Wednesday, July 20, 2011

French Cuisine with Less Attitude

Robert, Marcel and Bart
by contributor Brendan Kownacki

It was about more than just food as a cultured crowd gathered at the residence of the Belgian Ambassador on Tuesday evening to celebrate Belgian restaurant week in the run up to Belgium’s Independence Day on July 21st.

Guests were treated to an array of traditional Belgian flavors and refined dishes from Belgian restaurants across the D.C. area including Belga Café, Granville Moore’s, Marcel’s, and Et Voila!, with the team of chefs joined by chef Jan Van Haute of the Belgian Embassy.

 Lobster salad, salsify, raspberry Lambic dressing served with Piraat ale
Chef Van Haute shared that Belgian cuisine is a special one; “the French cook with wine, and we cook with beer.”, he said, referring to the importance of Belgium’s beer in their meals, both for pairing as well as an ingredient in the creation of stews and sauces. “It’s like French cuisine with German portions,” he quipped. Chef Bart Vandaele of Belga Café added that Belgian food is similar in style to French food, but with “less attitude. 

Hay smoked mussels, heirloom tomato salad served with Premium St. Louis
Ambassador Jan Matthysen greeted guests throughout the residence and thanked everyone in brief remarks before dinner, proclaiming love for his native land and explaining that Belgium “is on the friction lines in Europe and we picked the best from all our neighbors and added a little something ourselves” –explaining the diverse cultural and culinary history of the country.

Straffe Hendrik Quadruple Ale chocolate caramel cake served with Straffe
Dinner was a relaxed affair that included lobster, mussels and venison as well as beer pairings with each course to truly highlight the tastes of Belgium. Attitude or not, each dish certainly transported everyone off to thoughts of the European countryside.