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….

The gastronomical Heart of Europe

Breathtaking, that is the first word that comes in mind when I think back of the event I was fortunate enough to be part of. This event was to put the local products from 4 regions that to my opinion deserve more attention. I’m talking about Limburg (Belgian & Dutch), Liège  and Aken-Düren-Heinsberg (Aken doesn’t contribute to the culinairy part).Not sure how good your geography is, but maybe you’ve noticed that these are neighboring regions (even crossing country boarders)

Heart of Europe

Chateau Neercanne was the location of the event, why exactly this location? Well first of all because Maastricht is the point where countries from the 4 regions come together and I think also the historical past of Chateau Neercanne might have been a reason. Chateau Neercanne is the place where the Maastricht Treaty has been signed on 7 February 1992 (Treaty on European Union). So basically they used this historical location to write history all over again! 4 regions spread over 3 countries collaborating and joining forces to put, what is a wonderful piece of Europe in the spotlight.

Chateau Neercanne

Chateau Neercanne (3)

Chateau Neercanne Entrance

Chateau Neercanne Entrance (2)

Chateau Neercanne itself is already a good example of the treasures that are hidden in this “Heart of Europe” (and a reason to come here).This 1 Michelin star awarded restaurant (already since 1985) is to me one of the most magical and beautiful restaurants where I have ever eaten. No picture can represent the actual beauty of this spot!  We didn’t eat at the restaurant itself, we ate in the restaurant’s wine cellar. This cellar is located in the caves of the hill itself on which the Castle is located (also the exact location where the Treaty was signed). From the first step you walk in the caves, the only word that comes to mind is “WOW”. Names from people who have been here during the centuries written on the walls, plaques with names and Escutcheons from important and royal guests that have been here (like Paul Bocuse, HRH Queen Beatrix, …), candles burning everywhere and wines wresting as far as the eye can see. Funny enough the Plaques that is the most striking from them all was one from Red Bull crushed ice (yes, in the bright colors of Red Bull, check picture below)

Neercanne Cave (2) Neercanne caves (1) Neercanne caves (3)

Plaques Treaty of Maastricht Red Bull Plaque

Honestly I didn’t know there were such beautiful castles in “Limburg”! Which is again like I said before a good example that these regions get underestimated and deserve much more credit than they are getting at the moment.  FYI I would have loved arriving here on a horse :-).

In my next post I’ll finally start talking about the food and reveal more undiscovered secrets from the gastronomical heart of Europe! To already make you curious I’ll share the picture of our table for lunch

Our table for lunch

For more info on the heart of Europe, check the following link

To be continued ….

Your next meal is just around the corner

What do you do with your leftovers? Well thanks to the newspaper “De Standaard”, I discovered “Thuisafgehaald”. Thuisafgehaald is like a virtual food shop that helps people who don’t like to cook to buy some food and people who have lots of leftovers to get rid of them.

How does it work? First of all both the person who will cook a meal and who wants to eat the meal have to subscribe themselves for “thuisafgehaald”. Both specify their neighborhood, as normally it is the aim that food sharing happens within a same area (but not mandatory) to make to logistic part easier as the “eater” needs to go and pick up the food.

From the moment you share a dish, you will be known as a cook on the website, otherwise you’ll be an eater (this is a name I gave to it myself). The chef specifies what dish he’s sharing, when it can be picked up, before what time the ‘order’ has to be given and the price (for ingredients) and a picture if wanted.

The eater can then order this dish. Once the cook accepts this order, the eater will get an email with the confirmation of his order and the address of the cook where the dish can be picked up.

In the Netherlands this is already a very popular concept, but in Belgium it is growing every day. It is true that the only thing you won’t be able to control as an eater is the ‘quality’ of the dish. But I guess that bad dishes will be ‘punished’ with negative comments or few orders.

For more info look on www.thuisafgehaald.be

I find a very good initiative to have less food thrown away!

Keep up the good work.

Sex on a plate

Last week was my girlfriend’s birthday and for the past 13 years I’ve tried to make it something special… but I can tell you that it doesn’t get easier after all these years. Usually we celebrate it abroad, Rome, Barcelona, Paris,… but this year I figured I would do something else than the usual . This year I gave her  3 days of birthday celebration (yes, 3) 1 day with her family, 1 day with her friends and last but not least one romantic day with me. Food was a large part of her birthday celebration 🙂 (so it was also a kind of my birthday). Anyway for our romantic day, I decided to take her to Sergio Herman’s restaurant Pure C.  Reason; well my girlfriend mentioned this restaurant too many times the last few months…  (any excuse is good enough for me to go)

For you who don’t know Sergio Herman, he is the chef and owner of 3 Michelin star restaurant Oud Sluis, which is in the list of 20 best restaurants in the world… In 2010 Sergio decided to open Pure C who was already given 1 Michelin star after 1 year.  (Sergio also has a restaurant in Ibiza and will open one in Antwerp next year which will be in an old chapel, can’t wait to try it)

In Pure C it is not Sergio himself cooking, but the 27 year old Syrco Bakker, who has been Sergio’s right hand for many years in Oud Sluis .

How was it? I can only say it with the words of the master himself, “Sex on a plate” from the first plate they gave us until the last… YUMMY!!! From the moment you sit down, they are already there with food 🙂 (I like) One dish prettier than the other, real pieces of art, one by one … this is the reason one come to restaurants like this… It is true that you can see Sergio’s signature in these dishes, but also the twist Syrco gave to them himself. Some people might say that the portions are too small, but I had eaten more than enough at the end of the evening (and I am a big eater). I could talk about all the dishes we had, but I think the pictures speak for themselves.

We chose to have accompanying wines with everything… but you can also just take one bottle or even accompanying beers, I’m sure the sommelier will help you to find the perfect match!  We started off with some nice bubbles (how else when you are celebrating something). I also liked the Rosé bubbly wine they served with our 1st (of 6 courses) Pet Zec. Well technically speaking I liked all of them 🙂 but some have that extra something, which makes it easier to remember them. What was also nice, is that we didn’t only get French wines, we took a trip through, France, Spain, Croatia, Portugal on the Pure C wine express 🙂 (with Francis Lelieveld as driver)

Ladies, I will have to disappoint you on one thing, if you expect to see Sergio Herman himself, this won’t be the case as he’s cooking at Oud Sluis.

Pure C  was a magical place for me, a perfect painted picture.  From the moment you set foot in the restaurant you can see the harmony (not only because of the food) the interior, modern with burning candles everywhere.

The view, from the whole restaurant you overlook the dunes and sea and let’s not forget the very helpful and friendly staff, who are dressed how Sergio himself would dress (which didn’t work for everybody, If I may be honest).

I can only say that if you are looking for a relaxing, very gastronomical and not too uptight and even romantic dinner, Pure C is really THE place for you!! (FYI, you can also sleep at the Pure C hotel) I know I’ll be going back!! NO doubt! For the people who are afraid of the financial part of the diner, don’t worry, this is really affordable gastronomy for everybody!

Restaurant Pure C

Website: http://www.sergioherman.com/en/pure-c/about/

Address:

Boulevard de Wielingen 49

Cadzand, Netherlands
Phone n°: +31 (0)117 396036

Grass cheese, a true delicacy

Did any of you already hear talking about ‘grass cheese’? To be honest, neither did I until a few weeks ago.

Well it is actually very simple, Grass cheese is cheese made from the first milk of spring… What makes this milk so special is that normally in spring or when the starts to get better the cows, who have been in their stables for the whole winter, start eating grass again which gives a special flavor to a cheese. It gives a more creamy cheese with soft butterfat taste.

But the fact that it is softer a more creamy is pretty logical if you just think about the fact that the hay is dry and the spring grass is wet… so combo of the two makes more creamy result ….

You might even say that this kind of cheese kind of exclusive as it is only available a short period. Why? After a while the cows stomach get used to the grass and the cheeses are not that soft anymore. Most of the cheeses made with this kind of milk are available around end of April, beginning of May and usually for a very short period as the amount of cheese made is not enormous …

The North-Holland Gouda cheese made with Grass milk for example  will be available as of May 1st  as you like any other cheese, this cheese also has to set for a while in cooling cells. (in case of Grass cheese, ca. 4weeks) .

FYI, If you want to make sure you have an original Gouda cheese from North-Holland, check the Red label on the package!

Maybe you have to try both  the regular and grass cheese at the same time, as only then you can really tell the difference, and I’m sure you’ll agree that grass cheese is a true delicacy!

A weekend at Vlissingen with Flexso

This weekend has been a nice weekend actually. We went to Vlissingen, a little town in the South of The Netherlands  located  between the Scheldt river and the North Sea. Vlissingen is also known ( so it seems) for building  most of the ships of the Royal Netherlands Navy.

The reason we were here, was because my boss wanted to thank all his employees for the hard work and commitment. And what better way to do this they with food, drinks and a wonderful location close to the sea? For me it was just perfect, I really like being at the sea side… when you look at the sea it always looks so endless… aaaaah, just great. What I prefer at the Dutch seaside (in confront of the Belgian) is actually that there are less buildings and much more nature and you can walk across the dunes for miles and miles.

Don’t get me wrong, I really love the Belgian seaside, but  sometimes I really feel like walking a lot without seeing buildings 🙂 . The party was a the Panta Rei beachpavilion, I think in the summer time this place must be even better, as you are right at the beach …. And the pavilion has a huge terrace!

I’m only showing you outside pictures, as not all the party pictures are to be seen by the world 🙂 :-), but trust me, it was good AND they served BELGIAN beers (thank god, because if we would have had to continue the evening with Heineken 🙂 ) La Chouffe, Duvel, Maredsous, De Koninck …. And there was more than enough food and it wouldn’t be Holland if there wouldn’t have been some Croquettes 🙂

During our stay we stayed at the Vlissingen Westduin Golden Tulip hotel as sleeping in the dunes or driving back after the party back to Antwerp didn’t seem like a good idea :-). The hotel was located just in front of the dunes and was overall a nice hotel… or at least I slept really really well, but there might be other reasons for that.

Then last but not least, Vlissingen itself… It is a very nice not tooo big town with a long seaside walk, but surely worth visiting or you can also visit the little bit bigger town Middelburg, which is also very nice (FYI, every last sunday of the month, all the shops are open). Or Yerseke, one of the most famous Dutch fisherman’s harbors in The Netherlands, where should definitely stop to eat some fresh sole, blue mussels etc…  (according to a foodlover/colleague, restaurant Vistro is really THE place to go) Last time I was in Yerseke was when I was about 9 years old, so don’t remember the restaurant … I think this all is even better in Summertime. Although I was only here for 1 night, it felt like a whole vacation and I was totally relaxed when I arrived at home.

So only 1 more thing left to say. Thanks Raf  AND to all my colleagues for making it a wonderful night!

That’s all folks

The Five Flies

Last year I went to Amsterdam with my girlfriend to celebrate her birthday. … We always enjoy this “water” city.

Walking through “de grachten” and seeing all these little shops (no not the coffeeshops). I’m sure that in the near future I’ll also be putting a blogpost about the city of Amsterdam. In this post I would actually like to draw your attention to a very nice refined restaurant I received the address from a. The Netherlands are not really well known for its good gastronomy, but this restaurant showed me different!

 The restaurant in question is Restaurant vijf vlieghen. Also called Culinary museum! A restaurant decorated with original Rembrandt paintings, wall’s coated with gold leather wall covering from the 17th century

You really feel like being back in time. We felt like Lord and Lady McSpinelli 🙂  (and my girlfriend was even on some kind of wooden throne). We enjoyed this restaurant from the first second we walked in.  The restaurant serves traditional Dutch ingredients in a refined way. To start we tried dishes like red beetroot marinated raw salmon with macarons of beetroot and salted lemon crème fraiche. Followed by  suckling pig cutlets with eggplant, young goat’s cheese potato muffin, white balsamic vinegar and vadouvan gravy  and Crispy fried veal sweetbread with stewed cheek of veal, watercress, kohlrabi and smoked butter mousseline… to finish with some very good dessert Lemon curd with raspberries, fritter of in sugar candied olives and basil ice cream. Drinking water with this would have really been a shame!

 When I get the whine list in Belgium or the Netherlands I’m always in doubt what wine shall I take? As When I’m in France, I will always drink French wine, the same goes for Italy

So when I looked at the winelist,it was a difficult choice. Untill the moment I saw that they also served Dutch wine. So we decided to try the 2009 Apostelhoeve Pinot Gris and I really have to say that we were surprised of the quality of this wine. We really recommend it to anyone.

“Smakelijk” and enjoy your trip back in time

 

Retaurant d’ Vijff vlieghen:

 Website: http://vijffvlieghen.nl/  

Address :

Spuistraat 294-302
1012 VX Amsterdam

 Phone n°: +31 (0)20 53 04 060