This was a Sunday for food.
I have been waiting far too long for a great meal out. That’s the only annoying part (and simultaneously a great part) about the home stay — you eat with the family five days a week and are frequently traveling or trying to be frugal on the weekends.
Today was not a day for frugality, but thanks to massive Belgian portions, it ended up being entirely affordable.
We started on a mission for “the best” frites in Brussels. According to a multitude of guidebooks AND locals, they’re at Maison Antoine, a snack stand in the middle of the cute Place Jourdan near the EU area. There was a long line at about 2:30 p.m., and it stayed long for the hour we were there. There were obvious tourists in line snapping pictures all around, and some loud Australian men that thought their attempts at French (“sauce speciale”) were quite good, but there were certainly Belgians too. After a 30-minute wait, we got our cone of frites covered in andalouse — a familiar sight by now — and dove in.
Are they best? Hard to say, and it’s even harder to find less than delicious frites in Brussels. But they were damn good, and probably the crispiest frites we’ve come across yet. So if you’re into that sort of thing, for under 3 euro, Maison Antoine is your snack shack.
For dinner, we set off to find some not-outrageously-priced moules-frites. Mussels are famous in Brussels, and if we’re going to be touristy and hunt down mussels at a semi-touristy place, we might as well do it relatively early in our trip.
So after hours of research, we landed on ‘T Kelderke, which is actually located on the Grand Place. Talk about touristy! But it’s a little off the radar as it’s actually underground, in an oh-so-charming ancient cellar. The low brick ceilings and community tables were packed with tourists, we’re sure, but the place didn’t feel touristy. And that’s what counts, right?
We managed to snag the last open table and between four people, we feasted on mussels with beer, mussels meuniere and stoemp.
Stoemp is a traditional Belgian potato dish. Think thinned-out smashed potatoes with root vegetables and bacon, and in this case, with two fried eggs on top. Rural and comforting.
Meanwhile, the mussels were comforting and classy. The difference between the mussels with beer and mussels meuniere was negligible, but every enormous mussel melted in our mouths as we giggled with glee.
Naturally, the mussels came with frites and mayonnaise. And we were given spoons to slurp the juice at the bottom.
And unlike in American restaurants, where you get a mini fork for the mussels, some Belgians actually use the mussels as utensils. Picture it: you use a fork to get your first mussel out of its shell. Then, pick up that empty shell to fish the flesh out of the next mussel. Can you picture it?
Maybe imagine it this way: You have an empty mussels shell in one hand and an uneaten one in the other hand. You play with them as if their puppets. Then you have them kiss, and then…
And then we had dessert.
We asked our waiter what his favorite dessert was, and he enthusiastically said the Dame Blanche. Basically, it was a hot fudge sundae. But it was with Belgian hot fudge, which made it fantastic.
What really amazed us though was the Kriek Sorbet. Based on the wording on the menu, we thought it was going to be sorbet with Kriek (a Belgian cherry beer) poured on top. I love a good sorbet-champagne combo at home, so the idea of using beer was mind blowing. However, this was not the case. It was actually Kriek Sorbet. As each of us took our first bites, our facial expressions changed and we put down our spoons. Then we eagerly picked them up again.
The best part? Since we did the whole splitzies thing, we each ended up paying about 22 euro — far less than we expected since just one plate of mussels is 22 euro. I dare say that I can afford to do this on a weekly basis.