Maastricht -- nestled in a corner of Netherlands between Belgium and Germany -- was much more about catching up with friends Chris and Saskia rather than going on our usual food excursion. Nonetheless, here are a few places from the weekend that stood out, if you happen to be in the area.
Chris picked us up from the train station in Hasselt, Belgium, and promptly took us to Grand Cafe, where there are more than 300 beers on offer. Among others, Babs tries the Brugse Babbelaar (natch). We also get introduced to bitterballen -- deep fried creamy-flour-&-bits-of-mystery-meat croquettes, dipped in mustard and curry ketchup. These are apprently quite the regional delicacy. According to Wikipedia, "They are eaten in the Netherlands and Belgium, and hardly anywhere else."
Saskia, who works for a company that provides care for the disabled, took us to a cute cafe owned by her company in Maastricht. Called Doe Gewoon, it translates loosely to "Do Normally". The kitchen and waitstaff are mentally challenged, but are capable and independent enough to work under supervision. Their offerings include an open-face tuna and anchovy sandwich, warm goat cheese and apple salad, and Dutch-style beef stew with chips. Frankly, we got better service and food here than at some "normal" restaurants.
During our afternoon meander, we were introduced to a famous bakery in town called Bisschopsmolen (Bishops Mill). An old water mill, dating back to the 11th century, was restored in 2004 and now mills its own locally grown grains that then get baked and transformed right on the premises into delicious treats. I reckon you can trust the quality of a bakery when the cashier sees you snapping with a camera and then happily gestures you into the kitchen to show off the baking team (right down to gleefully pinching their biceps).
We were also treated to some home-grilled hospitality. The highlight of the BBQ was Chris's eggplant spread. The recipe is as follows:
Wash and dry 2 eggplants, prick them in various places with a fork (to prevent the skin from bursting) then put them in a roasting dish and in the oven approx 180 deg C for 30 min until they sag and look a bit smoky. Scrape out the insides and discard the skin. Roughly chop the cooked flesh. Combine with chopped garlic and onions, a dash of basil and oregano, salt, ground black pepper, olive oil and a splash of lemon juice.
Simple, and fabulous on bread.
On our last day at Chris and Saskia's, Sunshine, the youngest of Saskia's current batch of 6 Tonkinese cats, refuses to get off my stomach. Surely your time could be better spent than blogging about food all day, she stares accusingly. I tell her to read it before she knocks it. So she does.
Man. Tough room.
Grand Cafe, Het Hemelrijk
Hemelrijk, 11 - 3500 Hasselt, Belgium
+32 11 222 851