Welcome Malcolm McChouffe

I don’t know if  you guys remember it, but last summer the mascot of the La Chouffe brewery Marcel Chouffe (on picture below) got stolen. I’ve got no idea how they did it as the wooden sculpture weighs over 200kg , so it’s not that you can quickly move it…. but it seems that La Chouffe items are very wanted.

Marcel Chouffe

This Saturday we were proud and happy to be able to welcome Malcolm McChouffe aka Marcel’s cousin. Malcolm will now be pointing the direction towards the little town called Achouffe (where the La Chouffe beer is made), overlooking his cousin’s empty barrel, hoping one day he will be joined again by his missing cousin!  As the name might have already revealed, Malcolm is Scottish. So I cannot think of a better way to welcome Malcolm than on the tunes of the bagpipers?? Could you? I know not everybody likes it, but I really do (that’s the little drummer in me)!! I always feel like taking a snare drum and marching along!

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I first feel like sharing a piece written by a Walloon writer and Beerologist Rony Couteure after a visit to the La Chouffe brewery. I really couldn’t express it better myself:

“In the annals of his forefathers McChouffe, a Scottish gnome from the Edinburgh woods, discovered the origins of his lineage. More and more he became suspicious that long lost nieces and nephews were waiting for him in the Belgian Ardennes. One Scottish morning he decided to bid farewell to the land of his birth and to go and seek out his foreign family. He travelled for months and  took shelter in many golden mushrooms along the way. He enjoyed luxurious herbs in the Belgian beer land until suddenly he found himself at the edge of the dark Ardennes wood. Without hesitation he entered the deep wood but swiftly lost his way between the trees which resembled each other more and more. For days he wandered around until suddenly a stimulating smell of hops lured him to the brewing village of Achouffe. McChouffe was welcomed with open arms by the Achouffe gnomes. They told him all about themselves and their lives and this culminated in a great feast which went on until the early hours of the morning.

During this intoxicating feast McChouffe met the fairy Fleurdor and, as if a bolt of lightening hit his heart,  he fell madly in love. The beautiful fairy persuaded him to give her the secret recipe for a  brown beer which was once brewed in his fatherland. With his Ardennes family he set everything in motion to brew this beer. As an old and wise gnome he returned to Scotland with the fairy Fleurdor. Their many children are still roaming around there.

In order to keep up this tradition, Brasserie d’Achouffe is still brewing this special brown beer: McChouffe which is rightfully named “Skotch van de Ardennen” (Scotch beer of the Ardennes).

This legend was told by Professor Servoisius, alias Ronny Coutteure, God rest him…”

Achouffe church

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Of course after all this visiting and listening our throats needed some moisture! Being a very curious person (at a brewery) and wanting to make sure I only give good notes to my readers I felt obligated to test all the types of beer the La Chouffe brewery offers (Yes, this is how much I love you guys). It must be said that the beers were served in tasting glasses, otherwise I’m not sure how my visit would have finished ;-). Anyhow please find the whole La Chouffe gamma on the following link. I did learn during this ‘tasting’ that I prefer dark beers :-), I’m not really into the Houblon Chouffe (aka Triple) as for me it is a bit to bitter, but according to what I’ve learned during my introduction in the world of beer & women, women prefer drinking bitter drinks… so ladies do the test!

At the end there is only one question to ask ourselfs

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I do hope you guys will one day be able to visit this brewery and very beautiful part of Belgium! With a good glace of La Chouffe of course… I got enchanted, hope you will too. We can only hope that one day the empty barrel beside Malcolm will be joined again by his cousin Marcel.

FYI, Malcolm is under camera surveillance, so don’t get any crazy ideas!

For some reason I think I’m related to Malcolm (picture taking after tasting)

Family

My fiancée’s birthday weekend part 2

In yesterday’s post I said I had already given a tip in one of my previous posts about planning my fiancée’s birthday (the link to proof I’m telling the truth), so somewhere she could have known as well :-).  It is true that on a geographical point of view the website of “Heart of Europe” is quit spread out and there are lots of nice places to visit… my choice however went to Maastricht . Why? Well I’ll be honest with you guys… Initially my plan was to have dinner at Château Neercanne  as I first I liked it there when I was there last time at the introduction of the “Heart of Europe” website and I really wanted to show this wonderful place to my fiancée and secondly because Ingrid Neven (my favorite lady chef) from restaurant Pazzo (my favorite restaurant) worked here after her studies for 3 years, so I wanted to see where she learned her basic skills… But I chose to change the restaurant as otherwise this weekend would seem more like a birthday weekend for myself and not for my fiancée (and I’m pretty sure I’ll be having another opportunity to eat at Château Neercanne).

Chateau Neercanne (3)

The only tip (besides the one on my blogpost) I gave my fiancée was that her weekend would feel like going back to school…. To mine opinion this was a really good tip 🙂 Via the “Heart of Europe” website I found hotel “Château Bethlehem” which is actually a teaching hotel and part of the Maastricht Hotel management school. So when I said it would be like going back to school, I didn’t specify for who, her or me 🙂 :-). What makes “Château Bethlehem” special is besides the fact that it are students working there (with of course some teachers around). It is also special because it is actually an old castle the they renovated and every room, from the restaurant to the rooms are all designed by twelve established and up-and-coming designers and every room is unique (there is even a room with a swing in it 🙂 ) and I can definitely say for a fact that it are big rooms. It is true that I could have picked a hotel right in the heart of Maastricht city (Bethlehem was 5-10 minutes from the city center), but I really liked their concept and the best way for the students to learn!  I’m really glad I’ve stayed here and I’d recommend it to everybody!!! BTW they also had a great breakfast (I love breakfast).  The hotel also has their own restaurant, I think I’ll be back to try it.

Chateau Bethlehem

Hotel Entrance

view from my room

Room with swing by teachinghotel

We had actually already been to Maastricht a few years ago with work, but we didn’t see too much of it as we arrived quit late… So this time we had to make up for that. Maastricht is a beautiful characteristic “little” city with lots of nice things to see and do (and for the ladies amongst you, they have lots of shopping possibilities).  A spot you shouldn’t miss while in Maastricht is the “Bisschopsmolen” is the oldest spinning water mill in the Netherlands and in the mill you get introduced the craft of the miller and see how the Spelt flour and regular flour are made. Very nice to see, but even nicer to see if the bakery itself (and breakfast/lunchroom) where they sell the most wonderful ‘Limburgse vlaaien” (I of course tested it personally) and bread all made according the original recipes! Well done Frank!! (Owner Bisschopsmolen)

Bisschopsmolen

Bisschopsmolen (2)

Bisschopsmolen (3)

Bisschopsmolen (4)

Bisschopsmolen (5)

Bisschopsmolen (6)

I know it seems like we didn’t do anything else besides eating and drinking, we did do other things but believe me if I have to describe the shops we’ve entered  my blog post would be even longer than they usually are 🙂

But the best is yet to come! To be continued ……

My fiancée’s birthday weekend

It seems I didn’t only make my fiancée curious for her birthday weekend, also some colleagues and friends started to ask me yesterday when I’d finally start telling what I had planned 🙂

My fiancée is without any doubt one or maybe even the most important person in my life, she always believes in me, supports me and so much more. So spoiling her is my life mission and I’d do almost everything to make a smile appear on her face (and boy that is one beautiful smile). For me her birthday celebration has to be something to make her feel even more special! Usually my planning already starts around Christmas! Yes Christmas and her birthday is not until April….I just want to make sure that I have time enough to organize everything the way I want it, where I want it and to get everybody free (as people’s agendas are fuller every year).  It is indeed a fact that it does become more difficult year after year to still find something as already on her first birthday that we were a couple I took her to Venice and since that time cities like Turin, Rome, Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam, Thailand, etc….have passed the review! So you can see the “trouble”…

Celebrating only between us two wouldn’t just do the trick, or at least when we go abroad we obviously celebrate it there always by us two, but to compensate it before our trip I organize (without her knowing of course) either something with her friends or her family (or both). This year I chose to do something with her family and I chose restaurant Kamu. Why restaurant Kamu, well it was already on my wish list for a while 🙂 it might not be my birthday, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to eat well 🙂

Kamu

If you haven’t been to Kamu yet, you should there’s a really good vibe in this restaurant.  I definitely also had the best seat in the house (with the best view) of the evening and this was with a view of the open (but with a window in front for the smell) kitchen.

My view

The reason this restaurant actually came on my list thanks to my fiancée’s sister 🙂 as she likes Kamu a lot. Anyhow I’m wondering off, we came here to eat something and I’m glad we did! Chef Emanuel opened our taste buds by serving us a homemade spring roll filled with duck confit, young spinach and black olive crumble as appetizer. I
also couldn’t imagine a better beverage to start the festivities than some
sparkling wine? Our choice went to the Joan Sarda cava.

Springrolls with a duck confit filling wt spinach and olive crumble

At restaurant Kamu you can either go for the 3 or4 course menu or you can choose “à la carte”. We took the 3 course menu that we accompanied by a 2009 red Italian Barbera d’Alba by Reverdito. Piemonte is one of my favorite wine regions, after Valpolicella and Valtellina… I like them as the wines always have these very round tastes…

After the appetizer the first dish chef Emanuel prepared us was a Carpaccio from sea bass (if I remember it well). This got followed by some veal with black salsify and what we call in Dutch “smoutebollen “or “Oliebollen” (in Dutch from The Netherlands). Normally these are served at a street carnival and are sweet, but in this case Chef Emanuel made “salty”ones to fit the dish. I always get so happy when I see creative dishes like this.

seabass

veal with black salsify

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For dessert we could choose if we wanted either a chocolate or lemon dessert. I picked the lemon dessert. On the tune of Stevie Wonder’s Happy birthday and some fireworks they also brought my fiancée’s dessert 🙂

Lemon tartlet

Birthday girl

Overall a very nice meal and a true price/quality value and a successful first part of my fiancée’s birthday as I saw the smile 🙂

So the family part has been done, now our “couple” part starts, but you’ll have to wait for tomorrow to read all about it… I could give a tip, but I actually already gave a tip in one of my previous blogposts about my fiancée’s birthday planning

To be continued ….

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!

Celebrating love in snowy Saas-fee: part 2

Marriage by colourbox

In the previous post you could read that my reason for being in Saas-fee was the wedding of some dear friends of mine and a wedding without food wouldn’t be a wedding 🙂 Who knew that one could eat so gastronomically and refined in Switzerland?? (Sorry, that’s my Italian side speaking :-))  I can now say for a fact you can!!

I already knew in advance the food and drinks through the whole wedding would be great as like I mentioned before the groom and his dad are big foodies and know what is good (and know what they’re talking about).  The red wire through the whole wedding (besides the bride and groom) was and I do hope this doesn’t come over in a wrong way, the Champagne from Delamotte 🙂 (BRUT). No matter where we were, every time there would be a waiter with a tray with glasses of Delamotte  (I know a hard life). For you who would want to know the specifics, this champagne is 50% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot noir and 20% Pinot Meunier and has a very soft citrusy taste and I think I also tasted a dark chocolate kind of taste… and one thing is sure, it let drink itself very easily 😉

Delamotte

If you ask 100 people what they think about when they think of Switzerland, 98 people will answer their punctuality and their good organizational skills (no doubt)!  It was really incredible to see how well organized the team of the “Ferien art” hotel/ restaurant served the food for all 210 guests at the same time and not one dish that arrived cold at its destination… incredible! My compliments to Chef Andreas Otte and his team!! Well done and not only for the organization, but also for the delicious dishes you served. We started off with a Truffle cream soup with fresh cheese ravioli. Followed by a Lobster stew pasta that got accompanied by a 2010 white French “Sous La Velle” Meursault by Domain Michelot. For the main course the newlyweds choose to serve a lamb entrecote with potato gratin, glazed snow peas and a syrahjus (basically a red wine sauce) served with a 2009 Margaux by Château La Gurgue . I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to guess what the dessert was (next to the njammy dessert and cheese buffet), of course the wedding cake 🙂

beautiful tables at the Ferien art

Truffle cream soup

Lobster stew pasta

Lamb entrecote

Don’t the dishes on the pictures above look great? For the good wine pairing during the dinner we have to thank the groom’s dad as he’s the connoisseur when it comes to wines! He chose well indeed.

The dinner and party afterwards on the day of the wedding itself were perfect, but the “the icing on the cake” of the weekend for me was definitely our lunch/brunch at 2450m height (and the groom really made curious for the food days in advance!!) This lunch/brunch was at a place called Spielboden from which you have an incredible view over the Saas-fee valley. Check out the pictures below and I’m sure you’ll agree that it is breathtaking?! I must also admit that the so nicely shining sunshine and the live Alphorn music made it even more magical.

Spielboden (2)

Spielboden

What you should know about Spielboden is that it is part of the Michelin star awarded Fletschhorn restaurant (and hotel) which normally has another staff, but for this celebration of love Chef Markus Neff decided to take over the stove himself and bring his team fromFletschhorn up to the Spielboden restaurant and cook for the newlyweds and their guests (Praise the lord). On this breathtaking spot Markus served us the following menu; we started with some fresh Scottish oyster accompanied by what is to me the best drink to accompany oyster, Champagne (Delamotte ). Followed by a marinated trout in a mustard sauce, beef tartare on a whole wheat bread toast and poached shrimp and vegetable julienne. This first course got accompanied by a local wine, namely a “Petite Arvine”. Definitely a wine to remember!(really nice).  The following dish was a thyme “Ramquin de bagnes” with a vegetable strudel with a soy sauce and a lobster & ginger spring roll. The main dish was cheese soup, a poultry ravioli with forest pearls and braised pig cheek with a potato mousseline. This last one got accompanied by a Château Bonalgue Pomerol . To also satisfy our sweet tooth they a foreseen a cherry pie (I love cherry pie), lemon cake and something called “coupe colonel” which would be a sorbet served with vodka 🙂 🙂

Spielboden 1st crs

Spielboden 2nd crs

Spielboden 3rd crs

Spielboden dessert_Colonel already finished

My taste buds got spoiled ! The plan was to have some more fun in the snow after our lunch/brunch, but I’ll be honest, by the time I finished eating and drinking I was too lazy…(this doesn’t happen very often)

The party did continue, but I’m going to spare you the details about the after party and last night at Saas-fee  and I’m surely not showing pictures 🙂 🙂 … Let’s just say that we got a clear definition of the word “schnapps

Thanks to the LN beanies we were wearing  our ears didn’t freeze off. DO check out the LN beanies website or blog as all beanies, scarves, etc…  are made 100% from Peruvian alpaca wool and by grannies and you’re on top of that also supporting people in Peru.

my LN Beanies

Only one thing still left to do and this is thank Jefanie (and their parents)  for letting me and my beautiful fiancée be part of this wonderful celebration and being surrounded by great people and most importantly making me like winter and snow again. The sparkle in your eyes when you look at each other tells me this is something forever!!

And they lived happily ever after ….

marriage

Thanks again.

The end

Celebrating love in snowy Saas-fee: part 1

Saas fee

I’m not a winter person and have never been one, even though my roots lay in the mountains and 90% of my family still lives in the Alps at Bormio. This resulted in me going to the snowy mountains year after year during the winter time, I just didn’t like the cold and snow (not only because my brother always stuffed my jacket with snow). I have to admit one thing, seeing the mountains covered in snow does  look breathtaking! So basically since I became “older” I always try to visit my family in summer. Until now that is!! Why you might ask? Well, a recent event made me feel like going back and try a winter holidays with my family in the Alps again.  It was the wedding of dear friends of mine… Initially I wasn’t really looking forward being in the snow, but at the end I should actually be thanking them for making me like winter again! Jefanie (that’s a combo of both their names) chose to do their wedding in the mountains or better in Saas-fee as they have a special connection with this spot as this is where their love story started 🙂 (How romantic). Anyhow please allow me to tell you more about Saas-fee and what made me like winter and the mountains again. And who knows, maybe you’ll like it too?!

Saas fee location

Saas-fee is a little town in Swiss Alps not far from the Italian border. The fun coming here already starts before getting to Saas-Fee as you have to take a train on which you put your car that brings you to the other side of the mountain (via tunnel), this way you don’t have to take the  “Pass” over the mountain. It might feel freaky because for 10-15min you are in complete darkness 🙂 We took the train at Kandersteg, check the following website for more info

Train to saas fee

What you should also know when you would think of visiting Saas-fee is that it is a car free city/town/village. Just before arriving you have to park your car in a very big car park, from which you can call your hotel or a “taxi” for free to come and pick you up. Then these adorable little electric shuttle a bit bigger than a golf cart (see pick below) will bring you to your hotel or apartment. They might look small, but you would really be surprised how much fits in it!!

Saas fee parking pick up

If I have to believe the receptionist of the hotel we were staying in Saas-fee is one sunny place as she said the sun shines over 200days a year. We (or better the bride and groom) were very lucky that the weekend we were here was one of those sunny ones.

As Saas-fee is in the mountains and a skiing area, there are of course some very nice slopes…In case you would want more details on the slopes please check the following website. In case you don’t skiing to much like me and 2 friends, there is one very good alternative to enjoy the snow. Sledging with an old school wooden sledge :-)Yes indeed!! From Hannig (2350m high) all the way down on a specially designed path for sledging. The first time going down will take you between 30-45minutes after that you might do it in less :-). I know some of you might think “how boring”, but believe me those sledges go faster than you think (definitely not granny style) and you do have to watch out that you go off course or you’ll experience the snow more than you want 🙂 (nope, not speaking out of experience 😉 ) FYI, this was already the first step toward liking snow and winter again!

Saas Fee sledging (2)

Saas fee sledging

Saskia & me enjoying sledging  Weeeeeeeeee

Sledging like a real pro Or not just yet a pro

Something would definitely be wrong if I didn’t start talking about food 🙂 Before leaving home this was indeed the thing I was looking forward the most (besides being with my friends)! Already for the fact that the groom and his dad are huge foodies and enjoy food as much as me or maybe even more… so I just knew it would be great! And boy was it good 🙂

But I’ll keep that for tomorrow’s post 🙂

To be continued…..

My visit to the gastronomical Walhalla: El Celler De Can Roca (2)

Sorry, I just had to split the post, but I won’t keep you guys up any longer. Please feast your eyes on the menu and the pics I took (fyi, a few pics are missing as I sometimes was so under the impression of the food that I forgot to take a picture 🙂 soooooorry)

ECCR Appetizer (1) Conquer the World

Conquer the World:

  • Mexico: Guacamole, tomato seeds, tomato water with cilantro (the green ball)
  • Peru: Ceviche broth (the white pearl) -> this was one nasty ball, the flavors exploding when you ate it were mindblowing 🙂
  • China: Pickled vegetables with plum cream (the one looking like a ice cone)
  • Morocco: Almond, rose, honey, saffron, goat yoghurt. (looks like a tiny pie)
  • Japan: Nucleo miso, dashi cream and a nyinyonyaki tempura (the one that looks like a tiny patato) -> My favorite, it looked like a tiny patato

Accompanied by Albet i Noya Cava Brut (one specially made for El Celler)

ECCR Appetizer  (2) Olive Tree

Olive Tree: Caramelized olives filled with anchovy. Accompanied by Albet i Noya Cava Brut (one specially made for El Celler)

ECCR appetizer (3)Black truffle bombon ECCR Appetizer (4) The rock ECCR Appetizer (5) Black Truffle Brioche

Black truffle bombon, The rock: Carpano bonbon with grapefruit and black sesame and Black truffle brioche.  Accompanied by Albet i Noya Cava Brut (one specially made for El Celler)

ECCR Olivada

Olivada: Spicy gordal olive mousse, black olive donut, manzanilla olive ice-cream, toasted vinegar bread, savory jelly and picual olive.  Accompanied by: 2011 Marques d’alella Pansa Blanca

ECCR Contessa of white asparagus and truffle

Contessa of white asparagus and truffle.  Accompanied by Marfil Generoso Seco

ECCR Toda la gamba

Toda la Gamba: Palamós Shrimp in its bisque, crispy shrimp, seaweeds, plankton velouté and shrimp water. Accompanied by a 2007 Joh.Jos.Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr

Oyster with Hollandaise sauce. Accompanied by a 1998 Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanc (Rioja) (sorry no pic :-()

ECCR Grilled sea bream

Grilled sea bream with blood orange sauce, grapefruit, tangerine and endive with gentian flower. Accompanied by Guitierrez Colosía Palo Cotado (Jerez)

ECCR Iberian piglet

Iberian piglet in the Riesling Blanquette, terrine of mango, melon and beets, beet puree, black garlic, onion and orange concentrate. Accompanied by a 2010 Pedra de Guix (Priorat)

ECCR Mullet

Mullet cooked at low temperature with 3 types of gnocchi. Accompanied by a 2007 Dr Burklin Wolf Pechstein (Pflaz)

ECCR Truffle Soufflé

Truffle Soufflé. Accompanied by a 2011 Sarnin Berrux (Beaune)

ECCR Ventresca and lamb sweetbreads

Ventresca and lamb sweetbreads with white eggplant, licorice, coffee and oak grilled smoke. Accompanied by a 1995 Gran Reserva 890 (Rioja)

ECCR Liver

Liver with onions caramelized torcaz nuts, curry juniper, orange peel and herbs, sourdough ice cream with cocoa pulp and balsamic vinegar. Accompanied by a 2010 Anima Negra (Mallorca)

ECCR Fair apple

Fair apple (like you would eat at Coney island).  Accompanied by a 2009 Pétillant Natural Sydre tendre of Eric Bordelet

ECCR Cream of maple syrup

Cream of maple syrup, pear, walnuts and cardamom. Accompanied by a 1997 Lustau Oloroso Abocado (Jerez)

AMAZING, that is the only thing I can say! Everything nicely balanced out and always seasoned how it should!  There might have been a few dishes that were not really my cup of tea (but that is personal). I did love the contessa of asparagus and the truffle soufflé and the Iberian piglet if I have to name a few of my favorites. Don’t get me wrong all the dishes were wonderful and the portions were more than sufficient. After 15 dishes and 15 accompanying wines we were really happy we could walk back to our hotel and get some fresh air, I can tell you that 🙂

When I thought they couldn’t top it anymore they came with this 3 or 4 deck cookies cart (like the old manual ice cream carts) from which they gave us an assortment… I’m ashamed to say that we didn’t finish them all as we had already eaten quit enough. But the ones we tried were great 🙂

ECCR sweets for with the coffee

The cherry on the cake of my evening was when they invited me in the kitchen and wine cellar and meeting 2 of 3 Roca brothers (Brother n°3 Jordi was in India) was simply the cherry on the cake for me! I have already met and been on stage/backstage with lots of Rock ‘n roll legends, musicians and heroes (Pink, Rod Stewart, Ron Wood, ZZ Top, John Fogerty, Steve Gadd, etc… ) but for me guys like the Roca brother’s fit perfectly in that list of legends as for me they really Rock 🙂 (you see what I did there Roca – Rock 😉 ) One nice looking kitchen. It was funny to see that in their huge cupboard filled with cookbooks there were also some of Belgian chefs. FYI, I can also say for a fact that the Roca brothers are some really nice guys and I hope I didn’t talk too much (I tend to do that)

Carlos, Josep Roca, Me, Joao Roca

ECCR Kitchen (1) ECCR Kitchen (2) ECCR kitchen (3)

I can only say to every foodie they just have to try El Celler De Can Roca at least once in their life (I know I’ll be back).  In case you’re wondering how much I’ve spend for my amazing dinner at El Celler, it was around 250EUR pp which looking back to all I got and knowing they have over 60 people working at this restaurant is a reasonable price.

If you remember  the first thing I said in my post yesterday, the reason for me coming here was to see and find out why this is the second best restaurant in the world. Did I ? Well I think I’d have to try all in the top to compare why El Celler is only second and Noma 1st 🙂 (are my intentions too obvious? 🙂 ). I already know which one I’ll be trying next year, but I’m not yet telling you guys… What I think that makes the difference with the other Michelin star restaurants is besides the beautiful location and interior (which actually reminded me of the one at Pure C)  the wine – food pairing and renewed/inventive cooking with traditional ingredients in modern ways (and the pampering by the army of waiters)are what makes this an even better experience (but that’s what my opinion). I do wonder what the jury from San Pellegrino’s reason is to make this the 2nd best and not THE best?

Thanks to the very friendly staff of El Celler, the Roca brothers for this amazing night and last but not least my buddy Carlos for doing this with me!

My visit to the gastronomical Walhalla: El Celler De Can Roca (1)

Eating is an important part of my life (in case you missed it) and in all those years I’ve eaten at some great restaurants that spoil you from the second you walk in until you go home again. So what could those in the list of 50 best restaurants in the world have more to offer that puts them in that list (or at least I couldn’t imagine)… Only one way to find out and that was trying one of them, but which one?

50 best restaurants

Believe it or not, but it was actually faith that pointed out the restaurant I had to do. About a year ago I was at the gym and while running I was watching a Michel Roux Jr. show (this keeps me motivated to run, watching food 🙂 ). On this show they showed a restaurant called “El Celler de Can Roca” not knowing at that time it was a 3 Michelin star restaurant and 2nd best on the San Pellegrino restaurant ranking  (they probably mentioned it, but I forgot my headphone so I couldn’t hear what they were saying).  Anyway to make a long story short I liked the restaurant and found somebody crazy enough (Carlos) to go with me to Spain for a day and try “El Celler de Can Roca” and see what makes this restaurant the 2nd best restaurant in the world!

Michel Roux Jr

I have already done lots of things in my life, but travelling to Spain just for dinner and come back the next morning was a first for me 🙂 🙂

Of one thing I’m very sure, I’m glad I did it! This one amazing gastronomical experience! And on top of that feeling the sunshine on my face the moment I walked off the plane made it even better. FYI Girona is one very nice little town!

Girona (2) Girona (3)

Girona (1)

Was it the best food I have ever had? A lot of people asked me when I came back… I honestly have to answer that I don’t know, as every time I ate  at a restaurant of this level I always had great food! So I’m not sure to call it the best I ever had….  What I do think is that this is the most inventive, experimental, renewing and exploding food tastes I have ever tried! All presented in ways I really have no clue how they were able to make the dishes (and I’m not talking about molecular food). On top of the great food they prepared they had the PERFECT matching wine with every dish, definitely the best food-wine matching I have experienced. Don’t get me wrong, not that all the other restaurants I’ve been to didn’t have good wines, but at “El Celler de Can Roca” it was just that “little” extra that really gave “wow” effect during our dinner 🙂

El Celler De Can Roca

The first difficult part when sat down is deciding if you’ll be taking the “small” or big menu (11courses + appetizers + refreshments with the coffee)… as we did such a big effort getting there we just had to take the ‘big’ aka Festival menu. After they arrived with wine menu or better a wine cart with 3 huge/ massive books in it which make the bible look like a children’s book. What I liked when I eventually opened one of the “books” was that there were also wines one it under 30EUR. As it was too difficult to decide which one we just went for the matching wines picked out by Josep Roca and his team, which (I know I’m repeating myself) was the best pairing I ever had!!

The winelist cart

To be continued….

I know you guys are anxious to know what I ate :-), you’ll read about it tomorrow 🙂

The gastronomical Heart of Europe: final part

You know what is the difference between a local “farmer/craftsman” and multinationals? The sparkle in their eyes! When you see and hear the local “farmer/craftsman” talk you see the excitement, enthusiasm and the love or better the passion for their product and for what they do…. which results to unbelievable products waaaaaay above average quality! The 2 I mentioned in my previous post are just two examples, but every single person I talked to on this little ‘trade fair’ had the passion in their eyes. Another good example of such a person is Frank van Eerd from Bisschopsmolen, who really knows everything about whatever has to do with bread, pies and baking, a walking encyclopedia if you ask me! Next time I’m in Maastricht I just have to pass by his bakery to buy and try some stuff!!

Bisschopsmolen

I have to admit that after all that talking (and I talk a lot) I started to feel hungry and thirsty, lucky for me they were just ready to serve a wonderful lunch prepared by 3 Michelin star chefs that I now am a big fan of: Hans Snijders (Chef Chateau Neercanne) took care of the appetizers, Arabelle Meirlaen (Li Cwerneu) and for the main course they choose the chef that up to today has prepared the best piece of lam I ever had in my life, Giovani Oosters (Vous Le Vous). They made a lunch all prepared with local ingredients and served with wines from local vineyards.

Hans Snijders

Arabelle Meirlaen

Giovani Oosters by Nina

And man what an incredible table! You might recognize this from my post about “friends of the taste”, where you basically all eat at one long table and sit with people you have never seen before 🙂 which for me couldn’t be better as I was surrounded by the people from Livar, Schorpion, “tourisme de la Province de Liège”… and boy did we talk, good thing there was enough things to smear the throat.

Our table for lunch

I unfortunately wasn’t able to take nice pictures of the eye catching dishes the chefs prepared as there was not enough light for good pictures, but like I said they all 3 convinced me taste more of their food (yes, again more restaurants on my wish list), I can only suggest you guys to the same :-)What I can do is list what we had and what you’ll notice is that they all have a motto that they highly valued just like me “Keep it simple” as that is 98% of the time the best!

Appetizers which were served with perfectly matching Brut Nature Gold sparkling wine from Schorpion:

Trilogy of ham:

  •             ‘Jambon d’Ardenne’ mousse (from Montenauer) with cave mushrooms jelly
  •             Jamón de la Sierra’ (Livar) with spelled bread (Bisschopsmolen)
  •             Crispy Livar porkneck with a “Loonse’ syrup sauce

First course that got served with one of Belgium’s most famous white wines a 2011 Genoels-Elderen Chardonnay:

  • Mackerel fillet marinated in fleur de sel with a spray (yes, like a perfume spray) of Lambertus juniper and bergamot accompanied by a refreshing beet and Montzen goat cheese.

Main course served with an Aldeneyck Pinot Noire, again a very nice choice a little herby and full of taste despite its young age (made me think of Burgundy wines).

  • Livar bacon (cooked 3 days at 69°C) with mushrooms from the Kanne caves, a sauce of Val Dieu triple and potato gratin with Livar pork cheek, turnips and parsnips from De Wroeter. Sprinkled with Maasland’s land seasoning salt

Dessert: my all-time favorite rice pie by the Seigneurie de la Vervi-riz!! Man that is some damn good pie.

If you feel like trying all this of having the same breathtaking experience or want to know more about this region and maybe visit some local farmers do check the website from “heart of europe” you won’t regret it! I know I will be back in this region very very soon 🙂

Heart of Europe

The gastronomical Heart of Europe: Part 2

As you could read in my previous post I was really ‘in love’ with the spot where the event ‘Heart of Europe’ was held. You might also remember that the reason for me being here is that the regions Belgian & Dutch Limburg, Liège and for a part Aken are joining their forces to show people the many hidden treasures on all levels (Gastronomical, museums, etc…) there are in their regions. All these treasures are bundled on the website “Heart of Europe” which is available in Dutch, German and French (I’m sure English will soon follow).

heart of Europe website

I’m being honest when I’m saying that is a very user friendly website! Really!!!  On the website you are able to look on whatever interests you most either per region or across region and country boarders. Are more into food/gastronomy or art and culture…? Just click on it and the website will guide you through the best these regions have to offer and you’ll find whatever your little heart desires. The best period to visit this period to me (but this pure personal) is spring time, as this is the moment that all plants, fruit trees and flowers are blooming. Just imagine yourself cycling through beautifully colored landscapes as far as the eye can see feeling a light spring (slightly warmer than in winter) breeze and stopping once in a while to visit a local farmer, winemaker or any another craftsman to enjoy their local products with the sun shining down on you … but then again every season has its beauties. Try all 4 and then decide 😉

Haspengouw by HBVL

Haspengouw by stijn.linearecta.be

I’ll let you in to a little secret of mine, the website has helped inspiring me and organizing my fiancé’s birthday 😉 I know she’ll be reading this (am I mean to make her this curious?) so I won’t go into details, but I’ll share it when the time is right.  Ooooooooh yeah baby!

Not that I needed more convincing that this region is beautiful in every sense of this word, but if they want to convince me with food, who am I to stop them 🙂 🙂

At this “event” or maybe meeting is better word, they had also invited some local culinary craftsmen (winemakers, cheese makers, etc…). I arrived at 10 a.m. so I didn’t feel like trying the beer or wine yet (I just felt wrong) although there are some really good wines in these regions.  Something that did catch my attention from the moment I walked in was the ham’s, that is a big weakness of mine I love ham’s both cooked as dry-cured ham (like Parmaham and Pata negra). The “LIVAR” booth was one that immediately got my attention. Livar is actually a ‘pig’ farmer that besides selling the “regular” meat of his pigs also makes some delightful hams!! From the moment you put a piece of that ham in your mouth it immediately melts like butter. Livar has 3 nominations of their ham (from the same kind of pig) the first  “Livarsijnk” is dried and aged in the headquarter near Maastricht, the second part gets dried and ages in Spain “Jamon de la Sierra” and the third part “Proscuitto di Monastero” gets dries and aged in Italy near Parma . With the last two as my favorit ones, not that the Livarsijnk wasn’t good, but the other two just had that flavor I love! (They are aged longer). What makes the difference between Livar ham and other hams you’ll find around is the fact that the Livar pigs’ meadow doesn’t have a fence and they get fed things like nuts, etc… I can really recommend trying this ham and/or even visiting Livar whenever you are near Maastricht. I’m a fan!

Livar ham man

Although I really loved all of the ‘craftsmen’ that were here had great products, other one that caught my attention were the “Seigneurie de la Vervi-riz”, they had with them my all-time favorite dessert (besides tarte tatin) Rice pie and man this was THE BEST I have ever had!!! It was all I ever looked for in a rice pie 🙂 and I must say they were the fanciest dressed of us all! (check the pic below).

The best ricepie ever

BUT, the best was yet to come!

To be continued….