Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Belgium: Liege and Meatballs!

     I have a whiteboard in our home office and it lists all of our "free" weekend days between now and the end of the year.   Amazingly, as of last week, we only had three entire weekends free.  How did we manage to get so booked when we only just moved here?  Frankly, I think that we like it that way.  Even when we lived in the States, it was hard to go through a weekend without anything planned.  Since our football time is relegated to Sunday nights at 7pm (when we can see the 1pm game), that really leaves the entire weekend for activities.

     So while this past weekend was a free weekend, we also thought that it would be a great idea to have our first dinner "party" and sleepover for Dear Daughter.  On Friday night, we invited a couple that we have known for years (and now live in Brussels) over for dinner and Dear Daughter invited her new BFF to spend the night.  It could not have worked out better.  Adults were entertained; children were entertained.  It was a very easy night.  I have also learned a great deal about entertaining...KISS...keep it simple, stupid.  While keeping it simple, I also wanted to give our guests something a bit different.  I think that we achieved both.  Over drinks, I served a combination of appetizers:  melon balls wrapped in prosciutto, sun-dried tomato and mozzarella skewers, small slivers of brie topped with a peach slice and a drop of honey and endive filled at the tip with roquefort.  We lingered over these while sipping a typical French aperitif, a Kir (creme de cassis with white wine).  

      And while we were catching up, the girls were having pizza...from Dominos...even in Belgium.  Our salad course consisted of a wonderful summer melon salad with prosciutto and arugula and I served a Cremant (sparkling wine) from Burgundy.  The main course....soupe de poisson...was made from the fishmonger in town.  It is similar to bouillabaisse without all the chunks of seafood.  You take a large crouton and smear rouille (a garlic condiment) on top; drop it into the soup and add grated cheese.  Fabulous.  For dessert...easy-peasy...chocolate from the local Belgian chocolate shop and macaroons.  Lovely company, lovely food and very easy...a very enjoyable evening.  Of course, I have no idea when the kids went to sleep as I was purring comfortably in my bed by midnight.

     With one day left of the weekend to explore and the weather looking favorable, we decided to take a drive to the university city of Liège.  About 90 minutes away, it sits on the River Meuse - one of the main rivers in Belgium.  Evidently, the Emperor Charlemagne was born in the city but I have to tell you that we did not sightsee one bit.  I wanted to explore the Sunday market at La Batte...the oldest and largest market in Belgium.  It extends one mile along the river and frankly, you can find everything at this market.  Need flowers; see one of the many florists.  Looking for Italian pasta or cheese; I saw at least five different vendors that "specialized" in all things Italian.  Need some live chickens; take your pick...old ones, chicks, black ones, white ones.  What about that lovely eggplant caviar that you just received as a housewarming gift....yep, it is there.  Need a new bra?  Well, have no fear...the man will guess your size and slip one right over your blouse.  Shoes, vietnamese food, records, jewelry, cleaning supplies...REALLY, it is all there.

     And it had no impact on either Dear Daughter or Dear Husband.  Their comment..."how many times can you see the same thing for sale?"  Ok, maybe they have a point there.  To diffuse the situation, I took them to the one cafe at the border of the market that almost everyone on TripAdvisor raved about...Cafe Lequet.  When in Liège, you have to eat Boulets à la Liégeoise and evidently, Cafe Lequet is the place to have them.

Cafe Lequet - Guy is on the left

     There is nothing special about the restaurant.  It is long and narrow.  There is a long bar at the entrance and the tables are long rectangles seating up to 8.  You do not receive a menu but can view the offerings from a chalkboard on the wall or via the pop-ups on the tables.  We sit at the back of the restaurant and peruse the offerings.  One boulet avec frites; two boulets avec frits; two boulets avec frits, salad and compote...and a few other offerings.  But evidently, it is all about the boulet.  We hear a man bellowing across the restaurant...taking orders and yelling back to the staff.  He finally makes his way over to us and I assume he is asking for our drink order.  I hear "Voulez-vous" and "boire" which I know is "would you like" and "drink".   Drink orders delivered, he asks us what we would like to eat "manger"...mais oui...boulets.  Dear Daughter opts for one, Dear Husband and I split an order of two with fries.

     They arrive at lightening speed.  Through the door of the kitchen, women bring plates and plates of boulets.  We see very little else being served.  The owner bellows out his orders; bellows out to his friends; bellows out to everyone.  Very quickly, the restaurant has filled to capacity and nearly everyone is eating Meatballs with Fries.  But these are Liège meatballs...a very special kind of meatball.  Why?  It is actually a very ordinary meatball - a mixture of pork and beef.  It is the sauce that is its claim to fame.  The sauce has Sirop de Liège...which, of course, is from Liège.  This is a total Belgian speciality - not found in the US.  It is made from pears and apples and seems to be somewhat like a jam but it is used in all sorts of recipes.  You might spread it on bread in the morning; or spread it over a soft cheese for a snack.  And, you can use it in sauces - for which they do for the meatballs.

     So, it makes for a bit of an odd combination - meatballs with a slightly sweet sauce.  Dear Husband and I liked it but Dear Daughter was not convinced.

     All in all, not a bad trip but I am not sure if we will make it to Liège again for the market or the meatballs.  But I hear that they have a great Christmas Market!!!

     Now on to a service announcement from our sponsors.  Should you be looking for a vacation rental in France...let me introduce you to La Riviére - a wonderful two bedroom apartment situated in a lively yet peaceful market town.  Want to see more information...then head to our new website:  www.plancoet-to-let.com.


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