Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Antwerp Eats

This is so not a foodie blog, but I had to share some of the amazing food that Belgium has to offer.  I almost never take pictures of my food at home, but I love to photograph my meals when I am traveling.  Pulling out your camera at the dinner table is a handy way to alert everyone that you are a tourist, thereby preparing them for your ignorance of their language and customs.  As an added bonus, it helps you to remember your trip much more clearly.  

Meems and I left the States about lunchtime on Friday and arrived mid-morning Saturday, having jumped ahead six hours.  Thus, our first meal there was lunch, but to us it felt like 7:00p.m.  Hence the Hoegaarden.

Is it crazy that some of the best parts of my meals were the salads?  They were awesome.

Funny thing about Belgium--everyone seems to speak Dutch and French, and many Belgians speak English too.  The waiter at this restaurant spoke English but preferred French, so I tried my best.  I didn't think I'd be practicing my French quite so soon!  All I know is I pronounced "quiche" right, and that's about it!

Our first night in Antwerp we made dinner reservations at a restaurant called Sir Anthony van Dijck.  I was too tired to remember to take pictures of the inside, but you can click on the link to see how pretty it was.  They were tucked way back in an alley and you have to be careful not to blink when looking for this place, but it was worth it!  Check out their very noticeable signage:

No neon "English Menu!" signs here.

Also cool: you have to ring the bell to get in.  The girl comes to the door and says, "yes?" as if you've just interrupted someone's dinner.  Then they invite you in, seat you at a great table, and treat you like the most special person on Earth.  Well played, Sir Anthony's!

We went on to eat at several other fabulous restaurants with our jewelry trade group, but my favorite by far was Estro Armonico, aka "the Cave."  Okay, peeps, it is literally a cave.  Well, an "authentic 16th century cellar," according to their website, but same diff.  Good thing it is painted white down there, because that really helps fend off the claustrophobia.  Note to self: if you ever buy a house with 6-foot ceilings, paint everything white!

Meems and me, descending.

So, all that is a major fire hazard fun, but the best part is the owner, who grills everything you eat over an open fire right there in the restaurant!  There he is, working away on my lamb and baked potato, and my grilled spiced apple for dessert:

He was so nice!  And *fabulous* at his job!
It was incredible.  Again, the salad was amazing.  I asked the owner what kind of dressing was on it, and all I learned was the main ingredient was mayonnaise.  No wonder I loved it--I seem to have a homing device for fat.  One thing I noticed in both Belgium and France is how good the service is in restaurants, and how often the owners are the chefs.  There is a very noticeable pride even among the waiters, and it seems to be considered more of a profession than it is here.  And that was all really good for us, because even if they were secretly rolling their eyes at my flaming inability to speak their language, we never had one single impolite glance in a restaurant.  At least, not from a waiter.

So, besides being all gushy about Belgian restaurants, I also loved the street food.  Here I am eating my first true Belgian waffle:

Honestly, I really didn't think it would be all that great...I thought, a waffle is a waffle, right?  Uh, no.  No, Michelle, you were Oh So Wrong.  I could seriously spend an entire post writing about how much I loved this waffle.  It was deep fried, for one thing--in really, really good oil.  The inside was sweet and cake-like; the outside was crisp and somehow carmelized.  I would eat one every day if presented the opportunity.  Please just look at that grin, are you kidding me?  I am the dork who went to Belgium and fell in love with a waffle.  I should be on "Toot and Puddle."

And, oh, the chocolate.  There is a fabulous chocolate store every five feet in Antwerp.  I decided I could eat pounds of chocolate as a reward for walking the soles off my feet every day--a trade I would make again and again.  One day while strolling around with a couple of other ladies from our group, we found a pretty famous chocolatier called del Rey:

Are you kidding me?  This is the chocolate store?  And, yes, Napolean is made of solid chocolate.
By the way, they sell chocolate powder here.  For inhaling.  Maybe that's why Belgians are so nice!  They're all high on chocolate!

As if that's not enough, they also let you go in the back and check out the kitchen at work. Nice, but even better was this courtyard off the kitchen:

If I had more time, I'd be drinking numerous hot chocolates out here, for sure.  Maybe I'll even inhale some next time, who knows?

So, we've covered waffles and chocolate...I can't let you go without showing you some beer. Beer is a way of life for Belgians.  We asked our new best friend Karel the bartender why this is, and he said its because every town has its own brew, so there is so much of it, and everyone is proud of it too. Check out this menu at one bar we went to:

Yep, it says "Beer Encyclopedia."  It was HUGE.

Listen, I am not much for beer.  I usually drink pinot grigio.  But even I got into the beer thing in Belgium.  You can see I ordered a de Koninck in the above picture.  Now let's see what Meems ordered...

This picture makes me laugh out loud!  I don't think she knew what she was in for when she ordered a "Kwak."  And this was the medium!

Did you know that Belgian beers all have their own unique glass?

The claim is that each beer tastes best in its own glass.  And its true that when poured into the glass, the beer bubbles in a certain way that is supposed to maximize its taste.  I'm telling you, these Belgians are serious about beer.  Case in point: when Meems heard about the unique glass for each beer, she got an idea--let's pour a beer into the wrong glass and see if it still bubbles the same way!  Nope!  Our friend Karel said he couldn't do it.  It's just not something a Belgian would do.

Well, time for me to go dream of waffles.  Tomorrow I'll take you to "the Venice of the North," a town called Bruges, which was adorable.  Then we're off to Paris!  

P.S. If you missed Part 1 of my series about my vacation, you can read it here.  You know you want to!


  1. Is your mother in laws name Meems, or is that a pet name? I have never heard it before. What fun the two of you had. Belgium Chocolate! All that needs to be said. Don't you love eating your way through countries!?

  2. Hi, Lori... My grandmother given name is Mimi, but my smart grandson came up with a way to shorten it to "Meems" and I'll NEVER go back!

  3. Such a funny question Lori! I used to call her "Mimi," even after my son came up with "Meems," but "Meems" is so much easier that I find myself falling into it all the time. He also shortened his other grandmother's name from "Grandma" to "Grams," so he's onto something! And, yes! Eating my way through foreign countries is now officially my favorite pastime;)

  4. Blog is too good, you have excellent collection of restaurants photo and i always get such inspiration from your photos.

    Antwerpen Restaurants

    1. Dank u! Would love to visit your restaurant next time I am in Antwerp:)


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