a biddie in belgium (ch-ch-changes)

It would be an understatement to say a lot has happened in my life since my last post. In the span of two months, I traveled to London (again); got engaged to the man of my dreams; graduated from college; landed an internship at Food & Wine; moved to New York City; went to London another time, then to Brussels, then back to NYC; and finally, started planning a wedding. My own wedding. In London. (Cue high-pitched girlish shrieks.)

Perhaps the only thing that has been consistent recently is my lack of blogging… but today I am going to change that, too.

I figure a good place to start is with my recent trip to Europe. As a graduation celebration, I went with my fiancé, Leo, and two of our friends to Rock Werchter, a music festival in a little village in Belgium. We camped out, drank a lot of beer, ate a lot of deep-fried spring rolls, and saw a lot of amazing musicians be amazing. (Note: I have never before in my life fangirled as hard as I did when Death Cab for Cutie played Soul Meets Body.)

photo by the beautiful and talented laura wilson
photo by the beautiful and talented laura wilson

However, after four days of not showering, sleeping in hot tents, and consuming most of our liquid in alcohol form, we were ready to say goodbye to the festival lifestyle. (I would not describe myself as, how do you call it, “outdoorsy.”) We decided to spend our last night in a hostel in Brussels so that we could clean ourselves and take in as many Belgian delights as possible in 24 hours.

I must say, one day is not a lot of time to spend in any city, but I think we did well for ourselves. Our adventure began, naturally, with food. We found the sweetest café called the Pepper Mint Tea Room and spent some time there recovering from our journey from Werchter to Brussels.

the pepper mint tea room's all-too-adorable counter
the pepper mint tea room’s all-too-adorable counter

Here I would like to take a minute to discuss one of my favorite things about Belgium: the abundance of Speculoos cookies. Everywhere we went, these deliciously buttery, spicy shortbreads tempted us in different forms and flavor combinations: Speculoos butters, chocolate bark with Speculoos crumbs, chocolate-covered Speculoos, chocolate Speculoos buttercups… the list goes on. I have been a huge fan of all things Speculoos for quite some time. I have spent many an evening with a spoon in one hand and a jar of Trader Joe’s infamous Cookie Butter in the other. And Ben and Jerry’s unbelievably addictive Spectacular Speculoos Cookie Core Ice Cream doesn’t last more than a day in my freezer. Let’s just say I was pleased with the Belgian affinity for Speculoos.

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At the Pepper Mint Tea Room I discovered one of the best uses of Speculoos I’ve ever encountered. The beautiful people at Pepper Mint made a pie crust with the cookies, filled it with a not-overly-sweet raspberry jam, and topped it with a light, fluffy, meringue-like cream and raspberry syrup. Now I am not naïve; I know that Speculoos cookie crusts have been done before. But this crust was so moist and delightful when paired with the tartness of the raspberries that I could only describe Pepper Mint Tea Room’s version as groundbreaking. My caffeine-deprived soul was pretty enamored with the cappuccino, as well, and my über-British fiancé was really excited about the café’s extensive tea collection.

We knew we couldn’t hang out in Brussels without experiencing some of its renowned high-percentage Belgian beer, so we made our way to the Delirium Café next. I fear I tried so many that I can’t remember which one to recommend… I guess I suggest that you do the same!

For dinner, we went to a restaurant called Houtsiplou that Leo had been to before. He enjoyed it so much the first time that he wanted to go back again, and after our meal I could see why. The mix of traditional and modern fare was a perfect introduction to Belgian cuisine. We tried beignets, salmon tartare, duck breast with cherries, and lamb, and all were—ahem—ON POINT. We dined al fresco with plentiful amounts of red and white wine, which only enhanced the experience.

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photo by laura wilson
photo by laura wilson

The rest of our time in Brussels included (at least) two more trips to Delirium, an evening laying in the Grand Place, another lovely café experience, lots of chocolate and honey shopping, and an unexpected Korean barbecue lunch that ended up being a highlight of the trip.

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All in all, I would implore anyone traveling to Brussels to relax. To me, the city seems to be one in which it’s easy to take a stroll, have a drink (or three), and play things by ear. The one thing I would have done differently? Smuggle a jar of cookie butter back to the States.

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