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Bev Cohn: Belgium Part 1
Belgian tourism ad  at the back of a truck in Brussels

Belgium: A Gastronomical Delight
Eat, Drink, And Be Merry

Text and Photos by Beverly Cohn

Part 1: Food, Glorious Food

hatever you’ve heard about the gastronomical experience you’ll have in Belgium surely cannot begin to prepare you for the tasty days that lie before you in this tiny, pure white diamond of a country.

With over 25 restaurants in Brussels and Wallonia having been awarded one or two Michelin stars, the highest per capita in Europe, your reporter was hard pressed to choose one, but choose I must and for Part 1, of a two-part series, have focused on Li Cwerneu, whose “Cuisine Intuitive” earned owner/chef Arabelle Meirlaen a Michelin star, the only woman chef in Belgium to be so honored. In addition to the Michelin star, this gifted chef has earned multiple awards, including Best Lady Chef of 2008.

the town of Huy along the Meuse River, Walloon Region. Liege Province, Belgium
One of Belgium's oldest towns, Huy lies along the river Meuse in the Walloon Region, Province of Liege.

Trained at Belgium’s Libramont hotel school, Arabelle and her partner in life, Pierre Thirifays, own and operate Li Cwerneu, an immaculate, boutique restaurant housed in a charming building near the town square in the historic town of Huy.

Li Cwerneu owner/chef Arabelle Meirlaen at work
Trained at the hotel school in the city of Libramont, owner/chef Arabelle Meirlaen has been cooking for over 18 years.

Arabelle’s mother was a good cook and some of her basic recipes have morphed into this honored chef’s creative, inventive cuisine, with a decidedly feminine, whimsical touch, and includes the use of plants and seasonal organic products.

Our small group of select journalists from across the U.S. and Canada, were about to have our senses enchanted with Cuisine Initiative Menu Prestige, an eight-course tasting feast that took a delightfully leisurely, oh-so-relaxing three hours. Following are some highlights of that most memorable food experience:

Arabelle's unique Garden Salad with radishes, tomatoes, avocados, edible flowers, and snails
Arabelle’s unique “Garden Salad” replete with delicious creepy, crawlies.

Listed as one of the Top 10 New Foods of 2011, Pot de légumes du Moment, or seasonal vegetables, was a picture-perfect presentation, unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Dazzling to the eye, the dish replicates a garden patch, with a variety of vegetables including radishes, tomatoes, avocados, edible flowers, and snails.

can of black carbon used by Chef Arabelle for her Garden Salad
The major ingredient for the garden "dirt."

gentleman serving Lingot dOr de Foie Gras, a creamy goose liver accompanied by chopped almonds
The almost lost art of formal dining service lives!

The mélange of garden components were meticulously arranged on a bed of “soil,” which the chef created from crumbled sugar, flavored butter, and nuts combined with black charbon (carbon) generally used for digestive purposes.

Wearing white gloves, this gentleman, trained in the traditional art of serving, prepares to present Lingot d’Or de Foie Gras, a deliciously creamy goose liver accompanied by chopped almonds. The service was impeccable, with the ladies given their food first, and no dishes cleared until everyone finished eating and their cutlery neatly placed on their dish. As for the Foie Gras, let’s just say it was a taste fit for the gods.

Maquereau en Vinaigrette et Wasabi  mackerel with wasabi dressing and a garnish of seasonal greens
The term "holy mackerel" might apply to this far from your basic fish dish.

Maquereau en Vinaigrette et Wasabi – a delicate mackerel resting on a stream of wasabi dressing with a garni of seasonal greens. The taste? Simply divine.

St. Jacques aux Noisettes et Noix, Betterave Rouge or scallops with goat cheese, hazelnuts, walnuts, red beets, and mayonnaise
No skimping on these succulent creatures of the sea.

Served in a deep dish, St. Jacques aux Noisettes et Noix, Betterave Rouge or scallops with goat cheese, hazelnuts, walnuts, red beets, and mayonnaise was almost too beautiful to eat, but eat we did and savored every forkful of this amazing creation.

the Saumon Label Rouge avec Verveine, Oignons et Herbes
It's worth an upstream swim for this divine taste experience.

Saumon Label Rouge avec Verveine, Oignons et Herbes, is a very tender wild salmon from Scotland, prepared with a fusion of sweet onions, asparagus, parsley, and herbs. A fish lover’s delight.

vegetable arrangement with bacon, fava beans, cheese, mustard seed sauce and pumpkin garni
Say goodbye to your veggie steamer.

A blend of bacon, fava beans, and cheese topped off in a vegetable sauce made of curried mustard seeds and crowned with a pumpkin garni, this most spectacular veggie arrangement was beyond delectable and a far cry from steamed broccoli and summer squash. It will be hard to restrain your sighs of enjoyment as each forkful makes its way into your mouth.

chocolate dessert with caramel filling
Close your eyes and transport yourself to “taste heaven.”

No meal in Belgium, which boasts over 2,000 chocolate shops, would be complete without a chocolate dessert and we were not disappointed as our palates were rewarded with not one but two amazing desserts - the first one melt-in-your mouth chocolate with a burst of a surprise caramel filling.

pear marinated in cognac, encrusted with a white meringue coating and encircled by chocolate nuggets and vanilla ice cream
This dessert will keep you smiling for days.

There’s always room for one more act of decadence and it came in the form of a pear marinated in cognac, encrusted with a white meringue coating and encircled by chocolate nuggets and vanilla ice cream. Your already fully aroused taste buds will welcome this crowning touch to an once-in-a-lifetime dining experience.

Arabelle and her Sous Chef Linda Neti
Arabelle and her Sous Chef Linda Neti take a “Kodak” moment for a most happy group of journalists.

With her Sous Chef Linda Neti at her side, when asked how she combines her extraordinary career with her family responsibilities, because of her limited English, Arabelle answered through Pierre: “You need character and strength because you have to consider your family.” Regarding how she received her Michelin star, Arabelle said, “You have to take the initiative to contact Michelin and send them photos of your dishes. It takes a long time to finally get someone to come to your restaurant, but it was certainly worth the wait.”

So, for those of you planning your spring or summer European vacations, you absolutely must put Belgium on your visit list as this year has been designated “2012 Year of Gastronomy, making it all the more deliciously inviting. And, while you’re there, don’t forget to dine at Arabelle Meirlaen’s Li Cwerneu, ranked #1 of 49 restaurants in Huy. But honestly speaking, the “worst” meal you’ll have in Belgium is going to be one of the best meals you’ve ever had in your life.

Part 2 of the Belgium series, will cover its world famous beer, chocolate, Pekets, Belgian pommes frites, and, of course, those famous waffles. So, stay tuned…

Li Cwerneu
Grand’Place 2
4500 Arrondissement
Huy, Belgium
Tel: +32 085 25 55 55

For Travel Information:
Belgium Tourist Office
220 East 42nd Street, Ste. 3402
New York, NY 10017
Fax: 212-355-7675

Name: Required
E-mail: Required
City: Required

Let Bev know what you think about her traveling adventure.

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Thanks so much for those lovely tourism photos, especially of Ireland. I certainly enjoyed all the places you suggested, and am working towards my next vacation. Don’t forget Cuba. That’s an exciting place.

Rosalie, Los Angeles

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Enjoyed your article on Mira Sorvino. Such an interesting background – family, education, career and now human rights activist. I'm not a gossip mag fan so getting more meaty news about movie celebrities from you gives me hope that there are some inteligent life forms in Hollywood.

Peter Paul, Pasadena, CA

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Thank you, Bev. This reminded me to go see the movie, "An Education," which I had already almost forgotten about, having seen the preview a few weeks ago. I enjoy this actress quite a bit--she has a uniqueness about her and she pulls me in. I enjoyed this.

Sandeee, Seattle, WA

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Thank you Beverly,I really enjoyed reading about your intimate conversation with Forest, of whom I am a great admirer. I look forward to seeing the film "Our Family Wedding."

Yoka, Westlake Village, CA

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Thank you for the sending me the beautiful article you wrote about Ireland. We will use your recomendations for hotels in the Southern part. We plan to also go to Dublin and some other Northern cities so I will get some recommendations for these from others. After reading your article, I am getting more excited about going. I think we will be in Ireland for 8 days altogether.

Leah Mendelsohn, Santa Monica, CA

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Very much enjoyed Ms. Cohn's article about Munich, especially the visuals. Though it has been 25 years since my last visit, the piece brought back countless pleasant memories of the city and the people!! Many thanks.

Lawrence, Los Angeles

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Marianplatz and that general area is truly one of the best Christmas celebrations in the world. Between that and Oktoberfest (which I can only imagine) Munich is one of the greatest cities in the world for major annual events.

Christopher Dale, New York, NY

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Hi Bev, you have done some wonderful pieces on some great celebs...Great work. The travel articles are just wonderful too.

Scott Mueller, Huntington Beach, CA

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Your great Zurich article makes me want to go there for the holidays! I love the photos, too, especially the ones of you in the sleigh, the view over the houses and the zoo!

Anna Marie, Santa Monica, CA

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Lovely article! As a European, and having been to Zurich (albeit in summer) I can vouch for this lovely city. Great pictures, too!

Helene Robins, Santa Monica, CA

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Hi Bev,

Nice review, nice seeing you, nice website interface "...Talk to Bev" - Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

Richard D. Kaye, Marina del Rey, CA

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Hi Bev,

Your interview with John Cusack is very interesting. I always wondered why these actors/actresses always get top billing when really, if you think about it, the real work come from the animators, writers and tech whizzes who spend far more hours on the movie than those actors. I know, I know, it's the all about marketing. The names of these actors are what bring in the big bucks. Still, I think these actors are way overpaid for the "little" that they do.

I remember that once upon a time, the early animation classics never mentioned the voices behind the characters. I think it was only later when Walt Disney tapped into the voices of known celebrities like Walter Matthau in the Jungle Book or Zsa Zsa Gabor in The Rescuers that the voices became a marketing magnet.

Keep up the good work. I enjoy your interviews as you peer into the lives of the Hollywood celebrities.

Peter Paul of South Pasadena, CA

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