Thursday, August 20, 2009

European quarter lunchtime therapy

I keep myself busy between a few jobs, but when I'm wearing my paralegal hat, that means I'm off to the European Quarter, where the low point of every day is finding lunch. The only things that aren't overpriced are the sandwiches, and boy, do I get sick of sandwiches. Will someone please open a salad bar in this neck of the woods? I don't care if it's overpriced, I will be your most loyal customer.

I try to keep my spending within reason, but on the occasions when I want a nicer, sit-down lunch, I'm still traumatized by the lack of vegetarian options. However, my friend John recently pointed me to Quarter Libre, which is not a bad find.

This place is all about choice: 16 small dishes are on offer each day; you take a little piece of paper and choose the four you want which are delivered in small tapas portions on a platter. I've been twice now - the first time, I had all four, plus a dessert, and wasn't completely full. This week I went and couldn't even finish my platter. Both times the platters cost a borderline-outrageous 14 EUR (prices are standard - no variation based on what you order). To be fair, virtually all prices in this area are borderline outrageous.

I've had a few lovely items here - a recent visit featured a pesto pasta, a carrot-basil gazpacho, a slice of eggplant wrapped around ricotta, and a nicely dressed avocado salad. Warning however: on my first visit, I ordered a feuilletine du brie, which should have been brie in phyllo dough (in my book) but they snuck some bacon in. So for the true veggie-wary, you want want to ask a few questions before ordering.

The decor is all wood, with soft lighting, and there's a lovely patio in the back for soaking up the warm, sunny weather (while we've got it). If you aren't scandalized by the price tag (in which case you probably pack a lunch from home if you work in this area!), I definitely recommend it.

Quartier Libre
Rue de Treves 44
1050 Ixelles
Open for weekday lunch only

NB: Their business card states that their website in, but that brought up nothing on today's attempt. However, Google leads me to believe that they may maintain a second location on Rue Lesbroussart. No promises.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I scream for ice cream!

I've had quite an exciting development in my professional life - I'm now writing a weekly food column for Flanders Today! So far I'm loving it, but I'm afraid that, along with the other writing, plus my other jobs (sigh...) it's leaving me less time for my dearest blog.

At the very least, this week I can offer a link to my most recent column. It's summertime, which calls for ice cream. In my home sweet Uccle, Rue Vanderkindere is an ice cream hot spot. The old-school Glacier Zizi, and not half a block away, Il Gelato. I absolutely cannot choose a favorite, they are both just too delicious.

In researching my article, I discovered that Zizi is over 50 years old, and once upon a time, they had only three flavors: chocolate, vanilla, and banana. Banana? Yes. This called for a taste test. I cannot believe it took me this long to discover it - it actually tastes like real, fresh, ripe bananas are just blended into the ice cream (it's entirely possible that they are, although it's utterly chunkless). This was an excellent discovery.

A few days later, a stop at Il Gelato was imperative. My friend Elizabeth is apparently a big fan of nuts and ordered a nice, nutty selection - including a flavor apparently named for a candy bar that was basically peanut. Peanut ice cream is tops! I'm ashamed I can't recall the silly name for this flavor (Mister something); it was the first time I've seen it there, so I'm afraid it's just a cameo.

Where do you go in Brussels for ice cream? Leave a comment - I can't wait to try them out!

Glacier Zizi
Rue de la mutualité 57A
1180 Uccle
Tel. 02.344.70.81

Il Gelato
Rue Vanderkindere 168
1180 Uccle
Tel. 02.344.34.95

Shameless plug: Subscriptions to Flanders Today (covering Flanders and Brussels) are free. Head to their website and sign up to have it delivered right to your door.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Hail Britannia

Surprise! You thought I had abandoned you, when in fact I was off traipsing around the U.S. on vacation. Mea culpa, I should have warned you. Just to make you supremely jealous: I spent 10 days out in the San Francisco area, and 4 of those days in Sonoma valley, where we ate amazing food and drank fantastic wine. San Francisco is one of those places where people really, really care about food - not just how it tastes, but where it came from, how healthy it is, and what interesting things you can do with it. Heaven.

But back in Belgium, the food isn't too shabby either. Just before I left on vacation, a friend had a housewarming party - English High Tea style. The caterers were the newest in Brussels-based British cuisine: La Britannique, and what a fine job they did. All the classics you would expect for a high tea - scones with clotted cream and jam and cucumber sandwiches - as well as some desserts I'd never heard of that had the Brits in the room ooh-ing and aah-ing as they flashed-back to their childhoods.

The passed hors d'oeuvres were all excellent, and if you take a look at their menu, you will be overwhelmed with their offerings. As best I can tell, their online menu seems to color-code between veggie/fish/meat/etc, and their veggie options are bountiful. As best I can tell, the service was very professional and friendly. Go Brit it up!

La Britannique
Forest, Belgium
Tel. 02.544.1777
GSM 0474 985 290