Weekend Guide | 36 hours in Belgium

Weekend Guide | 36 hours in Belgium
IMG_2114Belgium is one of those hidden gems that often gets (rudely) overlooked by its more popular neighbors- France, Netherlands and Germany. Considering Belgium’s central location, it’s an ideal location to swing through and stay for a 3-5 day trip. I managed to convince my parents to visit over Thanksgiving break for my mom’s birthday. In their honor- and because I’m craving some frites right now- I wanted to share a very quick (read: RUSHED!) overview of my most recent trip to Bruges & Ghent. I hope you enjoy.
– Aheli
Belgium 101
Location: Nestled between France, the Netherlands, and Germany, Belgium is the perfect central location- make it your primary stay or a pip-stop during a European adventure. An ideal stay, in my opinion is about 3-5 days.
Currency: Euro (€)
Language: There are three official languages: French, Dutch and German. Please note that language (and national identity) are a sensitive subject. In the North (Flanders), residents typically speak Flemish (Dutch). In the South (Wallonia), residents speak French. In a small section of the east, residents speak German. To avoid, offending anyone, it’s best to stick to English. And also read up on this history before you go…just to be well informed.
Electric: Type C two-prong plug
Weather: Temperate, though make sure to bring a jacket if you’re traveling in the winter months. That means you, Dad!
Transportation: Within the major cities— Brussels, Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp- you can easily walk from place to place. Between cities, you can easily and unexpectedly travel via train.
Deciding Where to Go:
I’ve only been to three places- Brussels, Bruges and Ghent in Belgium and I’d recommend them all. Brussels, being the capital, has a lot to offer.  Bruges (Dutch) or Brugge (French) is one of my favorite cities. This charming UNESCO World Heritage site is filled with cobble-stone alleys, picturesque canals and the most quintessential market squares. It honestly looks like it came out of the set of a medieval fairy tale. Ghent is equally charming- but is much larger and cosmopolitan.
Where We Stayed: 
We opted to stay in the most charming medieval hotel the Hotel Ter Brughe.  Seriously, our room overlooked a bridge, canal and a tree that looked like it was painted.
Where We Stayed:
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Things I Ate & Liked in: (Bruges)
  • We had a wonderful Vlaamsche Stooflees (flemish stew) at ’t Gezelleke
  • The best beer — and I say this as a none beer drinker— was the house beer at the Staminee de Garre  Warning: it does look like you are breaking into a private courtyard. There are no signs at all.
  • The waffles at Chez Albert are completely instagram worthy
  • If you need a fancy dinner, try the Park Restaurant.
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Franz* in front of ’t Gezelleke
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G and the best Vlaamsche Stooflees
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Waffles from Chez Albert
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Fancy Birthday Dinner at the Park
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Things We Ate (& Did) in Ghent
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Postscript: I know G is reading this and shaking his head because I named Franz post trip. I tried to convince him that all cars- see Lord Dashell of Steph and my UK+ Ireland Road Trip— need names but he was not convinced. Also, I was tired and not creative.

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the book mark | five books for foodies

the book mark | five books for foodies

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Given that 99.9% of this blog is devoted to food, I’m not sure why it took me four months to put together a list of my favorite food related books. But ce la vie. This month, in preparation for Thanksgiving, I wanted to share my favorite food related books. I’ve only included one cookbook- mostly because I really completely rely on the internet of food things* for all my recipes. Hopefully you’ll be culinary inspired. or Hungry. There is a high chance that you will be hungry after reading any of these books.

Side note: My parents and G+I are traveling (separately) over Thanksgiving, so we’re throwing a Friendsgiving at my parent’s place this weekend. So far the guest list is 25 people, including Steph!– so stay tuned for a post on how the party turned out. My parents have planned the menu so I’m in charge of green beans and snacks. (They let me handle the most important stuff obviously.) Let me know in the comments how you celebrate!

-A

 

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1. Truffle Boy by Ian Purkayastha

Yes, this book already made the list but it’s that good.

Truffle Boy covers Ian Purkayastha’s journey with exotic food- from his first taste of truffles (age 15 in rural Arkansas) to his high stakes dealings with truffle kingpins in Serbia, meth-head foragers in Oregon, crooked businessman and maniacal chefs in Manhattan, gypsy truffle hunters in the Hungarian forests and a supreme adventure to find “Gucci” mushrooms in the Himalayan foothills.

Read When: You’ve run out of Chef’s Table episodes on Netflix and want to know about how those chefs get those exotic truffles and want to impress others with your identifying fake Wagyu beef.

Read with: The best whisky or scotch you have. It will be worth it.

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2. Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure amoung the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists who taught me to live for Taste by Bianca Bosker

Bianca Bosker traded her job writing about tech companies to throw herself headfirst in wine- tasting, smelling, studying, and stalking hanging out with other sommeliers. Cork Dork chronicles her self-designed wine immersion- from working as a cellar rat in a top New York City restaurant, joining exclusive blind tasting clubs and bagging a TopSomm guest judge spot.  As a result, this book is a delightful blend of science, memoir and encounters with people who are deadly serious about wine.

Read When: You want to know what the big deal is between a $20 and $200 bottle of wine.

Read with: Wine. Obviously.

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3. Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl

In 1993, Ruth Reichl became the most influential person in the New York food scene- the New York Times food critic. Garlic and Saphires chronicles Reichl’s ten year stint with the Times, and her effort to bring good food to the masses.  Reichl disguises herself with wigs, make-up, clothing and personas to avoid being recognized and avoid any red carpet treatment that might unduly influence her reviews. The result is a smart and witty reflection about American national identity, the relationship to food, and the concepts of service, status and privilege.

Read When: You want to be a NYT food critic but don’t know what it entails

Read with: a full stomach

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4. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

The book begins at a four hour lunch on New Years Day.  In this charming and warm memoir, Peter Mayle chronicles the details of his first year living in the remote French countryside of the Lubéron with his wife and two large dogs. The pages are peppered with hilarious accounts of eating outside during the chilly mistral, exposing a frozen baguette ring (sacrelig!) to using pigs to uncover the prize black Périgord truffles.  Mayle’s descriptions of his neighbors, laborers, markets and restaurants make this an especially fun weekend or holiday read.

Read When: You want food and wanderlust

Read with: Cheese, fresh baguettes and a good glass of wine.

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5. Cravings by  Chrissy Tiegen

And lastly, the only cookbook I’ve ever loved and wanted to actually recommend. Chrissy Tiegen truly makes food you want to eat. So far I’ve made her pork stuffed cucumber soup, chili garlic sauce, lettuce wraps, actual drunk noodles, Gaucamole, and chicken grapow. The best thing is Tiegen covers a mix of recipes from healthy salads (she is a swimsuit model) to absolutely decadent junk food. This book has a recipe for every occasion.

Read When: You’re hosting Friendsgiving

Read with: You need a fun and refreshing and actually useful cookbook.

*this is a totally nerdy thing from my industry. Bonus points to you if you know what the internet of things is. But for real- I rely mostly on Pinterest and buzzfeed for my recipes.

Pork Stuffed Cucumber Soup

Pork Stuffed Cucumber Soup
We all know that Chrissy Teigen is the undisputed queen of the Internet, but did you also know that she’s a super talented Chef. Normally, I’m not a huge fan of cookbooks- hey, I started cooking in the age of Pinterest— but when Chrissy announced- Cravings: Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat— I knew I needed to read it.
And… drumroll please…it’s wonderful. From her chili-garlic oil (TO DIE FOR!), John’s Chicken & Waffles recipes to all her mother’s Thai-inspired recipes, You’ll find something for you. A couple months ago (!), G and I tried her mother’s Pork Stuffed Cucumber Soup, and I thought I’d share our results. It’s a perfect soup for when you need something light and filling. The best part is that you can re-use the mix as a topping for zoodles or a simple stir-fry. I hope you enjoy.
– A
Pork Stuffed Cucumber Soup
Adapted from Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings 
 
Serves 4
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Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1/4 cup light soy sauce
  • 10 cloves of garlic, mashed or minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon grand black pepper
  • 5 large cucumbers
  • 3 chicken bouillon cubes or 3 cups of chicken  stock
  • 1/4 cup of thinly sliced scallions
  • 1 bunch of mushrooms (honshimeji mushrooms, shiitakes, sliced white mushrooms)
  • Chili flakes/ chili garlic sauce
 
Tools:
  • Mixing bowl
  • Veggie Peeler
  • Knife
  • Measuring spoon, melon ball peeler or pineapple corer
  • Large Pot
 
Steps:
1. Mix pork, soy sauce, garlic, chili flakes and pepper. Use your hands for optimal mixing (and fun).
2. Peel and halve cucumbers. Use the spoon to hollow cylinder and remove seeds. Pack each tube with the pork mixture, spooning it in a little at a time to avoid air pockets*
3. In a large Dutch oven or wide soup pot combine 12 cups of water and bouillon cubes. If you are using chicken stock, boil 9 cups of water. Add stuffed cucumbers to pot and reduce heat to a low simmer. Let cucumbers cook for 30 mins. Then add, mushrooms and cook for another 15 minutes.
4. Serve in bowls with a garnish of scallions and some chili garlic sauce.
* There will be leftover pork mixture. I recommend pan frying and serving the next day onto of zoodles.

Summer Salads: Cilantro Lime Jalapeño Vinaigrette Edition

Summer Salads: Cilantro Lime Jalapeño Vinaigrette Edition
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Cilantro Lime Jalapeño Vinaigrette
Inspired by sweetgreen‘s Guacamole Greens salad 
For those of you unlucky enough not to live within a 30 minute  radius* of a sweetgreen, I’m here to tell you that you are missing out. They make some of the best salads, that I consistently pay between $10-$15 for (aka WAY to much), but I’m addicted. Back in the day, G used to live a block from a sweetgreen. Every weekend, without fail, I’d dream about picking up one of their Guacamole Greens. Usually, we’d end up at the nearest ramen place…but that’s a whole different story. The Guacamole Green has the absolute best dressing I’ve ever tasted. It’s so good, I actually don’t care what salad ingredients are underneath. One day, while eating another lackluster, homemade salad, I thought to myself “I wish I could just bottle up that sweetgreen salad dressing” which of course led to a much too long Pinterest and google hole.  I tried five different variations of this salad dressing, and I finally found it. TRY IMMEDIATELY and than thank me. Or better yet, just get over to your nearest sweetgreen.
*Yes, I think driving/walking 30 minutes to get this salad is worth it.

Ingredients:

Dressing:
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeeze lime juice (1 1/2 lime worths)
  • 1/4 packed fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 medium sized jalapeño pepper, finely chopped (keep some seeds for some extra spice)
  • 1/4 cup avocado, grapeseed or other neutral oil (no olive oil!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Salad Ingredients:
  • Green leaves (Mesclun, Spinach etc)
  • Roasted Corn
  • Finely diced onion
  • Grape Tomatoes
  • Roasted Red Peppers
  • Avocado
 
Tools:
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Blender or Food Processor
  • Mason Jar
  • Sharp Knife
  • Lime Squeezer (optional, but so fun)
 
Steps:
  1. Prepare Vinaigrette: Combine all ingredients in a blender, or small food processor bowl. Puree or pulse ingredients together, until mixture just begins to come together, and cilantro is still finely chopped. Set aside in a small container. Shake before using.
  2. In a large bowl, place all the salad ingredients. the cooked chicken, halved tomatoes, diced red onion, crushed tortilla chips, avocado, and mixed spring greens. Squeeze the wedge of lime over the salad, then toss the salad lightly with lime cilantro jalapeño vinaigrette. Serve immediately.

 

Life Lately – October Edition

Life Lately – October Edition
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Photo by: Yasin Erdal

Greetings from chilly San Francisco- where I’m currently resting in between back to back conferences in Phoenix and Minneapolis. These past four er five weeks have been a wonderful mix of work and relaxation. The calm before the storm as they say. I wanted to continue my Life Lately series with a special Fall/Halloween themed post. Let me know what your favorite Halloween activities are! – A

 

Currently Eating: Lorenzo‘s Turkey BLT on Dutch Crunch with extra Garlic Oil . Not halloween or fall themed, but I just landed in SF sooooo #sorrynotsorry

Currently Craving: Ghost Pretzels. PLEASE someone makes these for me.

Currently Drinking: Domaine Economou Oikonomoi Liatiko 2006.

Currently Reading:  Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Currently Recommending: Any of these scary books. Especially Rebecca.

Currently Watching: Mindset followed by Halloween Wars.

Currently Making: Apple Turnovers ;)

Currently listening to: My Favorite MurderStay sexy. Don’t get murdered.

Currently loving: The Vixen Workout 

Currently visiting: Fishkill Farms because apple picking.

Currently reminiscing about: Sleepy Hallow. My first time there and I want to go back.

Currently traveling through: SF for the weekend to celebrate my BOF – best of friendssss— Jo’s 30th birthday. Then onto Minneapolis.

Currently looking forward to: Thanksgiving. Because it’s never too early to start planing your eating strategy.

Recap from the blog:

  • It’s Diwali time. So learn how I celebrate another fun holiday- Durga Puja.
  • Did you just go apple picking and need a quick, fool proof recipe?
  • Curl up with these scary books
  • Hack your carry-on with these travel tips

Hot crossed…Apple Turnovers?

Hot crossed…Apple Turnovers?

As you know, G + I migrated up to Fishkill, NYC with the other Brooklyn couples to fulfill what Instagram tells me is a very basic Fall couple activity. Now, we’re not huge apple people (G specifically picked Fishkill Farms, because you could pick your own vegetables and listen to live music)… so color me surprised when we left the apple orchard with a bag full of apples. Of course I had to hop on Pinterest to figure out what to DO with the apples….and found this gem of a recipe from the Blog Cook. I am no baker (as well as know!), but this recipe took twenty minutes and was SO TASTY. If you’re heading into apple land and looking for something to do with the delicious excess, try this.  – A

 

Apple Turnovers

Prep Time: 15 Minutes | Cook Time: 10 Minutes | Total Time: 30 minutes

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Roll, bake and Enjoy!

Ingredients: 

  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon apple pie spice, and additional apple pie spice (about ¼ teaspoon) for sprinkling on top of crescent rolls
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • ⅓ cup chopped pecans
  • 1 small Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced into 8 (1/2-inch) slices
  • 1 (8-ounce) can Pillsbury Original crescent rolls

Apple Pie Spice

  • 1.5 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1.5 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon allspice

Tools:

  • Oven
  • Baking Sheet
  • Parchment Paper
  • Small Bowl for mixing
  • Small bowl for melting butter
  • Brush (Optional)

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven to 375 °F degrees.
  2. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and apple pie spice and set aside.
  3. Slice apple so they are about 1/8 inch thick. Do not peel the apples!
  4. Melt butter in microwave (5-10 secs) at a time, depending on how strong your microwave is. Leave butter bowl in the microwave.
  5. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and Arrange crescent roll triangles on baking sheet. Evenly distribute brown sugar mixture onto each triangle. Add chopped pecans.
  6. Remove butter from the microwave and toss Apple slices in melted butter. Place apple slice on the wide end of each triangle. Wrap crescent roll dough around each apple.
  7. Brush each crescent roll with remaining butter. Sprinkle lightly with additional addle pie spice.
  8. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

 

 

“A” is for Apple Picking

“A” is for Apple Picking

 

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Over the weekend, G and I ventured out of the city to the spacious apple orchards of Fishkill, NY. Surrounded by the other “leaf peepers”, we did the most quintessianal basic couple activity around- took Instagram-worthy photos of us picking apples. Now G spent a long time researching different apple orchards within a 2 hour drive of NYC, and landed on Fishkill Farms. It’s a wonderful small scale sustainable farm and apple orchard. Seriously, they have FIELDS of eco-certified apples that won’t leave your mouth tingling from chemical pesticides. From now until Oct 29, they are running a Fall Harvest festival with apple picking, fresh apple cider donuts, live music, wagon rides, a corn maze and fresh (hard) cider tastings. G and I weren’t actually into apple picking (don’t let the staged photos fool you), but we drawn into the live music, super fancy food truck (hello, truffle fries!), and the PYOV, where we picked as many cherry tomatoes as our hands could carry. It was such a wonderful day trip, complete with a dinner stop in Sleepy Hallow for the ultimate Fall festival. Enjoy the apple-related recipe, coming soon. – A

Quick Stats:

Fishkill Farms

9 Fishkill Farm Road, Hopewell Jct, NY 12533 (around 2 hrs from Brooklyn)

Fishkillfarms.com

Admission: $5 per person (Kids, CSA & Farm Members Free)

PYO | 9am-5pm (entrance closes at 5PM).

 

 

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