Saturday, August 27, 2011

Yet Another DC Mussels Joint

For some reason Belgian food is super trendy in DC. Not only have there been a ton of new bistro-style restaurants opening in the past few years, but there was even an official "Belgian Restaurant Week" leading up to the National Day which I suspect had more fanfare than in the homeland! Seriously, I think I've eaten more mussels here than I ever did in Antwerp.

With so many moules frites to choose from, here is a helpful guide to your options in the District:

Et Voila - Tim and I found out about this place because they served amazing waffles at the Belgian ambassador's national day party (yes, we are fancy). They are in the Palisades area of DC, and thus only accessible by car or taxi, but there's a huge upside: if you make reservations after 9:30pm, you get a free bottle of wine. Good Spanish wine, too! I had veal sweetbreads (a guilty pleasure of mine) and curry-flavored moules frites. Tim had smoked trout which he loved, and stoofvlees which he loved a bit less.

Bistrot Le Zinc - this place is located on Wisconsin Ave. north of Glover Park, about 20 min walk from where we live. It's only been open for a few weeks but we were really impressed with both the food and the service. I had a tasty hot goat cheese salad and red snapper with an eggplant tapenade, which was really strong tasting but good. Tim had a sea scallop appetizer and giant delicious leg of lamb for his main course, and we split a chocolate cake for dessert. We want to become regulars here, we liked it so much.

Marvin - this U street restaurant is an interesting mix of soul food and Belgian cuisine, based on the few years that Marvin Gaye spent living in the seaside town of Oostende. We visited during Belgian restaurant week and the chef whipped us up a tasting menu right on the spot. We had a bunch of small plates: garlic & beer mussels, lobster waterzooi and pork cheeks. The caramel toffee cake was to die for, and so was the lavender ice cream that went with the chocolate cake.

Belga Cafe - I visited this place for brunch with a Belgian friend, and we were unimpressed. It was really American food - savory waffles, for shame! The portion sizes were much too small for the price, as well. It's a pity because this is one of the few places on this list that actually has a Flemish chef (who is married to Greet Dekeyser, the Belgian TV foreign correspondent based in the US*). The lines get out of control on the weekends here, when everyone is out shopping in nearby Eastern Market.

Brasserie Beck - This place is known as being a popular happy hour spot for K Street lobbyists, but we went here for Sunday brunch with a few friends. Although one friend had a bad experience with her shredded chicken omelet, the rest of the food was good, including their fresh blueberry pancakes and a seafood salad. This place is pricey, though: the stoofvlees (carbonade) will set you back $27 and a seafood plate costs almost $100.

Granville Moore's - This is a rustic pub that's housed in an old doctor's office on H Street. The food is a mixture of mussels and burgers, but their beer list is extensive and impressive. Show up early or in a smaller group because they don't take reservations. There are plenty of bars around to grab a drink while you're waiting, though.

Bistrot Du Coin - this trendy, noisy Dupont French restaurant steals Belgian menu items. Our waiter bristled when we asked if the place was Belgian-style or French. "Of course we are French!" she sniffed, then proceeded to bring moules frites to half of the table. They were good mussels, though!

*She had to stand outside today in Annapolis and get pummeled by Hurricane Irene on live TV. Pech gehad!

Voila! There you had it, the Belgian restaurants in DC. The only restaurant missing from this list? Marcel's, which is located near the White House and is the kind of place that only serves prix-fixe menus, such as the hoity-toity sounding "pre-theater menu." Anyone feel like sponsoring us?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Coming to America

After waiting nearly a year for his visa, The Boy has finally arrived! And anyway, I figured it was about damn time I broke my blog vow of silence on the subject. Especially since I'm going to marry him.

Like immigrants of American yore, The Boy arrived with only his suitcases to his name. Suitcases which enclosed many delicious treats from Belgium, like Speculoospasta. Also plenty of liquor, but let's not mention that part in case Customs is reading this.

Just like the tales of many other immigrants, Tim's name has been unwillingly changed by various brainless officials. Usually they just smush the 2 words together into "Vanaelst", but my favorite, Geico, called him just "Van" on his auto insurance. I'm pretty relieved that in Belgian tradition, I don't have to change my name upon marriage - who knows what might happen if I did.

Worst of all, like many other immigrants, Tim is unable to go back to his home country. Not because of financial strife or war (although come to think of it, Belgium has been without a government for a year). No, it's because of immigration rules: K1 visa holders cannot leave the US until they get their green card. This takes 6-8 months, if you're lucky or if you have a relative who works at US immigrations.

Snide comments aside, this rule certainly curtails our international travel plans for a while. But not to worry - Tim and I have already bought tickets for our honeymoon, as far away in the US as you can get: Anchorage, Alaska. Maybe we'll be able to see Russia from our hotel!