Friday, September 30, 2011

Champagne, France...

My good friend, Emily, is visiting-Yay!!! She was here last weekend, gone to Germany for a few days, then back to Belgium today:) The day after she arrived we went on a road trip to the Champagne region of France for a private wine tasting tour. I had no idea just how beautiful the drive would be and the weather was perfect!

The tour started at 11 am and didn’t end until around 7 pm. The guide took us to 3 different independent champagne houses where we toured the caves and learned about the delicate process of making champagne from the hand-picked grapes to the use of air pressure for pressing the grapes. We also walked through 3 vineyards (pinot noir, pinot meunier, and chardonnay) located in grand cru and premier cru villages (the highest ratings) and tasted grapes off the vine. The scenery and the views over the valley were breath taking.

Mailly-Champagne, France

Pinot noir vinyard (yes, champagne comes from 2 different red grapes as well as chardonay grapes)


Chardonay grapes

Private tasting of champagne as well as fig and plum jelly from fruit on the property
One of the champagne caves
After the first champagne house we stopped at a Michelin starred restaurant for a four course lunch. We were greeted by a very friendly host who showed us to our table in the elegant dining room. We sat next to a window but I couldn’t tell you what the view was of as I was so absorbed in taking in the room around me and the food flying by me, everything smelled amazing! The service was outstanding too, the wait staff (there seemed to be a team of 3) came a shook our hands at their first visit to our table and were always smiling.

Our prix fix lunch started with savory cheese pate choux and a glass of champagne of course.

Next we were served a trio of tomato appetizers: Tomato gazpacho with mustard ice cream (essentially frozen mustard crème fraiche) and croutons, tomato jelly with parmesan crème fraiche and a parmesan crisp, two blanched, peeled cherry tomatoes in a balsamic glaze. Each dish was bursting with flavor.   
Tomato gazpacho with mustard ice cream and croutons

poached tomatoes in a balsamic glaze

Tomato jelly with parmesan creme fraiche and a parm crisp
We were then served the best salad I’ve ever had, it had so many different ingredients that I would never dream of putting together: poached chicken so thinly sliced like only the French can do, tomato, foie gras, grape fruit, crisped prosciutto, parsley, and lettuce-AMAZING!
Thinly sliced chicken salad with foie gras, grapefruit, crisped prociutto, beans, tomatoes, and parsley
The main course was beef (I’m guessing Chateau Briand by how tender it was) served rare to med-rare(ish) paired with a glass of red wine. Each of the vegetables look nice but I didn’t expect much for flavor but somehow the beans, which looked like they were just steamed, popped with flavor as did the carrot, leek, onion, and potato puree. There was absolutely nothing left on any of our plates.
Beef, probaby chateau briand, beans, leak, carrot, potato puree, and onion
Dessert was a chocolate lava cake prepared so well that with one stab of the fork the chocolate center oozed out all over the plate.
Choclate lava cake with vanilla bean ice cream

And, as if that wasn’t enough another plate of pastries was served with our espresso at the end of the meal.

Chocolate cake, pineapple tarte, nugget, raspberry madeleine, and choclate


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

10 Years!!!

Steve and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary at one of the nicest restaurants in Gent, Le Homard Rouge.  The chef/owner is the son of our landlords and we've been meaning to get there but have been waiting for the perfect combination of a "special occasion" and babysitter. It was very much worth the wait.  Check out the pics...

Awesome wine!
Langoustine Cappuccino (Soup with creme fraiche)

Salmon tartare
Lobster with herbs and garlic

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Bronwen's first day of school...

The moment Bronwen has been waiting for has finally arrived! The reason she potty trained so quickly, the reason, we hope, that she'll stop sucking her has begun!!!!

I was worried she might be a little nervous with the language barrier but she hardly looked back as she said "bye mom". I was really excited for her but a small part of me was sad that she'll be gone all day, every day now. Her teacher is so kind and has loads of personality so I know that Bronwen will acclimate just fine. Her teacher speaks about as much English as I speak Dutch so this ought to be fun! We hope that we will learn from each other and in no time Bronwen will be translating for us.

Alex and I had a great day. We shopped in town for new shoes and a jacket for he and Bronwen then went to the park. It is really nice having some one-on-one time with my boy. I have some pretty big shoes to fill with his best playmate gone all day:)

So excited!

Off she goes...

Play area in Bronwen's classroom

All the parents and students gathered in the courtyard before class started and the principal gave a welcoming speech, wish I understood it all but everyone seemed excited by his words.