No trip to a brewery is complete without a visit to the city it calls home. After my visit to Rodenbach (You can read about my tour of Rodenbach at: The Foeders of Roeselare: The Wooden Behemoths of Rodenbach), I asked Rudi Ghequire for a good place to have lunch. He recommended a couple of Rodenbach affiliated cafés just off Roeselare’s Grote Markt. The Grote Markt is the “Grand Place” or the Town Square of just about any town in the Flemish speaking portion of Belgium, larger cities usually have multiple squares or Markts. After my tour with Rudi, I slung my backpack over my shoulder and headed into the center of town. Roeselare (Pronounced Roo-suh-lara, Roulers in French) is a smaller city in West-Vlaanderen, the Flemish province that borders France.
Without too much trouble, I found the Grote Markt and my lunch spot, Au Grand Café. The day was warm and sunny so I snagged a table on the street. Most places in Belgium have outside seating despite the rainy climate. Nearly everyone in Belgium enjoys sitting outside and people watching while they’re drinking a beer. They refer to it as “terracing.”
I ordered a 750ml of the Rodenbach Grand Cru and shrimp in a basil cream sauce. Rodenbach and shrimp are a classic food pairing. I was expecting a really nice meal, but what I wasn’t expecting to get was a tremendous example of Belgian beer service at its finest. My server brought the bottle out in a “Palm Breweries” ice bucket, presented the bottle to me over a towel on her forearm, and then opened the bottle. She dropped the wire cage into the bucket which she used to set the bottle on to keep it angled in the bucket (see the picture to see what I mean). She poured my beer into a special “Master Beers” glass designed by Palm Breweries to go along with their best beers. (If you haven’t read my post about Rodenbach, Palm is the family owned brewery that owns Rodenbach). You honestly wouldn’t find better bottle service at the finest Champagne bar.
Soon, my shrimp arrived with a bowl of frietjes (fries) and a typical Belgian cheese plate. If you order a cheese plate in Belgium, you’ll most likely get a plate with a bowl of cubed cheese, a bowl of mustard, and a shaker of celery salt. The cheese will most likely be a variety of medium aged gouda. To eat your cheese in the proper Belgian fashion, you sprinkle the cheese with the celery salt and then dip it into the mustard. It’s quite good. The mustard and salt add a bit of balance to the richness of the cheese without covering it up. I suggest you start lightly on the celery salt until you figure out how much you like.
The shrimp in basil cream sauce was simultaneously rich, delicate, fresh, and flavorful. Once I mixed in the Rodenbach Grand Cru, it was truly perfection. Not only did the acidity cleanse my palate readying it for more, but the interplay of the beer, cream, basil and shrimp truly made the experience greater than the sum of the parts and in this case, the parts were already magnificent. Sometimes it’s fun to experiment with food and beer pairings, but with such a perfect pairing available to me why bother with experimentation.
After a contemplative espresso, I set off to check out the town. The shopping scene in Roeselare is pretty good for a smaller city. There were a lot of great shoe stores for both men and women, most of which were Italian. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your perspective, I didn’t have time to really stop at any. I did pick up a great scarf at a nice men’s shop where I ran into the one Flemish person who didn’t speak English.
After Bit of wandering, I decided to stop in at Rudi’s other recommendation: Brasserie de Zalm. Rudi mentioned they had the rare Foederbier. Foederbier is Rodenbach that is kegged directly out of a foeder containing 2 year old beer. It’s uncarbonated and served like an English cask beer. The other treat on the menu was Ongefilterde Palm. It is unfiltered Palm Belgium Speciale ale that’s also served like the foederbier. Both were excellent (I’ll include reviews separately and link them to this article).
Now, my time was running short if I wanted to get back to Antwerp on time. Yet, trains in this part of Belgium while still timely aren’t as timely as they are near Antwerp and Brussels. So I gambled on a few minutes of train tardiness and made one last stop.
Creme de la Crema caught me eye on my way to the train station. The windows had displays of amazing jewelry that looked like a perfect gift for my partner who delights in artisan crafted items. I stopped in to look at the many lovely goodies and was greeted by the co-owner of the shop. While we were completing our transaction, I discovered that he was a barista and barista judge who traveled around the world to various competitions. He was actually familiar with my favorite hometown coffee, Stumptown! It was then that I noticed that the other half of the shop was a coffee shop! The shop is owned by a talented couple. She makes the jewelry right there in the shop and he makes the coffee. The jewelry was exquisite. I only wish I had time to grab a cup of the coffee to give a full review of Creme de la Crema. Subsequently, I have found several reviews and articles that have mentioned the quality and do feel safe giving them a high recommendation in spite of not actually trying the coffee first hand.
Having bought my gift, I managed to catch my train with a few minutes to spare and headed back to Antwerp.