A couple of weeks ago, Laura and I visited Belgium for the very first time, and I wanted to share with you three simple food-related tips for navigating this wonderful country:
1) Drink beer,
2) Eat chocolate,
And most importantly:
3) If you see the words "à volonté" written outside a restaurant, go in.
Just as the four greatest words in the English language are "all you can eat," the two greatest words in, uh, Walloon are "à volonté." And the greatest culinary experience we had in Belgium, and indeed the greatest all-you-can-eat experience I'll ever have in my entire life (that is, until somebody invents all-you-can-eat dark chocolate) was at a little restaurant in Ghent called Amadeus.
We're not talking an overcooked $6.95 Chinese buffet here. This restaurant sold ribs--barbecued ribs--that were as good as anything I've had in the American south. And they kept bringing more, and more... and more.
I wanted to grab the waiter by the shirt and tell him that he lived in paradise, but I was unable to get out of my chair.
And then came dessert. I had a spectacular chocolate mousse that was as good as Paul Prudhomme's recipe, and Laura and our Belgian friend had the coupe dame blanche, which we call in American an "ice cream sundae." Only it sounds even more delicious in French, doesn't it?
You can't eat like this too often, for obvious reasons. But if you're a disciplined and healthy eater most of the time, it's okay, occasionally, to drop your guard once in a while and really pig out.
There were only two (minor) disappointments that evening. First, I just couldn't find an open walk-in angioplasty clinic anywhere in town. And it wasn't even that late.
Second, Laura only finished off one and a half racks of ribs. I know she could have done better.
Amadeus Restaurant (locations in Ghent, Brussels and Antwerp)
The Xenophobe's Guide to the Belgians (I highly recommend this amusing mini-guidebook for anyone interested in visiting Belgium)
Ten Strategies to Stop Mindless Eating
Ten Rules for the Modern Restaurant-Goer
The Chocolate Gene
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