Friday, April 06, 2007

Galler Chocolat-The

I've been in Belgium for how long, and not even one mention of chocolate? Blasphemy. Not to worry. I did save the best for last, and so I hope this post will satisfy any chocoholics out there.

There are 4 main chocolate brands that you will see plastered everywhere in Brussels: Pierre Marcolini, Neuhaus, Godiva, and Leonidas. Leonidas is the cheapest, and its shops can be found in many of the main metro and train stations. Godiva, well, you know Godiva. Neuhaus was founded in 1857, and its flagship store is located on the main place. And then there is Pierre Marcolini, definitely the sleekest and modern of them all.

Finally, there is also Galler, which I don't really count as being among the "magic circle" (even though they are Belgian Royal Warrant Holders) since they have 2 separate lines: the stuff available in grocery stores (candy bars and their infamous "cat's tongues" which were designed by Belgian comic book artist Philippe Geluck) and the more delicate pralines available only in their shops, which are actually few and far between. From their website I learned that some of their shops also had their own cafes, offering wine and chocolate pairings and many unusual flavors of hot chocolate, in addition to tea, ice cream, and other sweets. This I had to experience, and so one afternoon we took the tram out to the Uccle neighborhood to visit the only such cafe in Brussels.

While the menu had many types of hot chocolate that I would be interested in tasting just to be able to say that I had, like the Green Tea one, I was really intrigued by the trio of hot chocolates in the styles of the 14th, 16th, and 18th centuries. For 4.70€ I was not disappointed:Each version had 2 different aromas, and it was up to you to identify them. The waitress suggested that I start with the 18th century one (on the right) and time travel back to the 16th and 14th century ones (on the left). The answers were printed on the placemat underneath the cups: The only one I didn't like was the 16th century, whose main flavor was anise (licorice - bleh) with hints of hazelnut. Otherwise, I really liked the 18th century one (cinamon and orange flavor), and the 14th century one was fine too (spice and honey).

My boyfriend got the wine pairing, which involved 2 glasses of wine that were paired with 2 chocolates each (12€). I didn't try the wines, but he enjoyed them and said they reminded him more of Porto, and that Chypriote wine he once had at Senderens that he still won't stop talking about, than anything else. And who wouldn't appreciate an excuse to imbibe on wine and chocolate in the middle of the afternoon under the guise of a "tasting menu"?!

I bought about 4€ worth of assorted pieces before leaving, including every version of caramel (the one with salted caramel was my favorite), violet (disgusting - felt like I was eating soap), jasmine (not bad), and curry (I chickened out and made my boyfriend eat this one without telling him the flavor, he just responded, "spicy?"). And how does Galler measure up? Well, just last night we visited the trio on the Place des Sablons -- Pierre Marcolini, Godiva, and Neuhaus -- picking up a few pieces from each. And Pierre Marcolini was our favorite. So delicate but complex; in comparison Galler is almost like a Snickers. Really. And about the same price as Pierre Marcolini anyways.

Do not let this deter you from a trip out to the Galler cafe; I was certainly grateful for this chance to visit an adorable neighborhood that I would otherwise not have seen, and now I get to say that I have had all these different flavors of hot chocolate. But if you are looking for the ultimate delicacy, those exquisite pralines with each name and flavor emblazoned in gold leaf, head to that Japanese mecca, Pierre Marcolini, which has style and flair that the others can't quite match.

Galler Chocolat-The
Parvis Saint Pierre 6
B-1180 Bruxelles (Uccle)
Tel: +32-(0)2-346.46.49

Pierre Marcolini, Neuhaus, and Godiva are located 3 in a row on the Place des Sablons in Brussels, with many other locations throughout Brussels and Belgium.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Dock's Cafe

Dock's cafe, as if you couldn't tell by the name, is just across the street from the boardwalk in Antwerp. And as you might expect, their specialties are seafood.

A bib gourmand in the Michelin Guide, Dock's Cafe has a set lunch menu during the week for 15€, and a range of weekly set menus that start at 23€. We were too late for the lunch menu, and although all the dishes on the 23€ set menu sounded great, I just wasn't hungry enough to go for it. The seafood platters, which would have been nice, started at ~50€ per person (!), so that was out of the question, especially since neither my boyfriend nor I like raw oysters. A la carte, the main dishes start at ~20€ and go up from there.

For a restaurant that specializes in seafood, they also have a large number of plates focusing on poultry, inexplicably indicated by a duck icon on the menu. We decided to share the assiette PĂ©rigourdine(15€), which seemed so copious in the menu description: rillettes, pate, smoked duck, and gizzards. But alas, it was barely enough for my boyfiend alone:No matter, I wasn't that hungry anyways.

Since it was going to be an expensive lunch no matter what, I decided to get the lobster, served with pineapple and mango in a curry sauce, with a side of balsmati rice (23€):It was the first time I ordered lobster in a restaurant, and it will be the last time just because it is so frustrating to eat! Although it was delicious, I don't want to have to work that hard for my lunch, especially especially when I am so clumsy.

My boyfriend had the scallops pasta (21€):Just fine, but not great, definitely not to my boyfriend's taste, and maybe not even worth the price.

Would I recommend this? Maybe, but only if the set menus are to your liking (they change weekly and are available on the website) or if you feel like splurging on a seafood platter. But don't expect a unique experience here: walking in, I whispered to my boyfriend, "so American!" and he just nodded in agreement. Dock's Cafe was just like any of the generic, more upscale waterfront restaurants that are a dime a dozen on the east coast. Not that there's anything wrong with that - but it's just not what I wanted so many thousands of miles away from the US.

Dock's Cafe
Jordaenskaai 7
2000 Antwerp
03/226 63 30 (works best in Internet Explorer)


Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Antwerp is an easy day trip from Brussels. Trains run every 30 minutes (and sometimes even more frequently), it only takes about 45 minutes to get to the Central Train Station in Antwerp, and my open round trip ticket was just under 7€. What more could you ask for?

When we stepped out of the train station, faced with the streets lined with jewelry shops, my boyfriend suddenly had sweaty palms: had I entrapped him to come with me to Antwerp, with unsavory ulterior motives? Not to worry. Though Antwerp is the diamond capital of the world, we weren't going to be taking advantage of that on this trip. And boyfriend, as lead navigator and sightseer, was very careful to steer clear of the diamond district throughout the rest of the day. Besides, I wonder if the shops can really beat Blue Nile, given the weak dollar. But that is another post for another day, and since we didn't go into any shops I can't make any comparisons.

We continued straight away on the street from the train station, and after just a few blocks we were already at one of the main shopping streets, Meir. After days of gloomy ugly Brussels, this street was a sight for sore eyes.

Soon enough we arrived at one of the main squares, the city square, which reminded me of the collection of ceramic facades my grandmother had hanging in her kitchen:
There was another square nearby, Groenplaats, complete with flower market, sprawling cafe terraces, and 3 guys and 1 girl giving away free hugs:We resolved to return here later in the afternoon to enjoy some big glasses of Belgian beer.

From Groenplaats we could also see the main cathedral, Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal (Cathedral of Our Lady):But we were very bad tourists and did not visit it. Well, first we went in, but when we realized that you had to pay to enter, we decided to come back after lunch so that we would have more time. And then we went to lunch (at Dock's Cafe - another post entirely), and after lunch I declared that a waffle was in due order:This chain is everywhere, and at 1.60€ for a plain waffle you can't go wrong. The batter is different from the "Belgian waffles" we have back home, as it is sweeter and finer, and the sugary topping is almost caramelized by the time you get it. You can also get other toppings on your waffle, such as whipped cream or chocolate.

And then after my waffle my boyfriend decided that a beer at one of the cafes was in due order...and then by the time he was finished with his 1/2L beer, the church was already closed. Oh well. Yet another reason to return.

So far I've mentioned 2 Belgian specialties, waffles and beer, but of course we had to have a third to complete the holy trinity:Honestly? Pretty durn good. While at the cafe, I couldn't help noticing the numerous passerbys carrying that infamous paper cone in their hands. But where were they coming from? The large statues of fries flanking the exterior of this shop, Fritkot Max, on Groenplaats should have tipped me off:While waiting in line, I scrutinized the various sauces available:But without little sauce cups it would have been too difficult to try them all. As much as the "samourai" sauce intrigued me, I didn't want to contaminate my fries with something I might not like, and I stuck with boring old plain ketchup. We shared a medium size cone (2.20€), and the fries had disappeared before we even made it out of the square. I didn't use that little fork that comes with the fries - why bother to be dainty when it comes to fast food? - but I admit that it would have come in handy in dealing with those last ketchup-covered fries.

And finally, I must post the photo that makes my boyfriend laugh every time, of a bizarre statute outside of a medieval museum on the Atwerp waterfront, which he angled just so with the lightpost in the background:
I'm sure there is more to Antwerp than beer, waffles, fries, and perverse statues, but I had an excellent day even without doing anything touristy. One day I might even return and do a proper post about Atwerp's cultural and historical attractions, or at least to try all of Fritkot's sauces if I'm feeling really adventurous! That's me, living the wild life. ;)

tags: ,

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Crazy Cars in the 'Hood: Brussels edition

And now for a momentary respite from all the food blogging...on to the streets of Brussels!

While the SmartCar Roadster wasn't exactly a rarity in Paris, they are elusive creatures. I never managed to get a good, clear photo til I was in Brussels. Hawt. But those "rims" have gotsta go!

A Caterham kit car (I think it just looks like a flashier dune buggy):
A PGO (still trying to figure out what this is exactly, especially given its uncanny resemblance to a 356):


Monday, April 02, 2007

Restaurant JB

9:30 on a Friday night. We had been walking, not quite aimlessly, for at least 2 hours and my feet were killing me. The bib gourmand tapas bar which doesn't take reservations was totally packed with no signs of clearing out before the kitchen closed; another bib gourmand, l'idiot du village, was also full. Making our way towards Avenue Louise, we passed in front of Restaurant JB, a disarmingly empty bib gourmand just across the street from the Louis Vuitton store. My boyfriend had previously dismissed JB because of the "low quality" of the offerings, but whateves. It was late, I was exhausted, and we could do worse than 3 courses for 22€.

JB has two menus: one at 22€ and one at 32€, with a half-bottle of wine accompaniment for 10€ extra. The one at 32€ isn't really worth the extra 10€; though there is a wider selection of entrees, the main dishes aren't that much better, and the ones that are have a supplement. We both decided to stick with the 22€ menu - at that price, and given our choices at that time, we really couldn't complain anyways.

I started with the "Maryland-style" crab cakes. They were too dry and crumbly, and too easily separated into crab meat + bread. While they certainly couldn't compare to the sublime crab cakes I've had back home, even the frozen ones at Sam's Club would give them a run for their money.
My boyfriend wasn't that much happier with his starter, a beef salad. Apparently the meat had recently been defrosted, as the temperature was very uneven.
Next up was my salmon. I was intrigued by the description on the menu: roasted with tea? Sign me up! Unfortunately, I didn't know that the "tea" meant simply the topping of tea leaves. It's hard to mess up salmon, and it was fine, but it had the same problems as my boyfriend's carpaccio: it was very unevenly prepared. One side was totally dry and overcooked, while the other side was almost perfect. It was served on a bed of steamed cabbage (disgusting) and mashed celery and turnips (delicious, but also uneven - some were room temp while others were hot).

The boyfriend's main dish was veal:His opinion: "It was bad. Cheap, quoi."
You can't argue with that.

Next up were our desserts, simple and sweet. My boyfriend had the mango sorbet,while I got the cheese platter (2.50€ supplement):
When we got the bill we were met with one horrible surprise. Our liter bottle of water (carafes of tap water don't exist in Brussels) cost 10€. Ten. Freaking. Euros. For a bottle of water. Ridiculous much? Even restaurants that possibly could get away for charging that much, like starred ones, don't go that far. I think this was just the icing on the cake.

Given the circumstances, we could have done worse, but we will not go back. I got the feeling that it was something that had once been excellent, especially when I realized there was an additional, vast but deserted, dining room upstairs. This is further proof that the Guide Michelin is useless outside of France, as the bib gourmand restaurants in Brussels are so diverse and such a range of quality and prices that this category is apparently meaningless. This would not be a bib gourmand in France, I can assure you of that.

The menu:
Restaurant JB
Rue du Grand Cerf 24
1000 Brussels
+32 (0)2 512 04 84
Closed Saturday lunch and Sunday