Thursday, 30 October 2014

Brussels best burgers – the next edition

I know the ladies over in BFF are on a quest to find the best burger in Brussels. Likewise, I’ve ended up testing (all in the name of research you understand) several burger joints around town with some friends*, including Les Super Filles de Tram, Amour Fou, the Hard Rock Café, and last night we were in the latest place to open in Brussels, Manhattns, on Avenue Louise near the Michael Collins.
We got there at 19h, and it was already heaving, and stayed that way until we left at 20h. It’s quite noisy and dark, but the décor is gorgeous – yellow and black – with detective comic art graphics on the walls, raw brick walls and solid wooden tables.



Manhattn's Gatsby burger with fries


The place was packed. I think Brussels beautiful people were there in force. There were a lot of good looking young men in good suits, so this place seems to be quite popular with the local legal offices.
When you get there, you should first grab a table and then queue to the left to order your burger. I was in line for about 10 minutes. You can pick up copies of the menu or read the fare over the counter. They have the usual beef burgers, which you can get pink or not pink, and veggie, chicken and salmon options. The burgers have optional cheese, bacon, sauce and salad extras. I got the Gatsby burger, which has compte, carmelised onions, sautéed mushrooms and a truffle glaze. I took the godfather option, which includes a soft drink and fries for around €15.
When you order you get a widget that beeps and lights up when your order is ready, and you collect it at the hatch on the right hand side of the counter.
So, the food: the fries come in a cardboard box. They were disappointing considering we were in the home of fries (Belgium) and in comparison to other burger places. But the sauce was tangy. And the main event? Well, the burger was really good – tasty, meaty, the truffle wasn’t overpowering as it so often can be, the onion was sweet but I couldn’t taste the mushrooms. It was messy to eat, but in a good way but the burger didn’t fall apart (very important). The bread was very good – spongy, absorbent, soft without disintegrating and crunchy on top.
We were trying to figure out how to order dessert or more drinks should we want them. The guy who came to collect our dishes said that if we wanted anything we could ask him (we asked out of curiosity), but seeing as this was the first time a staff member we saw since we’d ordered, this would have been a bit difficult!

Will I go back? Yes, I will go back for the burger – less so for the chips, but I will wait a few months for the hype to die down a bit, as it was far too packed. I was sitting with my back to the queue and it was a bit disconcerting to have people permanently at my back while I was eating. My companions said that the people queuing were staring at our table. We agreed that they could possibly do with another till for taking orders, which would help the queue move a bit quicker.

*My lovely friends got back to me and said that they want to be mentioned, so I was out with The Lovely Rose of the Nuetnigenough review, Lovely Friend who came to the Cheese n Wine Sauvages with me, and Lovely Irish Friend. 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Balsamic vinegar caramelised onion hummus


I confess that I am a big fan of Buzzfeed, and when I was sent this list of hummus recipes, my interest was immediately piqued.
This recipe was there. It is from a Canadian blog called Once upon a cutting board.
It is delicious. Try it ;-)

Balsamic vinegar and carmelised onion hummus
You will need:
2 onions, sliced into slivers
About 1 tablespoon of olive oil
One teaspoon of brown sugar
Two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, or to your taste


Your basic hummus recipe probably looks something like this:
1 can chickpeas
3 tablespoons reserved liquid from the can of chickpeas
3 tablespoons tahini (I regularly don’t have this, I use a slug of olive oil instead)
2-3 garlic cloves (you can use raw if you have them. I use a couple of ones I roasted a while ago and keep in a jar of olive oil in the fridge)
the juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Get a heavy frying pan and heat the olive oil and then fry the onions for about 20-25 minutes over a low heat. You should stir them every few minutes to stop them from sticking to the pan and to get them all evenly cooked. They should be very soft, but not burnt. Add in the sugar and some of the vinegar and cook these off for another five minutes or so.
While the onions are cooking, you can put all the hummus ingredients in a food processor (maybe just hold back some of the liquids until you see the consistency of the hummus). Blitz the lot for a minute, scrape everything off the sides if you need to, check the consistency and add the reserved can liquid or lemon juice if you want a looser mixture. Blitz the whole lot again until you get the consistency you want – I like it smooth, so for me, this takes about another two minutes of blitzing.
Put about ¾ of the carmelised onions into the food processor with the hummus and blitz this for a minute. Taste the whole lot together and check it for seasoning – don’t forget that you can add more balsamic vinegar for flavouring too. When you are happy with the taste, scoop it out into a bowl and dress it with the reserved onions.

We eat this with brown bread, pita bread, carrots, cucumbers…

ps: I'm going to try this jalepeno one as soon as I find jalepenos. If you know where I can buy fresh ones, can you let me know? 

Friday, 24 October 2014

Belgian customer service


We all experienced it, I’m sure. Belgian customer service is well known for being awful, particularly in bars and shops. I was told in one clothes shop that they “had nothing that would fit” me. I was a size 14-16 at the time. Not huge by any manner or means. I’ve also been ridiculed over a mis-pronunciation (in front of a queue of people), despite the fact that I speak very good French, and a bit of Dutch. For a city that has such a high number of ex-pats and visitors, people should be given a large benefit of the doubt, particularly when they are making an effort to speak the local language.

The biscuit was taken yesterday. I went into a small café on Pl Flagey and asked for a “simple espresso”. I just needed to kill a bit of time before I had to be somewhere else. The lady asked for €1.80 and handed me a small paper cup with my coffee. I asked if it was possible to have a cup as I wanted to sit down. She told me that I should have told her that I didn’t want the coffee to go, and that sitting in would cost me another €0.40 (she also explained that this was to cover the cost of the cups, and the chairs, and the electricity, and the service). I stupidly began getting the change. She then informed me that if she transferred my coffee from the paper cup into a real cup, I’d lose the mousse from on top of the coffee. Her colleague, who seemed to have a bit of common sense, told her to just make me a new coffee. I was now wondering if I was going to be charged for this coffee too. I wasn’t, but it was the most awkward coffee I’ve ever had. I sat down and swallowed the coffee, and stood up again. I think I paid about one cent for every second my bum graced their seats. Also needless to say, I’m never going to go back to that café ever again.


There are also the lovely shop assistants, particularly the lady in the Casa shop at Merode, years ago, who managed to hold it together when I asked her if she had any more toes (orteil) when I meant to ask for pillows (oreiller). And the lovely people who bear with me when I don’t know the precise word and then descend into a long description of what I’m looking for, and details of what I’m not looking for. We usually get there. Another special mention should go to the garden centre worker who patiently helped me work out the plant I wanted to order, based on “it’s red/orange, and it’s long, and its leaves are like this”.

So, do you have any experiences to share, good or bad? Is this a Belgian thing, or does it happen everywhere? 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

365things on tour – Utrecht

I love the Netherlands. The place is so nice, the cities are small, manageable and user-friendly, the people are so nice, the shopping is great. And the food… mmmm. I had the chance to go to Utrecht last week for a fleeting visit with a friend. We got there just after lunchtime, so once we’d parked the car, we headed off to get something to eat. We happened upon Stan & co on Ganzenmarkt and decided to give it a go.



The cheese plate
The place is actually pretty trendy and a lot of the staff have adopted the hipster look. I loooooove hipsters. So I was in heaven. The restaurant was large and spacious, with ‘atmospheric’ lighting. The staff all spoke English and they even had a menu in English. The kitchen is on view at the back of the restaurant. I’d say the place is very popular with students, particularly at night although when we were there (mid week, lunchtime), there were a good mixture of ages and walks of life.
The chicken wings
We were in more of a picky mood rather than looking for actual dishes, so we ordered a selection of the sharing dishes – chicken wings, bitterballen, the bread selection, dried ham and cheese, and a selection of cheeses. And, of course, a couple of beers (Vedette. You can take the girl out of Belgium). The dishes all came with dips and spreads such as tapenade, apple jam and mustard. The service was very good and the food was really excellent. I highly recommend the bitterballen! 

The bread came in a brown paper bag
Stan & Co.
Ganzenmarkt 16A
3512 GD Utrecht
Telefoon: 030 – 233 45 35
E-mail: 
utrecht@stan-co.nl

http://www.stan-co.nl/contact/

Monday, 20 October 2014

Back on the wagon again!

Good afternoon everyone! Yay! Winter hit!!!!! Did you ever see anything like the change yesterday afternoon? One minute we were sitting outside commenting on how warm it was and removing layers; one minute later the clouds covered and we were shivering! Amazing!

But that is not the only thing that happened this weekend. As y’all know, I am now three months off sugar. You can read about my decision here and the three-week-in report here.

Everything has been going great – no cravings, life hasn’t changed too much, I haven’t died of starvation. I have cut down on the amount of nuts I’m eating, I’m off the dried fruit and I have changed the fruit I am eating (fewer bananas and grapes and more berries and kiwis, which are lower in sugar).

Nonetheless, this weekend I decided to bake the amazing Konditor & Cook's Curly Whirly cake (it is my go-to chocolate cake. It is in all honesty, amazing. I came it via my friend Rose – she of the Nuetnigenough restaurant review. She recommended increasing the recipe by one third; I doubled it and used this chocolate buttercream icing for the centre, and smothered the whole cake in the K&C cream cheese icing).

I baked the cake on Friday, and served myself up a medium slice after dinner. Now, I have had the odd sugary snack over the past three months with few noticeable side effects. Maybe it’s because we were on the sofa, in the peace of our home, but my stomach began speaking in Morse code to us for the rest of the night. I didn’t sleep particularly well on Friday night – I don’t know if there is a link between the two. The noisy tummy wasn’t the only side effect, but that is all I’m prepared to say on that subject right now!

So, what did I learn from all this? I’m going to stay off sugar for the time being. I haven’t noticed that I have more energy being off it, but I felt pretty 'bleugh' on Friday evening, and I definitely felt a bit 'heavy' over the weekend. Also, not eating cakes and the like, means that I can indulge on things I actually prefer, like cheese, with less of a conscience.