Rich and I finally traveled to Belgium last year after dreaming about it for about a decade. Craft beer has been my drink of choice since college, but Belgian beers have always held a special place in my heart above others. So after talking about traveling to Belgium every time we drank a Le Chouffe or Chimay, Rich and I finally bought two tickets to beer paradise (cheesy, I know, but it’s true). We were on the pursuit of beer, the rest would fall into place.
I have a couple of friends who spent some time in Belgium and graciously shared maps and stories prior to our trip so thought it would be fun to have a Belgian beer dinner to celebrate Belgium? Or Beer? Either way, it is so cold in Minnesota right now that some rich Belgian food alongside some delicious beers would do the trick to warm us up.
Pre-meal Nosh: Brugge Rodenbach Cheese w/ Mustard and Celery Salt/Cantillon Gueuze Lambic – This was the traditional snack served in all the bars which sounded weird at first but it works, especially when paired with beer. The cheese is a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese soaked in Rodenbach red ale which gives it a mild tartness and sweet finish. We paired the cheese with our bottle of Cantillon which we brought back from Belgium, so it was the perfect way to kick off the evening. I gained an appreciation for Gueuze, a sour made in Brussels, when we spent time there and am now mildly obsessed. So unique and refreshing, it stood in for bubbly on this night.
Appetizer: Mussels in White Wine / La Trappe Tripel – Moules-frites is the classic mussels and fries dish that you can’t leave Belgium without having. The mussels were steamed in white wine, salt, pepper, parsley and finished in butter. No fries tonight as this was just an appetizer. We poured the La Trappe Tripel, the sweetness and slight spice goes well with shellfish.
Main: Carbonnade Flamande w/Stoempf / Saison Dupont Cuvee Dry Hopping – This traditional Flemish beef stew is made with beer, Leffe Brune in this case, which helps develop the rich and sweet flavors. A splash of cider vinegar gives it a tart finish. I used a Carbonade recipe from Saveur which was delicious, but next time I will add an hour of simmering to make the beef more tender. I made a simple stoempf, a root vegetable mash, to accompany the rich stew. You can find the full recipe at the bottom of this post.
Rich opened a bottle of Saison Dupont Cuvee Dry Hopping to accompany our main course. We chose this one to cut through the richness of the stew and stoempf. I know you are supposed to pick some big brown beer at this point but trust me, this is a RICH meal! In addition to the cheese, mussels, and upcoming dessert, we just needed to lighten things up. I learned this from eating fondue and raclette. The carbonation and dryness really went went well in my opinion.
Dessert: Crepes w/Salted Caramel Ice Cream and Dried Cherries, Dolfin Lavender Chocolate
Our friend was in charge of dessert and she showed up with a crepe pan and Sebastian Joe’s Salty Caramel ice cream, I think she pretty much won dinner. So we had fresh-made crepes for dessert which really elevated the experience.We also brought out this fine dark chocolate and lavender bar that we were saving for a special occasion.
Good food and good friends are the key to life, I am sure somebody famous said that. I truly believe it, especially when paired with beer. I had tons of fun and will definitely make this meal a tradition. Do you hold any special themed dinners? I’m looking for more ideas.