The Paradox of Travel

Good food is a reason to visit Belgium. With the U.S. dollar in decline we’ve been eating in brasseries rather than two-star restaurants, but there have been some memorable meals during our stay in Ghent. The service at the Pakhuis was somewhat perfunctory, but the pig’s knuckle took me back to the taverns of my youth in Montreal, and the setting–a converted warehouse–was interesting. The Café Théatre, next to the opera house on the Kouter, is an elegant place whose  daily lunch special is a bargain.  They  served the best frieten of our trip—no small thing for French fries are the national dish, invented here, not in France.  Etablissement Max is an Art Nouveau brasserie of long-standing. A bit corny, but solidly bourgeois, and with waiters who look like waiters. Asparagus is in season, and we have had it Flemish style (with eggs) as well as with ham, and gravalox, and as a soup. Strawberries are in season, too. Belgium, like most European countries, is still old-fashioned enough that foods are eaten in season. Many dishes (especially croquettes) contain tiny shrimp, which seems to also be a local specialty. It’s possible to eat badly here—as anywhere. It is also possible to eat pretentiously; I thought that tortured food in vertical piles was a thing of the past. Our favorite place is Lepelblad, where we end up most evenings. Finally, when I travel for any length of time, I really want what I eat at home and this small restaurant provides that.The cuisine is varied—Asian as well as Belgian—the ingredients fresh, the cooking excellent, and the service congenial. And they make great stoemp.


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