Cologne Christmas Market!

As you know, we explored the numerous Cologne Christmas Markets this past weekend!

We drove into town and found parking quite easily.  We thought that we might have “beat the crowds,” but wow were we wrong.  It was SO crowded.  So much so, that it was tough to enjoy all the stands and browse/make purchases.  However, we still had a good time and were amazed at the dedication the Germans have to decorating for the Holidays.  It is AMAZING – best I’ve ever seen!

Here are some of our pics!

Entrance to the main market!

The first bite: Melted cheese on bread, what's not to like?!

Rides for the kiddies!

Entrance to the "Altstadt" Market!

Gluhwein stand - LOVED the wood!

Awesome mugs you got!

HAD to get my Lebkuchen cookies!

Of course, no stop in Cologne is complete without taking a little break at the “bierhaus.”

Slightly annoyed with my picture taking...

As we were walking along the Rhein river, we came across a “floating” Christmas Market!  To bad it cost $$ to get on…

Ship Market!

We made one last walk through the main market set beside the beautiful Dom Cathedral.  Joe took over the camera and took some amazing shots with the sun going down!

Look at all those people!

My favorite pic of the day!

Overall a beautiful atmosphere and amazing stands – each market was like its own little village.  Next year I’d prefer to go earlier during the season or on a weekday to avoid the crowds!

A last note – I drove home that night.  My first experience driving on the autobahn and in Germany & the Netherlands.  Boom! 🙂

Restaurant Review: Au Boeuf Qui Rit

Restaurant: Au Boeuf Qui Rit (sorry no website)

Location: Gent, Belgium (centrum)

Last night I got to meet one of Joe’s bosses for the first time.  We had dinner with him and his wife at one of their favorite Gent restaurants – ‘Au Boeuf Qui Rit.’

When you walk in, you immediately feel as though you are in someone’s quirky home.  There are random framed photographs, candles lit everywhere, and a huge fireplace in the middle.  It has a very nice warm and relaxing feeling to it.

The Kitchen!

We sat our table and proceeded to check out the menu.  It is important to note that this is a French restaurant — VERY french.  In other words, the waitress and owner only speaks french!  The menu is in both Dutch and French and you can get by with pointing, etc, but she really does only speak French.  Luckily for us, Joe’s boss speaks excellent French!

Also important – all meals are prepared on the grill in the middle of the restaurant.  I found this to be really cool/unique as you could watch your food being prepared.  Just something different and fun!

Here are my thoughts!

  • Ambiance – GOOD.  Relaxed and resembled a home living room – warm and cozy.
  • Drinks – EXCELLENT.  We had a nice bottle of red wine for the table and then the men ordered beer afterwards (fairly limited selection, but they were happy with Duvel).
  • Snacks – N/A – bummer as this is important to me.
  • Food – VERY GOOD.  I opted for the grilled shrimp skewers with the house sauce (amazing sauce)!  Each entree also comes with grilled potatoes and a side salad.
  • Price – GOOD.  My shrimp was 19 euro which for Gent I don’t think is too bad.  However, for 6 shrimp and a small salad with 1 potato – could be considered a lot.
  • Service – GOOD.  Again, pretty hard to interact as she only spoke French.  We had to hunt her down a few times for wine and the check, so not the most attentive.
  • Overall – GOOD.  It’s not one of my favorite places, but I’d go back when I’m in the mood for an old fashioned barbeque!

Sauce was DELISH!

A couple other things to note.  I would not recommend this restaurant on the weekends as the owner is the only cook and the grill quite small = long wait times.  Also, you will smell like a barbeque when you leave – so be prepared to air out your clothes.

Restaurant Review: Kaai 14

Restaurant: Kaai 14

 

Location: Gent, Belgium (centrum)

Joe and I have walked past this restaurant several times on our way to the gym and have always wanted to try it out!  Then, one of my friends recommended it.  So, finally, we tested it out!

On the river! Loving the vines!

When we walked in, we were immediately greeted (very friendly) and sat in the lounge.  It was SO cozy with the fireplace and very romantic.  We were treated to a nice aperitif (cava for me & rum & coke for Joe).  In addition, they brought down (complimentary – score!) olives and a small plate of tomato-mozzarella salad.  For those of you who don’t know, that is my favorite salad, so I was immediately won over!

Loungin...pun intended!

Perfection.

After having our aperitif, we were taken to our table upstairs to enjoy our meal!

  • Ambiance – Modern chic and very clean – loved it!
  • Drinks – EXCELLENT.  As mentioned above, we enjoyed our aperitifs.  We then opted for a bottle of red wine (Malbec) for dinner.  It was delicious and paired great with our filet (recommended by our waitress).
  • Snacks – EXCELLENT.  As seen above – we loved the olives and the mini appetizer was a very nice surprise.
  • Food – EXCELLENT.  We opted for the 3 course chef menu – definitely worth it (see below)!  I should note that this is the way to go.  The chef menu was only about 10 euros more than the entrees themselves but you got two more courses.  No brainer!
  • Price – EXCELLENT.  The prices are standard for a Gent restaurant (20-35 euros/entree).  The portions were perfect!
  • Service – EXCELLENT – Our waitress was very friendly and so attentive (not always the case in Belgium).  She made several recommendations (wine) and did not disappoint.
  • Overall – EXCELLENT.  A great place for celebrating a nice occasion or just date-night!  (Would not recommend to bring children here).
What we ate:
  • First Course – Tuna and crab tartar with sun-dried tomatoes and honey mustard.  We were also served bread (multi-grain) in the bag in the picture.  I thought that was so funny – I’ve never had bread brought to me in a bag!
  • INCREDIBLE

  • Second Course – Filet mignon with a cranberry sauce, potatoes, and seasonal veggies.
  • That's a pear on top!

  • Third Course – Whipped custard with Belgian chocolate ice cream.  Do not hate me – I DON’T have a picture of this (oops)!  I was more a fan of the ice cream than the actual whipped custard…so I dug around it! 🙂
As you can tell, we were quite happy!!  A great dinner with the hubby!

Happy Friday!

Broccoli Pasta Night!

Happy Friday everyone! 

Started the day off right with my OMG mug!  It finally made an appearance again after I finished the dishes!  Oh, so happy.

Mmm, oatmeal/cereal concoction!

I have to admit that today has not been very exciting.  I devoted the entire morning til about mid-afternoon to school work.  I haven’t really done much work since school started over a month ago and so today it really hit me…I’M IN SCHOOL.  It just seems so weird!  I haven’t done HW since, oh, I don’t know, like Nov 2005.  That’s ALMOST 6 years!!!  I’ve come to 2 realizations:

1.  I’m somewhat of a procrastinator.

2.  Facebook is just as distracting now as it was in 2003 when I signed up!  Remember when you could only sign up when you had an email with .edu?  Ha, the good ole days!

I just finished my law presentation and I was so excited to dive into my “reward.”  My father-in-law and his fiance gave us a bag of American trick or treat candy before we left the USA.  AWESOME.  So…I promised myself a treat once the work was done (ok – it seriously sounds like I’m treating myself like a dog who just completed a trick).  Anyway, I opened up the 2-pack of Starburst…and what to my dismay…A YELLOW & AN ORANGE.  UGHHHH, the WORST colors.

I would LOVE this:

Starburst Favered Fruit Chew Candy

Tonight I am trying another new recipe from my latest blog obsession: Gina’s Skinny Recipes.  We are going to have the ‘Pasta w/ Roasted Broccoli w/Oil & Garlic.’  Of course, I will be making 2 sets of pasta since Joe will not eat whole wheat and I will not eat white pasta.  Stupid of us, huh?

Here it is!  YUM!  I swear there is a lot there…in proportion to the wine? hmmmm

Yes, the wine glass looks huge!

We also opted to go out for a drink at our fave spot…the “Trappisten huis.”  I had my usual Cava and Joe his Sint-Bernardus.  Not going to lie, it was a nice, relaxing Friday evening back in town! 🙂

Sooo happy!

Back to Belgium - where champagne is acceptable on a daily basis!

Tosa Trivia!

Started my Tuesday off right…with a little Jillian Michaels!  Was pretty intense today considering I haven’t done her video in a week or 2!

My mom and I were going to have a full fledge Mother-Daughter day of shopping…at my favorite local shopping mall…Mayfair!!  Ahhh, how I love it! 🙂  We started off bright and early (we were literally there before it opened) and of course, made a stop at the Starbuck’s drive through for a morning pick-me-up.

*I’m going to digress for a minute – this is the first DRIVE-THRU I’ve been to in 8 months.  I can’t think of 1 drive-thru in Belgium…not 1 (and I’m really trying)!  Weird, right?!

Anyway, we spent a great deal of time at our fave stores (Ann Taylor, Loft, Limited, etc)!  I might have missed my calling as a personal shopper.  I must say that I REALLY enjoy helping others buy clothing!  My mom got some GREAT key items…including a brand new pair of AWESOME jeans.  I (of course) got some great new stuff too – cute earrings, scarf, etc.

My sister joined us for lunch…at Panera (again – why stop a good thing)!  This time I had my other favorite soup – Chicken Noodle with the multi-grain baguette.  Still delish!  We followed up lunch with dessert at…yes, Starbucks (again)!  My mom and I split a PUMPKING SPICE LATTE!  I’m sensing a pattern…

I WAS SO excited for this evening.  My BFF is getting married in January and she invited me and Maggie (remember her visit?) to join her for a dress fitting!  Here are just pics from previous celebrations – soon to add pics from Julia’s festivities! 🙂

At my wedding...

At Maggie's Bachelorette party!

Of course, the dress fitting was wonderful and she looked absolutely beautiful.  That’s all the detail you get…since the fiance is a subscriber! 🙂

For dinner, we had plans to meet a group of friends at the Mo’s Irish Pub in Wauwatosa for Trivia Night.  I’ve never played trivia before at a bar and really did not know what to expect.  Let me tell you…it is NOT easy!  Here are a couple sample questions:

  • What state produces 90% of the USA’s garlic crop?
  • What country did Churchill call “the sleeping giant?”
  • Name the 2 heisman (sp?) trophy winners who were drafted as quarterbacks in the same year (BONUS que).
  • How many ‘community chests’ are there on a monopoly board?  I still don’t believe the answer to this…
  • Which country whose name starts with a ‘P’ is the largest in size (sq ft)?
Tough right?!  Well, we were close…but ended up coming in 4th.  Oh well it was fun and so great to catch up with old friends! 🙂

the boys...

the girls...

Oh, I almost forgot…I had the BEST tomato soup last night (with OYSTER crackers – another thing I can’t find in Belgium)!

Note the design on top...nice touch!

Restaurant Review: ‘t Hommelhof

As I mentioned in my last Watou post, we ate at a FABULOUS restaurant the night we were in Watou!  Here are the deets!

Restaurant: ‘t Hommelhof

So adorbs!

Seriously, how welcoming does this place look?!

Location: Watou, Belgium (centrum)

  • Ambiance – Adorable.  It is located right in the town centrum.  We rode the bikes in from the B&B (about a 15 minute drive).  Very nice feel – could be casual or dressy.  We were in the mood for dressy since this was our nice night out for the 4 of us.
  • Drinks – EXCELLENT.  We opted for the chef’s menu which had the option for a selection of wines or beer.  Everyone opted for the wine and Joe chose the beer.  Honestly, each wine was delicious.  We had 2 whites and a red.  My fave was the first white and the last red.  Joe, of course, loved his beer selections (all Watou brewed – duh)!
  • Snacks – EXCELLENT.  When we sat down we received little green olives, delicious white rolls, radishes, and some bbq chips.  The rolls came with a ham-like pate which was delicious.
  • Food – EXCELLENT.  We splurged and opted for the chef’s menu (3 courses) – definitely worth it!  (see below)
  • Price – GOOD.  It’s a rather pricey menu, but honestly one of the best dinners we’ve had in Belgium.
  • Service – EXCELLENT – The waiter was very good in English and explained each course in detail.  The chef came out of the kitchen about halfway through our meal and asked how we were doing and what we thought – classy!
  • Overall – EXCELLENT.  A MUST-TRY if you are in Watou!
What we ate:
  • First Course – Tomatoes and mozzarella with balsamic vinegar and topped with garnaal (Belgian mini-shrimp).  YUM.
  • Check out the basil!

  • Second Course – White fish (sorry, can’t remember the type) with a light cream sauce and oysters.  I couldn’t bring myself to try the oysters…my bad.
  • Loved this plate!

  • Third Course – Lamb with cheese potatoes (looked like little muffins!) and green beans.
  • Yes, I eat lamb now. Don't judge me.

  • Dessert Course – Trio of green tea cream with baked pears, chocolate mousse, and a chocolate brownie topped with gelatin.  Oh, and a dripping of caramel down the middle of the plate!
  • Seriously?!

Yea, we were definitely satisfied!  Can you tell?

Happy campers.

As if we needed more, they brought this little joy to the table…

The chocolates in the middle were un-comprehendable.

Wow again Watou!

A week in photos!

Have I been slacking or what?!?!  I’ve been very busy with our visitors so I’m going to do a ‘week in photos’ post to catch up!  Here we go!!!

Tuesday

Of course, I had class, but was able to grab dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Downstairs.  You may remember it from the review!  I opted for the Gent specialty – Waterzooi.  

Like a delish chicken soup!

Followed up by a round of jenever at t’ Dreupelkot!

Pinky's up!

Wednesday

Today was a day of Gent.  We went to the castle, cathedral, had wafels, etc.

Queens! 🙂

Atop the castle!

Wafels anyone?!

Or coffee with freshly whipped cream?!

And then…we had lunch at the Stropke restaurant outside the castle.  I must say that this was a pleasant surprise…you never know how restaurants will be in extremely tourist areas.  VERY delish!

Tomato soup + multigrain bread!

Gent stoverij!

AMAZING brie+pineapple salad!

Wednesday night was pizza and relaxing.  Unfortunately, I do not have a pic of the pizza, but it was really good.  Yes, all we do is eat here! 🙂

Thursday

No pics today…forgot my camera on the way to Antwerp.  But, we took the train to Antwerp, walked the city, ate some mussels and chocolate, grabbed Starbucks (yes!), and shopped ’til we dropped!  I am the lucky new owner of a beautiful striped sweater and Joe has a very nice (stylin) shirt!

Friday

Last night we hosted a dinner at our condo with ingredients from the fresh markets!  On the menu – halibut, brussel sprouts, salad, and bread.  The halibut was cooked on the stove top with a squeeze of lemon and some spices.  We broiled the brussel sprouts in the oven for about 30 minutes on 200C (tossed with salt, pepper, and olive oil).  A VERY nice evening in with our guests :-)!

Cheers!

Yum, a home-cooked meal!

Off to enjoy the rest of the weekend!!!  Up next…beer tours and bike rides!

Brunch @ Chez Joe/Sarah

Sunday Night:

Last night we went and ate at a restaurant on the Graslei.  It was a beautiful night so we sat outside under the heat lamps!  We all sampled some of the “local” cuisine.  For appy’s, we sampled the smoked salmon and cheese croquette’s.  The in-laws had the traditional waterzooi (chicken, potatoes, and carrots in a light stew).  Joe had the stoverij (beef with potatoes in a thicker stew).  I had the greek salad – ok, not a local specialty, but I was craving feta cheese!  Of course, we sampled some wine and Belgian beer!

HUGE portions!

Afterward, we opted for a night cap at the “smallest bar in the world!”  (According to the bar that is…)!  We got to sit on the second floor where there is literally one very small table and the ceiling is about 5 ft high.  So quaint!

Creepin through the window

Monday Morning:

Brunch was at Chez Joe and Sarah.  We wanted to make our guests the infamous “egg sandwich” – our weekend routine.  Joe manned the stove while I made coffee…ok, well our Senseo machine did it.  I essentially sat around. 🙂

Thanks babe!

Good Morning!

Awesome as always!

Delish.  Sadly, they are off to tour Brugges and I have to stay behind (darn school)!  BUT, before school, I get to pick up our other visitor at the train station!  Woo hoo!!! 🙂

Restaurant Review: In Bocco Lupo

This is arguably our favorite restaurant in Ghent…so you probably already know how it will rate, but still take a look!

Restaurant: In Bocca ‘Lupo

 

How cute it the front door?!

Location: Ghent, Belgium (Patershol)

  • Ambiance – AWESOME.  It is in the Patershol area of Gent which is basically cozy, small streets with really nice and cute restaurants.  It has a very nice/cozy/romantic feel to it.
  • Drinks – GREAT.  We’ve always ordered a bottle of wine (both red and white) and have never had a complaint.  Also, the prices are decent with quite a few under 30 euro.
  • Snacks – GREAT .When you sit down, you automatically receive the LARGEST green olives I’ve ever seen, alont with some really great circular crackers. Yum.
  • Food – GREAT. (see below)
  • Price – GREAT.  Average priced (main meal 12-25 euros).  However, I have one big complaint – they do NOT take American credit cards.  Be sure to have quite a bit of cash on hand…so annoying.
  • Service – VERY GOOD – always friendly and willing to help to non-Dutch speakers.  I will add that this is a typical Belgian restaurant where your dinner will probably take 1.5-2 hours to enjoy.  This would not be a place to go if you are in a hurry.
  • Overall – GREAT.  We’ve been here numerous times and have NEVER been disappointed.
What we ate:
  • Anti-pasti platter – This is a MUST.  It has great grilled vegetables, cured meats, bruschetta, etc.  Note that the serving size is large, so you probably can order it for 1 person (which is enough to feed 2 people).
  • Joe had the specialty pesto pasta with arugula, tomatoes, and grated parmesan cheese.  Excellent.
  • I had my fave – the zucchini stuffed with ricotta cheese and served with a potato green bean salad and then side lettuce salad.  This meal is SO good and filling.  The steaming cheese in the zucchini is to die for.
  • Of course, we also receive delicious multi-grain bread!
Here are the pics…are you salivating?

Mmmmm!

I would lick the plate if that was acceptable.

*Disclaimer – I am NOT a professional food critic/reviewer,etc.  Simply my observations based on my tastes…

A little behind…

With my friend Maggie in town, I’ve been a little behind on the posts!  Sadly, today is her last day in Ghent…but that means that I will have time to fill you in on our weekend together.  A few things to look forward to:

  • Salmon + relish
  • Julie’s House! OMG
  • Chicken enchiladas…a la Maggie!
  • Pumpkin Oatmeal
  • Belgian Wafels (spelled the Belgian way – so you don’t think I’m a bad speller)
  • In Bocco Lupo
  • Lunch in Antwerp
To be continued…