Ancho Mexican Restaurant in Brussels

M and I recently had  a mid-week girls night out… HIM was working and I had booked the babysitter for Monkey (who had already been put to bed :)). It was such a lovely outing to catch up over delicious food (without miniature interruptions) and something that I look forward to reinstating in the months ahead!

M had been itching to try out a Mexican restaurant called Ancho close to Place Stephanie and I was of course happy to oblige (especially since it was a 5minute walk from our apartment).

After ordering a beer, I checked out the multi-lingual menu and we decided to share a portion of Nachos Gourmand (11,90€ = corn chips topped with meat, beans, sour cream, cheese sauce, pico de gallo and guacamole). I have to confess that my exposure to Nachos is limited but I had expected “melted cheese” on top, not sure if that is the South African interpretation… but nonetheless theirs was very tasty and we managed to finish of the dish successfully!

M ordered Pork Tacos as her main (9.50€ for 2 or 11,90€ for 3) with an extra portion of guacamole (1.50€) and enjoyed every mouthful.

I had a “bowl” (9,90€)… essentially you can choose your base (burrito, nachos, bowl or salad) and then your topping (beef, chicken, pork, steak (extra 1€), vegetables, etc); your rice (lemon & coriander or cucuma); your beans (white or black); topped with pico de gallo (spicy or not) and finally sauce (sour cream, red salsa, green salsa or their homemade sauce). Again… guacamole was 1,50€ extra….

My bowl consisted of chicken, lemon/coriander rice, black beans, spicy pico de gallo, sour cream and guacamole… and was delicious however not spicy at all (for my palate)… so I utilized the table sauces to add an extra zing….

All in all – we left with full bellies and big grins….

The restaurant itself was not very full (but it was a Monday evening and rainy at that), but the number of bicycle and motorbike delivery men traipsing in to collect orders was phenomenal!! I think we counted over 11 in the space of 90minutes! So clearly people in Brussels prefer their Mexican chow in the comfort of their own home! Décor wise – it is simple but modern with spots of colour (mustard… which is my go-to favourite winter colour to wear at the moment so I felt like I completely blended in to my surroundings).

Staff were friendly, efficient & multi-lingual, but pretty much left us to ourselves once we had ordered and they had delivered the food. Making it feel very much like a fast food establishment rather than a fully-fledged restaurant. (Not that this is an issue at all… just don’t expect attentive waitrons)

Would I go back? Most probably….

FYI – there are 2 branches… one in Waterloo and one in St-Gilles. We visited the latter!

ANCHO

Address: Rue Jourdan 14, 1060, Saint-Gilles, Brussels, BELGIUM
Telephone: +32 2 463 2246
website: http://www.ancho.be
Opening hours: Mon-Fri: 11h30-14h30 & 18h00-22h00; Sat: 11h30-22h00 & Sun: 11h30-14h30 (Brussels) & Sun: 17h30-22h00 (Waterloo)

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Banana Bread

There are always bananas in our house – either green, yellow or turning a nasty shade of brown. There are always frozen bananas in our freezer which are perfect for smoothies or fake ice-cream. And I regularly bake a banana bread with the excuse that I am using up the over-ripe bananas…. any excuse really 🙂

I have no idea where this recipe came from as it is in my hand-written recipe book… which probably came from my mothers hand-written recipe book. But origins aside – it is an absolute winner! Quick, easy and tasty.

Banana Bread

150g butter
cup of sugar
2 eggs
cup of mashed banana
1 banana sliced length ways
60ml plain yoghurt
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (or baking soda)

  1. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, mashed banana & yoghurt together
  2. Sift in Flour, bicarb & baking powder
  3. Beat on a low speed
  4. Pour into a greased loaf tin
  5. Arrange sliced banana on top
  6. Bake at 180C for 50-60min

Apple and Blueberry Cobbler

I wonder if other people enjoy reading cookbooks as much as I do? I don’t always make everything that I see, but I can spend hours paging through each one. And sometimes, I even try to recreate the recipe (or worse… I adapt it based on my fridge/store cupboard ingredients).

Which is exactly how I managed to make this apple and blueberry cobbler, which is now a firm favourite in our household and has been repeated numerous times using different fruit!

The original recipe is a Peach Cobbler from Jamie Oliver which I had seen in Jamie’s America cookbook, but I changed the fruit portion and kept the cobbler recipe (almost) the same. It is a SURE winner and a definite “repeat” in our household.

Apple and Blueberry Cobbler

4 apples, peeled/cored & diced
1 cup of blueberries
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
juice from 1 lemon

100g self-raising flour
50g caster sugar
100g butter, chilled & cut into small cubes
pinch of salt

  • Place the apples, cinnamon, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan and cook over a medium heat until the apples are soft.
  • Remove from heat and place into an ovenproof dish along with the fresh blueberries
  • To make the cobbler topping, place the flour/sugar/butter/salt into a food processor.
  • Pulse until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs
  • Add 2 Tablespoons of water & pulse again – the mixture will form a dough now
  • Spoon this mixture over the fruit
  • Bake at 180C for 20minutes

Breakfast at Steenberg Bistro 1862

Everyone has an instagram crush… right?? Well mine is Candice Bresler of Damsel in a Dress (previously known as the Gorgeous Gourmet) and scrolling through her instagram posts always has me either green with envy or in absolute awe with her fun-size fashion sense or her delicious food & wine escapades in and around Cape Town.

I have had the pleasure of meeting up with her & her husband once before at De Grendel in 2013 (my review of their restaurant is here) but reached out to meet up with her again (this time with HIM & Monkey in tow) and she graciously accepted and suggested breakfast at Steenberg’s Bistro 1862.

We had visited Catharina’s on Steenberg wine estate on our visit to South Africa last year but had yet to try out the Bistro which is on the same grounds. As we entered Bistro 1862, a super stylish restaurant, my heart dropped… this wasn’t looking to be child-friendly at all – but we managed to keep Monkey occupied for most of the breakfast with an iPad of games, videos and even allowed her to meander off to the outside area with it’s water feature (which she fortunately could not get into… otherwise we would have had a serious problem). Thankfully, the restaurant was not full and her jaunts were not frowned upon by other patrons (as far as I could tell).

Candice & Luke were gracious and engaging with their pint-sized dining companion (and us) and happily provided suggestions on what to order for breakfast. They also joined me in quaffing some delicious MCC while we nibbled on brioche buns drenched in honey while perusing the menu.

The boys went for Eggs Benedict: Bacon 1862 (a serious SLAB of piggy), rosti, poached eggs, Hollandaise sauce and cherry tomato (R86)

While Candice & I dined on Schrooms on Toast: assorted mushrooms, gorgonzola cream, chives & buttered English spinach (R82)

French toast for Monkey off the kids menu (which I landed up eating as she wasn’t too interested)

Toast & preserves (R32) – which I eventually ordered for Monkey in the hopes that she would consume something while we were there….

Would we return? Food was delicious and probably the first spot were they weren’t overly generous with portions. Staff were attentive, pleasant and efficient. I would return – but definitely without the Monkey for a relaxed date lunch/dinner or with friends & family.

STEENBERG BISTO 1862

Address: Steenberg Estate, Steenberg Road, Constantia Valley, 7945, Cape Town, SOUTH AFRICA
Telephone: +27 21 713 2222
http://www.steenbergfarm.com/bistro1682
Open 7 days a week: 09h00-11h00 (Breakfast); 12h00-15h00 (lunch) & 17h00-20h00 (Tapas)

Welteveden Wine Estate in Stellenbosch

While on our holiday, we were keen to get out and about to a few child-friendly spots in the Cape Town (and surrounds area) – so I googled “child-friendly wine farms” and stumbled upon Welteveden Estate in Stellenbosch.

So as a mid-morning mid-week (breakfast) outing, HIM, Mommabear, Monkey and I attempted to find this estate. In terms of signage, and as beautiful as their billboard is, at the intersection traffic lights of R304 & Welgevonden Blvd, it was essentially unreadable. So after a google maps consultation and a minor detour, we finally arrived… again to a very quiet estate.

Ample parking and a short walk to their restaurant with outdoor seating (of which only one table of 2 moms was occupied watching as their kids were exploring & having fun) overlooking the stream, some lovely green grass and a small play area (2 plastic jungle gyms).

We also went to explore their “Carnival” area – an impressive outdoor playground of which children’s dreams are made of. With an on-site pizzeria where kids can even build their own pizza, a fully stocked bar (obviously for the adults in tow) and a confectionary corner – it was beyond impressive. The only problem was that we had arrived in the morning and were not really keen on eating pizza for breakfast (only after a big night out ;)).

The friendly waiter offered to see if he could bring us the food from their other restaurant while our Monkey got to check out the enormous play area… but unfortunately this was not possible, so we headed back to their main restaurant  and the smaller play area. Trust me, I am not complaining – this was more than most other places have and we were happy to have most of the place to ourselves!

Breakfasts are served from 09h00-11h45 and are on the generous size! HIM ordered the Farm breakfast (R70): Farm eggs, bacon, plaas wors, smoor tomato, mushrooms and wood fire oven bread.

Mommabear opted for the Open Omelette (R65): Black forest ham, brie and mushrooms served with toasted baguette.

And I was won over by the Green Asparagus, soft poached eggs (my favourite) and gypsy ham pancake (R70). I have to confess that I didn’t enjoy the asparagus as they had been overcooked and were really limp, but the soft poached eggs were perfection and those pancakes!!!!

Would we return? Yes. Probably at lunch time so that Monkey could take full advantage of the Carnival area and/or to enjoy the restaurant’s lunch menu which has had me drooling since I read it.

WELTEVEDEN ESTATE

address: Welgevonden Blvd, Cloetesville, Stellenbosch, 7600, SOUTH AFRICA
telephone: +27 21 889-6588
http://www.weltevredenestate.com

Duck Parade at Vergenoegd Wine Estate

I have been eager to visit Vergenoegd Wine Estate for years… because of their famed duck parade!!

More than 1.000 Indian Ducks “work” on this farm. Instead of the vineyard using pesticides, they rely on the ducks to keep the vines in tip top shape by eating up all those pesty bugs and snails. DUCK PARADES: 10H30, 12H30 & 15H30 (Mon – Sun) where you can witness the waddle of these beautiful feathered friends from their home to work.

Things to note: They operate on a reservation basis only, so don’t think that you can just “pop in”. They also charge R10 per adult on entry (children under 12 are free) and this is used towards their Integrated Pest Management and Duck Research Program. This voucher is redeemable as a discount voucher in their shop, restaurant, wine or one of their activities.

We arrived early enough to enjoy breakfast before the 10.30am parade and were one of the first patrons sitting on their outdoor patio at 9am (which is when they were still setting up). Their breakfast menu is limited… essentially 3 choices (Filled Croissant, Breakfast or Cinnamon oats) but even if there wasn’t a big choice, what they did serve was absolutely delicious!

HIM and Mommabear ordered the Breakfast (R65): Bacon and spinach with scrambled cheesy eggs on toast.

While I had the Filled Croissant (R55): Brie, Chorizo & sundried tomatoes on French toast croissant.

Once our bellies were full and Monkey had a bit of run around the lawn (having already sighted the ducks on their waddle from their enclosure to the nearby pond and “inspected” the staff who were sweeping out a side building for their Deli which was getting ready to be opened) – we settled under the trees to cheer these workers onto their daily chore. A truly enthralling and unique experience to witness …

Would we return? Difficult to say. I wanted to visit and I am so glad that we did, but I did feel that the estate wasn’t really ready to be commercial yet (almost nothing in their little “shop” and so much potential to be an estate where you could spend the entire day!!). I have read that their tea or wine blending activities are great, but we were possibly there to early in the week day to see the estate at its best (or fullest). What I can say is that there is quiet charm about the place and if you haven’t ever visited, then I recommend that you do give it a go. Even if it is only to pay the R10 for entry to see the ducks waddle to work!

VERGENOEGD WINE ESTATE

address: Baden Powell Drive, Stellenbosch Wine Route, Cape Town, SOUTH AFRICA
telephone: +27 21 843 3248
http://www.vergenoegd.co.za
email: reservations@vergenoegd.co.za
Opening hours: 08h00-17h00

 

Picnic family fun at Warwick Wine Estate

We have recently returned from a fantastic 2 week holiday in Cape Town, South Africa. Visiting with my family & friends and exploring new and exciting (and mostly child-friendly) places.

One of the first places on our “list” was Warwick Wine Estate in Stellenbosch. Recommended by my best friend who lives in Cape Town, is a self-proclaimed food, works in the food gifting industry and has 2 small children who are in the same age bracket as our monkey – so I knew I could trust her judgment!

A 40 minute drive along the N1 from Cape Town, taking the Klapmuts/Stellenbosch R44 off-ramp (exit 47) and soon we were there. There was ample parking and short walk to the restaurant and picnic area. I didn’t take a photo at the time, but there were numerous blackboard signs up reminding parents that they could now relax as it was a safe & secure environment for children to have fun. Hurray!

We had booked a picnic cushion spot on the lawn, but you can easily book for the Lawn tables (10), forest courtyard, picnic pod (8) or the deck. I must stress that if you want the comfy over-sized cushions under the umbrella spot on the lawn… you need to book in advance as there are only about 10 spots, ensuring sufficient space between diners. Maximum number of diners at one of the lawn cushion picnic spots is 6 adults (and 8 children) and a minimum of 2 adults. Booking is done online and requires a R50 per basket deposit to secure the reservation.

Fortunately for us – our picnic spot was right next to the little brick & fountain area (a mini paddling pool if you wish to call it that). As soon as we had the kids in their bathing suits, hats & lathered with sunscreen – they spent much of the day frolicking in the mini man-made stream and the “paddling pool“.

If this isn’t enough – there are also 2 jungle gyms – one near the picnic pods and pond and the other at the end of the courtyard. 10/10 for being child-friendly and allowing the adults to relax with wine, good food and peace!

Talking about food, picnic baskets cost R550 for 2 people or R300 for a single person basket. These exclude drinks, but their wine list was extensive and reasonably priced (i.e. their Brut MCC was R150 for a bottle and their First Lady Sauvignon Blanc was R80 a bottle). Our basket contained: Sichuan pepper crusted beef fillet with aioli, rosa tomato/mange tout and butter bean salad, baby potato/red onion/fried caper salad tossed with light whole grain mustard aioli, a chunk of matured cheddar cheese (which HIM proclaimed as the best cheese that he had eaten in South Africa so far), biltong paté, trio jar of homemade sweet chilli sauce/cream cheese and basil pesto, home-made bread, onion marmalade & smoked butter. And for dessert… individual key lime pie jars! There was mountains of food…more than enough for a hungry couple (or three)!

Children’s baskets were R125 each & contained slices of roast beef fillet, a whole wheat bread roll with butter, laughing cow cheese triangle, a fruit juice box, a crudité & hummus dip cup… and their dessert? Oreo ice-cream sandwich. The latter was delivered separately & only later in the afternoon (as checked with the waitress on when we were ready for it).

The lawn area was still full service and the staff were attentive. Our lovely server was running between pods, tables and blankets and ensured that we were well looked after!

Seriously, whether you are looking for a romantic spot for couples, a family friendly venue (children or not) or just somewhere to soak up the sunshine and clean air while eating & drinking … this is definitely the place to go for a relaxed picnic lunch on a sunny day! Would we return? Without a doubt!

WARWICK WINE ESTATE

address: R44 between Stellenbosch & Klapmuts, Stellenbosch, 7607, SOUTH AFRICA
telephone: +27 21 884 4410
http://www.warwickwine.com
Open 7 days a week, 365days a year

Brussels Catering Company : Maurice

HIM celebrated his 40th birthday this year… amazing, isn’t it, how he gets older each year while I remain the same age? 🙂

A more serious note – I wanted him to celebrate. As the most selfless and generous person that I know, I knew that he wouldn’t even think about wanting a birthday party. He hates having a fuss made of him and is definitely not someone who likes to be the centre of attention. Which was all the more reason for me to put together a surprise party for him!

But how was I going to organize something for 20+ people AND keep it a secret?? I tried a few restaurants, but I had to keep in mind that there would be a toddler (2 years old and a bit of an adventurer) plus an infant (<1 year) in the mix. Meaning that venues needed to be child-friendly and/or private function space. Eventually, I gave up on the idea of a late Sunday afternoon party at any establishment and decided to host it in our own apartment. This meant that everyone could be more relaxed, kick their shoes off and let their hair down.

But now I had to think about catering. How was I going to be able to cook for all these people without HIM suspecting? Plus I would be travelling for 3 days in Spain the week before. Not to mention having a little one around my legs on the days leading up to the party… ?!? Did I mention that I wanted this to be a surprise??

maurice 40

Maurice came to the rescue! Sanne who started Breakfast Delivery in Brussels expanded her weekend breakfast offerings by also offering lunchtime catering (which a fair amount of businesses have jumped on board) and with this, she has also started catering events… hence the new company name & logo.

We started off emailing ideas around, then she came over to the apartment to do a site visit with her partner. They kindly also organized the ice, ’40’ Balloons and flowers plus managed the delivery/set up on the day. All I had to do was provide the plates, cutlery, glassware & drinks. This was the most stressfree event that I have ever hosted and trust me, I have hosted many many (many ….) parties.

Lets just say that HIM was truly surprised when he walked in … and in a good way! The food was delicious – and there was MORE than enough… in fact, everyone went home with a container for the next day!

maurice cake

For Apero => there was shrimp springrolls with mango dip, Bruchetta with brie, sundried tomatoes, rucola, nuts and honey.

Maurice salads 2

For the lunch buffet portion => there was salmon tartare with fresh herbs, chicken meatballs with zucchini, Pork cheek stew, Potato salad, Greek Couscous salad, Grilled zucchini & aubergine  lentil salad with spinach & feta, plus a Tomato and green bean salad

Maurice salads

Dessert buffet was the real show stopper => a 4 layer cake with cream and berries; lavender & lemon mini cakes; individual panna cotta’s with raspberries and individual chocolate mousse pots with blueberries. PLUS gorgeous cheese platters with grapes & bread.

maurice desserts

I highly recommend using them for your next catered event!

maurice cheese

Maurice

website: http://www.mauricebrussels.be

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Vini Divini at the Jam Hotel in Brussels

HIM and I have been attempting to regain some sort of adult social life now that Monkey is 2 years old. That means that on HIM’s nights off (basically only Saturday’s), we try to go out for dinner (just the two of us) at least once a month (or every 2nd month if our schedules are too busy). That requires a bit of planning… (i.e. booking a babysitter, getting dressed up or at least as dressed up as 2 parents of a toddler can, finding a restaurant, etc)

An Italian Tapas restaurant around the corner from us in St Gilles, had recently opened up and I had tried to book a table using their online booking site, however they were full but offered to waitlist us and let us know on the day if something became available. Needless to say, we heard nothing barring a hang-up telephone call in the early evening, where as soon as they heard me anser in English, they put the phone down. I am not saying it was them… just thinking coincidence 😉 .

ANYWAY – I had walked past the JAM hotel on numerous occasions and was truly intrigued by their funky look plus having had followed them on instagram meant that I knew that they had 2 bars (one of which is on the roof with a view AND a swimming pool!). I made a reservation at their restaurant called Vini Divini … but wasn’t holding our breath for a fabulous, knock-out night out. I mean, who makes a reservation in their own city to go to a hotel restaurant???

But you know what….We loved it!

Jam hotel 1

The restaurant itself is fun, relaxed and unpretentious (no tablecloths). The staff were friendly and multi-lingual. And the Italian food offered although simple, was very tasty, with an open(ish) kitchen vibe, so you can watch the chefs at work!

Jam hotel 2

We arrived at 7.30pm when it was still quiet. Ordered a lovely bottle of wine and a Tomato/ Mozzarella salad to share. It arrived with a basket of delicious bread rolls.. which if this was a view of the pizza dough to follow … was pure heaven!

Jam hotel 3

HIM then had the gnocchi with gorgonzola & walnuts, while I ordered a pizza with Salami and Ricotta.

jam hotel 4

jam hotel 5

Our total bill was around 80euro’s and it would definitely be a place to revisit. By the time we left, it was full – mostly with big groups of young(er than us), hipster folk celebrating various birthdays/anniversaries/etc and I have it earmarked as a return-to & “group” venue.

Vini Divini (Jam Hotel)

Opening hours: 12h00-14h00 & 19h00-22h30 (Monday-Friday); 19h00-22h30 (Saturday) and 12h00-16h00 (Sunday Brunch)

address: 132 Chaussee de Charleroi, 1060, Brussels, BELGIUM

telephone: +32 2 537 1787

email: jam@vini-divini.eu or restaurant@jamhotel.be

website: http://www.vini-divini.eu/jam

Buttermilk Cheese muffins

The weather in Brussels is definitely starting to turn autumnal… with the leaves on the trees changing colour… to the most glorious shades of orange, red & yellow. And of course, the sunrise is later and the sunset earlier, the temperatures are dropping and my need for comfort food has definitely increased.

I did a quick search on the “google-box” for a savoury muffin recipe using buttermilk (which was in my fridge) and find this cheese muffin one on the Taste Magazine website (written by Abigail Donnelly).

I halved the quantity (because who can eat 36 muffins???) and it comfortably filled a 12-muffin tray. I omitted the sugar and also adapted the cheese portion by mixing grated cheddar with some grated parmesan cheese; plus added a teaspoon of paprika & a teaspoon of dried mixed herbs.

This is an easy weekend baking recipe and a definite make again. And my little helper enjoyed the mixing portion as well as the eating aspect… and has happily devoured them. Those that weren’t eaten within the first 2days have found their way into our freezer for those mornings when toast or cereal just wont cut it.

Buttermilk Cheese muffins

200g grated cheese (I mixed cheddar with parmesan)
280g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried Italian* herbs (*or mixed)
2 eggs
125ml buttermilk
125ml sunflower oil

  • Beat together eggs, buttermilk & oil in a large bowl
  • In another bowl, mix together flour, cheese, salt, herbs & paprika
  • Fold the dry mixture into the wet mixture
  • Place spoonful’s into a greased muffin tray
  • Bake for 18-20min at 180C