January 18, 2010
Living in Leuven
I say the transition has been easy mostly because Karl was here for at least one month previously, and secondly, the Belgians are some of the friendliest and nicest people. They aren't snooty about the language, they speak English so it's easy to communicate with them, they are more than helpful when you act like an American foreigner - I mean Belgians are like the Southerners of Europe. Overall, people have been polite and nice to us.
Back to the patisserie lady...across the street from our apartment is a patisserie and bakery. They have amazing pastries, tarts, cakes, breads, infused oils, and lovely chocolates. This week we bought some multi grain bread, 7 grain bread (that came out of a vending machine once the bakery had shut down), plum croissants, and a chocolate and vanilla cream croissant. You can buy 2 wonderful pastries for under 2 bucks. This may be the bain of my existence and waistline.
One block over is a grocery store called GB Carrafour. It's similar to a Kroger's or Harris Teeter. They have a decent produce section, and a great dairy section. Which sucks for me being a lactard and all. I think they had half of aisle just dedicated to butter! I bought some full-fat European yogurt, and chocolate mousse - both divine. They had ready prepared Meditterranean and Thai food. Since most of the labels are in Dutch or French it is a bit harder to decipher the ingredients or preparation methods. I think "bio" means organic. Eggs are in containers of 4, 6, and 12 and are on the shelf. Haven't bought much else other than some cheese, and soymilk, canned tomatoes and beans, and kitty food and litter. The nutrition labeling system is fairly easy to understand. It is made up of a bunch of highlighted circles which highlight fat, carbs, and protein, sodium and vitamin and mineral content. I bought a bag of frozen soup vegetables, and this mix included onions, parsnips, cauliflower, peas, green beans, carrots, and leeks a definite step up from frozen peas and carrots. It could at least make a decent mire-poix. Also there is some potted herbs including parsley, basil and catnip. I saved two cans to pot them in. The first being, of course, basil - and the other catnip for Dudley!
Belgian waffles are something unclassifiable. Steaming hot, cake-like, but soft as a pancake, with caramelized sugar coating the outside? Drool. I am not surprised that I wasn't a huge fan of the oversized ones dripping with corn-syrup varieties back in the states.
What good would the first week of living here be if we didn't partake in Belgian beers? Thus far I have had Dekonick, a generic grocery store brand Carrefour Gueuze, Westmalle dubbel, Gueuze Girardian, and Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus, Duvel, and a Kriek MAX. The Cantillon Rose and the Kriek MAX have been my two faves thus far. The Westmalle is just delicious. I think we are making it our goal to visit at least 1 brewery per month here. I think the first will be a trek to Cantillon in Brussels. Of course, InBev is located in Leuven, so Stella Artois is everywhere. Come and visit us!
Next up are Belgian Frites. They are ubiquitous and delicious. I haven't had them out of a cone yet, but I have had them with almost 4-5 meals so far. We had them along with a fried veggie burger with curry sauce.
We tried our hand at some Belgian cuisine at a place called the Nachtuil sp? (night owl), and tried some amazing croquettes (of course served with frites!), and a tomato stuffed with nordsee shrimp. The meal was rounded out with plenty of frites, bread and drinks.
Other meals included some quattro formaggio pizza, a vegetarian Indian thali complete with mango kulfi and some hot samosas! It seems like our first introduction to lovely Leuven is all about good food, which is something that I could easily adjust to!
more on gardens, composting, and recycling later....