Monday, 20 October 2014

Big Belgian Road Trip 2014

Great line up- Belgian beer!

I recently spent a great few days in Belgium, with some wonderful family and friends. We visited the city of Brussels, then drove down to Antwerp. where my lovely Godmother and her husband live. We spent the entire time eating and drinking our way around (why can't every day be like that?), having far too much fun, sampling some great local delicacies, including a lot of different beers...when in Rome! We've all returned with our waistbands a little tighter, but our spirits a little brighter, having thoroughly enjoyed immersing ourselves (perhaps a bit too much..) in Belgian culture.

Mopping up some of that beer with bar snacks at 'Monk' 

On our first night in Brussels, we were staying with some family friends, who made us the most delicious and comforting vat of beef in beer, with amazing Ghent mustard (seriously strong mustard from Ghent, Belgium) and cheese toasted croutons floating on the top- something I will definitely be recreating at home. It was so homely and delicious, not too fancy. and exactly what we needed after a fair old journey being cooped up on the Eurostar. Suffice it to say, I didn't take a picture of this, partly because I had left my camera in the van, and partly because there's a huge groan around the table these days whenever I start snapping away at the I toned it down on this occasion!

The next morning we set off into the centre of Brussels, and spent the day wandering the streets, stopping here and there for a beer or bar snack. Of course no visit to Belgium is complete without a cone of triple-fried chips, in my case smothered in both mayo and ketchup. The salty, crispy goodness of triple fried Belgian chips is just the trick to nurse a Belgian beer hangover.

Triple-fried....the start of a catastrophic weekend for the diet.....

Beers all round in the sunshine

One of the culinary highlights of the trip had to be our moules lunch in Antwerp. My Uncle Jeremy, who's also a huge foodie and knows Antwerp like the back of his hand, booked us a late lunch at 'Maritime' in the heart of Antwerp, where all of us enjoyed huge pots of steaming mussels, cooked with white wine and cream and garlic, served with frites and washed down with cold, crisp white wine. Heaven! It was the start of the mussel season, so obviously we had to make the most of it (it would be rude not to).

Best mussels in Antwerp

Fantastic Moules frites

Yet another memorable meal during our visit, was the 3 course extravaganza that we were treated to on arrival in Antwerp, cooked by my Uncle Jeremy. He'd made a Belgian feast for us, starting off with avocado stuffed with dressed brown shrimp served with a frozen gazpacho-filled tomato, followed by stuffed veal escalopes served with a kind of cheesy, mashed potato bake which I believe is called 'Stoemp'. The meal was rounded off with a light, refreshing orange sorbet, served in the orange, followed by some beautiful cheese and crackers. It was a real occasion, and it is one of the nicest thing in the world when someone goes to the effort of preparing such a special meal for you- it felt like Christmas!

What a night...

Lovely retro dessert 

Everything a cheese board should be.

Unfortunately, we had to head back to the UK at some point, and we did so with full stomachs, probably still a bit merry, and of course a van full of Belgian wine, cheese, ham and salami (we went totally overboard...absolutely no self control). All in all, it was a magical weekend, full of laughter, surrounded by the two best things in life- family and food. We've decided to make it an annual occurrence, so here's to next year!

The Gang with our moules- so many smiling red faces!

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