Backtracking to last fall, which I can't believe was already so long ago, Rich and I spent a few days in Brussels, Belgium. Originally the whole trip was supposed to include a day in Utrecht and a day in Antwerp after leaving Amsterdam, but we were so in love with the city we just kept extending our time there. If we hadn't been catching our return flight to New York from Brussels we may never have left our little nest in de Pijp.
Another reason we weren't bouncing from city to city was that it was very shortly after my biking accident and I was having a hard time getting around. It was heartbreaking not to be able to bike at all, but walking was still somewhat difficult and slow at that point. Unfortunately by the time we got to Brussels I was completely shot. The city doesn't have the easiest street plan to follow and with lots of hills and winding streets taking a wrong turn caused me major anxiety. For that reason I ended up being a bit of a drag while we were there. That isn't to say it might not be a wonderful place for you to visit and maybe someday I'll get back there to give it another try. Here is a mini-guide to Brussels that mainly concerns the area around Bas de la Ville where we stayed. It was touristy, but there were a few places I really liked that weren't as crowded as everything else.
It translates in English to "one who never has enough." A lovely restaurant that focuses on high quality interpretations of Belgian dishes matched to a complimentary beer. We discovered it through a friend we made that day during a brewery tour at Cantillion. He'd been to Brussels several times and told us when he's in town he never misses a chance to eat here. I wouldn't skip it either if we were to go back. It's very popular but quite small and there wasn't a seat inside but it was super cozy with warm light and art nouveau and art deco details. We sat outside on the street and ate the most amazing beef stew and veal meatballs. The servers were beer experts that knew all about the pairings, if you're not sure what to drink they will help you out.
Moeder Lambic Fontainas
We went here on our very last night of the trip, I was limping like crazy and we were both exhausted but I'm so glad we didn't miss it. Instead of dinner we had the cheese and meat plate and a quiche to share which was the perfect compliment to the beers we were drinking. And we were drinking a lot, the menu was one of the most extensive I've ever seen. The bottle list was the size of a thick novel. I wouldn't miss the cheese and meats plate if you go, there was one cheese that was so bad we still joke about it, but the rest were incredible.
To borrow a description from Rich: Do you know the scene in Star Wars (A New Hope) where they go to the bar in Mos Eisley? That is what this bar is like. Its smokey (even though you can't smoke inside) and dark and crowded but its fantastic. The bartenders are amazing, we made friends with the people we were pressed up against the bar with, we tried a whole bunch of new beers and it was just great. It was just the kind of dive bar down a tiny alley you always envision when you think of wild nights out in Europe. Not to be missed!
I was looking for some nice chocolates to bring home to my family and we stumbled on this shop while looking for little souvenirs. I thought the sign was pretty and I could smell the chocolate wafting into the street from the door. Inside we got to try all kinds of chocolate dipped nuts and nougats. Everything inside was beautiful, there were the most intricate chocolates shaped like autumn leaves and berries. I'm not a huge chocolate eater though so I bought myself some berry gummy candies and saved all the chocolate treats for my family at home. Since it was the end of the day the proprietor even tucked a few extra chocolate covered waffles into our bag so they wouldn't go to waste.
A bottle shop for the obscure beer lover in your life (in my case, I'm marrying one). He spent a solid hour carefully selecting beers that we wouldn't be able to find at home that he could share with our friends. Then another 20 or so minutes choosing glassware to go with it. A fantastic place to pick up beers to bring back home with you or to have with a picnic lunch while wandering the city.
Easily my favorite spot, and well off the beaten path. This is the exception to my places near Bas de la Ville. Founded 115 years ago in the same place it stands now, its location is an integral part of the spontaneous fermentation process by which it obtains its flavor and uniqueness by the bacteria and yeasts in the air in the region. Its a lot less gross than it sounds and I learned all about that while touring the working brewery which also serves as a museum. After an informational session with a brewer there's a self guided tour accompanied by an extensive pamphlet of information. You can take as much time as you like wandering the old rooms, looking at all the tools that look like artifacts but are still used today. At the end you get a tasting, and if you're us you stay until closing drinking rare beers from 2008 and making friends with an American brewer who was also visiting.