Working on My Belgian Beer Belly: Last Call

This is another in a series chronicling my travels last Fall in Europe. The first week was in Belgium and Germany with a group of fun-loving, hard-drinking Australians. I had just arrived in Gent, and was polishing off a few beers in the Monastery’s bar before heading out to dinner on my night off.

The only thing I really don’t like about Gent is that we only spend one night there. It is a fabulous city with art, history, architecture, food, you name it, it’s there. As I mentioned in my last article, the only night in Gent is also my only “off night” during the trip, which means the clients are more or less on their own for dinner. I usually offer up a few suggestions and then they wander off on their own, free for a night from the usual three-ring circus that is a group dinner.

A host of bars and restaurants along the river in Gent.

Along the river in Gent.

A few years ago, I found a wonderful little restaurant outside the city center, not far from the Gravensteen castle called De Lieve. It really is not all that much to look at as it certainly seems to be a neighborhood pub/restaurant, but the food, which are almost always Flemish specialties, is well done and tasty. As a plus, they have an outdoor dining area, which for me is a no-brainer.

Gravensteen Castle in Gent.

Gravensteen Castle in Gent.

Just as I was finishing unloading all the luggage, the Aussie biking battalion pulled in, as cheerful and as pleasant as ever (truth be told, I think they were just happy–and surprised–that I had arrived there before they did, it seems their previous factotum was less than expeditious). I alerted them to the fact that there was indeed a bar on the Monastery’s premises (which was met with several smiles and a few gasps of joy), and then pulled out the map of the town to show them a couple of suggestions for dinner.

After I presented a few options, I was interrupted by the de facto matriarch of the group, Janet, who simply said “What, you don’t want to eat with us?”

Ugh.

I paused for a moment, hoping that one of the others would jump in with the Emily Post approved “Oh, Janet, it’s his night off, I am sure he wants us out of his hair for a night!”

My pause became a pregnant one, and I threw in a pathetically forced smile.

No one came to my rescue. No one. They all just stood there, waiting for me to answer the question….

I waited a bit longer.

Awkward.

Finally, I felt I had to say something: “Well, I can see if I can get a reservation at my favorite restaurant here in town.”

As soon as it was out of my mouth, I realized that I was doomed–if I did not come through with getting us all a table at what I considered to be the best spot to eat in Gent, well….

My meal at De Lieve, the last time I passed through. I have no idea what it was called, but it is a big hunk of meat with mashed potatoes. It also came with a side of fries since, well I guess the mashed potatoes did not quite fill the days quota of spuds.

My meal at De Lieve, the last time I passed through. I have no idea what it was called, but it is a big hunk of meat with cauliflower. It also came with a side of fries since, well everything in Belgium comes with fries. (We call them “French Fries” but they actually come from Belgium.)

As it turned out, I was able to get us two tables outside (although I was sitting at the end of the table, on essentially a stool that was a good foot lower than the others) and we had a great time at dinner. Other than the meal itself, there are two great things about the restaurant: the waitress, Joke (pronounced Yoke-eh), who always seems to be there and speaks impeccable English (which is good since no one else there does), and the wine list. I say wine “list” but they only have two choices: red or white, which makes opting for beer with dinner a much easier choice.

The following day, we were off to Wallonia, the French-speaking southern half of Belgium and a tiny little town called Poix-St.-Hubert. Calling it a “town” is a bit of a stretch–there are maybe four buildings, total, including the train station, which has not been staffed in at least ten years. So why go there? Well, another one of the buildings is our hotel, which has one of the better restaurants in the area. They also have a fine beer list, including that day’s beer of the day: McChouffe.

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Mc Chouffe is the somewhat rarer cousin of La Chouffe, both brewed by Brasserie d’Achouffe, which is a scant 50 kilometers away from Poix-St.-Hubert (closer still is the famed Abbey of St. Rémy, brewers of the Trappistes Rochefort Ales). The Mc Chouffe is an unfiltered brown Ale, that produces a long-lasting sticky amber head when poured. Fruity and just slightly sweet, this is certainly on my list of favorites–notes of toffee, brown sugar, and roasted nuts. This is wonderful on its own, but also a great food beer, particularly with ham, game, or just a nice steak. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.

The following day, the trip continued to the border town of Arlon, where we stayed in a fantastically bizarre hotel that likely deserves its own blog, let alone post. The owner dresses as if he were an Elvis impersonator (but he’s not–I think), complete with white patent leather shoes. His wife has likely had more plastic surgery than even the most vain Hollywood has-been and parades around in a strange combination of leopard and zebra prints (at least I assume they are prints).

Yes, that place needs its own post.

Or seven.

Arlon, Belgium

Arlon, Belgium

Diekirch: Meh.

Diekirch: Meh.

IMG_1902The following day we rode across the country of Luxembourg, leaving the wonderful Belgian beers behind. I did stop in Luxembourg for the beer of the day, Diekirch, but it was nothing if unspectacular. The day ended in Trier, Germany, which is the center of the German wine trade, meaning the end of my week of suds (yes, there is beer in Germany, but come on, I’m a wine guy after all….).