Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight: Andy De Brouwer

It is time to put another sommelier in the spotlight! This time we’ll get to know more about Belgian Top sommelier Andy De Brouwer owner ( 4th generation ) of restaurant/hotel Les Eleveurs in Halle (just outside of Brussels). After years working on a Michelin star level  in 2015 Andy thought it was time for something different… basically he wanted to get rid of the ‘stiff’ way of working and the white table cloths . They traded it in to now go for Bistronomie, classical dishes with a twist .  Next to that he has published a few books and writes a wine column for the weekend edition from De Morgen newspaper … to name a few things that is 🙂

When I think of Andy the words  (next to wine) Rock ‘n roll and vintage are the first ones that pop into my head :-). He easily could be a rock star (maybe it just came when seeing the below picture?)… the vintage part is mostly because of his love for old Vespa’s

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Once you start talking to Andy something you just cannot deny is his passion for wine… The way he talks about it can only come out of passion… he tells it with so much sparkle in his eyes… I love it!!!  That’s why I’ve already learned so many things from him as there’s no better person to learn from than a passionate man

andy-de-brouwer-by-editiepajot

What many of you might not know is that Andy is also part of the technical comity of the Belgian Sommelier Guild… this basically means that he is one of the people that year after year searches for new/challenging questions for the contestants of both the “senior” as the “junior” sommelier Trophy .

andy-de-brouwer

I’m sure you guys are already on the edge of you seat to find out more about Andy… so feast your eyes on his answers on my 10 questions:

What is your favorite wine region to work with?

Jerez is without any doubt my favorite wine regions. The region inspired me that much that I even started making my own beer using ‘Zenne y Frontera Lambiek’ old sherry barrels (still with a bit of sherry in them)

zenny-y-frontera-by-lambikstoempers

What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?

Understand your client to guide him to the right choice by respecting the signals in terms of budget and figure out what are the main tasting lines he wants to see reflected in his glass. Advising him a few alternatives & sharing your knowledge.

Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?

Drinks can represent almost half of the income of a restaurant. Reasons enough to put this part of the business in hands of a professional.

When and how did you get the passion for wine?

I played all my youth in a enormous wine cellar, thousands of liquid stories captured by a cork, difficult not to be appealed too…

Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world?

Josep Can Roca (El Celler de can Roca) who is also a Jerez lover 🙂

andy-pitou

What is your approach for pairing wines(or other beverages) with dishes?

It doesn’t always have to match; sometimes contrasting can be funny too.

Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why? 
There is no wine region more impressive than the Douro Valley, take the train for a total experience !

For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste? 
Romanée Conti, was able to sell a few bottles in my life but never had the opportunity to taste a sip.

What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school? 
Taking care of the dining room service with some other students at the Miss Belgium competition, playing monkey tricks on the catwalk and eating caviar in the lodges of the famous. 🙂 🙂

A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant, shop, winery, etc..?

Lunch at Michel Bras by clear sky in the Aubrac and enjoy the total experience.

michel-bras-restaurant

Copa Jerez

Everybody knows the prestigious culinary competition ‘Bocuse d’Or’, where countries from all over the world send their best team to represent their country with pride. A competition as prestigious you might not have heard from as much is the ‘Copa Jerez ‘. The ‘Copa Jerez’ is more or less the same principal with the exception that in this case a team consists of a sommelier and chef that have to create a 3 course meal  paired with Sherry wine. BTW for those of you who don’t know sherry there are many typs of Sherry  Dry sherry’s  (Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Oloroso o Palo Cortado), sweet sherry’s  (Moscatel o Pedro Ximénez)  and semi-sweet (Cream, Medium y Pale Cream).  You can read more about it on one of my blogposts 😉 (The  blogpost).  I fully support this contest!! First of all because ever-since my visit to Jerez or better to the Bodega of Tio pepe I became an enormous fan/lover of Sherry wines. Secondly the team representing Belgium this year are very dear to me 🙂 . Starting with the (TOP) Sommelier representing the Belgian colours this year is no-one less than Comme Chez Soi’s Cesar Roman (who originates from Spain). Cesar will be assisted by a chef who always puts a smile on my face when he serves me his food,  Nico Corbesier (Les Eleveurs).  A young dynamic team with a winners attitude that don’t take satisfaction with a second place 🙂

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I even support them sooo much that I (together with a few sommeliers and chefs) went to help/advice them on the dishes and their accompanying sherry’s. Before our commends and advice it was pretty clear this year’s team is a winning team, so you can imagine how it is after the advice 🙂 🙂 On the picture below you see a small assortment of the big assortment we (had –  and what a sacrifice it was) to try to help our friends for the competition… talking about friendship 😉

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I did take pictures of the dishes they will be serving, but I think it is better not to share them… that would only give the competitors the change to steal ideas. What I can say is that the dishes are a good mix of Spanish and Belgian influences and products they are proud of…

Join me and support the Belgian team by liking their facebook page!! I will keep you posted on how they did, but every facebook like will give them an extra reason to win.

Helping others to empty the “garage”

If I can help people or make them happy, I’m always there…this got proven again last week when my dear friend William Wouters (Top sommelier and owner from Pazzo) asked me if I want to join him to taste wines from Quinola during a lunch at restaurant Les Eleveurs in company of a few friends (Jaime Suarez (owner/ oenologist Quinola , César Ramon (sommelier Comme chez soi), Andy De Brouwer (sommelier/ owner Les Eleveurs ), Aristide Spies (Finalist of the best sommelier of the world contest)  to name a few). So again if I can make people happy… I obviously don’t do this for myself 😉 😉 (Strange they didn’t name a street after me yet 🙂 )

Aristide & Jaime

César & Andy

A few things you should know about the Quinola vineyard is first of all that it located in the North West of Spain on an altitude of ca. 800m (close to Portugal) and that they only make 1 type of wine from which they only produce around 5000 bottles a year. Making wine actually runs in the Suarez family as Jaime and his two brothers learned a lot from their dad as he was a very well known oenologist. Although if I understood it well it is mostly Jaime occupying himself in making the wine, and his two brothers more on the administration and the selling. They (Suarez Family) call their wine “garage” wine, but I can say for a fact it was more than only a “garage” wine 🙂 . I must say the result is even quit exceptional!

Quinola wine

The Quinola  wine is made 100% of the Tinta de Toro aka Tempranillo grapes from 90 years old vines.  The most important or most surprising for me is the way they make their wine as I have never seen something like this before. After harvesting all the grapes they immediately put them in barrels?! Yes indeed so they don’t filter it or let it age in Inox tanks before putting it in wooden barrels. I really didn’t know wine got made this way… I could say that nature does all the work here, but they have to turn the barrels a few times a week (I even think 8 times a day if I remember it right…) so the manual labour can’t be ignored here.  Jaime told me that it was in Bordeaux where he first saw this technique (and even there it is not used a lot) and where he learned more about… but it wasn’t until when he went to Australia that he started experimenting with this technique. (So you can see that making their wine this way didn’t go over one night’s ice).

Quinola

I cannot think of a better way to taste the wine than with food 🙂 . What is great when you have lunch with top sommeliers is that they wouldn’t be top sommeliers if they didn’t bring other wines to put next to the Quinola wines.   They brought other wines not per se to compare, but just to make this lunch an even more incredible one… In case you are wondering what kind of wines, i’ll just name a few: a 1999 Tetre Roteboeuf (Saint Emilion Grand Cru), a 2002 Tarlant Bland de Meuniers champagne, a 1994 Joseph Roty (Bourgogne), a 2009 Meusaul-Pierrieres 1er Cru, etc… I know for the people who don’t know that much about wine this doesn’t go their heart go faster, but for those who do I’m sure they wouldn’t have mind trying these ones ;-).  What I must say it that even though we had some great wines, the Quinola  didn’t vanish… I mean that it could perfectly stand in line with those wines I mentioned before as  Quinola   is rich of flavour and body (I must add it is slightly strong –  15%). We tried the 2008, 2009 and 2010. William and all the other top sommeliers said they preferred I think it was 2009, but for me they were all good 🙂 Taking the picture below wasn’t an easy task as every time I the picture, a few minutes later a new bottle would be added… so at some point I just stopped taking pictures 🙂

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Feast your eyes on the menu chef Nico Corbesier served us:

Some mussels to open the taste buds

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Atlantic cod (Skrei) sashimi, crispy skin, pear and avocado

Atlantic cod (Skrei) sashimi, crispy skin, pear and avocado

Millefeuille of potato with beef shank and a soft yolk and persillade (I took the picture at the last moment when I just poked the egg yolk with my fork, so that why it is not round anymore 🙂 greedy me I guess)

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Lamb Shoulder with chervil, parsley root with buttermilk and sprouts flower

Lamb Shoulder with chervil, parsley root with buttermilk and sprouts flower

Bavarois of white chocolate, pistachio and chartreuse

Bavarois of white chocolate, pistachio and chartreuse

I think a little trip to Spain is presenting itself 🙂 … for those who didn’t read between the lines, I like the wine and you”ll be ready more about this wine in the future 🙂 as I really would like to see how they make this magical wine :-). I’m really happy I was part of this wonderful lunch with great wines and great people

Thanks to everybody!! Also to Jan De Laet for the musical intermezzo.

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Bistronomie at its best

Les eleveurs logo

That I have a long restaurant wish list isn’t a secret, I literally have a spreadsheet subdivided per country and city which restaurants I want to do… you could see it as my list of how many restaurants to do before I ever die 🙂 and by the looks of it I’ll  be living for eternity ;-). Anyhow a restaurant that has been on my list for a while now is restaurant ‘Les Eleveurs’ lead by Andy De Brouwer who is already the 4rd generation  in the De Brouwer family  to keep the restaurant.

Old Les eleveurs

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Les eleveurs (2)

Maybe it was destiny, but there was no better time to visit restaurant ‘Les Eleveurs’ as lots of changes happend in its scenery as after a having had Michelin star and Andy being the Best Belgian sommelier, they changed their way of working and exchanged their Michelin starred food for an affordable and more basic Bistronomie cuisine. What this basically means is that they are a ‘bistro’ serving more gastronomical dishes than in a regular bistro, but still keeping it simple.  So I couldn’t have asked for a better table guest than Mr. Bistronomie himself Steve Engels 🙂

Bistronomie 2013

Something good to know before I go on is that ‘Les Eleveurs’ is a hotel and restaurant… so basically no excuses not to drink 🙂 that’s all I’m saying. I wanted to share this as with a top sommelier as Andy De Brouwer in the restaurant it would be a shame not to go 100% for the wines, beers and other great beverages (like Madeira or Sherry) they have.

Les Eleveurs’ Chef Nico Corbesier might be a lot younger than Sofie Dumont who used to be headchef at ‘Les Eleveurs’ (who decided to go her own way), but when it comes to experience Nico has already worked in lots of great restaurants and has been leading the kitchen upon Sofie’s maternity leave. I know it might sound cocky , but to my opinion age or where you learned how to cook or did chef school doesn’t really matter, it might influence you… you either have it in you or you don’t and I think Nico has it.

I don’t know if you guys like wild game dishes, but if you do it is worth to pass by ‘Les Eleveurs’  as they now have something called the “Wild Festival” (no, not the wet t-shirt kind). Basically they are serving different kinds of meat from wild animals (for the non-wild game lovers, they still have few other dishes on the menu). We took the tasting menu, this way we got to taste several things.

We started with an assortment of 4 pieces game pies with lettuce, red cabbage, celeriac and an authentic made remoulade sauce. With which Andy paired a white2011 Spanish El Pajara.

game pies

We continued our meal with a “vol-au-vent” of pheasant that Andy served with a Lustau Solera Reserva . A combo of one of my favorite dishes and one of my favorite drinks… so an easy score 😉

vol au vent

The main course of the evening was a deer loin with beetroot, pomegranate, truffle potato(purple), red onion and cherry sauce that got paired with a herby and bit stronger wine what is needed for piece of meat like deer loin (but not tooooo strong dough). It was  a French Malbec, Les Escures by Mas Del perie

deer loin

To finish this wonderful meal and evening we were served a nougat ice cream with quince and nuts that got served with a Gran Riserva PX by Toro Albala so basically stuff I like… because of the PX grape it is of course a sweeter drink, but a nice sweetness and not a toooo sweet drink.

nougat ice cream

Technically speaking ‘Les Eleveurs’ can be taken of my wishlist, but I think I’ll keep it on there as I’m pretty sure I’ll wanting to come back here and the experience will be as enchanting as this time!

Hope when you get to go you’ll be having the same opinion as me, but I’m sure Andy and his team will do their best that you do.

Restaurant  Les Eleveurs:

Website: http://www.les-eleveurs.be

Address:  Suikerkaai 1A, 1500 Halle – Belgium

Phone n°:  +32 (0) 2 361 13 40

Discovering the unknown

We all travel the whole world and have seen destinations that take 24hours to get there… but what we tend to forget is that our own country or maybe even the area where we live has so much to offer and so many things to discover. In my case I’m talking about Belgium, but I think it counts for everybody all over the world.  Not that it is wrong to travel the world, but from time to time instead of planning a city trip or a weekend abroad just pick a closeby destination in your own country. So that’s what I did last weekend in company of a few gastronomical friends like William Wouters & Ingrid (pazzo), Andy de Brouwer (Les Eleveurs) and Aristide Spies (3rd best sommelier of the world) to name a few. Together we discovered a green area just outside Brussels aka “Pajottenland” that until last weekend was a place I only knew by name.

Pajottenland map © 2011 Toerisme Pajottenland vzw

The initial plan was to discover the gently rolling hills using scooters, but as most people didn’t feel like it the plan got changed and we started our day with a tour in a prairie schooner  aka horse and carriage. I had the feeling I was somewhere in France… it might have been the weather and the fact I was speaking French with Aristide, but it did feel like France. Have look at the below pictures and I’m sure you’ll agree?

Horse & carriage Pajottenland landscape

Pajottenland lanscape (4) Pajottenland landscape (3)

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Pajottenland landscape (1) 

During our carriage ride I had to think of my mom, it was when we stopped at the windmill used in a Belgian Television series from when she was young “Captain Zeppos”.I’m sure if she would have been there she would have been very excited to see it :-). It was great to hear the mill keeper talk with so much passion about his windmill works and how it is build. I don’t know if you guys ever visited a wind mill, but I was very impressed of how they are designed knowing they are from over 600 years ago. We also had our portion of workout for the day as we had to help to turn the Mill in the good wind direction and it is heavier than one thinks! If you ever get the chance I would definitely visit an old wind mill.

Zeppos Mill (1)

Zeppos Mill (2)

Mill Keeper

Everybody listening to the history   

Mill workout

From all that working out and being on the carriage our throats started to get dried out… Lucky for me I was visiting the “Pajottenland” with world renowned sommeliers and they took care of the beverage part 🙂

It all started with a nice aperitif right under the “Witse” tree. FYI “Witse” is another Belgian TV series (crime) I have to admit is started to feel like a tour at the Belgian version of Universal city 🙂

Witse tree

Anyhow the first drink to make our throats less dry was the2000 Poème Cuvée by Glinaros. It might surprise you, but this was/ is a Greek sparkling wine and I didn’t expect it to be this good.  The taste had (to me) something dark  chocolaty to it and it reminded me a bit of Delamotte champagne , but maybe saying this is like swearing in a church…

Witse tree (1)

Witse tree (2)

 Greek sparkling wine

We continued our aperitif or better wine tasting at “Het wijnatelier”. At ‘het wijnatelier’ they have a very interesting motto “wine is culture. One does not drink culture. Culture is something you experience. The same goes for wine.” is cultuur. Anyhow if you ever want to have a nice wine tasting I think “Het wijnatelier” is definitely a good location for it! Already for the fact that it is located in a very beautiful building which used to be the old butchery of the current owner’s parents or I even think grandparents. I was really in love with the interior!!  On top of that you also get some very nice not always very well-known wines. As you might have guessed after knowing what we had as first taster, the theme of the wine tasting was Greek wines 🙂 that got accompanied with the appropriate appetizers.

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We almost tasted the whole gamma wines from the Glivanos (sorry website only in Greek)estate. (Besides the rosé). Overall nice wines that tasted very fresh and waaaay better than the Retsina I used to remember from years ago when I was in Greece. I was surprised of the good quality of the Greek wines.  Although for me they missed something (not sure what though)… Maybe it is just the fact they weren’t Italian ;-). No no, just kidding.  This tasting did open my eyes and my intrest in getting to know more Greek wines. Anyhow there is only one way to find out for you is tasting them at a wonderful place called “Het wijnatelier”.  (It had a good vibe)

In my next blogpost I’ll tell you about THE most famous product from the Pajottenland!

To be continued….

Music was my first love… Or was it food?

Not all of you guys might know it, but I have a bit of a music history. Around the age of 11 I started playing drums and has always been a big passion of mine. Over the years I got quit good at it (but I don’t like to brag) and I was fortunate enough to meet some of the best musicians I might even say legends that have played with the biggest names. Through the years some of these people turned into very good friends.  Initially they saw me as a drummer/musician, but as more time past (and I started to enjoy food more) they saw me more as a synonym for good food (on top of the drummer/musician). It is true I could be the synonym for worse things 🙂 . It actually works in two ways whenever they are on tour and they stop in Belgium I take care of them and make sure they’ll be tasting the best Belgium has to offer, whenever I’m visiting the country or better city they live in they do the same for me. Nowadays I don’t play too much drums anymore as at a certain moment choices had to be made (but that is what life is all about I guess). What I do still enjoy is combining my passion for food and the company of some great musician friends. A top combo if you ask me.

me playing drums

Last week was one of these occasion I had some friends of mine from the US passing Belgium on their World Tour. The only “disadvantage”is that they were staying right in the city center of Brussels, I needed to find something not too far from their hotel (they are already enough on the road as it is)… preferably in walking distance. If it would have been in Antwerp there would have been a million places I’d know to take them, Brussels on the other hand is more difficult. Especially near the “Grote Markt” as taking them to a “tourist trap” is the last thing I want to do. Lucky me that I had Andy De Brouwer (who you might know from restaurant Les Eleveurs) to save the day. To make a long story short, we went to restaurant “La roue d’or”. La Roue d’or is a typical Belgian Brasserie serving classical Belgian dishes in the way they are supposed to be served and the way our grandparents would do it (so basically by not using light products, or my way of thinking).

La roue d'or

La roue d'or by BE tourist office

Funny enough from all the types of cuisines I propose to all my friends visiting Belgium, they are always craving to eat mussels, Flemish beer stews, etc…, drink beer and have some freshly made waffles as dessert (or crème brulée). If that’s what they want, than that’s what I’ll get for them, as making people happy and making them feel home is definitely the thing I like to do most!  I’m sure you can’t wait to hear what I ate, well I had the meatball stew with beer and Sirop de Liège sauce and onions ( I so love meatballs) accompanied with some great Belgian beer of course!! It must be said they were very good and tasty food! The most popular dish at the table were the Mussels with a white wine sauce… all plates were empty and I only saw smiling faces, you do the math!

Mussels

Boulettekes

If you ever have foreign friends visiting, you know where to take them now (when in the center of Brussels)!

The next day I went to see the band play in a sold out venue (aka Sportpaleis) and it might have been one of the best shows I’ve seen from them (even better than the other ones I saw). One thing is sure a band stands and falls depending of the musicians playing in it… you can have the best singer, but when the band sucks (or vice versa) it won’t be doing any good to the total picture 🙂 Alecia can consider herself very lucky she has some of the best that are around! Keep spreading the love…

I’m actually curious to know if you guys found out which band I’m talking about, maybe the below picture might help 🙂 (I did give a few tips in the text)

The band & me

Thanks guys, you rock and see you in LA!