Category Archives: sometimes food

Waffles And Waffling: Eating Well In Brussels.

It’s a cliche really. As I write this post, I wonder if you as readers are aware of the totally calorie filled diet that’s possible as a visitor to Brussels. I presume you are but that’s one of the reasons I say – go there. The only surprise will be the skinny size of its citizens whom I was expecting to be massive presuming they lived off the intake of foods I ate on a day to day basis while wandering the chocolate covered streets. Let’s just say that heading home after five days was the best for the old waistline and for my ever-receding bank balance due to none other than food obsession.

Being intolerant to gluten meant that I held off on Belgian waffles for the first four days. I searched high and low for a gluten-free option however it was to no avail. This meant that when my boyfriend got a waffle from one of the street stands, I got the accompanying coffee from his order. The cost of a nutella waffle and a coffee was 6€ upwards. The streets were scattered with such stands which we made a point of comparing. Waffle stands and small cafes near to La Grand Place (the main square) were similar to the price of those further away so shopping around too much wasn’t necessary.

Following a recommendation from our Sandeman’s tour guide Fraser, we went to FritLand for our chips. With a clear warning not to call them French Fries for fear of insulting a Belgian and not being served, we ordered ‘Pommes frites’ for less than 4€. This was a massive cone of chips with a choice of standard sauces. They could be eaten in or out and were divine (especially with a Belgian beer).

Staying in a hotel that didn’t serve breakfast meant that googling Trip Advisor recommendations was vital. Heading out on our first day, we headed straight to a central street where Peck 47 lay. Its cute signage and short queue outside in the rain were more  distracting than even the waffle and coffee scents wafting down the street.

Peck 47 was the only Trip Advisor place I went for. Having realised the outrageous cost compared to most cafes in Brussels and the fact I could get the food (tasty food) in several places in Dublin for less money – I followed my nose after that.  Should you be a fan of a decent Eggs Benedict dish and high quality coffee, then definitely stop by. Their diet caters for vegetarians and vegans and they do breakfast, lunch and an evening diner menu. Other available treats are freshly squeezed lemonade and pulled pork in pesto (yes, really) in a sourdough sandwich.

Then there’s the chocolate. Oh yes, the chocolate. There are so many chocolate shops to choose from. You can buy pralines of all flavours, sizes and shapes throughout the city. Supermarkets and independent chocolate shops cater for a variety of budgets too. As I wanted to buy a gift and to splash out, we went to Pierre Marcolini. This is the creme de la creme of chocolate shops. The rough price point is 40€ for 30 chocolates. These cost more than the average chocolate shop due to their make-up. While most chocolate companies outsource the base of the chocolate and fill them. Marcolini sources everything from the cocoa bean to the final stage. This means they can guarantee the quality of each chocolate. I can also confirm – they are tasty.

As for the rest, you’ll see! There are so many options of foods that suit different tastes. There are typical Belgian cafes that look like they’ve been there for decades. Likewise, there are Starbucks cafes, Mc Donalds and all the usual haunts. Whatever you do, make sure you try the pommes frites.

Buns And Basil Salad: A Morning With Rachel Allen

As a child, I can remember Darina Allen visiting my home during food festivals in County Kerry. I’d shy away in the kitchen while Darina chatted to my mother about local produce and farming. I recognised her as a TV star of the shows I had been glued to. Darina would travel from Ballymaloe to events and festivals to share her passion of food and cooking tips. Her love and pride for Ballymaloe and its graduates was obvious to me, even as an eight year old.

In August of this year, I was fortunate enough to meet Rachel Allen. Also renowned for being a top chef in Ireland, Rachel is a graduate of Ballymaloe and a savvy business woman. Thankfully as a 31 year, I didn’t shy away on this occasion.

Organised by AIL events and hosted at Bord Bia headquarters, it seemed the perfect location for the event. As I sipped on a massive coffee and mingled with the other attendees, I prepared for the hunger pangs that would sneak in as Rachel embarked on a two hour cooking extravaganza. The down to earth approach of making traditional buns served with cream and simple but perfect salads with fresh ingredients from Ballymaloe made my mouth water throughout.

The party piece (literally) was a chest of sandwiches. A fresh loaf of bread was transformed into a unique manner of serving sandwiches. Rachel sliced out the centre, made at least six sandwiches and then popped them back inside as a presentation option. Describing it perfectly, Rachel described how Myrtle Allen would never show up to a party without a chest of sandwiches, back in the day.

Rachel not only made an impact because of her charming manner and of course, her expertise. Her techniques of preparing such simple dishes and adding a romance to them sparked an excitement in me. We can make sandwiches and bring them to a party or, we can make a chest of sandwiches. Similarly, we can pull out the baking trays and make cupcakes or we can make traditional buns in all their perfect glory.

The kitchen doesn’t have to be fancied up or even constantly used. It can become a place where we go back to tradition and make a green salad with juicy tomatoes straight from the garden. Likewise, it can be a place to make something tasty for a friend we’re visiting. It can be as quick and simple as we like or it can be a bigger project. In any event, it’s about the food we enjoy and who we share it with.

Finishing up the event, we heard of Rachel’s collaboration with O’Brien’s Sandwich bars. A range of salads comprising chicken caesar, beet and a powerhouse option (full of energy creating super foods) have been especially selected as part of the signature range. On my last trip to O’Briens, I tried the chicken caesar and I felt rather full and satisfied.

As if juicy tomatoes and buns weren’t amazing enough, we were introduced to snacks from Coolhull Farm. The producers of cheesecakes, ice-cream and a range of desserts can be found in Wexford and providing tasty snacks across the Island of Ireland.

For me, being around food lovers makes me love food even more. There’s always a new recipe to try or an ingredient that can be experimented with. Be sure to share any suggestions or tips you might have!

Limerick City: International Food Trucks Of Mystery

To me, Limerick city will always be my University city. It’s where I smuggled bottles of vodka into nightclubs and cried after the chipper when fleeting relationships broke down. The days of studying in the library and sneaking into town for a break are shuffled in as particularly relevant memories.

Eight years later and to me, Limerick is a changed city. Sure, there’s a massive student life and serious night scene. There is however also so much culture, new developments and what was once a recession-hit small city is starting to come to life again.

There’s loads to do day to day, of course. But hey, why not shake things up? That’s what I always say. The joys of being flexible while living in Ireland means I get to check out different options. Limerick offered this option this Summer when I was particularly excited to head to the International Food Truck Festival. It was the first of its kind and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last. Set up in Limerick People’ Park, there were 15 trucks with a variety of cuisine from sweet to savoury. Of course, there were speckled bars across the location for good measure with a couple of types of wine and beer to boot.

The articles online were researched days in advance by yours truly and they excitedly bragged of shark meat and alligator. You can imagine how the search was on when I got there. This was both across social media and in person in the pouring rain as we were met with showers and muddy puddles galore. Not finding the promised random cuisine wasn’t enough to turn us off. The gallivanting carried on and turned into tasty wine, cold beers and an array of Lebanese, Mexican and Canadian food. This could only be topped off by hot chocolates, fondue and shots of espresso.

Sitting with a friend later that night, we reminisced about how things have changed but how we still love to adventure around Limerick city. While the classics like Flannery’s bar and Nancy’s will always deserve a visit, branching out to a random festival or two never hurt anybody.