Welcome to the first #foodfriday post! I recently went to Belgium with my husband, and the food there did not disappoint. You’ve probably heard the phrase “mussels in Brussels.” Well, we went to Brussels but did not have any mussels. Instead, we enjoyed other delicious findings that Belgium is known for. I’m shocked I didn’t pack on a few extra pounds, probably from all the walking, and wish I had indulged more in each of these.
In this post, I’ll talk about the food tour, chocolate, beer, fries, and waffles. You can click on each to skip straight to what you want to know about most, but I guarantee you’ll want to read it all. 😉
First, if you go to Brussels and love beer & chocolate, this tour is so worth it. With the Brussels Card, you get 10€ off each participant. You’ll walk quite a ways, so make sure you have comfortable walking shoes. We stopped at four of the premier chocolate shops for some free samples and the opportunity to purchase with a discount often times. To round off the night, we stopped at four local pubs and brasseries and tasted 10 different Belgian brews. The first pub stop is the oldest in Brussels.
What I didn’t realize we would get is a tour of the city and a witty history lesson. Our guide was knowledgeable and proud of his heritage regardless of how weird it may be. His words, not mine. He stopped us at one point to show us a house built in the art nouveau style and to explain prominent buildings we passed as we walked from place to place.
Belgian chocolate is more than just pretty chocolates you can eat in one bite. They do taste amazing, but Belgians are quick to let you know they do not “make” chocolate, they make pralines. To Belgian chocolatiers, making chocolate means the process from cocoa bean to block of chocolate. Everything after that is what the majority of the chocolate ships in Belgian offer to their patrons, and they sure do it well!
We stopped by Chocopolis one night, which happened to be the site of our tour the next day. We decided to create our own box of pralines and ate the entire thing without shame, recalling each flavor combination and appreciating each one. Our next stop was Frederic Blondeel‘s where we tried some 100% Vietnamese chocolate and a Vietnamese cacao bean. I’ll just say, it was an experience I only need to have once. We tried some pralines here (the jasmine one was my favorite) and caramels. If you’ve never had a raspberry caramel, make sure you do one day.
In Belgium, pralines are not what we know them as in the US. Belgian pralines are a chocolate shell and some sort of filling. Fillings are often flavored, and you can find some really interesting combinations. There are traditional pairings, like hazelnut and orange, and some more eccentric ones, like earl grey tea. We tried an earl grey chocolate at Pierre Marcolini‘s chocolate shop, and I wish I had bought a whole box. Also, Pierre Marcolini is arguably THE most famous chocolatier in Belgian, so in this case, being famous doesn’t mean he’s flashy with subpar creations. It means he has some of the best chocolate in all of Belgium.
For everyone who thinks that Stella Artois is a premier Belgian beer, it’s not. It’s really popular, but it’s not the best. And here’s another thing… there’s definitely the Belgian wheat style of brewing, but that’s not all that is produced in Belgian. You can find brasseries that concoct a good IPA as well as good dark beers. Our first beers were had at Autoworld, one of the museums we got into for free with our Brussels Card. I had a Leffe wheat and Matt tried a cherry beer. Both were delicious, but we found out those are still pretty standard and not the best Belgium has to offer. Same goes for the Grimbergen I had at Hard Rock Café.
Historically, monks brewed a lot of the beer in Belgium and provided it to the communities. The beers called “trappist” are ones brewed by monks. They also came up with the dubbel, tripel, and quadrupel style of brewing to have heavier alcohol content and sometimes a richer, darker color. Believe it or not, the tripel is actually lighter in color than the dubbel. If you want to read a little more info, here’s a good guide so you’ll know what you’re talking about when you travel to Belgium one day.
So here’s the problem right now… I didn’t want to be that nerd that was taking notes while drinking beer, so I only remember a few things. I guess you’ll just have to go on the tour for yourself.
- I don’t like sour beers. Matt got two of those.
- The IPA was tolerable (I just don’t prefer them), but also my fourth (or fifth) so that may be why.
- Everything at the third and fourth stops was amazing!
- The very last beer was my favorite. It was a quadrupel and suited my taste for porters/stouts nicely.
We got a taste of Belgian fries at Hard Rock Café and then again at a Belgian Frites near Chocopolis before we went on the food tour. They did not disappoint. I don’t care where you stand in the McDonald’s vs. Burger King debate, Belgium has them all beat!
According to our guide from the Brussels Journey tour, the proper way to make fries is thick cut, fried once for a longer time at a lower temperature, then fried a second time for a shorter time at a higher temperature to get a nice crisp on the outside. There are a variety of sauces available from mayonnaise, ketchup, curry ketchup, and my all-time favorite andalous sauce. I’m determined to recreate this amazing sauce so I can have it all the time.
The vendor we bought them from handed them to us pretty much straight from the frier, so we knew they were nice a fresh. Definitely let them cool a bit before taking the first bite because they are HOT! You should also know, some chocolate shops might not allow you inside with fries because the smell compromises the smell of the chocolate in the shop. I was told to dispose of my empty fries cone OUTSIDE because it was mixing with the chocolate aroma.
There are two styles of waffles: thick and fluffy, and thin and crispy. Crispy ones tend to be cheaper (1€ to 2€) and are generally eaten plain. The thick and fluffy ones are where you’ll find the multitude of toppings. Some even have goodies baked inside the waffle, like ham and cheese.
The street from Grand Place, the plaza between Stadhius van Brussel and Brussels City Museum, that leads to Mannekin Pis is known as “Waffle Street.” Once you pass a few lace shops, the scent of freshly baked waffles will fill your nose. On either side, you can see shops with photos and examples of the variety they offer. I went for one with strawberries, banana, and Nutella. It was the perfect treat to share with our new friends we made on the food tour after all the beer we drank.
In writing this, I realize that I ate all of these foods in one day. Haha. I don’t regret it, and I shouldn’t. When you find that you’ve eaten all this in one day when you’re visiting Brussels, I doubt you’ll feel just as shameless as I do. When in Rome, eat all the Belgian food… or something like that. 😛
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