Sun, water and my beloved

There is nothing that gives my wife more stress then finding a restaurant to take me for my birthday 🙂  (that and maybe our kids from time to time). To help her a bit, every year I send her a list of restaurants that are on my wish list for her to choose from.  Basically this makes that we will both be happy with the outcome 😉 This year there was one restaurant on the list with a few exclamation marks behind its name hoping my wife would crack the code 🙂 🙂  I know I could have just said I want to go to that restaurant, but somewhere I still wanted to keep it a bit of a surprise. Anyhow I wanted her to take me to restaurant ‘Me Liefste’ (which means ‘My beloved in Dutch) right in the heart of the Goes yacht club  at the Veerse Meer (40minute drive from Antwerp)… and so she did!! She had also booked the sun for a day so it seemed (#holidayfeeling ).

Why this restaurant? Its good word to mouth reputation!! Those are usually the best restaurants. Why spend a lot of money on advertising… when you are good, the people will come no matter where you are located (and the price/quality balance is correct). From the moment we arrived I could already feel it was going to be a great afternoon! The sun shining on our faces, being right next to the water and having a festive meal with the most important woman in my life sitting across from me (and not having to pay 🙂 )… what more could I wish for??

Although it was very sunny, we only had our apero and appetizers outside as the cold breeze made it too chilly to eat outside (+ the food would get too cold to fast) . Restaurant Me Liefste only works with set tasting menus going from 4 to 8 course meals with or without paired beverages (both wines as non-alcoholic drinks).  We went for the 7 course menu as being so close to the Oosterschelde I was really craving for some lobster from the Oosterschelde and the 7 course menu had a dish with lobster from Oosterschelde in it… so it was meant to be.

Although I usually go for the wines the sommelier suggests, I do always find it interesting to have a look at the wine list and see the wines they have. The biggest reason why I usually just go for the paired wines, it because I know the sommelier and chef have put lots of time in the pairing… so it always seems more then fair to trust their judgment… but another reason is when I see the wine list, there are so many nice wines I just wouldn’t be able to pick. In the last 2 years I’ve been fortunate enough to have been accompanied during many meals by some of the best sommeliers in the world (I’m co-organizer of the ASI Best Sommelier of the World Contest that will be held in Antwerp in March 2019 and therefore surrounded by great sommeliers) and when you see them look at a wine list to choose a wine, they make it look that simple and they are always able to pick out the hidden treasures from the list 🙂  (very fascinating) unfortunately I’m not that good yet 😉 🙂 So again I trust the sommelier/chef’s chose (I know a loooot of words that could have been summarized by the last sentence alone)

From the first appetizer until the last bite we had, there was not one moment we regretted our trip to Me liefste! Every dish was full of flavor and were shots of instant happiness… sometimes you can go to a restaurant and have some dishes that you liked less, but this time I can say that I like every single dish.. I know that always seem positive about the restaurants I visit, but it seems I just know to pick my restaurant out well + if it don’t like them I just don’t write about them as I don’t want to spread bad publicity.

We love our bubbles, so no better way to start a meal then with bubbels (sometimes I get tempted in taking something else, but once they start talking about bubbles I’m sold 🙂 ) in this case a glass of Francis Boulard’s blanc de noirs ‘Les Murgiers’. A champagne with an elegant and fruity nose of yellow fruits carried by a beautiful freshness, On the palate, it is a straight, pure vintage. The finish is long and vibrant. The perfect match with a wide variety of appetizers we were served:

Roasted bread with old cheese

Time to start our trip through the 7 courses, please feast your eyes dishes we were served (and all plats I could have licked clean – but I kept it decent)

Cockles and oxheart cabbage paired with the 2016 Edel Natur by Laurent Bannwarth

 

Mackerel with whey and ‘rooie sien’ paired with the 2016 Riesling ‘Trittenheimer Steilage’ by Bernard Eifel

 

Lobster from the Oosterschelde with Rouille paired with the 2017 Chenin blanc by Joostenberg

Lemon sole with leek and beurre blanc paired with the 2015 ‘Nuvol’ by Alfredo Arribas

Eel with horseradish and beef marrow oil paired with the 2016 ‘Chardonnay by Domaine Le Rocher Des Violettes

Lam with gnocchi and wild garlic paired with the 2016 ‘Artifice Tinto’ by Borja Perez

Quark with yoghurt and buttermilk paired with the 2016 Biodynamite by Pflüger

I’ve travelled and have been around quite a bit and I can see where Thijs (the chef/owner) got the mustard, but he put it in his hand (making it his own) in a beautiful way and working with as many local products as possible!!  Bravo!!! Every dish was full of flavor and cooked to perfection and a true celebration to eat.  As for the wines, they were all correctly paired with as nice surprise the ‘Artifice’ which is I think the first wine from Tenerife I’ve tried (that I remember).  It was a very amiable wine, with extreme finesse, but that expresses all the strength of the volcanic landscape of the area.  An invitation to try more wines from this area. You can clearly see that sommelier Geert Rutten likes both his classics as trying new things.

And when we thought we had got it all, they came along with pieces of heaven with main ingredient my most beloved ingredient aka butter 🙂 🙂

Why this restaurant hasn’t had its first Michelin star yet (at least 1), I have no idea… but for me it doesn’t matter as even without the stars for they are much better than many restaurants around the globe I tried that had Michelin stars!! I can’t wait for my next meal …

Feeling Royal

That I love wine is not a secret anymore and that I like wine from all over the world neither… but I do have a few preferred wine regions. In my top 3 is without any doubt Valpolicella. To situate it, the Valpolicella region is around Verona and a stone throw away from the Garda Lake. I like the Valpolicella wines because it are rich, full bodied and if you go to the Ripasso or Amarone level stronger wines that ask for some stronger food like a good piece of meat for example. So when my dad send me that there was a wine & dine event from the highly reputated Valpolicella wine estate Allegrini I didn’t have to think twice, when he then added it was at the astonishing Chateau Neercanne in Maastricht no thinking was required anymore… it just is a MUST DO and we also didn’t really have to convince our friends Carlos and Ignace to much to join 😉 . Although Allegrini is one of Valpolicella’s biggest and most reputed wine estates from this region, I actually know/knew the Allegrini wines from the days my dad had his restaurant and where he used to sell a few of their wines like the Lagrolla and the Amarone. It is also in my dad’s restaurant I fell in love with the wine region after my first sip of Amarone that happend to be from Allegrini. After that sip I got the taste for more… and even after having tasted lots, I must admit that Allegrini’s Amarone is definitely in my top 3 (of Amarone’s). FYI I’m not saying this to suck up or so because I’m writing an article about Allegrini wines, it is just a fact that I am sharing with you :-).

Chateau Neercanne (1)

Chateau Neercanne (6)

Carlos, Me & Ignace

Making wine is something for very patient people and takes a lot of effort (lots of manual labor) and as if wasn’t hard enough the first wine makers from the Valpolicella region thought they could make it even harder. What distinquighes Valpolicella wine making, or at least for Amarone (the Top Valpolicella wine) , from other wines is that after picking the grapes they are put in bins (they used to be in wood, but nowadays in plastic)  to let them loose their juices naturally… so you can imagine that it takes a while before the juices is out of the  grapes. From the juice they make Amarone wine and from the juice there still is in the grapes they make Ripasso which comes from the word ‘ripassare’  which means ‘re-use’ of the grapes from the Amarone. After this the wines also age in wooden barrels for while. So this is why a an Amarone costs a bit more than the usual bottle of wine, but for me it is definitely worth the price (not for every day of course). I know some people will say they don’t get the ‘fuzz’ around Amarone wines… this is probably a judgement based on an Amarone bought in a supermarket, not that you can’t buy good wines in a supermarket, but some top wines you just have to try the best to understand why it is so highly appreciated!   To those people I say try an Amarone like the one from Allegrini and you’ll immediately it a totally different thing and you’ll get it 🙂 I do  know the price is much higher, that’s why you should buy it and drink it at a special occasion

Chateau Neercanne (2)

Chateau Neercanne (3) Chateau Neercanne (4)

Back to the wine & dine event 🙂 The first part of the evening was actually a wine tasting from wines from other vineyards within the Allegrini group in company of the Allegrini family (Marilisa Allegrini) who explained us more about all the wines (also the rest of the evening) . It were wines from their Corte Giara estate to be more precise.  If I’m not wrong it is estate managed an run by the next generation of the Allegrini family Starting off with a Pinot grigio and Soave that are perfect for one a warm summers day with some Parma (or San daniele) ham with some fresh figs under a pergola :-)…  to continue with the reds from the same estate with exception for the ‘Palazzo della Torre‘ which is from the ‘original’ Allegrini estate … You would expect the Amarone would be my preferred, but no it were actually the ‘Palazzo della Torre‘ and the Ripasso  that got my preference as they had a bigger punch and were richer of taste… not that the Amarone wasn’t good (it was), but maybe I’m more a lover of the classical ‘valpolicella’ or ‘Amarone’ taste  and this one didn’t have it 😉 Ooor maybe I just have to try them again with a meal, because then they it might become a whole different story. Stronger wines usual need some food (strong) with it. Just to be sure, I’ll buy a few bottles and compare them again 🙂 🙂 (any excuse to buy good wines is good 😉 )

Chateau Neercanne (5) My dad and Mrs Allegrini Palazzo della Torre

After the wonderful tasting with little nibbles it was time to start with the official part and try the wines from the ‘original’ Allegrini estate (not to say their best wines). No better way to do this than with a meal prepared by Hans Snijders from Chateau Neercanne !!  Which comes down to great dishes cooked to perfection with sauces that make every sauce you tasted before taste like water… I could have eaten a whole pot of sauce (from every dish we were served 🙂 ). Also to eat dishes like this in a magnificent setting like in Chateau Neercanne makes me feel like a king! Somehow it also makes me feel like dressing up like a king  from the Renaissance era 🙂 And to make the evening more complete we had Marilisa Allegrini to give us more about the Allegrini wines and even the beautiful Valpolicella region!

Neercanne interieur 1 Neercanne interieur 2 Neercanne interieur 3 Neercanne interieur 4 Neercanne interieur 5 Neercanne interieur 6 Neercanne interieur 7 Neercanne interieur 8

I know all the wines they would serve would be good, but personally I was mostly looking forward to taste the bitter-sweet dark chocolate, raisin, dried fig (maybe even a bit of cherry) aroma’s and flavors of  the Amarone Classico from Allegrini again!

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You guys know I love eating at restaurant Pazzo  in Antwerp and you might remember that some time ago I mentioned that chef Ingrid Neven from Pazzo has started her career at Chateau Neercanne… and the first dish we got served at Chateau Neercanne, Marinated salmon with nori, scallop with a avocado cream and Sambai vinaigrette, tasted like a Pazzo dish 🙂 🙂 how funny is that?? I think it was the taste of the sambai vinaigrette that gave me this idea …So now I know where Ingrid learned to make her great vinaigrette’s and sauces 🙂 A very beautiful dish with refreshing flavors with a perfect sweet, sour lemony taste … something that always makes me happy  and that got well balanced out with the Soave DOC from Allegrini

Marinated salmon with nori, scallop with a avocado cream and Sambai vinegrette (4)

What followed only went crescendo. starting with a in soy , ginger and brown sugar  marinated duck with apple chutney that was in perfect harmonization with the La Grola ‘s  dark fruit (wild berries) flavors

Duck marinated in soy, ginger and brown sugar with apple chutney (1)

The frosting on the cake was without any doubt the Angus with stewed angus, chanterelles and gnocchi with Belper cheese… I know the dish looks small on the dish, but it was very big in flavors that were needed to be able to match up with a strong wine like the Amarone Classico from Allegrini.

Angus with stewed angus, chanterelles and gnocchi with Belper cheese (3)

A meal stands or falls with the last dish you get, as that is the one that stays longest in your memory… There are lots of restaurants where you’ll get a wonderful meal, but where dessert is just ok, not the sweet piece of heaven you would want at the end of your meal… Hans Snijders in our case managed to make a goal with the dessert he served us, a taste of Dulcey chocolate, creamy caramel and flavours of coffee… I was afraid the coffee flavors would be too present, but the were well balanced out. We were served a recioto della Valpolicella Classico which is a sweeter wine with accents of cherries… We were even served a little meringue pie as second dessert 🙂

Taste of Dulcey chocolate, creamy caramel and flavours of coffee (2) Taste of Dulcey chocolate, creamy caramel and flavours of coffee (3)

We had a wonderful evening!! First of all because of the lovely company at my table who I consider as family (of course my dad is actually family, but you know what I mean 🙂 🙂 )… but it would have been this fun without Hans Snijders, Marilisa Allegrini and their know-how of making good products !! Thank you to them and their teams  for giving us an unforgettable evening

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The boys 11

 

A night back in time with a nice glass of wine

Filipa Pato

You might have noticed that I’ve become an even bigger wine lover than I already was. Wine can just be so different every time. Even when some winemakers use the same grape the end product can still be so different. I’m not a wine snob, so wine for me doesn’t have to be from Italy for me to be good… Just like with food it either is good or it isn’t. The advantage I have is that I lately always get surrounded by the ‘crème de la crème’ of people in the winery business (sommeliers, winemakers, etc…) that help me understanding smells and tastes I can’t always distinguish myself. So when last week top sommelier William Wouters and his wife Filipa Pato  ask me if I wanted to join a wine and dine tasting of their own wines I couldn’t refuse, as there is still so much to learn  or that I don’t know about wine yet…and ok I just like eating and tasting a lot 🙂 (And they are great people).

The location for the tasting was very unique it was the ‘Campveerse Toren’. A Unique and the perfect spot to spend a winter evening as the antique of the restaurant takes the cold away. Also nice to know is that the Campveerse toren already got used since the 15th – 16th century as hostelry or restaurant. So it goes back quite a while. The antique does bring a certain coziness and warm feeling, too bad they didn’t turn on the fireplace, but even without it felt like the perfect spot to be when it is cold outside. I really wouldn’t know how to describe it in a different way:-)

Campveerse toren by beeldbankrws

Campveerse toren by hendriksdekeyser

What Filipa Pato’s wines and the location have in common is the respect for tradition, but still doing your own thing with it. For example Filipa uses (her own) old vines or traditional grapes from the area she is from and makes wine like her forefathers (she comes from a wine making family)did but makes use of modern technology to make it her own thing and give her own schwung. The same goes for the cuisine chef Xavier, he prepares classical dishes with little schwung of his own (and of course not forgetting the historical location).

Campveerse toren restaurant

It is true that I know William and his wife already a long time now, but that is not the reason why I like their wines.  I like their wines because they are good!! What I like about them is the fact that they are a bit stronger and remind me a bit of Burgundy wines. Also knowing most of their wines a only made from 1 type of grape is something I find incredible (like with Sherry)… This also shows that nothing goes to waste at the estate and that they make use of every part of the grape to make the espumante, red wine, white wine and/ or sweet wine. Great, right? I hope you are sharing my enthusiasm.

Marc Filipa and William

I can’t say it enough,  the location was simply fantastic. With a location like ‘Campveerse Toren’ you just have to eat stews or game dishes… that get accompanied by strong and rich wines… So lucky me this was exactly what chef Xavier and Filipa served me. Please feast your eyes on the menu and of course the great wines we got served with them:

Appetizers

  • On hay smoked wild oyster, wild goose ham and Jerusalem artichoke that got accompanied by the Vino Branco

Oysters

Pheasant in cedar

  • Roast wild duck with a licorice gravy, white beans and a lentil polenta. This got served with Baby Baga

Wild duck

  • Stewed deer neck in red wine with cacao, parsnips, kale and celeriac. This dish just needed the top of the bill, a Nossa Calcario Tinto! I’m sure this is what the gods drink!!

Deer neck

  • There was also a cheese assortment, but as I am not really a cheese fan I skipped this dish, but I did drink the ‘Espirito de Bago’ Filipa braught over especially for this tasting 🙂 You could compare this as a combination of an sherry and grappa.

I didn’t really have a personal favorite wine or dish as everything was very good and it got proven to me once again that the time when Dutch chefs didn’t know how to cook has been looooong gone 🙂 Alexander made some great sauces!  My compliments to Xavier!!  As for the wines, If I would be in a shop to buy wine I wouldn’t be able to choose and probably walk out with the whole assortment as they are all so different. Ok it is a fact the Nossa is slightly more expensive then the “baby baga’, but the Nossa is a wine you can still keep for 7 or 8 years ( or maybe even more) and the “baby baga’ to drink immediately… What I’m basically trying to say is that I’m fan and have already been for quite a while now 🙂

I will go into the wines itself more in detail in one of my next blogpost as otherwise my post will become even longer then they usually already are 🙂

BTW if you wish to try these wines you can either go to my favorite restaurant Pazzo in Antwerp or pass by the distributers in Belgium or Netherlands (let me know if you want to know it from another country) or have a nice dinner at the ‘Campveerse Toren’ just like me.

Special thanks to Filipa, William, Xavier and  Mark for giving me yet another incredible food/ wine experience!

Sluis is more than only Oud Sluis

Most people I told I was having dinner in Sluis thought I was having dinner at the 3 Michelin star awarded restaurant Oud Sluis… but I didn’t, not that I wouldn’t want to but getting a table there (knowing they will close their door permanently very soon) is very very difficult and also there are more good restaurants in Sluis that are worth trying 🙂

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Usually when going to the Belgian seaside I head back to Antwerp in the evening for dinner, I rarely stay for dinner. Last weekend however I felt like staying, I mean with the beautiful weather we’ve been having it just had to be done 🙂  When I go somewhere I always want to try a place I haven’t tried before, so when at the seaside it ain’t any different. My search for a restaurant led us (my fiancé and I) to this little new restaurant/bistro just across the Belgian/Dutch border called “Bard’eau”. What attracted me to this restaurant was the fact that it is held by 2 young guys (Chef Jens Schippers & host Bastiaan Apers), which is something to admire!

Jens & Bastiaan

Bard’eau is located right at the water side overlooking the town of Sluis. A very relaxing location if you ask me! I also liked it that there was enough space and that you can’t feel your neighbor breathing down your neck. Anyhow enough jibber jabber, time for the essence of my post aka the food.  I’ll be honest I did expect different kind of food. I mean knowing the chef has worked in restaurants like Cuiness 33, La Trinité and Tout à Fait you’d see the influence of those restaurants, but you don’t see it all the dishes. On the menu you can find more traditional dishes with a little special touch.   About the prices: for a starter you’ll pay between 14 – 20 EUR, main courses are between 24-30 EUR and desserts around 10 EUR.

Bard'eau

Bard'eau buiten (2) Bardeau buiten (1)

Bardeau buiten (3)

me

For me a dinner in the sun just has to start with bubbels, in this case it was a cava Brut Jove by Familia Oliveda although the spumante and champagne also seemed tempting or their “maison” apero which was sparkeling wine with melon (very refreshing I believe). As first course I chose the gambas with curry risotto and my beloved fiancée the fresh salmon with avocado and tomato. I know it hasn’t rained in a while, but only drinking water with your meal would be a bit sad, so I had a 2011 French (Bourgogne) Pierre Ponnelle Chardonnay and my fiancée had a fresh 2010 Pinot Noire from the same vineyard as my wine.

apetizers

gambas

Salmon

As main course I took the Duke of Berkshire with pickles sauce (Blackwell), freshly made French fries and a garden salad. My fiancée was craving for a sole with French fries and garden salad … her wish is … 😉   that I accompanied with a 2011 St. Martin Merlot. Bard’eau has a small but nice wine list; we took more classical wines because we felt like it :-). (FYI, glasses of wine are between 4-6 EUR

Duke of burkshire

Sole

Overall a nice meal and the perfect ending of a day at the seaside! They are doing a great job, especially knowing they are only open since March 1st of this year (2013). It is true there are a few small things they’ll need to work on, but I’m sure they have a big future ahead! I know I’ll be back someday, not sure when as during our after dinner walk through Sluis my restaurant wish list got bigger and choices will have to be made 🙂

Oud Sluis

After dinner walk

Keep up the good job guys!

Bistro Bard’eau

Website: http://www.bistrobardeau.interactnetwork.nl/

Address:  Kaai 31, 4524CL Sluis NETHERLANDS

Phone n°: +31 117 461717

My fiancée’s birthday weekend the final part

In the first part of the blog about my fiancée’s birthday weekend I told that my favorite lady chef Ingrid Neven (from Pazzo) had worked at Château Neercanne for a few years and therefore also knows Maastricht really well. Why am I telling this, well she actually gave us a tip where we had to take our apero before dinner (or sometime during the day) at the “Kruisherenhotel” winebar (from same group as Château NeercanneKruisherenhotel used to be a church that has been rebuilt into a hotel, restaurant and winebar and it is a very beautiful place combining the old elments from the church and some modern parts… Unique!  I’ll let the pictures below speak for itself. (Thanks Ingrid!) BTW you can also drink other things besides wine, it is really worth a visit.

Kruisherenhotel (2)

Lounge kruisheren

the ceiling

wine cellar

Check this link for more beautiful pictures. I do forgot one thing, I’m not sure how it was in the ladies room, but in the boys room there something special just above the urinal. What you see on the picture below is this special thing and it is actually not a real light bulb, but it is a special light effect… sorry just wanted to share this with you 🙂

light effect

For our dinner I chose to go to a restaurant called “Baumont” aka Harry’s.  Which according to tripadvisor is the 4th best restaurant of Maastricht (Chateau Neercanne was n°1).

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At Harry’s it is Lady Chef Audrey Eussen and her team try their best to give you a good culinary experience and want to show you that you can also create great njammy dishes with products from local farmers and producers…So they do their best to mostly use local products if possible. I must indeed  admit they do a good job. It is true that we had to wait a long time for our 1st course, for which afterwards they apologized a million times (these things happen everywhere). Besides that there I can’t say anything “bad”… the food was good, the wine was good, the location on itself was great and I had great company 🙂 What I do would like to say is that I think it would have been great to find more local wines on the wine list (maybe even to drink by glass), as there are so many great local Dutch and Belgian wines.  Don’t get me wrong I drank some great wines at the restaurant, but it would have been nice :-).

Chef Audrey Eussen

Anyhow  we started off with some “scallops with lardo di Colonnata and parsnip puree” which I accompanied first by a glass of Grüner Veltliner Langenlois from Weingut Summerer and after that with a glass of Muscat d’Alsace from Bernard Schneider I do think the second one was a better match (for me). As a main course I had” Limburg chicken with morel mushroom sauce and polenta” accompanied by a little nostalgic wine for me a Saumur from Langlois Château (this is why). My fiancée at the other hand had a Baby turbot with warm potato salad and green asparagus and decided to have a glass of Shiraz with it.

scallops with lardo di Colonnata and parsnip puree

Limburg chicken with morel mushroom sauce and polenta

Baby turbot with warm potato salad and green asparagus

The dishes were as tasty as they look 🙂 glad tripadvisor pointed me to this restaurant! A professional staff.  The minor part of the evening was me finding a fine under my wiper when I got back at my car 😦 Still not sure why as there were 2 contradictory street signs close to each other, but ok…. that’s life.

The next morning I just couldn’t stay in bed (I think my fiancée could) as there was soooo much sunshine coming into the room I just had to get breakfast and go enjoy the sunshine… and let’s just say that Maastricht does really look beautiful when sun is shining.  The plan normally was to rent bikes and explore the area around Maastricht, but we were just too lazy…

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Sunny Maastricht

My mission was accomplished as I saw a beautiful smile on my fiancée’s face (even before I gave her actual birthday gift) so I was one happy little camper 🙂 Up to my birthday now 😉

If you also feel like having a weekend like me, let the “Heart of Europe” website help you to create a wonderful weekend away and explore and beautiful piece of Europe!

The end

ooooh yeah

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 ……

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