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Best of Belgium fare

Since ITC is into promoting hobby chefs, the coffee shop tables have become rendezvous points with the exotic...


THE BELGIANS produce some of the best things in the culinary world — chocolates and beer and to go by the account I heard lately, even French fries.

Since ITC is into promoting hobby chefs, the coffee shop tables have become rendezvous points with the exotic. And Chola Sheraton has been sourcing from the Chennai's expat community quite successfully. This time it is Dirk Robrechts, a telecommunication-computer technologist and his `The Best of Belgium' fare. An amateur, who inherited the flair for cooking from his grandmother, had his initiation into big time, literally, with kids' summer camps, and has put in some long working hours behind the stove. His mussels dish done from scratch for 200 kids was all voluntary work! Dirk informed us at the beginning itself that when Belgians eat out, they really go to town. Unimportant details like calories don't bother them much.

They don't handle alcohol sparingly as their neighbours, the French, who usually finish off the sauces with wine. Here marinating in beer and wine means not adding mls but dunking the whole meat in alcohol overnight. Butter is the cooking medium. Even better is the evening snack. Dirk described that it is common for home returning crowds to stop at fry vending kiosks, pick up an order along a dip, usually mayonnaise. Just listening to him can send one's cholesterol level up.

The food on the table reflected the chef's roots. Dirk is from the northern part of Belgium. The hearty, robust Viking influence was unmistakable. The cream of squash with mussels and tomato soup with meatballs were nice. Take a spoonful of Gratin of mussels on a bed of spinach, the tensile cheese threads follow the spoon. Needless to say that it is rich and yumm.. Among the meats, the rabbit marinated in beer with mushroom was lovely. The sauce that came with the Stingray with Fennel stood out with its delicate flavour.

But the fish needed some getting used to.

The desserts, Belgian ganache chocolate tart and chocolate charlotte were nice. The chef had made it clear that all the ingredients were locally sourced. Nowhere was it more felt than with the desserts. Even plain slabs of some dark Belgian chocolate would have done.

The fest has been extended till May 5.

MARIEN MATHEW

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