Good Things Begin with Letter "B"

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            Many good things today began with the letter “B”.  There were boats, and Belgians (horses), blossoms, and, I could extend this alliteration much too far, it all happened in Brugge.  Cottonwood pollen doesn’t start with a “B” it starts with a “C” which may be why it almost ruined the day.  But there were too many other good things to enjoy and antihistamine starts with “A” and that was very, very good.
            We took the train to Brugge, about one hour out of Brussels.  It is called, “The Venice of Belgium”.  I was just in Venice last November so I am familiar with the reference points.  I have to agree that in its own distinctly Flemmish way, Brugges is much like Venice.  It has meandering canals and lots of cobble-stoned streets, almost paths,  that lead to hidden squares where you find houses, churches,  and shops.

          Both cities have alternative transportation to motorized vehicles.  In Venice, it’s the foot and water taxis.  In Brugges, it’s bicycles and Belgian horses.  There must actually be a city ordinance allowing horses the right of way because the few cars we saw in the city came to a screeching halt if a Belgian-drawn carriage entered an intersection at the same time as a car.

          We had lunch at Den Dyver.  You could tell walking in the door that this place pays close attention to detail, yet in a comfortable, natural style.  They had a set menu, which I love because it’s all surprises.  You could pair it with wine or with beer so we chose to sample the beers they suggested went with these foods.
          The first course was a timbale of crab and trout, topped with lightly pickled vegetables and finished with a foam of some delicious sort.  With this they paired the darkish Rodenbach.  This beer went with the dish so similarly to wine.  It had a dark sweetness but then finished with a little citrus and bitterness.

          The main course was a white fish, a potato mash, and roasted fennel.  I want to just point out here that most of the vegetables I have seen on this trip have been white:  white asparagus, endive, leeks, and now, fennel.  Anyway, white or not, it was an exquisite combination of flavors.  With this, they paired the slightly comic looking Urthel Saissoniere.  This blond beer was spicy and matched up to the fennel, which is a strong flavor.

          For dessert, we had an all-red fruit stew over chilled marscapone cream, sprinkled with mint.  Sweet, creamy, and refreshing.

          We have learned a lot about beer on this trip.  One of the most important things has been that Belgians don’t drink huge pints of beer, or at least not all of the time, but more like  wine glass size pours that bring to focus the almost infinite characteristics of the beers. 


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