Monday, August 30, 2010

Le Bon Bassin: Maastricht, Netherlands

Maastricht is the provincial capital of Limburg, the southern-most province of the Netherlands bordering Germany and Belgium. -wikipedia- They have their own dialect, Limburgs - for now, I'm sticking to just learning Dutch, even though HT hubbie's family are all from the said place.  (just too much to learn for somebody getting older like me).

Maastricht town...epitomizing a typical Dutch weekend...people having drinks outside, lady cycling with one hand...

I've visited Maastricht several times to hang out with my family-in-law. The last visit before this was my post about the exquisite Vlaai (or tarts) (Dutch Pastries 101).  And with birthday celebration, this shouldn't be miss out.

I had another one...:) looks good, isn't it? (It tasted good too!)

  This time, mam (HT hubbie's mother), celebrated her birthday in one of her favorite restaurants.  This was my 2nd time to dine there (1st time was in 2007 when I was still being introduced  as "girlfriend" of HT hubbie, and fast forwarding 3 years after, we're stuck to each other...happily). 

I can't blame mom for loving this place.  Situated beside a port (nice yachts), outdoor seating...serene's Gezellig!

We were given free appetizers ("amuse"), smoked mackerel with creamy sauce while having drinks...if free starters are way too good, they're really asking for high expectations!

And, we didn't fail them, in return, they didn't fail us...
For "voorgerechten" (starters), I ordered Grilled Tuna, Niçoise-style SaladI was surprised when it was placed in front of me.  A big, thick slab of grilled tuna fillet stood out on the plate.  I wonder where my greens were...haha.  The light, fresh, salad went well with my fish.  I would prefer my tuna  less grilled despite the warm center, (I was spoiled by Da Paulo) nevertheless, the fish was fresh, tasty and really made me look forward for my main course.

For Hoofdgerechten (main course), I had Roasted Brill in Lemon Oyster SauceI noticed this restaurant specializes in flat fishes (I had sole last 2007).  The brill was so tender and lovely to eat adding the well balanced tangy and creamy taste of the sauce.  I don't usually care about side dishes, but the mashed potato was just like babies' food in consistency which I prefer :D hihi  (How do you prefer yours?)

White and Dark Chocolate Mousse with Vanilla Ice Cream - this was heavenly!  HT hubbie and I shared one as my tummy said I can't finish my own dessert.  But with these rich, smooth and lip-smacking mousse, guess, who had more share? *bliss*  (We ladies need more chocolates to balance it off with our hormones, do you agree, gentlemen?)

All of us enjoyed our dinner and each other's company.  And mom was happy as after 4 years, her only son was able to celebrate her birthday with her....+ 1...her only daughter-in-law. :D

P.S. HT hubbie's family were so cool, that even before we dig in to our plates, they even ask "L, where's your camera?  Aren't you suppose to take pictures?"  *smile*

Le Bon Bassin
Capucijnenstraat 91
6211 RP Maastricht, Nederland

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Utrecht, Netherlands: El Greco: φανταστικός Gyros (fantastic gyros)

I just used babelfish to translate "fantastic" to I'm not even sure if it's right but something new as a title and suits this post, isn't it?

HT couple started exploring Utrecht, Netherlands eating scene.  Nowadays, with a nice sunny weather, everyone loves sitting outside, hanging out at Oudegracht (a canal which is my landmark whenever I go to town so I don't get lost), having a drink and looking out on cyclers, pedestrians, dogs, cats...bridal showers (we've seen 6 just for 1 Saturday!) in town.

If you can't beat them, join we got our spots, ordered our drinks and started looking out for something exciting.  We were sitted in a place where I can see the top of Dom Kerk (The Dome church).  So if you see this main attraction, then you're definitely in Utrecht!

Anyways, before we went for drinks we stopped by in this famous Greek place that is popular with students as it is considered cheap and value for money.  HT hubbie was a regular here during his younger years.

It is a take away, take out, pack it, to go place for Gyros.  They have two tables set up outside their shop and some seats inside as well for the convenience of their customers.  (Across this shop is a square where you can sit and eat your sandwich hot!)

What is gyros?  Gyros is more known as a greek sandwich consisting of slow roasted meat, tzaziki and onions.  It's not a meal during your diet days, as lean meat is never a consideration.  The more fats are present during cooking, the better the gyros meat would be. It is typically roasted on a vertical rotating stack oven, you slice of the well done outside and a new layer gets roasted crispy.

Usually served with pita bread...this is the huge sandwich El Greco offers to the people of Utrecht... (being in NL, you can get it as a dish with fries too!)
The slices of meat were very tasty and marinated well with herbs & spices and the tzatziki sauce always enhance the taste of meditteranean cuisine so it's definitely a must in this sandwich.  I was surprised with the big serving and generous amount of meat.

The owners were nice and i know they were shocked when we started taking pictures.  Nevertheless, we got warm smile from them.

Not bad for a first food trip in my current hometown.  :) 'Till then!

Price Summary in Euros:
Gyros (standard): €5.-
Gyros (with extra meat) : €6.25

Snackbar El Greco
Ganzenmarkt 28
3512 GE Utrecht, Nederland

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sweet Life with a cup of Tiramisu (HT style)

In my previous post, I mentioned about being chef-in-the-making...(yes, I enjoy cooking now!)  Aside from food blogs, I am now an avid fan of cooking sites.

I have made lots of savoury dishes for HT hubbie, who's very encouraging, never complains but gives constructive criticism  and considers me as his kitchen princess.  Doesn't he deserve a nice treat from HT wife?

Thinking of that special treat...I immediately look online on how to make his favorite dessert.  And i was so lucky to stumble this easy-to-prepare and egg-less tiramisu recipe. (check out the link).  Attached with this link is a 2-min preparation of this famous dessert by no other than Gordon Ramsay himself.

Ok, his 2-min preparation time was 30 mins for HT hubbie's kitchen princess.  Tiramisu, meaning "pick-me-up" has everything a good life has to offer.

1.) From the high fat yummy mascarpone (ok, there are some who advertise it as low fat but not sure how low it can be)
2.) To hubby's favorite whipped cream (slagroom) - accdg. to Gordon, use a single cream (What is it in Dutch?  I asked the wrong person, as hubby immediately jumped with joy and took whipped cream like a kid)
3.) the sweetness of icing sugar
4.) the kick of brandy (you can use marsala wine or rum or experiment with other alcohol -> I don't think beer or vodka works, but who knows?)
5.) the sweet scent of vanilla extract 
6.) the lightness of the ladyfingers
7.) up to the perk-you-up coffee/espresso (make it as strong as possible)

What else can you complain about life?  I would say, make a tiramisu during your gloomy days and sure you'll appreciate life in a brighter perspective.  *wink*'s my creation:

Ta-dah!  I didn't took a video of me making it as you might get discourage with the muscles i've contracted to whip the mascarpone :D  And that was my arms exercise for the day.

Sprinkled with shredded dark chocolate and cocoa powder (i spilled a bit) and accented by 4 ladyfingers

I'm sure I've made HT hubbie...his day!

Try making this yourself and give your own twist! I'm sure Italians wouldn't mind :)  Ciao for now!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

TIME OUT: almost 2 months in NL

Time flies!  I'm almost 2 months here in the Netherlands and I can't imagine I survive this long being far from family and friends.  Thanks to the virtual world making distance shorter as each day passes by.

What is life after almost 2 months?
I'm a better cyclist now, i think.  Before, in a very cold windy day, I would sweat to death cycling for less than 2 kilometers.  Now, i feel much confident and thanks to my supportive HT hubbie who cycles with me everyday and made sure that I'll find my way home.

I've visited 2 countries in just a short period.  I'm not complaining but I haven't spent much weekends in NL and I would love to explore what I now call 'HOME'.

Chef-in-the-making, after feeding HT hubbie with unwashed spinach (with sand, at least it was crunchy), half cooked chicken and adobo with too much blackpepper corns, look what I have made?

Apple-cranberry pork chop.  It's not an original recipe, but it sure tasted good!

I'm starting to embrace my life here in NL, the same way i've embraced Singapore as one of my homes.  I've started looking out for friends (yes, it doesn't come naturally with my lifestyle), and found a few that I need to meet up with.  Instead of putting ads all over the place : WANTED: shopping buddy, coffee mate, co-foodie, blogs have been my savior up to this date.  I've met wonderful food bloggers in Singapore and I'm checking out NL bloggers' scene too.  It's always nice to share common interest like expressing our thoughts, sharing our experiences and overcoming homesickness online.

This one is not a blogger but came to our home once.  She peeked inside and left.  And, the next few days, she's always standing in front of our door.

Here's boefje (rascal), up close...

She started getting cozy with HT couple

And now had the guts to come in

and roam around

on sunny days, she would lie down on our garden to get her daily tummy rub

She's our neighbor's cat who seeks attention when she's alone. 

To sum it up, how was my stay in Europe?   hmm...I would have ups and downs as I miss my family, friends and lifestyle back in Asia, nevertheless, with HT hubbie's support and love, my time in Europe flew by without me noticing it and the excitement I feel towards my 3rd month in this wondeful continent says a lot.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dutch 101: What to serve in BBQ parties

BBQ  is always a hit in the party scene.  Not only in the relaxed home of most Aussies, or  the bbq pits in Singapore parks or "inihaw" (grilled ) dishes on Filipino tables, BBQ seemed to be popular in the European scene on a beautiful sunny day.

Weeks ago, we visited our friends HP and Mir in Denmark.  Being one of the priveleged to stay in the castle in Sollerod, their big garden is a perfect spot for a BBQ party!  I always admire HT hubbie's friends, despite of being kilometers apart, they made sure they would have this kind of gathering if time permits.  Flying or driving is not an effort to meet up but the beginning of a fun, fun reunion.

Another thing to admire among the Dutch, is almost everyone is soo good in the kitchen.  Early this year, we visited our Dutch friends in Australia...and check out (again) their passion for cooking...

This time, on a sunny day in Denmark, HP and Mir prepared easy to make but exquisite items for a KICK-ASS BBQ PARTY!  Read on to get some tips...

While the BBQ items are still being prepared, you can't keep your guests go a bag of potato chips and don't forget these dips which suit individual preferences...basil pesto, sundried tomatoes and sour cream dips.

Mir made this generous serving of wonderful Couscous Salad placed in the middle of the table so people can help themselves in between eating BBQ items.  I got the recipe from her which i was allowed to share :) (thanks Mir)  Mir's natural talent in cooking showed off in this salad as she just mixed in this bowl what's available in her fridge and in her garden. 

Cherry tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, basil, feta cheese, chorizo sausage bit, pistachios were added to the couscous, with a dressing of olive oil (extra virgin!!) ,honey, garlic,pepper, salt and lemon juice...voila!  It's the best I ever had!

We were not able to finish the big serving, but we had it the following day with a different twist...she mixed it with avocados and still tasted great!

These BBQ-ued prawns were marinated in lemon juice, garlic, coriander and lots and lots of herbs!  I helped out Mir to put them in kebab sticks and I can already smell the aroma (no trace of fishy smell at all).  Can i say more after they were cooked?

Chicken Kebabs were a bit burnt but still delicious with a hint of curry!

Instead of grilling mushrooms alone, why not wrap it up with a good portion of Goat Cheese and a squeeze of honey on top?

Do you want to maintain the Salmon's taste but still giving your own personal touch?  Smothered with pepper, add dill, cherry tomatoes and a slice of lemon...wrap it in a foil and hop it goes to the barbie!

BBQ food doesn't need to look rough always.  I would say with mixes of herbs and spices, it's like fine dining cuisine without fuzz.

With stories, laughters and good food...we wrapped up the night around a bonfire sipping our Sambuca (for the ladies) and whisky (for the guys).

Monday, August 16, 2010

TIME OUT: A must try in Copenhagen

Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, houses 13 Michelin stars and where the S. Pellegrino best restaurant in the world is situated.

Being known as the gourmet city in Northern Europe, there are small things that can be enjoyed by normal people like HT couple.

When Danish food is mentioned, i'm sure pastries would first popped into our minds...mine did.  But while i was exploring the food city for a day...i found out how famous this food was...

Polse "letter o with / over it" (i don't know how to type it) can be seen in every corner of the busy streets of Copenhagen.  What makes this sausage differ from others, is it's usually boiled.  The smoked delicious polse is usually long compared to the sausage buns, topped with mustard, ketchup, onions and pickles...a full Danish meal.

And for just 20-30 DK KRON ( 2-3 euro)...who says you can't eat cheap in Denmark?

*I haven't really done Copenhagen food tripping...but we'll be back for sure to visit our friends and explore Nordic cuisine...who knows, we might land in one of the 13's, Denmark is very proud of... (hope we win the lottery).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Brugge, Belgium: Brugge's fine food (Belgium)

August 1, 2010 was our 1st anniversary as husband and wife.  We celebrated once in Singapore 2 months earlier, as we wanted to have fun in the place where our love and relationship flourished and grew.

As much as we love food, both of us love diving and travelling.  We skip diving for now and reserve it when we're back in Asia and decided to travel in an old city which we usually enjoy.  With hubby's driving and direction skills, we've reached Brugge one Saturday afternoon.

Brugge is famous for its old landmarks i.e. the square, churches and towers.  It's always nice to walk around in a place bringing us to the old times and preserving history.

But walking around will only be fun if there are nibbles and eating in between...agree?   Below are my foodie survival tips in Brugge...

Foodie Survival Tip # 1:  Enter a tea room with colorful window or a recommended place from the world wide web...whichever works for you.

Order their best drink...a hot chocolate, and you get a cup of milk and chocolate syrup on top

Make your own cup of hot chocolate

Ta-dah!  Enjoy the cup with all types of chocolates (dark, milk, white) and whipped cream. (hot chocolate was good, but don't expect anything special other than the presentation.)

Order more even if you think you're already having sugar rush.  (this black forest cake was a bit of a disappointment though)

Foodie Survival Tip # 2: If you passed by a window like this...stop for a while.

take a closer look...

enter the place and order a freshly cooked pasta even if you're don't want to screw up your holiday not having a share of  pasta of this humble eatery, Pasta Maria (locals favorite).  Usually, the pasta comes in a pasta cornetto (just like chinese take away boxes).  Hubby and I shared a portion for only 4 euro.  Not bad, for a decent meal, huh?

Foodie Survival Tip # 3: Walking around makes us thirsty...better look for this small alley in Breidelstraat..and you can't go wrong once you enter.

De Garre, crowded with tourists and just have to find a place to seat whether you have a table or not...

Drink as much cherry beers (krier beer) as you can..

and for strong beer lovers, Triple Van De Garre shouldn't be missed... (3 euro for any beer glass) Quite unique is the sign that warns you are only served a maximum of 3 of their stronger beers, to make sure it stays enjoyable and noone leaves drunk.

Foodie Survival Tip # 4: For dinner, look for a restaurant that serves authentic Flemish dishes.  Avoid the major square and tourist traps.  Instead, walk in a quiet street like this, and sure there would be a hidden find.

You get complimentary fresh bread in their branded paper bag...

For main course, get a typical Flemish dish, Stoofvlees (beef stew) simmered for hours in beer! I have blogged about stoofvlees in Dutch Snacks 101, but that one is certified no alcohol.  Together with apple mousse, you sure can't go wrong with your order.

up close with the beef (took this for Harris hehe)

best enjoyed with eat-all-you-can frites

 It's disrespectful not to have mussels in this country.  (mussels in beer*again*)

Top up with more beers, as the belgians drink it like water.

Foodie Survival Tip # 5: Be a tourist.  Order nice waffles in a tourist place before you leave the country.

Foodie Survival Tip # 6: Don't leave the country without buying good, rich decent chocolates.

how can you resist big chunks of chocolates in all sorts of colors?

With these bonbons, the drive or flight back home wouldn't be as boring as it used to be.

Tea Room and Restaurants with prices (in €):
De Proeverie = 15 € (for a cup of cappucino, hot chocolate and cake)
Pasta Maria = 4 € for 500 grams of lasagna
De Garre = 3 € per glass
De Vlaamsche Pot = 53 € (2 glasses of beers, Mussels with frites, Stoofvlees with frites)
Cherry Waffles = about 9 €
The chocolate line bonbon = about 5 € per 100 grams

Location: Brugge, Belgium