Finally, somewhere I can speak the local language….or so I thought. This just in: Brussels, the capital city of Belgium, is NOT in the French speaking section of the country. However, after feeling like more of a tourist in Brussels, I regained my ability to act like a local once we got to Paris.
Our final days in Europe before a trip to the British Isles (and Ireland) were filled with incredible food, screaming kids, and lots of pride per usual. In addition to catching up with some old friends, a major highlight of this portion of tour was spending time with a quickly-growing subgroup of French fans who call themselves “Team Raclette.” Keep reading for the story behind that group. But first, waffles.
Brussels Frites and Gaufres, AKA fries and waffles, form the base of the Brussels food pyramid (in my eyes). Although the city is quite touristy, the architecture and the waffles are worth the crowds. The central square is enriched by golden details on age-old buildings, almost mimicking the sweet, crisp golden splendor of the Gaufre. Both are especially beautiful (and delicious) at dawn and dusk. I first indulged in a Gaufre in Brussels years ago, and it continues to creep into my foodie dreams. At first, it doesn’t look much different than a normal waffle, but this ain’t no soggy Eggo. A sugary, buttery glaze coats the outside and creates a perfect balance of crisp and soft textures…Truly life changing.
A stroll through this golden-hued central square is an absolute must. However, if you’re a lover of European comics, there is a museum/store dedicated solely to The Adventures of Tintin just around the corner from the square. Until I saw the shop, I had no idea Tin Tin was a Belgian based series. Major props.
On the night of the show, some fans who drove in from Normandie were kind enough to bring me some French Camembert cheese and nice olive oil (another reason why SWMRS fans are the best). Waffles and cheese may not be typical pre-performance food, but I have no regrets. The show was amazing, and I was especially stoked that some close friends of Michelle and mine were able to make it. Christophe and Kristina, who are locals, convinced me that my Brussels experience would not be complete without Belgian beer and fries…
“Fritches” as they call them, differ from fries in the U.S. mostly because of how they’re consumed. I’m talking sauce, baby. Or sauces, for that matter. I swear the shopkeeper listed 10 or so different ones you could put on your fries. I opted for curry ketchup, which seemed like a mundane approach compared to Cristophe’s selection of “maffia sauce” – a spicy, creamy, mustard-y condiment.
I’ve been to Paris four times over the past year, and although I’ve written quite a few posts on the city already, I will never get sick of writing about bread, wine, and cheese. Our most recent adventure to Paris began with the most spirited welcoming crew I could ask for – a group of people referred to as “Team Raclette.”
One of the biggest reasons I love spending time talking with our fans from all over the world is because they are each proud of different unique aspects of their home countries. Nine times out of ten, they bring up specific culinary traditions or dishes of their country’s cuisine. In France, the main topic of conversation always involves cheese. Camembert, Roquefort, Brie de Meaux, and yep, French Raclette.
On our day off I was able to spend a few hours hanging with some members of “Team Raclette” – a small group of French fans that have named themselves after the infamously gooey, melted Alpine cheese that I love oh so much. It was fun practicing my French, sipping espresso, and visiting Du Pain et Des Idées for an afternoon fig and almond pastry.
For dinner, I couldn’t NOT go back to my all-time favorite restaurant/wine shop in Paris, Le Verre Volé. I went with the clams with little bits of chorizo and corn to start and got the seared duck with figs as well (not pictured). Cole broke his vegetarian streak to try their Pigeon dish. We shared a bottle of Gamay wine from the Loire Valley. Brother bonding at its finest.
A couple of fans came up to Cole and I after dinner and gifted us this massive loaf of country bread from their Dad’s bakery in Normandie. That bread, some vinyl records, French chocolate, and a raclette maker (used to melt the cheese…sort of like fondue) were amongst the items generously gifted to me by our French fans. They know me so well, and I am so grateful.
A trip to Paris isn’t complete without a visit to Miam Miam, my favorite sandwich spot located in the historic open air market, Marché des Enfants Rouges. I convinced some of The Regrettes to join me for the 1 1/2 hour wait, which is always well-worth the greatest sandwich of all time.
Prosciutto, caramelized onions, fresh tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, Comte or Cantal cheese (your choice), delicate French butter lettuce, lemon zest, avocado, and secret seasoning all haphazardly stuffed in between two pieces of fresh French bread by the wacky magician himself, Chez Alain. The sandwich is then slapped on the seasoned grill and pressed down using paddles by a dude who appears to be an apprentice/assistant to the master. I was fortunate enough to eat this sandwich three times this past year… but you only need to eat it once for it to change your life.
Our show in Paris was absolutely bananas, which is fitting because we covered “Le Banana Split” – a classic French pop song that helped prove to fans our ability to speak French.
I’m going to miss Europe. I can’t believe I won’t be back for a whole year. (I know that sounds privileged AF to some.) But it wasn’t over after Paris. Next, I’ll share the details of our incredible trip to England, Scotland, and Ireland before we headed home to the U.S. Cask Ales and Indian food…don’t forget about the spice bags. Stay tuned.