The celebrations of the New Year continue. Monday we enjoyed the lion dance and the salad toss at the embassy. To read about this event, click here to visit my art blog, ma vie trouvee.
The celebrations of the New Year continue. Monday we enjoyed the lion dance and the salad toss at the embassy. To read about this event, click here to visit my art blog, ma vie trouvee.
At hawker stands!
A hawker center is the name given to an open-air complex that has several small booths or hawker stands that sell a variety of inexpensive food.
Each dish is made to order, so it arrives hot and is delicious. You can add additional peppers or spices if you like it hot.
Hawker centers sprung up in urban areas in the 1950s and 1960s and were considered a venue for the less affluent. They were primarily built to reduce the unhygienic food preparation by unlicensed street hawkers.
Over the years, hygiene standards have vastly improved and the food stall operators are given cleanliness grades (A,B,C) by the National Environment Agency (NEA) to help customers make an informed choice.
Today the hawker stalls are becoming mainstream and are popping up in food courts in shopping malls. They are still independently owned by the family - no McDonald's or Burger King in these food centers.
All meals are served with rice or noodles. They predominately serve pork, chicken, and fish. And eggs, lots of eggs. Beef is not very popular here.
The one below has dried fish on the top - I think this is an acquired taste. Luckily I tasted it before I mixed it in the soup.
Oh and the very best part of the hawker stands is they are CHEAP! We have never paid over 5 Singaporean dollars ($3.85 USD) for these meals.
The restaurant in the photo below is one step up from a hawker stand. They seat you and take your order, but it is still very casual. This one was located in the part of Singapore they call Chinatown.
This restaurant served chicken only and you could have it on noodles or rice. Look at that beautiful crispy skin.
We picked noodles. This meal was twice the price of the hawker stands, 9 SD ($7 USD). The owner told us they have been in business since 1963! It was very good.
If you want to see what a rambutan is - hop over to my art blog, ma vie trouvee.
To celebrate D getting the new job and our wonderful time living in Belgium, we SPLURGED on Friday for lunch at the Michelin-starred restaurant In De Wulf. It was a two-hour drive each way and the meal lasted three and a half hours. It was the most expensive meal we have ever eaten, but it also was the best! It consisted of 20 small courses : )
Chef Kobe Desramaults is quite young (30 years old), but wow can he cook! He was born in Heuvelland Belgium, which is in the Flemish region near the French border. He grew up in an old farmhouse - now the location of his wonderful restaurant.
The dishes are shown in the order we ate them. The French name is written first then the "roughly" translated English version.
In De Wulf’ Menu - November 2011
Lard seche maison =
House speciality - homemade bacon;
salted and smoked, then dried-cured for 6 months
Cereales & Herbs =
Crispy morsel on cream
Betterave rouge yaourt =
Beet root crisp with beet yogurt
Looks so simple but it was packed with flavor -
one of the top bites of the day! For the crisps, the chef makes an emulstion of beets and beet juice, gels the mixture in a thin sheet, then fries the beet gelatine. This gives the crisps more intense flavor.
Poulet carotte =
Carrot mousse on crispy chicken skin
Pain brule, Maroilles =
Burned bread filled with cheese from the Maroilles and covered with mushroom dust.
Another one that looks simple but oh my gosh!
One of D's favorite of the day
We then moved into the dining room to begin our culinary adventure. Kobe's food has been described as an explosion of flavor and we found this to be a great explanation of what we experienced. Each bite was so fresh, so unique - it is hard to even describe.
Pain with frais beurre, lardon cream =
bread with creamy fresh butter and lard spread
Panais, lovage =
Crispy parsnip with a parsnip cream
Local cockles with sauce
Before we get too far into the meal - just a quick mention that we had a flight of wines that were carefully selected by the sommelier for each course. We did not have a different wine with each course....but the wine changed every few courses.
Periwinkle Welk (sea snail) with herb sauce
Crabe, blette, feuilles de Capucines =
Crab, spinach, buttermilk-chive sauce
Chau pointu raifort huitres plate de Zelande =
Oysters from Zeeland, covered with cabbage leaf and horseradish
Coquille verveine pourpier =
Scallops with walnuts and verbena sauce
Another one of my favorites! I love the smell and taste of verbena.
Bar de mer betterave maritime navets =
Sea bass with turnips strips, laural leaves, and bone sauce
Celeri-rave en croute de sel fromage cremeux, vinaigre de pomme, oseille =
Celery root baked in salt crust, with celery foam and cheese sauce
It was baked on the open flames (which was right next to our table) in a salt crust. They only served the middle part.
Champignons sauvages, cereales =
Wild mushrooms, foam, and crispy cereals
Choux laurier, coeur de boeuf =
Mixed greens covered with dry-cured ox heart shavings
Lievre boudin des pates topinambour =
Wild hare fillet and sausage with carmelized onion, artichoke sauce and sunchoke crisps
This was another of our favorites. We are used to rabbit, but wild hare had so much more flavor.
Gateau de fromage, poire de Kemmel =
Pears from Kemmel, cheesecake ball, served in elderberry juice
Noix, biere Pannepot, lait de Kemmel =
Hazelnut, beer icecream, crisp, and buttermilk reduction
Pomme romarin, chervil
Apple tuile, rosemary mousse, Spanish cheese
Back to the front room for coffee and more sweets.
From left to right = chocolate, carmel, and salt,
marshmallow covered in chocolate with layers of cake
and last but not least - smoutebollen....doughnuts : )
Donald was "fat and happy" with his gastronomical meal!
Here we are with Chef Kobe. We bought his cookbook and he signed it for us. Donald spent the next day reading it and is already trying a recipe. I will not be using this cookbook - too complicated for me!
We had a fabulous time and it truly was the best meal we have ever eaten! If you have a really special event to celebrate and are living in Belgium - we highly recommend you splurge and go to In De Wulf..
Yesterday D took off work and we drove an hour and a half into the western part of Belgium to go to
St. Nicholas Hostellerie - a two-star Michelin restaurant.
Warm bread was immediatly brought to the table. Then, our first course, an amuse bouche. From left to right: a guacamole pillow wrapped in bacon, prawn marshmallow, and goose foie gras covered in a crackle crust served with a glass of kir.
The little pillow crunched in our mouths
and then a shot of guacamole flooded in.
The marshmallow melted like air, dispersing
a shrimp flavor over our tongues.
The next course, another amuse bouche, was king crab wrapped with beef carpacchio; and in the white dish, (right to left) goose and quail liver parfait with shrimp, risotto, and a mushroom. The parfait was delectable. This was served with a nice white wine from Spain.
What a fun way to serve a small taste.
Just a simple glass turned upside down.
The chef, Franky Vanderhaeghe, described the main theme of his cooking as "pure gastronomic pleasure".
Here is a detailed shot of the goose and quail liver parfait.
The chef is fairly young to have two stars.
He creates very innovative and creative dishes.
We have never seen black gloves worn by the servers. They had them on when they placed the silverware on the table or when serving a dish. I wonder how many time they take those gloves on and off in a day?
Our third amuse bouche was a cup of prawn bisque with veal tartar on the bottom. The herb leaf was peppered with parmesean cheese. And on the plate was ham pate wrapped in a vegetable casing.
Look at the little puprle leaf on the left.
A unique table accessory, an eyedropper design used for olive oil for our bread.
Our appetizer was shrimp served five ways.
But we think there was a frog leg thrown in there (sometimes hard to tell with the language barrier) : ) all were divine.
The biscuit on the end of this shrimp roll was so savory.
Our main course was wild boar with potato quenelle, celeriac puree, and mixed fall vegetables. They pared a soft red wine from Bordeaux.
At first we were told it was deer and it was described to us as white pork - remember we are in west flanders - the Dutch speaking part of Belgium. We tried again with another server who was able to tell us in French which of course D was able to understand...wild boar.
The boar meat was delicious and as tender as butter.
We thought this garnish was very creative - endive leaves wrapped around the potato quenelle. We may have to give this one a try at home.
Dessert time! For the first round, we were served pear sorbet and mint foam marshmallows.
With a little biscuit and meringue.
The yellow cube is the mint marshmellow.
Next came our coffee.
I absolutely loved the container the cream came in. When we took off the lid - it had a little ladle.
I need to look for one of these for us to serve our cream!
This is what I love about the Michelin restaurants, just when you think you are finished, out comes another round of desserts!
The very popular macroon with an orange filling,
a lemon drop with silver leafing which burst with flavor as we bit into it,
and a decadent brownie bite.
I like this angle D captured of our sweet little morsels.
When we finished the second round of desserts, D leaned back and declared this to be a perfectly wonderful meal!
WARNING: Do Not Read if you are hungry : )
Le Prieure Saint Gery is one of 14 two-starred Michelin restaurants in Belgium. We have been wanting to try it for awhile, but it is hard to get reservations. They have a special offer which includes dinner, and over night stay in their 6 room B&B, and breakfast.
The meal lasted four hours and it had 13 courses. We selected the flight of wines where the sommelier paired a wine with each main course with a sweet wine for dessert.
This was the pre-pre amuse-bouche. Tomato mousse with mini savory waffle. It is a little dark as I took this first photo without a flash. I was trying to be "cool". The restaurant was very relaxed so I didn't worry about the flash later. My Blog readers needed good photos!
Next course, and one of my favorites (because of the ice cream) - cold asparagus soup topped with parmesan ice cream and a parmesan crisp.
The next two came on a plate together - oyster in a pesto broth and
white fishwith olive tapenade with creme fraiche.
Another amuse-bouche - seafood egg roll with aioli sauce.
Wait, one more amuse-bouche - warm egg salad topped with shrimp and broccoli gelee. This one definitely tasted better than it photographed.
Oh and I can't forget the bread. I could have just eaten this along with the butter. It may have been the best butter we have had. It was from from Brittany France and they are known for their superior butter. Guess where I want to go next?
And finally the real appetizer - a lovely white fish, called Saint-Pierre served with eggplant, grapefruit, saffron and a few other tasty morsels.
Ta-Da - our first main course. Red fish, bouillabaisse with clams, zucchini, arugula pesto, with a to-die-for cream broth.
A palate cleanser, again one of my favorites as it was sweet pea ice cream served with crispy bacon salt and asparagus cream. Doesn't this make your mouth water just reading the description.
The second main course. It had a sauce, but I was so anxious to eat it, I forgot to take the photo after the sauce was poured. Duck breast, duck rillettes, asparagus, wild mushrooms, spring onion and red fruit.
Of course there had to be a cheese course. One of the most beautiful cheese carts we have experienced.
Worthy of three photos.
You are able to select the cheeses you want. But we told him to just make a plate for us, each one different so we could share. We told him small. He gave us each seven cheeses each.
The cheeses were served with a plate of condiments.
I now have no room left. But wait, how could I skip dessert?
I can't : ) Good thing it was small.
The little chocolate one deserves a close up
And believe it or not.....there was a post-dessert, dessert cart with coffee and ICE CREAM!!! Now you know I was completely full as I passed on the dessert cart. Just to make sure you caught that.....the dessert cart had ice cream and I passed on it. I could not find one teeny-tiny spot to put it in. It may have been the first time in my life I skipped ice cream : (
We were very happy that we only had to walk upstairs to go to sleep. Certainly an unforgettable meal!
Kathrine, one of D's colleagues and her husband Kim coordinated a cheese making workshop in Achel Belgium at the Catharinadal Kaasmakerij. It is an hour from Brussels and is in the Dutch speaking part of the country.
It was a nice drive and we saw some beautiful scenery along the way.
There is a Trappist brewery at the Monastery of our lady Saint Benedict. It is in the same town as the cheese class so we left early to check it out. The Monastery is in Belgium, but the gardens cross the border into the Netherlands. You could not see or tour the brewery, but they had a great store where you could buy their beer, Achel Beer, and hundreds of others. D was a happy guy!
We brought sandwiches as we did not have enough time to eat at a restaurant and make the class on time. D wanted to eat in the Netherlands, I just wanted to stay in Belgium. So....
We both got our way!
The Catharinadal kaasmakerij (cheese room) is run by two brothers. One owns and milks the cows (just down the street from kassmakerij) and the other brother makes the cheese and runs the shop.
We were a group of 19, 11 adults and 8 kids. Here we all are with Franz, our cheese monger (and teacher).
We had to "dress" for the making of the cheese. They also advised us to wear rubber boots (I am the one in the middle with the red boots).
D is assessing the work station.
We started with raw milk from their cows (no we did not milk the cows). The milk was heated slightly and the first step was to add lactic-acid producing bacteria and stir for 30 minutes.
Cheese is made by curdling the milk. Next, rennet ( a natural enzyme from a young calves stomach to digest the mother's milk) is added.
It was amazing how fast it started to thicken. He told us that our milk was warmer than the rest of the groups and this caused our cheese to thicken faster than the rest. We were bummed as we thought it was not going to turn out. He said it would just make ours a little harder vs soft.
Next, we had to break up the curd (the solid element) into very small chucks. To do this we used a special knife called a "harp"
and cut across one way:
and then the other - a cross-hatch style. Donald's colleague Dave said he was going to go back to work and tell everyone he saw D "cut the cheese".
After it got to a certain size, we had to use our hands to break the curd up as small as possible - the size of a pea.
And yes.....I got my hands dirty too!
Looks ready to me!
We then had to take out half of the the Whey (liquid) from our bucket, add hot water and gently wash the the curds. The curd is then pressed through a net to get out all of the whey.
It had the texture of ricotta cheese
We took a break and tasted several cheeses so we could decide what flavor we wanted to make ours.
We choose horseradish and ginger for one, shown here before mixing in the spices into the curd.
And mustard for the other shown with spices mixed in.
D tasted it to make sure our cheese was "on track".
Next step: to press the curd in to a net which was then placed into a mold.
We had to squeeze as much liquid out as possible.
It is then carefully removed from the form (this is where you could see it starting to look like cheese),
and flipped it over and put back into the form upside- down. This was the final step to "making" the cheese. It is ready to be placed in the industrial strength cheese-press.
It pressed for about 30 minutes while we all took a break and sampled their yummy desserts. After you took it out of the container, you trimmed the edges.
Voila - Look at this beautiful cheese! And looks like that one came from "Team Ward"!
Franz then showed us how they complete the cheese process and showed us what we needed to do at home. They soak the cheese in a brine (salt water) for 24 hours in large vats. We would need to do the same at home in a pot.
We need to let our cheese dry for 4 days, turning it each day. On the 4th day, we will paint on a wax coating as Franz showed us.
The cheese is now ready for the last stage: maturing. This needs to be done at a temperature of 60 degrees for 6 weeks. Dave rigged up a spot in his basement with an air-conditioner to keep it at the perfect temperature as our apartments are too warm and the refrigerator is too cold. He has graciously offered to "house" anyone's cheese.
So Dave and Drew will babysit our cheese for the next 6 weeks, turning it each day!
The cheese shop had a very large cool room where they matured theirs. We bought several types of their cheese, notice the Dutch names (long!)
We also bought their home-made yogurt and ICE CREAM (speculoos)! Delicious!
Who says I can't become a Belgium farmer?
D had off work on Monday for the holiday so he treated me to a very special lunch. We drove about 30 minutes outside of the city to a two star Michelin restaurant, de pastorale.
The decor was beautiful. Very soft and chic. With an Alice and wonderland feel to the garden.
It made for a for a very interesting juxtaposition of the quiet soft interior mixed with the over exaggerated comical animals in the garden. The big green rabbit sat just outside the window of our table, as if he was asking for just a little bite. Good thing we had fish and veal......not sure I would have been able to eat rabbit : )
And the meal was one of our best! The chef describes his food as "total taste". That was a very accurate description as every bite was so flavorful it bounced off every part of our taste-buds.
It started out with a bread stick that looked like a tree branch. D thought it was decoration at first. It was made with mushrooms and had a tomato coulis sauce for dipping.
Next came a variety of bread with butter and olive oil. We could have been happy just eating the bread with salt and butter for lunch.
Beautiful presentation throughout the meal. Simple, yet elegant.
Our first amuse bouche was was one of the most creative servings we have ever had. The waiter came out with two spoons and handed us each one. This happened so fast we could not take a photo. On the spoon was a small circle of goat cheese, caramelized. On the bottom on the spoon was a dollop of cream mixed with a flavor.
The second amuse bouche, chicken morsel with couscous and foam.
We were ready for our first course.
In an article, De Pooter, 39 was described as being strongly influenced by art and architecture and by a culinary movement towards food that was low in fat and sugar. Did you catch that? This entire lunch was a diet meal.
Donald's dish: veal breast, confit, sweetbreads, cardamon, green olives and artichoke. This was the first time we have had sweetbreads. They were veal sweetbreads, which are deemed the best, "prized by gourmets throughout the world" . For those of you who are not familiar with sweetbreads, they are thymus glands. By the way....I had one and half glasses of wine at this point, so yes, I did taste! And we both thought they were delicious.
Another clip form the article; De Pooter's cuisine is visually arresting yet strangely cool, almost as if the physical beauty takes precedence over everything else. We agree - they were absolutely beautiful dishes.
My dish: pike perch, baked, cumin, petite carrots, onion, and asparagus. The sauce was carrot.
The dessert was a winter wonderland with a multitude of "white" flavors - coconut, cream, powdered sugar, white chocolate, ice cream. I am not a big white chocolate fan, but this was in a world of it's own. The ball on the side of the dish had a delicate shell with a flavorful burst of citrus when we ate it. It was a stunning dessert.
............and deserves a closer look:
Post-dessert & coffee. We have learned that the coffee course in expensive restaurants in Europe is an experience in itself. The coffee comes....
and so do plates of bite-sized treats......
fun little sweets to amuse your tongue.
And if that was not enough, out comes the post-post-dessert, tarte tatin (were were told it was the chef's interpretation of apple pie with a dollop of ice cream).
Wow - one of the best meals with service to match.
Of course I HAD to walk in the garden with the creatures.
The rabbit told D a secret - he never did tell me what it was.
We can't wait to go back!