Sunday, April 17, 2016

#21: Eat a Belgian Waffle in Belgium

This is what dreams are made of. I mean, twist my arm. Seriously though, I love adore waffles. A good Belgian waffle is a real treat, and finding that perfect marriage of crisp outside, soft inside, warmth, and sweetness is not as easy when you have high waffle standards. Which I do. I guess you could say I'm a bit of a waffle snob.

I see various uses for waffles:
- hangover cure extraordinaire 
- a vehicle for a mountain of ice cream toppings into my mouth
- suitable for any meal and/or snack.
- can be used as a verb ex: "I was straight wafflin'" or "Jimmy quit your waffling and get a move on!"
- the perfect union of breakfast and dessert
- an amazing potential dog name

I needed to try an authentic Belgian waffle. So it was quite obvious that the place to go would be Belgium, and I was prepared to eat all the waffles. 


..and not that I was being particular or anything, but I wanted to eat all the waffles in a land suited for fairytales... a fairytaleland, if you will.

KJ and I flew from Oslo to Brussels and my thoughts were consumed by waffles for the entire trip. Probably because we had survived mostly on ramen noodles and grilled cheese for the previous two weeks, but still...WAFFLES.

What kind of toppings would there be? Would they be dense, or light, or a mind blowing combination of the two? How many could I eat? Was it acceptable to eat them for every meal? Would I get to waffle whilst having an actual tea party? 
(the last one was a fantasy, but one I was hoping to make a reality.)

Oh, I did my research. I only had 2.5 days. A plan was necessary.

d A y  1

I awoke the morning of day one waffle tasting and popped next door to the coffee shop for a dose of caffeine before the big day started. Little did I know, they served their coffee with two complimentary Oreos. If there's one rule I try to live by, it's 'always eat complimentary Oreos.' 

So, I did. In hindsight, it probably wasn't the smartest choice to start a day of waffle tasting by eating Oreos. 

KJ and I set out waffling to our first stop, Carpe Diem, and seize the waffles we would! I strategically chose a sit down place for the inaugural tasting, and in a tea room no less. Just like that, my tea party fantasy and Belgian waffle in Belgium dream were coming true. I ordered tea because that's what you do at tea parties. We had a long day ahead, and tea would prep & soothe my stomach; I hoped.

Easily the best tea party I've ever been to. This is what Carpe Diem taught me about tea parties:

-I'd been doing it wrong this whole time.
-I'd been using coffee instead of tea.
-I didn't serve NEARLY enough treats.
-My sugar wasn't ever in cube form.
-I didn't play opera.
-It clearly was because I hadn't been doing it in Belgium.

Forget the creepy dolls, tiny chairs, and fake tea. This was a real adult tea party and IT WAS SO PRETTY. 

Momentarily distracted by the sparkling rock candy accoutrements, I looked at my waffle choices. I decided to keep it simple, focusing mainly on the waffle. I ordered the strawberry waffle. A Belgian waffle with fresh strawberries for a pop of color and some vitamins and stuff.

The tea tray was so stunning, I didn't want to mess it up, by, you know, drinking the tea. But I gave in eventually, after about 10 photos, and just as I poured my first cuppa out of a gorgeous silvery tiny teapot, my eye caught something. It looked like it was smothered in chocolate.

"What's this?" I asked KJ as she popped hers in her mouth.

"I think's really good" her eyes rolled back in pleasure, confirming her initial prediction.

"I LOVE SHORTBREAD." I whispered in amazement.

"Then you're gonna die." 

If you can die of deliciousness than this is probably when it would've happened. But then, I would've missed the main act.

I was so distracted by the tea party shenanigans that I almost forgot the real reason I was there. Almost.

My strawberry waffle came out, presented like a piece of gold. It was simple. It wasn't drowning in butter and syrup, although they were there as an option. The big moment had come. I cut into the waffle for my first bite, and didn't even need a knife.

I'm pretty sure time stopped. It was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It was light and crusty and airy all at once and if that wasn't enough, the strawberries melted in my mouth from the dusting of powered sugar they were dressed in. I had to restrain myself from using my hands and shoving the waffle in it's entirety down my throat. (That wouldn't have been very ladylike, and I'm certain they don't allow that kind of neanderthal behavior at true tea parties.)

"This is the best tea party I've ever had." I declared, as opera played in the background and soft rifts of the highest soprano ever in life, drifted amongst us. 

Because opera = legit tea party.

Now that I had been schooled in 'proper tea party', it was time to walk the current one residing in my stomach off; so that we could dig into waffle tasting number two at some point.

Bruges was the perfect place to walk off a waffle, and make room for an encore. That is, if I could control myself from buying out all the chocolate as well. 

The chocolate shops in Bruge abound, and I was no stranger to tasting it; let's just leave it at that.

At some point that afternoon I accepted that I was just going to stay perpetually full. I'd have to try another waffle whether I was hungry or not. I know, pity me. So I decided to go the street waffle route this time, and Chez Albert was just the place.

A tiny little thing, Chez Albert stuck out because of the line of waffle eaters waiting to get their waffle-to-go. KJ and I agreed to share one, on account we were still stuffed to the brim from our individual morning waffles, and possibly also the massive amount of chocolate we had indulged in throughout the day.

We ordered the waffle with cherry and whipped cream, because why the hell not? It came with a flag, so immediately I was hooked.

Piping hot, I noticed something else right off the bat. This bitch was heavy. Albert's waffle was definitely more dense than Carpe Diem's. I only imagined how it would feel, sitting in my stomach later on, but it smelled amazing. 

I took a moment to appreciate the convenient container it came in and just as we dove in, it started to rain. We each tasted a bite, and the dense-ness was confirmed. As was the sweetness of the cherries. They were almost too sweet. Almost

There we were, in the rain, shielded only by our bubble of happiness, from the waffle.

It was delectable, but very rich. I was fairly certain I wouldn't be needing dinner later that night...maybe.

d A y   2

Surprisingly, I wasn't sick of waffles. Good thing, because the next stop on the tour de waffles was Lizzie's. Lizzie was known for her extra large waffles. Therefore, I was hooked at "giant waffle." 

This was going to be another sit down experience and I was grateful because the cozy wafflery nestled on an adorable lane served as a welcome respite to the once again rainy weather. 

The one thing about waffle shops is the immediate scent of goodness that enters your nostrils. It draws you in. Whatever it is making that smell, I want it. Lizzie's was no exception.

I opted for coffee this time, seeing as I had experienced the best tea party of my life the day before, and also I just wanted coffee. ALL THE DRINKS COME WITH MELT IN YOUR MOUTH TREATS. Yep, I could learn to live like this. 

Somehow, I was hungry again. KJ and I each ordered our own waffle, which I knew to be an immediate mistake. 
But, when in Belgium...

I went simple again, ordering the waffle with jam. The ginormous waffle was served, confirming that we should've ordered just one between the two of us. But boy, it was a real beaut.

How is it that the powdered sugar was sprinkled and distributed evenly amongst the entire surface area of the waffle? I wondered.

"You know when you inhale powdered sugar in the back of your throat?" I asked KJ before digging in.

"Yes." She nodded as if she truly understood.

"It's a real fear of mine."

I was willing to conquer this fear for sake of the exquisiteness before me.

Despite it's size, this waffle was super light and airy. The jam was sweet, but not too sweet. Everything was perfectly balanced. How does one eat a waffle of this stature? SQUARE BY SQUARE.

My only regret? Not having room in my stomach for hands down the most remarkable looking hot chocolate setup I have ever seen. EVER.

That's right, you drop that chocolate ball right in the milk.
Thank you, Lizzie...thank you.

More than sufficiently full, (ok, I had to unbutton my pants) we made our way back outside. I knew then that there wasn't anyway that I could eat a bite of another waffle in the same day. So we strolled over to our last waffle stop, Oyya, to check what time they opened the next morning. With any luck, we could grab a waffle to go from there before our 11:30 am train. 

The newly renovated Oyya wasn't set to open until 11am the following morning. This was not going to work. I wanted to try each waffle with a fair amount of my stomach ready for it, so I could enjoy each one to it's full potential. But I was just. so. full. 

The guy behind the counter sensed my dismay, and inquired. Turns out he was the owner, and after hearing my plight, was willing to open the shop just for us the next morning, an hour early. Mind blown. 

It was a waffle date.

d A y  3

We arrived at Oyya waffle-ready this time. The storefront was all kinds of closed up, but we knocked on the glass as instructed, and could smell that signature Belgian waffle scent as we stepped inside. We were inside a waffle shop in Belgium before it opened, having waffles made just for us. IT WAS A PRIVATE WAFFLE TASTING. 

I went for the Nutella and fresh strawberries waffle, without a second thought.

The owner was quite generous with the Nutella, which, let's be real, is never a problem. We chatted for a few, and thanked him for everything. This was a to-go waffle, so we took them for a bit of a walk before heading back. 

It was delicious, and somehow even more dense than the Chez Albert waffle. I loved the crisp outside and the combination of Nutella with strawberries. 

We strolled around enjoying the last bit of time in Bruges, and greeting the horses. This guy had supreme interest in my waffle, and well, could you blame him?

Eat a Belgian waffle in Belgium? CHECK! Eat half my weight in Belgian waffles in Belgium and have a waffle shop open just for me? CHECK, CHECK!

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