On the ever continuing mission to fool myself into thinking burgers can exist no matter how far one is from New York, I ventured out to De Robot, one of the rising stars in the (novel to Belgium) bars with food, to sample their locally heralded cheese burger.
The bun was your stock standard Belgian roll, hard and crunchy but nevertheless useful at withstanding the epic (and perfectly cooked) patty within.
Nice slice of melted cheese and gloriously buttery onion, with salad on the side.
Odd choice of crisps in place of the norm-Flemish Fries, but overall everything felt as it should be.
If In-and-Out burger were a thousand kilometres closer I wouldn’t think twice about Robot’s burger again, but as this is indeed the wrong side of the Atlantic (and now also the wrong side of the channel – see Admiral Codrington in London for some truly inspiring buns) I must say that I will be back!
If anything the bar is warm and delightful with just enough delicious beers to wash down even the bluest of blues- this could very well be the new default of choice here in sunny Ghent.
In April (yes! April) I took a bag of my Flemish Grandmothers’ favourite chocolates from Belgium to Australia and asked all of my former folk to tell me how much they loved them. Turns out my Big Nuts were quite impressive.
Some choice quotes:
“My life had a gaping hole in it until Chris slipped in his Big Nuts”
“My wife really gets it off on my Big Nuts”
“When it comes to that special treat, nothing beats that rich velvety feel of my Big Nuts”
“Thanks for giving Chris some Big Nuts to bring back to Australia! We generally have just regular sized nuts here, so thanks very much!”
“Citycat riders choose Big Nuts”
“It’s not often in Australia I’m handed a pair of Big Nuts”
World of Chocolate, I hope you’re taking notes. Try and keep up.
For the past six months or so I’ve been cautiously walking past at brisk speeds to ignore Hilde Devolder’s chocolate shop, out of fear of enjoying her products to a point that I’d become a daily customer.
Whilst walking my dear Neapolitan friend through the charming streets of Ghent, Hilde’s shop jumped from behind a parked bike, and my game was up. We had no choice but to venture inside.
Hilde specializes in tiny boxes of even tinier chocolates, each piece measuring no more than a square centimeter. These tiny sizes mean equally tiny amounts of guilt, which can lead to an entire box consumed in minutes, instead of the typical hour or so chocolate giants like Neuhaus or Godiva command.
Highlights from the first box include the peanut brittle, marzipan, and whatever that last one I had (especially biscuity in a way a biscuit could never have been).
For easter Hilde has prepared a large variety of amazing creations, some of which I may try to export back to some lucky non-blog-reading parents come Easter time.
Hilde presents an amazing challenge to the Belgian chocolate industry – her choice of tiny chocolates makes sharing a joy, and stopping consumption all the harder!
Lo behold my return to Belgium, and the stores are now lined with limited edition ‘Bicky Burger’ chips, commemorating one of the more unattractive members of the Belgian food chain.
A ‘Bicky’, marketed here as a burger, is in fact a sugary bun holding a deep-fried round blob of meet extracts, usually covered in ketchup and mayonnaise, and always served with a grotte pakje friet (large packet of fries). It is a staple food group for many teenagers in Belgium, though despite many attempts to stomach one, I’ve never been able to get past a single serving of fries. These deep fried burgers tickle my gag-reflex significantly more than my fancy.
Whilst I can’t condone the real deal Bicky, I didn’t even flinch at the idea of bringing home a packet of its namesake chip. They smell, taste, and look much like your typical ‘tomato’ flavoured variant, and leave a nicely unsatisfying film all around the inside of the mouth, fingers and nostrils – likely quite similar to the burger it is modeled after!
Back home in Australia for a few weeks, only to find the Australians have taken their love of Vegemite to the logical conclusion..
Good grief. Going to try my hand at Stoverij for the family tomorrow, having tracked down a couple of rather expensive Chimay Blau bottles, and discovering that cows in Australia do have the same types of meat as they do in Belgium.
Just a few Mondays ago I threw all my undies in a bag, collected all the change from all the pockets and hit the road, stopping off in Lyon and Cote de A’zur before hitting the final destination: Italy’s (and possibly Europe’s) finest retreat: Piemonte.
Nestled up between Turino, Milano and Genova, the hills of Piemonte offers some of the best wine regions in the world, delightful restaurants and incredibly beautiful (and cheap!) B&B’s.
One of the best pieces of advice for any new region is to track down a local’s favourite restaurant. Be warned though asking a local about food may lead to a very long discussion (and almost certainly only in Italian) – so just learn to nod and agree and keep your most-likely-non-Italian-ear trained for Nouns. This is probably my next best piece of advice. Listen for street names, type of cheeses and wines. If you don’t speak the local tongue do your brain a favour and skip the pronouns, articles and verbs and stick straight to the important bits by listening for names of cheeses, wines, restaurants and any other useful noun. Adjectives might also prove useful just in case the person you’re talking to makes a clear distinction between “shit” and “fantastic”.
Whilst staying in Villa Pallavicini (amazing people making amazing wine), we asked around for a good pizzeria. The general response was to head direct to Pizzeria da Pietrino, famous for their astounding menu of ‘crema’ based pizzas. Proprietor”Little Peter” has long moved on from the all too familiar pomodoro ‘n cheese, opting instead for brocolli, aubergine, truffle or even salmon as the foundation of his creations.
Check the menu out below, set your taste buds to jealous, and then book your summer holiday ASAP – Piemonte is calling!