessert(s). Something he didn’t want to do was serve us the obvious, which would have been dark chocolate (just think of the orange filled cookies they sell in the supermarktet). So Roger started looking further and looked at what ingredients (or some of the ingredients) that get used to make “Mandarine Napoleon” besides mandarins.

All this brainstorming resulted in a heavenly dessert with some the softest ice I have ever eaten! As surprise they also filled the ice cream ball with an extra flavor (when you cut the ball in two it looked like a boiled egg) . When eating dessert is was like a party in your mouth. A mix of sweet tastes from white chocolate combined with fresh flavors from mango and passion fruit with from time to time a salty taste in between that accentuates the flavor of the chocolate…and those are only a few of the flavors I tasted. To make the experience of the dessert ever better they served the dessert on a plate (I might even all it a box) that had all the ingredients from “Mandarine Napoleon” under it. This way you could experience the smell (as you know from my Foodpairing blogpost you taste mostly with your nose) from the ingredients and gives another dimension of tasting the dessert.

The second dessert were actually pancakes that got pimped with Mandarine Napoleon, this to show that food doesn’t have to be complicated to be good and tasty. (This dessert reminded me of Crêpe Suzette, but without the ice cream)

I wasn’t really a Liquor lover in the past, but Roger and Manuel did a good job convincing me to try Liquor more often 🙂 Thank to both of them and also to Mandarine Napoleon to let us have this great experience. It are products like this that make me very VERY proud to be a Belgian!

Btw, if you also want to try the desserts, you can always go to restaurant ‘Het Gebaar’ and hope these desserts are on the menu :-). If you want to try Mandarine Napoleon, you can find it in most supermarkets  ….

Mmm, what a long post, but now I’m sure you get the whole picture 🙂 🙂

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