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Tag Archives: white wine

Brussels food guide: Beers, Frites and all things nice

3 Jul

I recently travelled to visit a friend in Brussels for a long-weekend. I was very excited as I had heard much about the food, frites, beers and of course the chocolate!  I was in unsafe hands- as Shane had been living there for 4 months at that stage- so knew all of the haunts I should visit.

Stoemp

Eating out: We spent the weekend grazing around the city, and thus only ate out a few times- two places are worthy of a mention- one is 9 et Voisins. The restaurant was very full upon entering and we were seated at demi-communal bench seating.  Service was very friendly and enthusiastic. We both opted for Stoemp, a traditional dish of sausages served with mashed potatoes- infused with a purée of some sort (I opted for spinach). It was delicious. The sausages were chargrilled and the mash was wonderful. Simple food, but delicious!

Busy counter at Noordzee Mer du Nord

The second place that we both enjoyed was Noordzee Mer du Nord. We ate here on a sunny Sunday afternoon. It serves tapas- style plates of fish. We had one plate of small pieces of fried fish and a plate of brown shrimp croquettes. Topped off with two glasses of white wine- the total bill came to about €16. The ‘restaurant’ is a long metal bar which you can stand at, or they have a few tall tables on the neighbouring square. The service is certainly robust, but good fun. If you don’t collect your order promptly- expect your name to be screamed over a megaphone. Really. Definitely worth a visit if the weather is good.

My favourite frites from the weekend

Monument to the frites

Frites: When I asked you nice people for tips for Brussels- my friend John got quite enthusiastic about the frites. I didn’t realise what a feature of Belgian life they are. There are even statues of them currently dotted around the city to mark the fact they are celebrating a special year of gastronomy in 2012. Shane is currently busy with the onerous task of compiling a list of the 10 best Friteries in the city. We sampled 2 of his favourites. La friterie de la Barrière de Saint-Gilles is regarded as one of the best in the city and this was certainly the case, however my favourite was Chez Antoine on Place Jourdan. The latter is surrounded by bars- some of which will allow you eat your frites at their tables if you buy a beer. We whiled away a very pleasant half hour there.

Bars:Here is a brief round-up of some of the bars we visited:

Potemkine – my favourite- retro with fantastic, old-style fridges behind the bar. Front opens right up and was the perfect place for some people watching.

Flamingo– big, little bit like a canteen. Newly gentrified area, thus a very good place for people watching.

Moeder Lambic– nice long bar- great selection of beers. Frequented it more than once.

BarBeton– nice bar- smallish but good atmosphere.

Walvis– little alternative music wise- good bar with a Villo (Their version of Dublin bikes- €1.60 for a day pass- brilliant for getting around the city) station right outside for the journey home.

Somewhere that is well worth a visit that also has a percentage volume is the Cantillon Brewery. It is a traditional brewery, brewing only in the winter months (to make use of the low temperatures) but still open for tours during the summer. It is very informal- they give you a brief, but insanely informative talk and let you wander the building at your own pace. Afterwards they will give you some samples of the beer. Admission is €6.

Aksum Cappuccino

Sweet tooth stuff: Belgium is very famous for its chocolate, it goes without saying. Brussels is hanging down with chocolate shops- most of them catering to the tourist trade. There are exceptions to this though. Shane happened to be living very near one of the chocolatey highlights of Brussels, Pierre Marcolini. The chocolates and other sweets in this shop are incredibly beautiful. They are works of art. Wouldn’t a photo be ideal here to illustrate my point? Unfortunately- no photography allowed. I ate one of their almond milk and raspberry ice-cream cones. It was delicious, but be prepared to pay more than you would for a Cornetto. If you are a caffeinated individual- I would have to recommend Aksum, an Ethiopian coffee-shop. It is a friendly and cosy place to recharge the batteries on a quiet street. Free wifi too.

Finally- over the course of the weekend- we tried to sample as many different beers as we could- in the tasting sense rather than the binge sense.  Aided by the fact most beers are served in 200-300ml measures. We managed 23 different varieties between us- ranging from the lowest supermarket own brand- to the delicious craft brew.

Here they are:

Lindemans framboise – like blended raspberries.

Stella Artois

Westmalle tripel

Omer traditional blond

Taras boulba

Zinnebir

Maes

Volga- brewed with vodka.

Vedett wit

Cantillon lambic- the basis for their other brews- sour!

Cantillon framboise

Cantillon gueuze

Mac chouffe

Rond blanc sureau- flavoured with elderflower. Served with a strawberry and wedge of orange. My favourite I reckon Rond blanc sureaufrom the weekend.

Leffe blond

Jupiler

Delhaize 365

Hoegaarden

Grimbergen blonde

Delirium Tremens- deceptively light! 8%

Leffe radieuse

Adelardus triple- sweet and again deceptive. Another 8%-er

Witkap stimulo

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BEAR Dublin Review

22 Feb

Bear is the latest addition to the Jo’Burger family. It resides on South William Street, in what used to be Crackbird’s second incarnation. It has opened with considerable fanfare owing to the loyal Jo’Burger/Crackbird/Skinflint crowd and a well-known backer in the form of Irish rugby star Jamie Heaslip. With all this (understandable) hype, would a newly opened Bear be a worthy member of the Jo-family?

On entering the restaurant, I was greeted by the smell of fresh-paint and I immediately had pangs of worry. I think it is only fair to let restaurants settle in before passing judgement as a punter, so I was immediately concerned that I had visited too soon. I was wrong.

After the rest of our party arrived, we were seated by Mr. Jo’Burger himself. All of us had been in the restaurant when it was Crackbird 2, and it looked very different. ” It’s posher than Crackbird isn’t it?” He joked.  It retains roughly the same lay-out, the kitchen now visible at the back, with a bar along one wall. Exposed lightbulbs provide a cosy glow, and diners are seated at long-tables.

After sitting down we got straight down to the menu (available here). There is a fantastic array of meats, to satisfy even the hungriest carnivore. There are meats for single portions and then cuts to share. Myself and my better half split a bavette , as did three of our less hungry companions, with one opting for chicken. The steak was well-cooked and very flavoursome. The image on the left- is roughly half the meat you get, and thus is incredible value for €29.95.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a nice selection of sides in BEAR- the million dollar fries (above left) were the first to catch our eyes. They are slices of dauphinoise potatoes, deep-fried. I worried they would be greasy, but I was very wrong, they came out lightly crisped, with a luxurious center. Some other sides that were well received were the horseradish slaw, a very refreshing side, and the candied swede with sage was impeccable.  On the table there is a barbecue sauce (which I could swear had a hint of cardamom in it) and ketchup, but if you are feeling slightly more adventurous, the 3 sauces for a fiver is a tasty addition to the meal.

The wine-list  is solid and the Bulgarian Sauvignon (€18) was a very pleasant accompaniment to the meal. They do their own soft drinks (served in jam-jars) as well as some beers.

As I write this, I must remark that upon our visit- BEAR was in its 5th day of operation, yet the meal was flawless. In a time when restaurants are going under with remarkable pace, to say Joe Macken is bucking the trend would be an understatement. In the last year he has opened three restaurants in Dublin. They are restaurants that are not afraid of doing a few dishes well, and this bravery has been rewarded. The Dublin culinary scene would be poorer without them.

Service throughout was brilliant. Attentive without being overbearing. The 6 of us thoroughly enjoyed our meal, were incredibly well fed and have been in communication today remarking on our satisfaction. You will not get better value in Dublin.

Mushroom, Asparagus and Spinach Risotto

9 Sep

Ingredients: Serves 2:

1 tablespoon of olive oil

25g butter

1 small onion (finely chopped)

2 cloves of garlic (minced)

150 g of Arborio rice

150ml white wine

500ml stock

4 x asparagus stalks (chopped)

8-10 x button mushrooms (chopped)

1/2 bag of washed spinach

Parmesan to serve.

Risotto is one of my favourite comfort foods, and can be adapted for any season by varying the ingredients. The basic recipe is the same no matter what you put in, so if you wanted to change it, you would substitute your preferences in for the vegetables I have listed.

I would like to deal with the hype about how risotto is insanely difficult to make or it can go wrong easily.  It is an easy dish to make, but I feel there are three success factors.  First, have all your ingredients, stock etc, measured and ready to go, so that you can concentrate on the cooking. As many of my friends will testify, this is not my normal style of cooking- but I feel it pays dividends here.

Of course by cooking I meant stirring. You need to constantly stir the risotto. Do this gently, but make sure you are scraping the bottom of the pan and mixing thoroughly. Thirdly, have the risotto at a constant low heat so that when the liquid is added it is just bubbling gently.

 

First heat the olive oil and the butter in a deep pan. After they have heated add the onion and sweat it off, until it softens a little. At this stage add the garlic and fry for another while. Before the garlic gets too coloured, throw in the chopped mushrooms and asparagus and toss in the mixture. I recommend chopping these into bite-size pieces. Fry for a minute and then add the rice. Make sure everything is well mixed. Continue to cook for another minute while the rice lightly toasts, but make sure that you stir constantly so that it doesn’t stick.

Next add the white wine. I would advise buying a whole bottle- not a small one- this way you get to pour yourself a glass while cooking and have one with your meal.

Stir until the wine has been absorbed by the rice. If it smells a little acrid, don’t worry, the alcohol will burn off leaving a great flavour in the rice.

At this point add in the first third of the stock- I would recommend vegetable or chicken. Keep the risotto barely bubbling and stir until all the stock has been absorbed and the mixture is thick and slightly heavy to stir.

Add in another third of the stock and repeat the process until the stock is absorbed. Add in the final remainder of the stock and repeat.

As the final third of the stock is close to being absorbed- add in the spinach and stir in. Once the mixture has thickened sufficiently, turn off the heat and serve into heated bowls immediately. Serve with some grated parmesan and that glass of wine.

For the carnivores amongst us, you can serve this risotto alongside some grilled meat. I recently enjoyed it with some steak. Another option is to shred some cooked chicken in at the spinach stage- and just heat the chicken through.

Enjoy.

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