When most people think Belgian food, three things come to mind. First, waffles. Second, chocolate. And third, frites! That's french fries for all you Americans out there.
But how do you know where to get good frites? There are lots of reviews and travel sites out there telling you where to find the best frites in Brussels. Last time I was in town, I visited Fritland, a friterie right off the Grand Place and swamped with tourists. The fries were great, sure, but I wanted something...more.
So I took to the internet! It never lies, right? Almost everywhere I looked I came across one place over and over: Maison Antoine. It's a bit off the beaten path from your typical Brussels friterie--about a 30 minute walk from the touristy area of the city and 10 minutes from the EU Parliament in the Place Jourdan. Luckily for me, I was over that way on Sunday of my visit at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (more on that in a later post). Even luckier for me, there was no line! This apparently doesn't happen very often, but I just walked right up to the window and placed my order. "Bonjour, petite frites, merci!
And they were very, very good. Large hunks of potato, double-fried, and wrapped in paper. They give you an adorable little plastic fork, but you don't need it. Just reach right in grab those suckers. Despite the double-fry part, they aren't super greasy. And you really get a lot of delicious potato flavor rather than icky oil flavor.
This is something I have discovered about the food in Brussels: it's not great for you, I mean this is the land that carbs built, but it's made with fresh, natural ingredients. If you got the same thing here in the States it would be full of preservatives and other crap. At least when you blow your diet in Belgium, you blow it on the best version of whatever you are eating.
Once you find the Place Jourdan, you can't miss Maison Antoine. Just look for the giant cone of frites on a post. Though finding the actual square isn't easy; apparently in Brussels they don't trouble themselves too much with street signs. It took me an extra 20 minutes to find this place just because I kept wandering down the wrong twisty turny streets.
Once you've whet your appetite with frites, the next logical things to do is get some beer! Brussels is stuffed with great bars, and one of the best is A La Morte Subite. The name translates to "at the sudden death" and according to the bar's website, derives from a dice game played by some original patrons more than 80 years ago.
But that's just the background. Morte Subite is a great classic Belgian bar. As you can see, it's full of nifty art deco details, mirrors, and wood. It's specialty is Gueuze (lambic) and Trappist beers of which it has many on tap. Drinking here you quickly get stuffed with atmosphere and well-priced and delicious beer. They apparently have food too, but we didn't have any of it. This was strickly a beer only visit as Jonathan and I were having drinks with his friend, Julie.
Looking around the bar!
Our first order! Mine is the Mort Subite lambic white beer. It's their house specialty and it was soooo good.
After bidding Mort Subite adieu, we took a quick walk and went to a cool Flemish place called A La Becasse. This looked exactly like how you imagine an old German beer-hall would look.
Oh, yes, I think this will work just fine for us.
It was completely different from the previous bar we visited, but just as cool with a more "sit back and take off your lederhosen" type of vibe. Continuing my theme of trying every lambic beer in Brussels, I ordered a lambic beer flight (a "palette").
They were all so good, I couldn't pick a favorite. Or I guess I should say that my favorite was whichever one I happened to be drinking at that moment. Starting from the top and working around clockwise I had:
--Lambic Doux: "The best lambic blended with a top-fermented brown ale, matured in oak barrels (5%)." It tasted very cidery, but no where near as sweet. You still knew you were drinking beer, not alcoholic juice.
--Lambic Blanc: "The only white beer based on lambic, flavored with coriander and dried orange zest (4.5%)." Light, crisp, delicious.
--Kriek: "Slightly sweetened Timmermann's lambic beer (4%)." Cherry-flavored, but again, not overly sweet. Timmermann's is basically the way to go if you want a lambic beer that doesn't have too much sugar.
--Bourgogne des Flandres: I forgot to write down the description, but it's a Flanders-style red ale. Strongest beer-like flavor, but still not hoppy.
I think the lambic beer flight was my favorite thing that I drank on this visit! Just an all around great tour through Timmermann's lambics. Too bad these things are so ridiculously expensive here in the US.
I swear we hadn't been drinking that much. This was just an awkward photo. I mean, I am always awkward, but you know what I mean.
Here's me and my new friend Julie. I promised her a shout out on the blog, so Julie, this one's for you! Thanks for being so awesome and hanging out with us on my last night in Brussels!
Cheers to new friends!
And finally, I had one culinary splurge while I was in Brussels. On my first night, Jonathan and I decided to treat ourselves to a good old fashioned Belgian dinner. We visited a place we went the first time I visited (I think it now counts as a tradition), In't Spinnekopke. It may sound Greek, but the menu is pure Belgian.
I had the carbonnade, a beef stewed in beer (foreground). It's served with frites and a small salad. Jonathan had the steak with a mushroom cream sauce, also served with frites, and we pretty much agreed that it was the best sauce EVER.
Inside of In't Spinnekopke.
Did I mention there are creepy puppets hanging all over the wall? I don't know what the hell that is about but it was kind of freaky. Further proof that Europeans are weird.