Saturday, December 6, 2008

MAIS OUI MES POUSSINS, J'AIME LA BELGIQUE of my dirty little secrets is that while I profess a love of Belgian beer that runs as deep as the Meuse, I've never been to Belgium. No, I've never been there, okay !?@? I know. But this travesty that I live with daily was abated last night, if just for 3 and a half hours, by my fabulous dinner at Bistro Brussels in Laguna Beach. I was lucky enough to be invited by new friend Noah Galuten of Man Bites World, whose goal is to "eat the food of a different country every single day, for as many days in a row as he can."

We were also lucky enough to be sharing our dinner with famed Chef Pascal Olhats as our guide. Pascal is the chef /owner of many restaurants, not the least of which is the famed Tradition by Pascal in Newport Beach, Ca, which has been rated the #1 restaurant in Orange County for over ten years by the Zagat Guide. He studied and lived in Belgium for 4 years and took us on a nostalgic trip that only the sense memories of food and beer can provide.

Noah is a great writer and wrapped up the evening on his blog. Click here to read the narrative of the evening. My job is beer - so I'll get to talking about those and my favorite pairings.

Chimay Tripel paired with Des de Fromage de Chimay.

So Chef Pascal said that we should start out with some cheese. So start out with cheese we did. The cheese, however, was made by the same Trappist monks at the same brewery that makes Chimay. It turns out that s
ince 1876, Chimay has been making a semi-hard cheese made from milk from their farm and matured in the vaulted cellars of their abbey, the very same cellars where Chimay beer is fermented. There's something to be said of the marriage of flavors when things come from the same place. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but the beer and cheese harmonized perfectly with something that can only be described as "je ne sais quoi."

Chimay Tripel (White Label), Abbaye Notre Dame de Scourmont, Belgium - 8% abv.

Triple Karmeliet paired with Belgian Onion Soup with Petites Croquettes de Crevettes du Nord et au Fromage

I am a lover of French Onion Soup, so when we were presented with a creamy Belgian Onion Soup, I was intrigued and oh so pleasantly surprised. This soup was velvety smooth with notes of citrus rind. Sweet and rich with melted Gruyere cheese swirling around, the soup was served with two little fried croquettes - one stuffed with cheese and one stuffed with baby shrimp. (BTW, the croquette might be my new favorite food style, second only to the dumpling.) It was a total no-brainer to pair Triple Karmeliet with this pairing. Malty and lemoney, spicy and super effervescent, this beer worked well with both the soup and the two croquette styles.

Tripel Karmeliet, Buggenhout, Belgium - 8.25% abv.

Hoegaarden White Ale paired with Moules Frites

Moules Frites means mussels with fries. There aren't many better combinations out there. When I think of Belgian food, Moules Frites is what immediately comes to mind. Belgian moules are usually steamed in beer instead of white wine, in this case the mussels were steamed with an un-named Belgian white ale. And sometimes its good to just go with what is really working, so I didn't fight it. I paired the mussels with the Hoegaarden white ale and Pascal, Noah and I all did a little happy dance in our seats. Refreshing and grassy with coriander and bitter orange peel, the beer breathed fresh air into the mussels and the mussels provided depth to the beer. Amazing.

Hoegaarden Original White Ale, Brouwerij van Hoegaarden, Belgium - 4.9% abv.

Orval paired with Cote de Parc Al'Berdouille with Croquettes de Pommes de Terre

Cote de parc al'berdouille literally translated means pork chop cooked in mud, which in this case is actually a large pork chop in a mustard and cornichon sauce. The Orval is a trappist ale that is known for being very earthy, having a farmhouse, horse blanket quality. (I mean this in the best way.) This to me was the perfect pairing of the evening. Mud, mustard, farmhouse, earth, potatoes (whose name translated in French means "apples of the earth") Served with a side of a tart and refreshing slaw made with razor thin slices of delicate endive, this combination touched heaven with all of its earthly goodness.

Orval, Abbaye de Notre-Dame d'Orval, Villers-devant-Orval, Belgium - 6.9% abv.

Written by The Beer Chick, December 6, 2008

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  1. Thanks so much for coming along! The beers were really great and the whole night was loads of fun. You rock.

  2. I share you're dirty little secret.
    I've never been to Belgium either;)

    I keep saying one of these days and I keep denying every invite....

    The night sounds wonderful.
    Keep up the good work,


  3. Wow am I jealous! Been wanting to try that spot since I heard of it a few years ago. Problem is that it's a bit far from Hollywood where I live and the only designated driver I can get coming back will be wearing an Orange County sheriff badge.

  4. That's a great post and very interesting food pairings. I'll admit to have never visited Belgium either, but my British friend has and has turned me on to many of the beers you mentioned, and I am still trying more!