Posts Tagged ‘dining’

Best of Bruges II

June 2, 2011


Bruges Markt Square - behind these lovely facades lay retail opportunities

(Miss a post?  Read the Best of Bruges Part I first!)

The ETs thoroughly enjoyed Belgian hospitality in the medieval city of Bruges.  In spite of a light rain and a disappointing hotel, we saw, we ate, we conquered.  As we mentioned in our last post, Bruges was a city of surprises which, except for the hotel, were exceedingly good.

Our second day was sunny and perfect for a canal tour by boat.  It’s very close quarters and potentially lethal for tall people every time a bridge approaches, but we had a fine time afloat and highly recommend it. 

Basilica of the Holy Blood off Burg Square. The ETs were surprised to be present for the veneration.

Our next stop was the Basilica of the Holy Blood on Burg Square.  It was a complete surprise to learn that a vial of the Blood of Christ would be on view during our visit!

The Holy Blood relic that we so much want you to see (Photo by Matt Hopkins, Wiki Commons)

Timing is everything, and the ETs lined up to venerate.  The relic is encased in a rock crystal vial, inside a glass tube with gold crown-shaped ends. The rock crystal is cut in a manner typical of 12th century Constantinople, which supports the story that it was given to Count of Flanders Diederik van de Elzas after the Crusaders sacked Constantinople in 1204.  That gives the ETs just one degree of separation from a crusader siege. 

Bisquick and a waffle iron doth not a Belgian waffle make

After the visit to the Basilica and our adventures on the high seas of Bruge canals, we deserved a treat.  The ETs vowed not to cross the border without tasting an authentic Belgian waffle.  The Verdi Tea Room was the perfect venue for our cross-cultural plans.  Although the room was decorated with tiny busts of Viennese composers, the food was purely local. 

The ETs formally attest that Belgian waffles bear no resemblence to the thick, doughy “syrup conveyances” served in diners throughout the US.  The real thing is thin and crunchy with a soft, fragrant interior.  Unsalted butter and a dusting of powdered sugar is all that’s needed.  Bruges really is full of surprises.

Pheasant “sans glass” was just perfect

And while we’re on the sacred subject of food, I must mention that we gleefully returned to Bierbrasserie Cambrinus so Nurse could have the croquettes again. This time I surprised myself and tried pheasant, which was excellent.  Of course we ordered more beers and  impressed our hosts by reciting the legislative powers of the Belgian Federal Parliament.

Windowshopping for Belgian chocolate is another "must do" in Bruges

 After saying a heartfelt goodbye to our new best friends at the bierbrasserie, we needed air.    The storefronts that aren’t selling lace or more beer belong to chocolate.  We chose the Maison du Chocolat which excelled at everything from the basic chocolate square to truffles and marzipan.

Walking-shopping in Bruges is a delight

The final surprise in Bruges was an Italian wine product called Fernet Branca.  We both loved the hillarious book Cooking with Fernet Branca by James Hamilton-Paterson.  So when we saw it on a cafe menu in Bruges, it was destiny. 

Fernet Branca. The eagle is dropping the deadly spirit into the glasses of unsuspecting ETs (Morten Oddvik, WikiCommons)

Our waiter pleaded with us to try anything else on the menu, and only agreed to serve the mysterious Fernet-B.  if he brought us a “sample” first.  Belgians are a proud and caring people, and he stayed at our side while we took our first sips.  The ETs survived, thanks to the ministrations of that waiter, and now they bring this message to the world; Fernet Branca can kill.  If you want to swallow tongues of  fire that taste like paint thinner, then Fernet-B is for you. 

The Provincial Hoff in Markt Square, flying the flags to mark our unprecedented consumption of beer.

We are ready to return to Bruges as soon as we’re allowed to go back.  It is a remarkable and beautiful city that is, indeed, full of surprises.  If you get there before we do, please tell the folks at the Bierbrasserie that The ETs miss them, and stop by to admire the Fernet-B waiter’s Cross of Valor.

Entre nous: An affordable feast at Le Felteu

January 26, 2011

Welcome to Le Felteu. The ETs were surprised at what they found behind this rough facade. Photo:

The Experienced Travelers take heart that Parisian dining isn’t all “oh la la” and chi-chi.  Casual, affordable meals abound.  You just need a knowledgable friend to whisper a coveted address, and your evening will be made. Thanks to a friend of Nurse’s, we got insider access to Le Felteu in the Marais.  Two years later, the memory is fresh and we’re still full.  Judging from recent online reviews, the secret is out.

The ETs were unprepared for what they found;   A neighborhood bar and grill serving excellent food under the direction of a French Harley-guy named Jerry.  The dining room décor of faded wallpaper and decorative plates was more “early VFW post” than Parisian bistro.  But we sensed a happy camaraderie among the banquettes and everything smelled awfully good.

In record time, the blackboard arrived listing the day’s menu. I ordered the house specialty – lamb – and Nurse seized the opportunity to have strange parts and organs in sauce.  The dining room buzzed with animated discussion while waiters effortlessly moved between crowded tables with corkscrews, bottles and plates.  Le Felteu was looking like a good bet.

After the heightening effects of the house red wine, we greeted our neighbors – a friendly young man from New Jersey living in Paris, who brought his visiting mother for an authentic meal.  Mother insisted she wasn’t going to drink. While the ETs speculated about a strange New Jersey code of behavior that forbade French wine, NJ Guy forsook his homeland and ordered a pichet.  The ETs glanced around the wine-infused room and quietly bet dessert on how long Mother would last.

Alors, cityoens! Maman's baguette slicer will deter unrest in the dining room

Over the din we heard a series of repetitive thuds.  (In France, “chop-chop” can be cause for concern. Fortunately the ETs are solidly middle class.) We turned to watch Jerry’s maman deftly apply a revolutionary-era guillotine to a stack of unlucky baguettes. It was understood that maman would be unquestionably obeyed.

The splendid salad with chevre --- before... Photo:

While we enjoyed the fruits of maman’s labor, a gargantuan salad with warmed chevre on toasted croutons and a stunning plate of smoked salmon arrived.  These were serious man-sized dishes of hearty food.  The ETs practice Strategic Eating, but our efforts didn’t dent the portions.  The only sensible tactic was to spread the wealth to NJ Guy and Mother. 

Bottoms Up! Mother reconsiders

It was then that we noticed her glass of wine, and planned to leave room for dessert.

Despite our best efforts, this is as much damage as we could inflict without straying from the Strategic Eating guidelines.

We were still dizzy with joy from the entrees when our plats arrived. 

"How can I possibly eat all this!"

 My lamb chops were beautiful – and plentiful. 

Nurse's dish of stuff and parts in a fragrant sauce

Nurse’s large dish of kidneys and vegetables swam in their sauce. 

The crowning glory: Potatoes Gratin that we fondly recall 2 years later

But the coup de grace was an entire casserole of potatoes gratin that was perfectly browned on top and running with rich cheese just below the surface.  There are times when only a man will do – and this was one of  them.  The ETs fed half their dinners to NJ Guy.  He got one of my lamb chops, a heaping helping of the potatoes and some of Nurse’s parts.  It was gratifying to watch this slender young man devour his meal and ours too.

By now, it was clear that the Strategic Eating guidelines ruled out dessert.  Which was a pity, because the huge bowls of crème broulee that passed our table looked perfect.  The miracle of Le Felteu is that we enjoyed this for just €27 each and we wouldn’t need to eat the entire next day, resulting in approximately €85 in Found Money to spend on perfume. 

And before the evening was over, we got another insider recommendation from NJ Guy who told us that Restaurant Paul Bert served the best steak-frites in town.  That, dear Readership, is how it’s done in Paris.

 Le Felteu 15 rue Pecquay Paris 04 Tel: Email:  M. Rambuteau Don’t think of going without reservations

Special thanks to for letting me use a couple of photos.  Follow the link to read their review of Le Felteu!

"Oui, maman!"

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