Tag Archives: Brussels

A Trip to Brussels: The Beer!

About halfway through my trip to Brussels, I realized it would be impossible for me to adequately talk about my food and drink experience in one blog post. So, I thought it was only natural to do a beer-specific post about everything I drank in Brussels because, well, it was amazing. If you love beer (at all) and especially if you enjoy trying new beers, you have to visit Brussels. They take their beer seriously – I mean each beer has a specific serving temperature and type of glass it should be served in – and even though I was there for a week (and had at least 3 beers everyday), I didn’t even crack the surface of the Brussels beer culture.

Belgian Beers | FoodosaurusRex.com

One of the very first things I was told when I asked for advice about visiting Brussels and where to go was to hit up Delirium Café. I’m sure a lot of you are familiar with Delirium beer (it’s the bottles with the elephant on them), but this particular bar is so much more than that. The building is actually split into three separate bars known as Delirium Village – Delirium Café in the basement, Delirium Tap House on the main floor, and Delirium Hoppy Loft upstairs. There are also a few other Delirium locations nearby that offer a smaller selection. If you’ve heard anything about this particular place, though, Delirium Café is likely the location that was mentioned. So, what’s so great about this place, you may ask? Well, they offer over 2,000 beers to choose from! That’s right – on any given night (or day) you’re there, you can choose from over 2,000 beers… talk about overwhelming!

The ceiling in Delirium Cafe & their Guinness Book of World Records certificate!

The ceiling in Delirium Cafe & their Guinness Book of World Records certificate!

As I mentioned, I had A LOT of beer while I was in Brussels – one with pretty much every meal, and then another one or two each night when I went out. I found myself a little nervous when ordering since it can be a little nerve-wracking to order something you’ve never had before. Aside from one night where I hated pretty much everything I ordered, I think I was successful! So without further ado, here are the beers I had (and a little review of each)!

Saison Dupont | FoodosaurusRex.com

Saison Dupont – I absolutely love saisons, but they’re newer to me (just started trying them this past summer). They originated in Belgium, so when I saw this on the menu at Houtisplou I knew I had to order it. It was crisp and slightly fruity with just an ever-so-slight sour finish. I would have ordered this over and over again, but I knew I had to branch out and try as much as I could.

Delirium Nocturnum – I’ve had Delirium beers before, initially attracted to them because of the elephant on the bottle. I’m not ashamed to admit that I often gravitate towards different drinks (especially wines) based on their labels and names. What can I say? You get extra points from me if your label is cute and/or clever. And until this trip I haven’t made a bad choice based on the name/label (see below for my least favorite beers). I’ve had Delirium’s Tremmens before, and while I wanted to try new-to-me beers from breweries I hadn’t had before, I had to order a Delirium while I was at Delirium Cafe!

Kriek – I had a few different Krieks while I was in Brussels (one by Brouwerij Lindemans, another by Brasserie Cantillon), which are lambic beers fermented with cherries, and was shocked that I liked them. While you might think to yourself, “ew, fruit beers!” this is so much more than that. They have a slight hint of sweetness, but it’s mostly a tart and sour cherry flavor you taste, which I absolutely loved. Also, they’re pretty carbonated, which I’m a big fan of since I have a slight (okay, big) obsession with Seltzer. The bright reddish color makes it fun to drink, too.

Vedett, Cantillon Kriek, Achel 8 Trappist

Vedett, Cantillon Kriek, Achel 8 Trappist

Achel 8° Blond by Brouwerij der Sint-Benedictusabdij de Achelse Kluis – This was my first official Trappist beer of the trip, and let me tell you, those Monks know how to make a good beer! This is a strong pale ale, and is full of flavor since it’s right in the middle of their number rating system in terms of strength (6, 8, or 10). I had this beer at Poechenellekelder, a bar right across from the Mannekin Pis. They have a phenomenal beer list and it’s a perfect place to stop in and enjoy a brew (or a few) after taking in the tourist attraction.

Zinnebir by Brasserie de la Senne – Another Belgian pale ale, another near perfect rating on my Untappd app. This beer is simultaneously hoppy, but also pretty light, fruity, and crisp. I ordered this beer as it was listed as a local special when I was having dinner one night, and it was a perfect light companion to my heavier dinner of stoemp.

Vendett Extra Blond by Duvel Moortgat – This pale lager went perfectly with the fare served at Bia Mara, and I loved the fun pictures and sayings on the back of the bottles (as seen above). It wasn’t anything to write home about, but it was a good light beer… dare I say better than most light lagers found in my neck of the woods.

Moeder Lambic | FoodosaursRex.com

La Chouffe by Brasserie d’Achouffe  – This was a featured beer at Houtisplou on my last night in Brussels, and since I had luck with the Zinnebir, I figured I’d give it a shot. It’s an unfiltered blond that winds up being re-fermented in the bottle or keg, and it’s fruity and spicy (think coriander notes), and light on the hops.

Buffalo Bitter by Brouwerij Van Den Bossche – This was similar to the Dupont Saison, and I’d say is tied for first with my absolute favorite beer of the trip. The brew is actually a Belgian IPA, and I loved it. When I first started drinking beer for taste rather than to get drunk at keg parties in college, I didn’t know how to feel about IPA’s… I think there was actually too much flavor for me (since those college beers were always such high quality, ha), but I’ve since learned to actually love the complexity of a good IPA. And the Buffalo Bitter hits it right on the head.

And now for the three that I didn’t particularly like. I had such good luck the first few times I ordered beer, that I knew it was inevitable I’d happen upon a few that just weren’t my cup of tea. Unfortunately I wound up ordering them all on the same day! I also made the mistake of ordering them based on their names, which I know I said I’ve been successful with before, but these choices made me realize that isn’t necessarily a good way to order beer.

You win some, you lose some.

You win some, you lose some.

Open Mind by Birrificio Montegioco – This was the least offensive of the three that made it to my “yuck” category. It’s actually an Italian beer, but the bar I was at, Moeder Lambic, had a bunch of “visitors” so I decided to try one. It was okay (typical blond ale), but nothing to write home about.

Pink Killer by Brasserie de Silly – Yup, I ordered this because of the name. And when I saw it had a pink hue and came in a glass that had a cute little dog on it, I was pumped… until I took a sip. It reminded me of Mad Dog 20 20 that was mixed with cheap beer and cough syrup. Needless to say I didn’t finish it.

Barbar by Brasserie Lefebvre – Again with the name. But this time it wasn’t because of the actual name, but because it made me think of Babar, the cute little elephant that has adventures! As I type this out, I can’t help but shake my head (so you can too). This was better than Pink Killer, but barely. I’m not sure what it was about the beer, but I just didn’t like it. I managed to finish it, but only because I had ordered the Pink Killer when I was halfway through in hopes of it redeeming this beer, and since it was worse, this one didn’t taste so bad comparatively.

Needless to say I had a lot of beer on the trip. So much that I haven’t had one yet since I’ve been back (though that’ll change this weekend, I’m sure)! I was definitely spoiled by getting to try so many different beers, and on top of all the delicious food I was able to sample while there made it quite the trip. Now I need to figure out where to go next!

Tell me…
Are you a beer drinker? What’s your favorite? (I want to try it!)

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Filed under Beer, Food Review, Travel

A Trip to Brussels: The Food, Part 2

I left off my last post about Brussel’s food with my dinner on Monday evening. I went to work again on Tuesday, and while we didn’t go out for lunch (we ordered sandwiches), my lunch was fabulous; a baguette with brie cheese on it. It doesn’t sound like anything special, and to some might actually sound boring and not enough, but it was hands down the best bread and brie cheese I’ve ever had. Seriously, so good.

Dinner on Tuesday night took me to a more authentic and traditionally Belgian restaurant, Fin de Siécle. The restaurant had mostly rave reviews, but I was a little timid knowing that their only menu was a  giant blackboard in the middle of the restaurant, and it was only in French as it was a “locals” place. I decided to take a chance and go for it, and arrived around 6:30pm. The restaurant was mostly empty, but in a matter of about 40 minutes it was completely packed and people were waiting for seats! The restaurant is actually hall/cafeteria style, so you’ll likely be sharing a table and sitting next to people you don’t know (unless you snag one of the single tables, which are few and far between). While there were a lot of things on the menu that I couldn’t decipher, there were also a lot of things that I did know, which is the beauty of being somewhat familiar with the culinary world (albeit in a very novice sense), since a lot of words aren’t English. While I was deciding on what to get, I noticed one of the waitresses taking the time to talk with two young girls (in English) about their menu and what everything was, and I was impressed that she’d take the time to do so, as customer service isn’t put at such high standards as it is here in the U.S. (service people are paid accordingly so they don’t rely on tips, and they work together). Eventually I decided on the Stoemp, which was essentially fancy mashed potatoes. It was served with two sausage links (that I didn’t eat – but I’m not picky when it comes to that, I don’t care if meat might have touched what I’m eating – I just don’t want to eat it myself) and a phenomenal gravy. I washed everything down with a beer (of course) and loved the entire experience. It’s cash only (they have a bunch of signs) so make sure you stop at an ATM beforehand!

Stoemp | FoodosaurusRex.com

After dinner I decided to take a trip to EXKi, which is a quick service health food restaurant. They serve up pre-made salads and sandwiches, as well as baked goods, coffees and tea, and juices. I had read about a speculoos cheesecake, and knew I had to have it. I grabbed myself a slice of the cake and ordered an espresso machiatto to wash it all down. I should note that they aren’t big on “Americanos” (or what we know to be regular ‘coffee’) so most of the coffee drinks you’ll get are espresso based, and served in miniature cups. The cheesecake and espresso were both delicious, and I wished I had more time to visit the restaurant to try more.

Speculoos crusted cheesecake FTW

Speculoos crusted cheesecake FTW

I worked from my hotel on Wednesday since we were done with our necessary meetings, and made my lunch break a little nontraditional – hot chocolate at Frederic Blondeel! In addition to having a shop full of their delicious chocolates (or as the Belgians call them, confections), they also have a tea room that serves up coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. I settled in to a comfortable seat in the adorable little shop and ordered myself their 100% cacao hot chocolate. Each of their drinks come with a chocolate that compliments your hot chocolate, a biscuit, and a small glass of water to help wash it all down. This was hands down the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had, and I didn’t want it to end!

This picture does not do the deliciousness justice!

This picture does not do the deliciousness justice!

For dinner, I decided to try a restaurant literally around the corner from my hotel, that had rave reviews – Bia Mara. A fish and chips restaurant started by two Irishmen is simple, no frills, and seriously delicious. You have the option of choosing the kind of fish and the batter you want, a seasoning for your chips, and also a dipping sauce for it all. They also have a vegetarian option, which is always appreciated! I had walked by the restaurant my first night and noticed people literally waiting in line outside for a seat, so I knew I’d have to get there early (which seemed to be the theme of my trip). And let me tell you, it did not disappoint! The chips were unbelievable (dare I say better than any of the frites I devoured), and the dipping sauce (I went with their lemon truffle aoli) was absolutely amazing. The service was also super quick and really really friendly, and I left wanting more! I wish I had tried Bia Mara earlier in the trip, because I definitely would have made a point to make my way back there at least one more time to try another combination. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the deliciousness – but trust me – it was great!

Despite being pleasantly full and happy with my dinner, I knew that my trip wouldn’t be complete without at least one Belgian waffle. There are tons of stands and stores all around the city that offer up the same thing, so it was really just a matter of picking one. The waffles start at one Euro and go up from there depending on what kind of toppings you go for. Naturally I picked the Nutella waffle, and loved it. They aren’t just any kind of waffle; they have just the right amount of crisp with a hint of caramelized sugar, but are stilly chewy and soft like you’d expect from a waffle. Whatever topping you get melts all over, and there’s really no good way to eat one. I’m pretty sure I had it all over my face by the time I was done, but it was worth it!

Oh yes

Oh yes

Thursday was my last full day in Brussels as I had an early flight out on Friday morning, so I made sure to get in everything I had on my to-do list. First up was “breakfast,” which by the time I got out of the hotel and walked all the way to the restaurant, it was more like lunch. I had read this particular restaurant, La Clef d’Or, was a bit further off the beaten path, but worth the trip. It reminded me a lot of an old school diner, where they offer up a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and it’s no frills. It’s actually right across the street from a flea market which would have been fun to check out, but it was raining and I was already pretty miserable from the cold and wet walk over. I remember reading about their Spaghetti and that it was not only a generous portion that was delicious and covered in cheese, but you could order it any time of day. After looking at the menu and their specials, I went with the giant bowl of spaghetti (for only 8 euros) and a coffee. It was absolutely delicious and filling, and worth the trek there. It’s cash only, though, so keep that in mind!

Nothing fancy, but oh so delicious!

Nothing fancy, but oh so delicious!

After lunch I made sure to stop and get as much chocolate as possible to bring home. This sounds like an easy task, but I was actually a little overwhelmed. I wanted to get “the best” chocolate, and with so many artisan chocolatiers in Brussels, I didn’t know what stores to go to. Eventually I decided on Neuhaus and Galler, and picked up a bunch of different variations of dark chocolate for myself as well as some friends and family. I also read fabulous things about Mary and Pierre Marcolini, and would have stopped in to grab a little something if I had more time. After loading up on chocolates I headed over to Maison Dandoy to get myself some speculoos biscuits. If you know me at all, you know I’m completely obsessed with Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter (which is made up of ground speculoos cookies), so it was only natural that I bought some of the real thing while in Brussels. I wanted to buy everything in the store, but eventually settled on a box of vanilla speculoos biscuits and left before I got myself (and my wallet) in deeper trouble.

It IS a good day when you have speculoos

It IS a good day when you have speculoos

When it came time for my final meal in Brussels, I had one requirement – moules and frites. Despite it being a “must have” meal when you’re visiting, I couldn’t really find any one particular restaurant that had good enough reviews to make me want to venture out somewhere new. Having eaten at Houtisplou on my first day and enjoying it, I decided to head back there since I knew they offered moules and frites. The restaurant is two stories, so I decided to sit upstairs for dinner on my last night, which felt fancier (although it wasn’t really). I ordered the famed moules and frites and of course enjoyed it with a beer. I’m going to be honest here – when I’m traveling abroad I’m not strict with my vegetarian diet. When there are language barriers, and typical traditional cuisine, I like to try and fully experience the city I’m in. That being said, if there are vegetarian options available I will always order it, and if not, I go for a fish dish. So knowing that moules and frites were a must-have in Brussels, I went for it… even though I’ve never been a fan of mussels. I’m not exaggerating when I say that these were probably the best mussels I’ve ever had. While eating them I remembered why I didn’t like them – you almost always get a few that are super gritty, as well as a bunch of shells that haven’t opened from cooking. Well that wasn’t the case with these mussels; they were almost all completely open, and there was no grit. Not to mention the broth they were served in was phenomenal. The meal was well worth veering off of my vegetarian diet for – but I don’t plan on making it a regular occurrence.

Mussles from Brussels (not to be confused w. Jean Claude Van Damme)

Mussles from Brussels (not to be confused w. Jean Claude Van Damme)

Being stuffed from dinner, I didn’t make a stop for one last frites cone or one last waffle. But I did head back to Delirium Café for one more beer! After my farewell beer it was back to the hotel to pack up and get to bed, since I had to be up early for my flight back the next morning. While it isn’t really specific to this trip, I think it’s worth noting that the meals I was served on both of my United flights were actually quite impressive. I selected the vegetarian option, and received an Indian styled dish on both flights, which looked infinitely better than either of the meat options that were available for everyone else. So I suggest to anyone flying that isn’t vegetarian, you should still request the vegetarian option (if available)!

My next post will be all about the beer – so stay tuned!!

Tell me…
Ever traveled somewhere that has a famous or traditional dish? What was it? Did you try it (and like it or hate it)?

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Filed under Food Review, Restaurant, Travel, Vegetarian/Vegan

A Trip to Brussels: The Food, Part 1

When I found out about a month ago that I needed to take a trip to my company’s office in Brussels, Belgium to work on documenting a new product, all I could think about was the awesome food and drink I’d get to experience. They didn’t even have to finish the sentence or tell me much about the project in order to get me to say yes! So I took a trip “across the pond” last week, and am back (likely heavier) to talk about the deliciousness.

Whenever I’m planning a trip, I do as much research as I can, and really appreciate when people take the time to review things. I rely heavily on Yelp and FourSquare when it comes to food and drink, and I feel as though it’s only appropriate to pay it back by doing the same. So in addition to the reviews there, I wanted to blog about it too. I’m going to break it into two parts: first the food, then the drink. You can experience most of Brussels and the “sights” in a matter of three days (if you hit up the big attractions and are diligent with your time), but obviously staying longer means you’ll have more of an opportunity to try different restaurants and bars. I was in Brussels for six days; three days of work and three days of sight seeing and being a tourist.

Grand Place / Grote Markt

Grand Place / Grote Markt

I must admit I was a little nervous for my first dining experience in Brussels, as each country seems to have their own social and cultural norms when it comes to dining. I tried to do some research beforehand to see what was common, etc., but didn’t get much information. My timidness only stems from my first night in Berlin two years ago, when we walked into a restaurant and didn’t realize that they go by the “seat yourself” rule, and stood in the doorway for awhile until a surly man ushered us to a table. It seems as though in Brussels, you are acknowledged and directed by waitstaff when you walk in, but you’re able to pick your own seat. And when it comes to the check, they don’t rush you – so you either have to ask for it when they’re clearing your place, or flag them down to request it. Or, in some cases, just go up to the register and they’ll ring you up right there. It’s also worth noting that a lot of places are cash only – so make sure you have plenty of Euros with you! Now onto the food…

My ahead of time research led me to my first meal at Houtsiplou. There seem to be a lot of burger joints in Brussels, but this particular restaurant had the best reviews, and they their food is served up in a kitschy environment (all of their walls are painted with fun scenes and their food is delivered up from the kitchen via dumbwaiter). After perusing the menu for awhile, I ordered a beer (of course – review to come in a separate post) and their veggie burger, “Lola.” The burger had some grilled eggplant, tomato sauce, lettuce, and cheddar cheese served with frites in a cute little flower pot. I absolutely loved everything about the restaurant, and planned to take a trip back (which I did on my last night) before leaving. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a good burger and delicious frites just outside of the central tourist area of Brussels.

Lola Burger & frites

Lola Burger & frites

Since my sense of time was out of whack (Left at 6pm EST and arrived at 8am CET, took a little nap before and after lunch), I wasn’t really hungry for dinner that first night. After a trip to Delirium Café (full review on that awesomeness to come in my beer post) for beer, I headed to one of many Friteries just two blocks from my hotel for fries (yes, this was after having them with my burger at lunch). This particular location, Friterie Tabora, offered two different sizes (small or large) and a plethora of sauce options. I decided on the curry sauce, and watched the guy behind the counter smother my piping hot cone of fries thinking to myself, “Um, how am I going to eat this?!” Thankfully they offer those cute little forks for frites consumption, so I had no problem strolling back to my hotel while devouring them.

Frites!

Frites!

On Sunday morning I woke up with two goals in mind: breakfast that included a giant cup of coffee, and a visit to a museum and Mannekin Pis (and more beer, of course). Despite Brussels being a bustling city, there weren’t a lot of coffee shops around. And I quickly learned while trying to find one nearby that a lot of stores, restaurants, and even coffee shops are closed on Sundays. Eventually I settled on The Coffee Company, and ordered myself a blueberry muffin and a cappuccino. It was nice to sit back, relax, and enjoy my breakfast in a familiar environment (well, except for the fact that everyone around me was speaking French). Eventually I made my way to the Magritte Museum to enjoy a little culture. The museum actually made me really tired (it was quiet and dark), so I knew I’d need to walk around outside a bit to wake up.

Brussels | FoodosaurusRex.com

After wandering around for a bit, I decided on my early dinner haphazardly. The hotel I was staying at offered wifi, so I was able to look up the location of things and read reviews, etc., anytime I was in my hotel, but I kept my phone in airplane mode the entire trip so I wouldn’t incur any international data charges. This worked out well, until I was out somewhere without internet and needed it. I had bookmarked one restaurant, Rachel, based on it’s reviews and location, and just as my stomach started to grumble, I walked past the restaurant. This is also a bit of a burger joint, but they offer more than just burgers (apparently their brunch is very good). Even though I had a burger for lunch the day before, I went with their Frankenstein burger (with a veggie patty substituted) which was served on a bagel. That’s right – a burger on a bagel. It was as amazing as it sounds! I also had my first tasted of Kriek, which I really enjoyed (and was shocked I did). The service was quick and friendly, and I didn’t feel out of place at all. After my second burger of the trip, I walked down to the famed Mannekin Pis for a picture. I must admit it’s pretty weird, but funny, and picture worthy.

NSFW?

NSFW?

Monday meant it was time for work, so I took a trip to the office, which was about 20 minutes outside of Brussels in an office park. I must admit I have no idea where we went for lunch which isn’t very helpful, but again, it was outside of Brussels so I’m assuming the average tourist wouldn’t be out that way anyway. By the time I got back to my hotel I couldn’t wait for dinner. And again, I decided to go a few blocks away from the touristy section of the city. I should note that anyone who wants to have a good, non-tourist centered meal should avoid any restaurant near Grand Place, especially Beenhouwersstraat / Rue des Bouchers streets. You have to walk down them to get to the Delirium Café, but you really shouldn’t go down them for any other reason; unless you like having people jump out at you from the restaurant trying to get you to come in and eat. I nearly punched someone in the face after telling him no and saying excuse me (in French) multiple times without him moving. More on that later, though!

Dinner on Monday night was at Publico – a small and intimate Mediterranean restaurant. I was thrown for a loop when I first opened the door, since you need to completely close it before being able to stand inside. When you do, it’s pitch black as there is a big heavy curtain separating the doorway from the actual restaurant (which I’m assuming is to help keep out the cold). Once you realize what’s going on and you open the curtain, you’re faced with a warm and inviting restaurant. I ordered the bruschetta to start followed by one of their specials (orecchiette) and it was phenomenal. They have an extensive wine list, and in addition to serving you bread (as all restaurants in Brussels do) they also had herbed olives that were delicious. My main dish was so big that I couldn’t finish it, and the server asked me if I didn’t like it and that’s why I didn’t finish it (and he seemed insulted). I had to assure him that I was just too full to finish, as they take finishing their food in Brussels seriously. I must admit that was the only meal I didn’t devour!

Wall art in Publico

Wall art in Publico

At the risk of getting too long and too wordy, I’m going to split this post into two parts – I still have three more days worth of food to talk about! And don’t worry, things like Belgian waffles, moules frites, Belgian chocolate, and speculoos are up next.

So in the meantime, tell me…
Have you ever traveled somewhere that had different dining customs? Did you know about them beforehand, or discover them once you were there? 

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Filed under Food Review, Restaurant, Travel, Vegetarian/Vegan