Belgium: A Gastronomical Delight
Eat, Drink, And Be Merry
Text and Photos by Beverly Cohn
Part 2: Food, Glorious Food:
A Pleasing Adventure For Every Palette
ust to recap, Part
1 focused on Li Cwerneu, a restaurant located in the town of Huy,
whose "Cuisine Intuitive" earned owner/chef Arabelle Meirlaen
a Michelin star, the only woman chef in Belgium to be so honored. Part
2 is a general overview of some of the most famous, mouth-watering taste
experiences of Belgium.
Spring is definitely here and many folks are in the
midst of planning their European vacations. Not to be missed is Belgium,
an extraordinary blue white diamond of a tiny country, not much bigger
than Maryland. Jammed packed with culinary delights that will satisfy
food lovers, from fine dining to street food, including, of course,
those famous Belgium waffles, or frites that you can enjoy while strolling
through one of the many open-air markets. The food has been described
as "French quality with German portions." Treats abound for
lovers of chocolate and beer connoisseurs, as well as lovers of music,
art, outdoor adventures, or someone who just wants to kick back at a
spa with a good book or a good friend. More on the culinary delights
to follow, but first some factoids.
An architecturally stunning building, the new ultra-modern
Liege-Guillemins Station, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava,is
to other European cities.
One of the thousands of cartoons on display
at the Musée Hergé. Courtesy photo.
Centrally located, Belgium lies between France,
Holland, Germany, and Luxembourg and with the high-speed rail, you can
be whisked to Paris
in a little over an hour and under two hours to London.
Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is headquarters of the European Union
and NATO and although the official languages are French, Dutch, and
German, English is widely spoken so communication is never a problem.
The attractions are endless in this tiny country as
it is home to 35 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 28 castles, and 200 museums,
including the fabulous Magritte Museum, which houses 200 works by surrealist
painter, René Magritte, making it the largest collection in the
world. The exhibit includes archival material, letters, photographs
Chocolatier, Laurent Gerbaud in his "happy"
For fans of the ever-popular Tintin, there is the new
Musée Hergé (Hergé Museum) located outside of Brussels
in the town of Louvain-la-Neuve. This iconic comic strip character has
generated the sale of over 230 million comic books worldwide in 80 languages.
The inviting museum is packed with original drawings and exhibits in
a timeline of his remarkable career, which began in 1929, and spanned
over 50 years.
Regarding its architecture, Brussels has the distinction
of being considered the capital of Art Nouveau as over 500 of its buildings
have received that certification, another feather in its tiny, but mighty
Now to the yummy part
Belgium is not only home to the infamous Godiva chocolates,
it also boasts over 2000 chocolate shops, one of which belongs to famous
Chocolatier, Laurent Gerbaud.
A beautifully packaged assortment offered by another
For a seriously divine chocolate tasting, swing by his
shop and prepare to be dazzled, not only by his wonderfully amusing
personal stories, but by the amazing variety of his hand-made chocolates,
with no added butter, sugar, or alcohol, that he combines with fruits
and spices from all over the world, among which are cranberries, figs,
orange peel, truffles, nuts, ginger, gingerbread, and hazelnut crème.
Considered the best chocolate in the world, just how
much chocolate does Belgium produce annually? How about a delectable
172,000 tons, enough to satisfy the sweetest of sweet teeth anywhere
in the world. Oh yes, if you want to go to chocolate heaven before you
die, Brussels will be celebrating Chocolate Week in November 2012. In
case you're wondering, most Belgium chocolate is still made by hand
in small shops, using original equipment.
The famous Belgium frites
are thicker, twice baked, and twice as delicious.
Belgium frites (fries,) invented in 1781, are thicker
and twice baked and are different from fries from other countries such
as the U.S. They are served in sheets of paper rolled into an upside
down cone. This popular food either accompanies meals or is eaten as
a snack. But beware, no ketchup can be seen as the traditional sauces
are mayonnaise, tartar sauce, Russian dressing or béarnaise.
This is a Belgium favorite and with over 5,000 stands through the country,
an average of 165 pounds per person is consumed yearly.
For a totally different taste sensation, head over to
La Maison du Peket in Province of Liège. It's a charming restaurant/
bar/ café that offers Pekets, a delicious, locally brewed, unique
Pekets - A unique taste experience.
Available in 200 flavors, it is the traditional drink
of Liège festivities as well as being served daily in many bistros.
The slide-down-your throat, savory drink comes in a variety of flavors,
including lemon, coconut, strawberry, melon, and fruits des bois or
wild berries, a favorite of younger people.
Beer barrels abound in this land with a selection
of hundreds of beers.
Vivian Johnen holds the wine especially brewed
for this past Christmas holiday season.
With over 500 varieties of beer currently being brewed
in Belgium, running the gamut from white to raspberry, the list is too
long to include, but you can access that information by doing a Google
search for "Belgium Beers." An interesting note is that most
beers have their own glass in which only that specific beer may be served.
For an up-close look at a microbrewery, you might want
to a visit Brasserie Grain d'Orge. Located in Hombourg, it is owned
and operated by Vivian Johnen and her husband Benoît, who is the
Master Brewer. In an interesting tour of their brewing facility, that
included a peek at their bottling machine, which produces 1,100 bottles
per hour, Vivian talked about the ingredients they use and explained
that they also do private label blends and brew a special blend for
To keep peace between the"warring" labor
separate labels have been created.
Because of two warring separate societies, similar let's
say to the Lions Club vs. the Rotary Club, the tradition was to have
separate labels - one for Brice and one for Joup.
The cozy tasting room of Cantillon Brewery
A worker supervises Cantillon's bottling machine
Another interesting beer outing is Cantillon Brewery.
Located in Brussels, they have been brewing traditional Lambic like
Kriek and Gueuze since 1900 and is the only remaining Lambic brewery
in Brussels. The brewery offers an interesting tour of its facility
that can be booked in advance.
For a trip down beer memory lane, consider the Museum
of Belgium Beers in Lustin. Filled with beer-themed historical collectibles,
including thousands of bottles, glasses, and vintage advertisements
going back to a century-old tradition, this is a fun visit for any beer
lover. For those of you planning a fall vacation, check out the Belgium
Beer Weekends that begin in September. By the way, there are beer festivals
throughout the year, with four this summer. Check it out on www.visitbelgium.com.
A waffles vendor at one of the many outdoor stands
sprinkled throughout the country
No Belgium gastronomical adventure would be complete
without having one of their famous waffles. Not strictly a breakfast
food, there are two types of waffles or gauffres - the Brussels and
the Liège. The Brussels is rectangular in shape with a light
golden brown exterior and is served either with powdered sugar or whipped
cream. The Liège waffle, is the most popular street waffle and
is prepared with sugar that caramelizes and forms a crisp, crunchy coating.
Either one will be a delicious taste experience.
With over 25 restaurants in Brussels and Wallonia having
been awarded one or two Michelin stars, the highest per capita in Europe,
you will not be disappointed with any of your meals and will be able
to find restaurants to fit your budget.
If you are a music lover, all genres are available as
music can be heard every day and ranges from jazz, to rock, to classical.
Concerts are performed in churches and castles during the Festival of
Wallonia that takes place from June to October.
Need to relax after all that eating and drinking? Head
to the charming town of Spa, a municipality located in the Walloon Region
of Liège. Housing Roman baths and mineral springs, it is described
as "the mother of all spas. Once the meeting place for royals and
the rich and famous, Spa is a perfect destination to pamper yourself,
eliminating any possible lingering stress.
No knife needed here for this fabulous venison carpaccio
topped with mixed greens and fresh parmesan cheese
After pampering yourself, you might want to cap off
your visit to Spa with another spectacular meal at the nearby L'Art
de Vivre restaurant located in the center of town. The faire included
a tangy mango sorbet soup, venison carpaccio and an unusual dessert
of crème brulee with mushroom soup and mussels. The cordial service,
coupled with the gourmet food, will leave you smiling yet again.
This most entertaining carousel is further testament
to the wit and whimsey of the Belgium people
Adding to the allure of Belgium, this small country
with enormous attractions, Brussels is more affordable than let's say
Paris, London, or Amsterdam
and offers a wide range of accommodations with up to a 50% discount
on hotel rates on weekends, and daily in July and August. You might
want to plan your visit around the many festivals and special events
that take place throughout the year. If you need help or further information,
contact the Belgium Tourist Office who will gladly guide you in orchestrating
an unforgettable vacation experience.
For Travel Information:
Belgium Tourist Office
220 East 42nd Street, Ste. 3402
New York, NY 10017