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!


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


The boys 11


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).




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…


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

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!!


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….

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 ….