I’m kind of a borderline chocoholic. Do I have qualms about eating chocolate for breakfast? No way! Can I eat 200g of chocolate per day? Easily. Can I stop eating chocolate anytime I want? Of courrrrseee I can….
Seriously though, I do like chocolate. Which means my dreams came true when I traveled to Brussels for the weekend. Although I was only in the land of mind-blowing chocolate for a few days, I was able to stuff myself silly on….chocolate. And other things too! Like these:
Belgium is known for its wide variety of beer. Plain ol’ pils? Yeah, they got that. Wheat beer? Yeah, they got that. Champagne beer? Yeah, they got that too. Fruit beer? Of course. Even non-beer fans can probably find something they enjoy. I, myself, particularly liked kriek, a popular cherry beer that was slightly sour, refreshing and light. Side note: we ordered cheese at the bar to snack on and served alongside it was celery salt and mustard. Interesting combo.
It’s no secret that the Belgians do chocolate well. I splurged on some truffles. They were smooth, rich and amazingly creamy – like no chocolate I had tasted before. Some had a very slight crunch factor that was pleasant but not overdone. Others were filled with liquer or fruit fillings. They were all good and I probably ended up giving myself diabetes. There are various chocolate shops to explore (I found myself at Leonidas) but you can also find a nice variety in supermarkets (Côte d’or is a well-known brand). And by all means check out chocolate in other forms – such as cake! It’ll be equally mind-blowingly delicious.
French fries for dayyyys
French fries are THE staple food of Belgian cuisine. What rice is to Asian cuisines (and me), French fries are to Belgian cuisine. Head to a frieterie for some freshly made, steak-fry style frites and choose from the dizzying array of accompanying sauces. Examples are aioli (garlic mayonnaise), sauce andalouse (a sweet tomato paste and mayonnaise concoction) or tartar sauce. Eat them immediately or take them to go to accompany a home-cooked meal.
This seafood specialty is best enjoyed starting in the months ending in -er (September, October, November, December) to about February. Although they’re a bit pricier, they’re well worth it (in my seafood-loving eyes). I shared a portion for two with three other people and it worked well as a light meal. Although, to be fair, two of my eating companions are not the biggest seafood fans and left the other two of us to have the lion’s share (which was totally fine by me…). We ordered a classic preparation – steamed with onions and celery and served as a giant steaming heap in a kitchen pot. Other classic preparations include white wine or cream sauce. French fries are, of course, always served as an accompanying side dish to help soak up the sauce.
If you’re looking for a snack that isn’t completely chocolate and not completely fries, how about some Belgian waffles? I tried a strawberry and whipped cream topping for lunch in a café (yes – lunch) and a chocolate topping from a street vendor for an after lunch snack. Both were very good – the chocolate version was heavier and sweeter with sugar crystals in the batter while the café version was lighter, despite the cream. Moral of the story: I obviously ate very healthily in Belgium.
One afternoon, I stumbled upon a farmer’s market away from the city center. It was pretty large and there were stands for produce, seafood, meat, wine and already cooked meals – many of which were authentic African or Asian dishes. I enjoyed some wine with my travel companions and then bought some saucisson and cured ham, which was sliced by hand with a knife.
I feel like Belgium has something for everyone’s tastes. If you have a sweet tooth and are realllly into chocolate, you’ll be in paradise. If you’re into bars, beer and French fries, you’ll also be in paradise. If you like seafood, you’ll also be covered! And if you want something healthy – check out farmers’ markets for fresh fruits and veggies and locally sourced products. Lastly, Brussels is incredibly diverse and restaurants representing many cuisines can be found in the city. Even if you’re not that into food, Brussels is still worth a visit. The city is gorgeous and charming, but not as overwhelming as other European capitals.