We had barely recovered from the Belgian Beer Weekend when Eat! Brussels, Drink! Bordeaux, the Brussels Restaurants and Wine Festival, rolled around. The 4-day festival featured a number of Brussels restaurants offering a selection of their menu items at dedicated food stands which had been scattered around Parc de Bruxelles. These were complemented by pavilions representing various Bordeaux winemakers offering an opportunity to discover some of the wine appellations of the Bordeaux region.
Armed with our wine passes which included a tasting glass and coupons for ten wine degustations, we sampled our way through each of the pavilions: Saint-Emilion-Pomerol-Fronsac, Médoc & Graves, Côtes de Bordeaux, Bordeaux & Bordeaux Supérieurs, Vins Blancs Doux de Bordeaux, and Blancs Secs, Rosés & Crémants de Bordeaux.
When it came the food, I took the opportunity to try some of the fine dining options on offer and was treated to some gastronomic dishes at a fraction of the regular restaurant prices. First up was the Tram Experience where I opted for the two-course menu of buffalo mozzarella with tomato caviar, basil and olive oil, followed by a 63° egg with a grana padano cream, pancetta crumble and truffle. Both dishes were surprisingly simple but tasted incredible. They were so good I went back to compliment the chef, who told me he didn’t see gastronomy as a science, but rather as a labour of love.
La Truffe Noire was my destination for dessert – a Gianduja chocolate dome with roasted hazelnuts and a raspberry, mango and passionfruit coulis. While it was a fine dessert, the indifferent service at the stand was reflected on the plate, depriving it of any wow factor. A small let-down, but nothing another glass of Bordeaux wine couldn’t fix!
My food strategy for the festival was to sample each of the different burgers on offer. My first pick was the Hard Rock Cafe hamburger with the lot – bacon, egg and cheese. I was surprised by how good it was. The only thing missing from the menu was fries, but luckily Brasserie Rose had frites cornets to fill the void. When I saw Bec’s fancy dishes I deviated from my burger strategy and tried Kwint’s salmon ceviche. I was impressed by the chef’s passion for this dish as he described it to me, and the tasting did not disappoint.
During a quick exploration of the food stalls selling a range of condiments, meats, cheeses and sweets in the Artisan Village, we unwittingly sampled some dried crickets which had been paired with dark chocolate. Although this left a niggling feeling in the back of my throat, I couldn’t resist another try and tasted some whole crickets in a thai stirfry – it was delicious.
Since our wine passes included a bonus glass of Duvel beer, we finished the evening at the Duvel stand where we met Didier behind the bar. When I asked him about dark beer he told us about a beer degustation that they were offering but which had received very little interest during the festival, and proceeded to offer us both a complimentary beer degustation which was completely unexpected and made us the envy of the rest of the crowd gathered at Duvel (thanks Didier)!
First was a glass of Liefmans Goudenband, a dark brown sour beer paired with a creamy Caprichos de la Pastora cheese made from sheep’s milk. Next was the Liefmans Kriek Brut, a cherry fruit beer served with a tender prosciutto that was sliced right in front of us and melted in the mouth. Last but not least was the classic Duvel Golden Ale paired with a pungent and crumbly hard cheese. As we left the festival we passed by the O Liban food stand where I couldn’t resist stopping for a chawarma sandwich. It was just the thing I needed after a day of good wine and beer.
Eat! Brussels, Drink! Bordeaux
Parc de Bruxelles, 1000 Brussels