The world on your plate

I already had this for a while, but I forgot to share it with you guys… For the International Food day in Sydney or better to promote the International Food day the organization behind the festival created 18 country flags using food/dishes each country is known for and obviously in the correct colors of the flags . Talking about being creative..right?

Too bad they didn’t have one for Belgium. I wouldn’t know which ingredients or dishes to use to make a match. Would you? Maybe we can make one ourselves?  The red and yellow would be easy, but the black?? Unless I would just burn a dish 😉 🙂

Anyhow, please feast your eyes on some of the beauties they made

Thailand

USA

China

It is difficult to say which one is my favorite, but Thailand makes a good chance :-)Please find all 18 flags on the following link.

My compliments to WHYBIN\TBWA!

Dinner without thinking and going to the supermarket

Smartmat

I’m sure you guys are all anxious to know more about the birthday weekend I had planned for my fiancée, but for that you’ll have to have another day of patience.

I first want to tell you more about “Smartmat”. Smartmat is a “concept” founded in 2007 in Sweden by a woman called Kicki Theander. The concept existed out of shopping bags filled with ingredients to deliver at people’s homes… I bet you are now thinking “there already exist lots of initiatives and concepts like this”. Yes, which is indeed true, but what makes Smartmat ‘s way more interesting is that they also include very easy to use recipes for these ingredients. Also important to know is that by the end of the week you’ve used up all the ingredients (except maybe some garlic gloves), so you won’t have to worry about leftover ingredients.

A while ago a man called Anders Åsarby who according to his name you can already expect he’s Swedish, thought this might also be a very nice concept to bring to Belgium (as he’s already living here for 20years). So together with Kicki and Dirk De Maeyer they started thinking how they would be able to launch and get this concept going in Belgium. I can say they did a REALLY good job as this is a well thought true concept!! (from the portions, to using everything that is in the bag as the easy to use recipes)

It was actually a friend of mine (Stephanie) who had brought my attention to the existence of Smartmat and I’m glad she did 🙂 :-). The reason for it, well I think the most asked question in every household around the world is “what are we going to eat tonight” (it drives my fiancée crazy). Smartmat actually solves this problem for you as you just subscribe via the Smartmat  website, decide the way you would like to pay, the times you which to receive a package (every week, every 2 weeks, etc…) and don’t forget to mention allergies, after that Smartmat  does all the thinking for you. Every week they put together a package of ingredients for a week (including vegetables, meat fish, …), add the recipes how to prepare the dishes (explained in around 7 easy steps) and get them to you in the beginning of the  week (after working hours + they let you know day before at what hour they’ll pass by). Only one thing for you left to do and this is preparing the dish. Again, it is very well and easily explained, everybody could do it… I feel like specifying a name, but that’ll only get me into trouble, so let’s just call it “people who can’t cook” could even prepare it. There is indeed a list of ingredients you have to foresee at home (like salt & pepper), but find the list here

So the beginning of last week I had my first package delivered

Smartmat THE bag

Smartmat ingredients for the week

The menu of the week was (and you have to follow the order they put it in the ‘week menu paper’ as some ingredients turn bad quicker than others…) BTW, they were all ready to eat within 30-40minutes

–          Lam moussaka à la Smartmat : This came with a rucola, carrot salad with a yogurt /honey/wine vinegar sauce

Lam moussaka

–          Fish with orange sauce and wild rice

Nile perch with rice and orange sauce

–          Spring pasta with porc filet

Springpasta with porc filet

All 3 dishes were nice, but my personal favorite of all 3 was the Spring pasta, after that the moussaka and last the fish.  The only reason why the fish is last was because of the rice, I only like eating rice with Asian dishes, otherwise it always remembers me of the million times I had to make calf blanket with pilau/pilaf rice and I hated that dish (still do).  I also prepared every dish how they described it (besides the pasta, but still only used the ingredients they provided)

weekmenu paper

weekmenu paper (2)

I really like Smartmat because they give a healthy menu that changes every week (some dishes might come back obviously) and I’ll keep doing this, every 2 weeks that is, otherwise the restaurant owners will start striking that I don’t visit them anymore  🙂 🙂

In case you do have some leftover dishes you can in that case either share them with “thuis afgehaald” or you can follow the indications that can be found on “week menu paper” how to freeze the dishes or find out how long you can keep them in the fridge.

OK, now I have tried to convince you enough , I do know that I always write a lot…. but when I like something I really get so excited and want to make sure I convince everybody and want to make sure I don’t forget telling something

P.S.: This is not for people who don’t like everything , as you don’t know in advance what you’ll be eating…

Enjoy!

Boy meets local products

Like you could already read in yesterday’s post, Belgium has a lot of great products, but sad enough not too many people realize this… So Didier Bastiaens of ‘Vrienden van de smaak’ thought it was time to change this and show everybody what kind of  treasures we have in Belgium by putting local products in the spotlights.

Last Sunday I experienced the first edition of a ‘vrienden van de smaak’ dinner. The concept of those dinners is based on what Southern European countries like Italy, Spain, Greece, etc…  have already been doing for years. Just picture a long table, somewhere in an open field, in the middle of a vineyard or even in a little town, where they only serve local dishes or dishes made with local ingredients…  The only difference is that the mothers who make the dishes in Southern Europe are replaced by some great Chefs like in this case Giovani Oosters from restaurant Vous lé vous.

The region for the kickoff was Haspengouw,  that is at its best during spring (as then all the fruit trees are flowering up). Normally the dinner was going to be at Kasteelhoeve De Kerckhem (outside), but due to the great Belgian weather they decided to do it a different location and did it at the garden of taste greenhouses.  I really couldn’t imagine a better location! As they had put the tables right in the middle of the Greenhouse 🙂

A lovely sight, ain’t it? To make this concept even more fun, they asked every guest to bring a plate with a motto or pledge on it, which they would put on the table and you were not allowed to sit at your own plate… this makes that you’ll be siting with new people you don’t know ( the social person in me loooooves this 🙂 ). I was sitting next to the lovely Marta aka Princess Misia who until now I only knew virtually, so thanks to ‘vrienden van de smaak’ I finally met her in real life 🙂

This was the plate I had in front of me

Food time, as that was the purpose of being here :-).  I can only say that one dishes was even better than the other one we started off with some white asparagus (the season has just started) with some dried meat (originating from Alken) with a walnut dressing and a salad of fresh herbs  (from the Mombeek valley) and some freshly made rye bread.  This got served with a Belgian chardonnay ‘blauw’ from Genoels-Elderen

After that they gave us some lamb ‘Hampshirre down’ (also local product) with pommes chateau and a spinach salad with goat cheese from ‘De Levende aarde’. This was really the BEST lamb meat I had EVER have, it really melted on your tongue (just picturing it makes me want more).   This got accompanied by a nice Belgian red wine (that had a really light color for being a red wine) ‘De vroege Loonse’ from Cohlenberg .

And the dessert was a pannacotta made of goat milk, rhubarb and hibiscus. This got served with I think the most special wine I have drunk in a long time, this wine was made of blueberries from Blueberry fields

The only thing that wasn’t really local, were the Coffee and Tea assortment (with thank to Barista Roel Driesen)  they served us. And again all different cups 🙂

This has been a true experience Didier, Chef Giovani Oosters, sommelier Harald Oostenbach, Puur Limburg and their team have really outdone themselves!

I really hope you guys have the change to go to one of the following dinners by Vrienden van de smaak. You can find the dates on following link . You can see ‘Vrienden van de smaak’ as a travelling restaurant only working with the products that it finds on its way.

Fyi, they also do this for companies…. (hope my boss reads this 😉 )

For the US version of the vrienden van de smaak, you can look on Jim Denevan’s outfields website

The hard life of waiters

I read an interesting article in the Wall street Journal, it is about how waiters can read your table. Which isn’t an easy task, as within a few second a waiter has to figure out what the clients enter are expecting from the evening or what they want… All just to be able to provide the best service obviously. Having worked in my dad’s restaurant during a lot of weekends, I can tell for a fact that it is sometimes very difficult to know when somebody is ready to order. Normally when the menus are closed this would mean that they are indeed ready, but what to do if they didn’t even open it? You have to find ways to remind them they have to place their order… as otherwise no food. It has never happened that I talk soooo much (and I talk a lot) that I don’t want to order, for me that is usually priority nr 1 😉

A simple trick  would be the old “The hand on the table” trick, by putting a hand palm on the table, just to catch your groups attention … But of let’s be honest, this trick wouldn’t be appropriate in every type of restaurant , I don’t see a waiter in a 3 star restaurant put his hand palm on the table 🙂 🙂

Some restaurants even have a “waiter script” how to read tables, in these scripts it says for example that if a laptop is on the table, the guests will most probably don’t take appetizers . The way people at a table react depends also of how many they are, is it a business lunch or a romantic dinner.

Did you know that you might sometimes being sending signals to the waiter? (and now I don’t mean winking at the waiter). For example:

–       If you’re chatty… A waiter is more likely to assume a friendly, chatty table is there to party. Get ready for more offers of drinks, dessert and a talkative waiter. So that’s why waiters always want to give me more 🙂

–       If you’re wearing a suit at lunch… Diners who look like they just stepped away from their cubicle, whether in a suit or business casual, are bound to get speedier service. The exception: If the waiter realizes the boss or valued client wants to set a slower pace by asking for more time before ordering or pulling out papers for a sales pitch.

I have to admit that it is a very interesting and funny article at the same time.

And you thought a waiter’s life was easy?

How to measure in the kitchen?

Last night I saw lots of very handy charts from ‘Chasing Delicious’.  These charts show how to convert volume, mass, etc…

I’m sure you’ve also experienced this  that you’ve bought a foreign cookbook or found a recipe on a website, and they are talking about “Ounces, pinches, cups, etc…” and you’re not sure what they mean by it.

Well ‘Chasing Delicious bundled almost all measures used in the western world and put them in easy to use charts. The picture below is just one of the many examples you can find on their website

Now you have no more excuses not to try those foreign recipes J (and I have to admit that on Chasing delicious website has a few good ones)

My Christmas present list: Final part

Here I am again. If these last suggestions are still not your kind of cookie, than I think you’re on your own.

Maybe you’re more into giving books? The book that actually has my interest this Christmas is one written by Paul Van Craenenbroeck “The magic behind the Michelin star” (I think it is only available in dutch and French). Paul van Craenenbroeck was a Michelin star inspector for about 22 years, who decided that it was time to reveal some unknown facts about the world behind the red restaraurant/hotel star guide. According to Mr Craenenbroeck, Michelin is a company that stands for French chauvinism, nepotism, incompetency, conservatism en bureaucracy… But I’m pretty sure it will not be totally negative, as he worked there more than 20 years. I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t wait to start reading it….

Cookbooks, well you could always look in my blogposts about cook books. Somtehing that I find important about a cook book, is that everything is well explained and the recipes are things you can actually make without having to buy a lot of new kitchen equipment. So basically it is important to actually open the cookbook before you buy it and don’t be influenced by the fact that it’s a cookbook that gets a lot of publicity, because this doesn’t always mean that it is a good cookbook.

For singles I would recommend the “Lekker single kookboek’ by William Wouters (yes from restaurant Pazzo) and Marc Declercq. For Vegetable lovers, I would highly recommend one of the Cookbooks from Frank Fol aka the vegetable cook

And for my English speaking friends, according to the NY times, these are THE best cookbooks at this moment… So it is up to you 🙂

Or maybe you’re more of a “make the present yourself “kind of person? In that case, you might wanna make a cook book yourself? Or another book? I’m actually going to make one myself. I’m going to make it via Albelli, because you can not only make it a ‘picture’ album, but you can also add writing 🙂 It is  like being a famous chef and making your own cookbook 🙂 . Not sure yet if I’ll give it as a gift to someone or keep it for myself 🙂 . I’ll show you the result once I have it. Let me know if you have already made one, I’d love to see yours. FYI here you can get some inspiration

Well this is about it I think… I hope you got some inspiration?

Enjoy!

My Cups n’ cakes workshop experience

A few weeks ago I received an invitation to follow a workshop to make cupcakes at my company’s head office. Obviously I immediately excepted the invitation as it doesn’t happen every day as usually it are work-related workshops 🙂 .  Our Sensei for the evening was the lovely Karolien from cups ‘n cakes, who is a real pro, if you look at her website you see that she creates the funniest creatures.

Making cupcakes might seem easy at first, but I must admit that it really takes more patience en craftsmanship than one would think 🙂 . The theme  of yesterday’s workshop was ‘Sinterklaas’  as you can see on the above picture.  Step by step we got guided into the world of cupcake making and learned how to make a worthy  replica of the original cupcakes. (and i learned that I needed patience)

Making cupcakes or better, decorating them was a first for me, it really fell like being back in kinder garden playing with Play Doh 🙂 … Funny stuff :-)!  My actual result well, I wouldn’t call it a real replica, my creatures seemed to be under the influence of some kind of drug  (especially my Sinterklaas, he looks like a creature in Spongebob squarpanths)… You be the judge .

On the picture below you can see on the right the original and at the left the one I made, but I think you’d already guessed that 🙂

My best cupcake of the evening was without any doubt the one with the roses! At first I really thought that I did a great job, this until I looked around and saw what wonderful things my colleagues had made!! I think some of them are really gifted (or just have a lot of patience). Really, I saw one person making a mermaid, little ducks, hearts, etc…  At some point it started looking like Santa clause’ north pole workshop 🙂

I really had an amazing night with lots of laughs! I can really recommend it to everybody who wants to have a fun team event or learn to make workshops to do so and contact cups ‘n cakes!!