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Waterzooi – Food and Drink in Ghent, Belgium

Please look at the pictures at end of article!

Ghent is a city in the Flemish region of Belgium, it is the fourth most populous city in Belgium and is only about 30 minutes from Brussels. it’s an interesting city that any foodie, or beer lover would certainly enjoy.  Ghent is often overlooked by tourist who flock to Bruges, but that just makes it more of a pleasure to visit, since most “culinary travelers” like to break free from the pack, and avoid the crowds.  Walk along the Graslei one of the most scenic places in Ghent’s old city centre. The city is full of well preserved medieval architecture especially in the city center, plus the city center is the largest car-free area in Belgium which gives it a peaceful vibe.  The Graslei and the Koornlei are the most popular and photogenic streets in Ghent. It’s a great area to have a drink, the students from Ghent University, and locals (and myself) drink their Jupiler beer, and wine, while sitting on the wall along the old Graslei harbor, others sit at a sidewalk cafe soaking up the sunshine. Another place to find food and drink is Friday Market Square (Vrijdagmarkt) one of Ghent’s largest city squares and a popular place to drink excellent Belgian beers or eat some fine Flemish cuisine or the famous North Sea Mussels. You’ve heard of mussels in Brussels right? well I prefer them in Ghent.  I had an order of mussels and Belgian fries (moules frites) that contained over 60 fresh mussels from a restaurant located at Groentenmarkt 9, try them with the Belgian fries. After eating and drinking you can take a 40 minute boat cruise, or take some photos by the Sint-Michielsbrug (brug is a bridge) your photo should include the three towers of Ghent (see mine below).

After doing the “touristy stuff”  you can start sampling all the wonderful Belgian beers, and local foods.  Ghent has a well known mustard shop named Yves Tierenteyn-Verlent located at 3 Groentenmarkt. The secret recipe is made with a mix of mustard seeds, vinegar, and salt, and was created in the shop in 1790 by a widow that needed to make money to support her kids after her husband died. It doesn’t contain any additives or preservatives, and world leader’s meeting in Brussels at the United Nations Headquarter’s, have been known to send somebody to Ghent to buy the mustard for them.  Find a nice bar and ask the bartender for a good local beer, or try a Delirium Tremens beer (it was banned for many years in America, because of it’s name) it’s a Belgian Strong Pale Ale (8.5% ABV) that is brewed in Brouwerij Huyghe, which is just outside of Ghent. The brewery is over 350 years old, and is still at its original location, and it’s still family owned by the Belgian Family Brewery.  It is considered to be one of the best beers in the world. Belgium is well known for their abbey beer and trappist beer, try a trappist beer at Trappistenhuis located at 164 Brabantdam. Have you ever had a beer in a building from the 13th century? If not, then go over to Cafe Het Spijker located at Pensmarkt 3, they have a vast selection of Belgian beers that you can sample while admiring the medieval details in this ancient cafe with a youthful crowd.

When you are ready to eat some Belgian food you can start in the city centre, by the Graslei, or in Friday Market Square (Vrijdagmarkt). There is also an area called “Patershol” that has a good concentration of restaurants. At we always recommend that you eat the local, regional,and national dishes whenever possible, our style is to inform you of these specialties so you know what to look for on the menu.  We try to get our readers to look for particular foods, not always particular restaurants, although occasionally we’ll mention some restaurants, we encourage you to discover restaurants on your own if you want to be a serious culinary traveler. The best places for food and drink usually aren’t in the guide books. Here are some foods to try in Ghent. A local Ghent specialty is waterzooi, a delicious soup made with chicken or fish, vegetables, egg, and cream. I loved the waterzooi I ate at a restaurant located on Friday Market Square it was one of the best soups I ever had.  A regional specialty is Vlaamse stoofkarbonaden (also known as stoverij), a Flemish beef stew made with beer. Another regional specialty is Anguilles au vert, which is eel in a green herb sauce.  National dishes include the ubiquitous mussels with Belgian fries (moules frites),  tomato stuffed with grey shrimp (tomate-crevette) and a side dish of potato mashed with vegetables (stoemp). Other national foods are the Belgian waffle, (invented in Ghent in 1839) which has two types, Brussels style – warm and rectangular, or Liege style – richer, denser, sweeter.  And the most famous food from Belgium is CHOCOLATE, it’s simply  the best in the world. And don’t forget to try as many different beers in Belgium as you can handle, but remember they are strong, so eat before, and after drinking. Belgium has been producing the best beer in the world for hundreds of years, they are especially well known for their trappist beers that are brewed in a trappist monastery where monks help in the production. For a tasty regional beer try a Flemish red, a fruity, semi-strong beer with a deep red color.  So if you are ever in Belgium (especially Brussels) or the Netherlands, and you want to visit someplace special, then go to Ghent, you’ll be happy you went.

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