My first stop outside of France was Brussels! Why Brussels? Because I don’t know a single person who has been there who hasn’t had a great time! Plus, how could anyone dislike a city that is so well known and proud of their perfect Frites that they have websites dedicated to Frite maps of the city! http://www.fritmap.com/fr
Not to mention there is an App for iPhone and iPad: https://itunes.apple.com/be/app/fritkots-bruxelles/id441054097?mt=8I
I think it’s pretty obvious that the first place I ate… the first thing I did was to research the BEST frites and go eat them!
Maison Antoine is said to be the best so that is where I set off.
You order frites and pick your sauce – in Brussels Mayo is the traditional condiment so that is what I went with… although given their sauce selection I really wanted to ask for 5 or 6 of them, next time though. The frite stand is located in the center of a square surrounded by bars. After purchasing a cone of frites you can walk to one of the bars and sit to have a beer and munch! The bars even have signs outside saying Frites accepted! The beer was great but the frites were extraordinary! Fries are usually potato-y or crispy…these were both. There is a 12 month frite school in Brussels that I thought was silly until I ate these fries, I now kind of want to go. Oh! And one more thing about fries or frites… they aren’t French, at all. Don’t call them French fries in Brussels especially! In fact the reason they are called French Fries in American is because during World War I when American soldiers tasted these fries made by Belgium troops, they called them french fries because the official language of the Belgian army at the time was French. It is more correct to say Belgian fries, but frites or just plain fries is most common. I had read about this before ordering them, which to be honest made me nervous because you almost can’t stop your mouth from saying French Fries… but I managed.
One warning about the most delicious fries you’ve ever tasted – you will eat all of them! I think I left about 7 fries, and I have a rule to only eat half of things so I don’t blow up like a balloon during this trip! Of course that rule does get tossed to the side occasionally when something is exceptionally delicious. Plus I walk like 6 miles a 33day so that evens things out, right?
Anyway, there are so many museums in Brussels it was really difficult to narrow down what I wanted to see…
So I reached the palace and decided that seeing the outside was going to have to be sufficient for this trip.
I walked on to find a surprise – The Museum of Musical Instruments! It is a beautiful building inside and out and so fun to explore; Walking through you feel as if you are inside a piano or stringed instrument of some sort.
Afterwards I ducked into the Magritte museum to see these guys….
(Picture courtesy of http://wdim.desplechin.com/imd100/studentWork/elizHawks/gallery.htm )
Then, I walked in the wrong direction, well not really wrong just different than the direction I thought I was headed. Serendipity is a beautiful thing because I ended up in the Chocolate district, and just in time for an afternoon snack!
Best Hot Chocolate of my life! Actually, I have to qualify that statement. This was the best unique hot chocolate I have ever had, with extreme depth of flavor from star anise being nestled in with the cocoa. But the best traditional hot chocolate has to be Dinstuhl’s in Memphis! http://www.dinstuhls.com
Across from Fredric Blondeel is another great surprise.
Taschen has it’s own store?!?!?!
For anyone who might not be familiar, Taschen is a publisher that is best known for publishing Helmut Newton, the rather risqué but altogether genius photographer. They publish lots of coffee table type books, and now they have the ultimate ‘book’ for a collector that I would just love to own.
The Esther Scrolls, in scroll form with a companion English translation. Esther scrolls are the story of Queen Esther that is read on Purim. It is a beautiful story and is full of great illustrations as well. Taschen has reproduced the scroll with an English companion book.
Next I visited the Grand Place and the Brussels City Museum. This is truly a breathtaking part of the city! The buildings are carved and gilded; spinning around in the center of the square looking at each building makes it feel more like a movie set than a historical city center.
I love the little alleyways off the Grand Place
If you ever decide to travel to Brussels the one place you absolutely must go, more than frites or chocolate, is the restaurant I had dinner: Comme Chez Soi
This restaurant is truly perfect. The interior is cozy and inviting like being at a family member’s home for dinner. The food is absolutely perfect in execution, presentation and most importantly in taste. The service and staff as a whole is so welcoming and kind, I received a tour of the kitchen and the wine cellar and also had the opportunity to speak with the owner and chef. Most importantly I really enjoyed the pace and portion size of the tasting menu. Sometimes things can be off and you feel rushed, or slightly worse, you are left wondering if they forgot about you because it is taking so long. Size is very important in tasting menus because trying 6 or 7 different things is wonderful, but you want to be able to do so without feeling like you can’t eat for the next week. Anyhow, it was wonderful, and one of the things I was most impressed by was the owner, who had a desk in the kitchen near a window that looked out onto the dining room, and every guest the got up to leave, she personally thanked and said good night. I’ll leave you with the pictures of this most remarkable meal!
Amuse one: Vegetable ‘tart’ and Smoked Salmon
Amuse two: I honestly can’t remember enough to even guess – sorry!
Rabbit Back, Kafir Lime Leaves, Dublin Bay Prawn, Vegetable Curry
Breaded Scallops with Vegetable ‘Risotto’ (do you see the baby corn with the vegetables?)
That’s right folks FRESH BABY CORN!! I’ve only been looking for this for about 3 or 4 years now!! Of course this came all the way from Thailand… And, yes I did ask about it and had them show it to me.
Milk Fed Veal with Fried Sweetbreads
Iberico de Bellota – this translates from Spanish as the best pork you will ever have in your life. This is a porcetta with black truffle.
Blood Orange and Dark Chocolate – I usually don’t like other ingredients anywhere near my chocolate but this combination was more than ok with me!
Interior of the dining room