Saturday, September 27, 2008

Who's yo mama?

I stumbled on Fresh Mama a few months ago on one of my frequent Friday outings on Xavier de Bue in Uccle. I've always enjoyed this shopping street, and used to stop in once in a while to a salad bar there that has sadly moved on to salad bar heaven. So I was pleased when Fresh Mama opened its doors across the street.

Fresh Mama does a bit of everything: part shop, part restaurant, part kitchen supplies, part catering, part food classes (not yet offered), they seek to be a go-to destination for Seasonalivores (is that a word? OK, now it is). Their produce changes based on what's in season, so you won't be seeing artichokes flown in from Argentina in the middle of winter. Their produce is indeed gorgeous (their mushroom selection is especially nice), and you do pay a pretty penny (eurocent?) for it, so this isn't a place to do my daily shopping, at least not with my wallet. But if you're looking for something special, the folks here will be more than happy to help you - and they are super friendly, a welcome rareity here.

When Gidon stopped in a few weeks back, they explained that vegetables are the featured items on the menu, and fish and meat is just an accompaniment. Indeed, settling in for lunch yesterday and perusing their September/October menu, there was quite a lot for a vegetarian to choose from. My friend had a thick, creamy mushroom soup, and I took a salad: lentils, soft-poached egg, leek, emmenthal, red pepper reduction and greens in a punchy vinagrette. De-lish. And expensive. Yesterday I could say that it was in the name of research - all for you, dear reader! - but with soups at 6.50, salads around 12, and some dishes as much as 17 euro, this definitely won't become a habit.

Fresh Mama has definitely won a soft spot in my heart, so even if I can't afford to splash out there all too often, you may see me standing at window, eyeing the vegetables and resisting the urge to scurry back for a little lunchtime indulgence.

Fresh Mama
Rue Xavier de Bue 65
1180 Uccle
Tel. 02 343 10 05
Open Mon-Sat, 9h - 18h30

World melange

After a recommendation from Andreea, I finally ventured out to Hemispheres. I had oggled their online menu a while back, thrilled with the number of vegetarian possibilities. (Their website appears to be down as of this posting)

I might as well get out of the way that the service was a big disappointment. This wasn't just Brussels-usual-slowness, this was extreme-Brussels-slowness.

That said, if you're not in any kind of hurry and fancy a good meal, this place definitely deserves a spot on your list. I opted for the vegetarian menu:
- courgette patties with a nice spicy thai-dipping-like-sauce,
- fried noodles with tofu and aubergine - turned out to come in a tomatoey sauce that was a bit too much for my liking
- fruit and good quality yogurt for dessert.

Gidon took the harira soup, which was good on its own and was also nice when he added in a little harissa (super spicy pepper/garlic puree). He moved on to the vegetarian tajine, nicely done up with lots of beans but short on protein. We were both highly interested in baklava for dessert, but they were out. Gidon settled on some other dessert - neither of us caught the name - that the waiter said was the closest thing to baklava they still had left. It had less honey and was crustier than baklava and gave a good indication that the baklava would also be worth trying.

The menu covers every ethnicity of food you can think of, so this is a great place if you and your date can't come to an agreement about what type of food you want. There is an emphasis on North African and Asian foods, though - right up my alley, but maybe not yours. Enjoy!

Rue Des L'Ecuyer 65
1000 Brussels
Tel. 02 513 93 70
Open Mon-Sat, except Sat lunch
Website (if it comes back!):

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

No starving in this Ethernopia

I can hardly think of an Ethiopian restaurant without at least briefly thinking of Billy Crystal's joke in "When Harry Met Sally": "I took her for dinner in an Ethiopian restaurant. I said to her, 'This will be quick; they'll give us two empty plates and we can go home.'"

Fortunately, Kokob is here to prove him wrong.

Last night we finally made it there. I say 'finally' because we had already tried to get in - mid-week - and were told that reservations were absolutely necessary. So this time we called ahead, albeit at 2pm, and got a table at 8.

Past the first hurdle, it was now time for the explanation of the menu. I've eaten Ethiopian food before and I enjoy it both because of the how it is prepared and of course the variety of vegetarian options. Kokob did not disappoint. Their menu folds in two ways - one offering their meat options, the other offering the vegetarian options. A 50/50 split? Not bad.

Gidon and I took a menu, which was plenty filling. Ethiopian food is served on a sour crepe called 'injera', and although Kokob's were not as sour as I remembered, they were very spongy and didn't overpower the rest of the flavors. Those flavors included Shiro Wot, a delicious spicy dish made of pea flour and shallots (I'll be going back for that one); Carrot ena Fa solia wot, which was basically cooked carrots and green beans - not a terribly special addition, particularly as the veg was well cooked and I personally prefer them closer to raw; and Key sir ena denich wot, also known as potatos and beets - simply and nicely prepared. The menu includes one side dish, for which we took spiced fried potato wedges. Yum. You eat it all up with injera using your fingers. When I saw how soupy the Shiro Wot was, I wondered how that would ever possibly work but a remarkably small amount of dinner ended up on the table instead of in our mouths.

We were also given a lot of free stuff: free aperitifs upon arrival; a cereal-based amuse-bouche; scrumptious cold green lentils as a side dish, along with a simple green salad. We finished the meal with an espresso for Gidon (par for the course) and a hot milk with cinnamon and honey for me - a very pleasant end to a fine meal.

Rue des Grands Carmes, 10
1000 Bruxelles
Tel. 02 511 1950
Open every day - check website for times
Reservations necessary

Monday, September 8, 2008

Bring on the spice

On Saturday night, I decided to branch out a bit on the Indian front and boldly (for me) headed for Jaipur, at the corner of De Fre and Cavell in Uccle. There were very few people there when we showed up at 9pm, which was a bit worrisome, but my worries were not necessary.

I was there with a British friend and the waiter picked that up and spoke to us in English. When we ordered our vegetarian Thalis, he asked if we wanted it mild or spicy – the first time I’ve been asked that at any Indian restaurant in Brussels. We went for spicy. He explained that he only asked because we spoke English; he doesn’t even bother asking the Belgians since they can’t handle the spice!

Spicy it was, but pleasantly so. The Thali featured four dishes: palak paneer, mixed vegetables, an eggplant bhaji, and dal. The palak paneer, always a favorite with me, was creamy and nicely spiced without too much heat. The eggplant bhaji on the other hand more than made up for that, packing a nice punch. The dal was tangy and made for good quality comfort food. The mixed vegetables didn’t do much for me, but then again, they never do. All of this was accompanied by warm nan, a pile of rice, and a thick, creamy raita.

At 18 euros a pop, I’ll be sticking with the thali, although they do offer items a la carte for those who wish. Go enjoy, and splash out on a little spice, if you dare.

Avenue De Fré 201
Uccle 1180
Tel. : 02.374.93.94
Open all meals except Monday lunch
Also offers takeaway

Monday, September 1, 2008

Bxl Sprout joins the Foodie Blogroll!

As you will unavoidably notice from the widget to the right, Brussels Sprout has officially joined the Foodie Blogroll. This is a great resource to link up to other food blogs worldwide. Check out the links, or get your blog added, too.

Blurb from their website:
"The Foodie Blogroll is the first of its kind and is one of the fastest growing online communities for foodbloggers. With close to 2000 members spanning the globe in less than a year, there is a reason for its popularity. It is the first blogroll created just for foodies like you by a foodie like you."