Arts & Culture
May 8, 2013 by Kaitlin Noe
I’ve already dedicated quite a few lines to complaining about the size of legal airplane luggage. I think it can be pretty universally agreed that it is not anywhere near sufficient for transporting a semester’s worth of supplies to a European country. What I didn’t consider, however, is how I would transport all the experiences and accumulated debris of a semester in Europe back stateside. As the countdown to departure reaches an anxiety-inducing 4 days, I face the final question: how to condense it all into one standardized checked luggage bag? All the days trudging through biting wind as rain seeps in through the growing holes in my black flats, my hood pulled low as I seek cover inside the nearest boulangerie… Or the nights when I turn the corner past the arab au point, between the curving marble buildings and spiraling black bannisters, find a spot to lean against the cold stone and watch the Eiffel Tower glitter as I wait for my friend to let me in…The Wednesday lunches when the Iéna marché is open and I walk through several blocks of friendly merchants calling out to me to not be shy, to come look at their fresh cheese, meats, crepes, clothing or African art, and I smile and walk to my favorite kebab stand to order a chicken kebab for 2,75. …The smell of the boulanger’s full roast chicken in the morning on my walk to work, the warmth of a Nutella crepe in my hand as I hike up the curling paths of Montmartre to Sacre Coeur, the feeling of arriving at the metro platform to a blinking ’00′ and a train pulling up just in time to meet me…These things don’t fit into airline regulated suitcases. So, I present to you, the seven places in Paris I want to pack with me for the flight home.
1. The Grand Mosque of Paris.
I may have fallen in love. Despite the fact that the men who work here are sometimes even slower than Parisians (a feat), the exotic architecture is outstandingly beautiful. Parts of the mosque itself are available to tour, yet somehow I always seem to be drawn to the courtyard tea room and restaurant that are attached… Killer couscous served by the pot, mint tea (I’ve always said Middle Eastern restaurants have the best tea around), and for dessert, an entire platter of fantastic assorted pastries. Having not the slightest clue what each one is, we have developed a simple rule to select the perfect pastry: the less appetizing it looks, the better it tastes. Counter intuitive, and hasn’t failed us yet.
2. The Lapin Agile
What felt like one of the most typical perfect French nights. A little pink building tucked into the side of the hill in Montmartre, Lapin Agile is one of the original Parisian cabarets. The kind of place that all the little artists would go during the heyday of Montmartre’s artsy youth. It has an original Picasso hanging casually on one of its walls and a livre d’or chock full of artist sketchings and signatures confirming its importance to the creative elites. They still do shows – a quirky blend of musical and theatrical – put on by boisterous and animated actor/singers. Sitting there, listening to them sing out the old classic “Aux Champs Elysées”, tucked into their dimly lit cave of a performance room and sipping on their house cherry wine, I was immediately under their spell. We stayed until the show closed down at 2 am and wandered our way to the metro singing “rockin’ at the Lapin Agile”. Perfect night. Life goal is to be best friends with all of the performers one day.
3. Butte Chaumont
This place is not French. It’s not Parisian. To enter this park is to leave the neatly ordered rows of flowers and perfectly cut grass of french gardens and enter the jungle. A jungle filled with young children hopping around rocks lapping up ice cream cones, hundreds of “bobo” french lounging across the steep hills like a festival, and hidden caves dripping stalactites. And an odd monk-temple-looking thing. I dedicated (along with what seemed like all of the youth of Paris) the entire duration of the first warm day in Paris to claiming my patch of grass there and gorging on sun-warmed baguettes and Camembert with strawberries. Careful, though, or a twenty foot black hole crevasse will swallow one of your flats and you will have to do a 40 minute metro commute home with only one shoe…
Perhaps one of the best things about Butte Chaumont is that when you finally climb your way up to the Monk-temple-place, and clamber out onto the jagged rock-cliffs, you have a view of the city that looks like this:
4. Bar Dix
The only sign on the outside of this bar is the number ten written in what looks like white chalk on the black painted exterior. There is only one thing on the menu—pitchers of sangria, medium or large. They only take cash, exact change preferred, and when your sangria pitcher drips a sticky mess on the table, a plump little old man who insists on wearing tiny black round sunglasses even indoors comes around with a ratty sponge to wipe it down. The whole bar is decorated with a kind of art nouveau theme, dark and romantic and so hidden-feeling. It’s actually fairly well-known but the bare front, the straightforward attitude, and the funky interior make you feel like you’ve found a secret gem.
5. The Seine at Night
Magical. Addicting. Breathtaking.
6. The mysterious Thai place near my classes, the boulangerie down the street, La Durée, and Omnibus Café
…I really like food. I also realize I am probably cheating by putting all four of these places under number 6. Oops.
7. The Lord of the Rings Tower
This tower, as my friend Christina recently informed me, is the most useless monument to transport anywhere. It also has absolutely no relation to either the Lord of the Rings books or movies. But my very first week abroad, lost and bumbling around the streets of Paris, I stumbled upon this tower and without thinking exclaimed, “That looks just like the tower from Lord of the Rings!” (I am very cool). I must have developed a strange attachment to the tower in that moment, because ever since it has been a landmark to find my way, a site to meet up with friends, and a strange anecdote to share with my friends visiting from other cities. So admittedly it is probably completely useless, but it makes my list.
Good ol’ states, here I come! Trading baguettes and fromage for a good burger and some Mexican food…Hope Air France can handle this luggage.
May 1, 2013 by Laura Aragon
After hearing that it offers free wine tastings for students, my friends and I recently made our first trip to the Williamsburg Winery. Only a five-minute drive from campus, the Winery has a great wine selection and a beautiful vineyard that includes two restaurants and a gorgeous indoor venue for formal events.
After a short tour that showcased the Winery’s history, equipment and wine-making processes, we were taken to taste a few wines. Along with wine lists, pairing suggestions, and background information on each wine, the Winery also served crackers and Gouda cheese, which was a delicious surprise. Visiting the Winery was a tasty and informative change of pace from the college routine, and I highly suggest all the 21 year olds out there make the trip.
April 22, 2013 by Admission Ambassador
I bet you are super stoked, nervous, excited and ready to finally start your freshman year at William & Mary! If you are anything like me, I bet you’ve already picked out a few student groups and organizations that you would like to get involved with on campus. That’s great! But if you have no idea at all what you want to get involved in at William & Mary, that is completely fine as well. Commitment is great, and if you plan on continuing a hobby or activity that you did in high school then go for it! At the same time, my biggest recommendation for all of you is to try something new too!
Take this opportunity of starting over in a new place with new people to expand your limits and to let loose. Try something that makes you a little nervous, uncertain, and uncomfortable. Do something that will totally surprise your parents when you call home to talk to them. My surprising involvement was my participation in the Vagina Monologues this year. I had never done any sort of theatre production in my life and the idea of the Vagina Monologues made me a tiny bit unsettled. However, I strongly connected with the mission of the Vagina Monologues and decided to audition to perform, in spite of all of the voices inside of me telling me not to. Being a part of the Vagina Monologues was way outside of my comfort zone, but at the same time, I really liked seeing the reactions on people’s faces when I told them what I was doing. My family and friends were beyond shocked that I was in it, but they were also so proud of me. I loved challenging myself and knowing that I tried something so out of the ordinary.
My hope is that all of you will have the same sort of out-of-body experience, where you realize that you can and should join groups and organizations that may not have been something you would have done in high school. Take advantage of this opportunity to be daring and creative. It will definitely be worth the risk. Welcome to William & Mary! I can’t wait to hear about all of the new opportunities you will take advantage of during your time here.
April 11, 2013 by Admission Ambassador
A blog series from your Admission Ambassadors…
Duke of Gloucester Street, or DoG Street as we locals refer to it, is a must-see in Williamsburg. There are dozens of historical shops, exhibits, and restaurants along the street that are open for the entire community. I always love stopping at the Capital at the end of the DoG Street, as well as at the printing shop, where I get to watch a colonial man use an old printing press machine. All of these different sites definitely give tourists an understanding of life in the colonial era. However, hands down, my favorite place in Williamsburg is the maze behind the Governor’s Palace. I used to come to Williamsburg every summer with my family, and my sister and I would spend hours running around the maze. Even my parents enjoyed going through the maze with us! It is definitely a fun and enjoyable part of the Colonial Williamsburg experience that all visitors should take advantage of.
After spending a long day at Williamsburg, you will need to find a good place to eat! Williamsburg has a plethora of wonderful places to dine right across the street from Colonial Williamsburg. One of my favorite places to grab a warm hot chocolate or a tasty tuna sandwich is Aroma’s. Aroma’s is a cute, relaxing, and cozy place to grab something light and enjoy the soothing ambiance. If you are looking for a little more of an upscale experience then I recommend the Blue Talon. This restaurant is right across the street from Aroma’s and has a fantastic assortment of entrees! You can’t go wrong with the French onion soup or macaroni and cheese at the Blue Talon! And if you simply want a quick snack to munch on then you need to go to the Peanut Shop! There are dozens of free samples throughout the store and I guarantee you will fall in love with something you try. Eventually, you’ll probably end up buying some amazing Virginia peanuts to take home with you. These are just a few of my favorite places in Williamsburg. Although it’s small, the city has plenty of variety for people to explore!
April 9, 2013 by Admission Ambassador
Drum Roll PLEASE … it’s almost here, it’s almost here, it’s almost here!! AHHHH … I am more excited than a six year old at 6:00 am on Christmas morning. We have been checking the days off our calendars, and counting down hours, minutes and seconds till Day For Admitted Students, known lovingly by the admission office and interns as DFAS.
We are excited beyond belief to have you all visit our home, and have events up and down the wazoo prepared! I wanted to highlight some of the “don’t miss” events of the day!
- The Activities Fair: So this might be slightly biased (considering John & I have been organizing it for the last two months), BUT the number one event to not miss is the Activities Fair happening from 12-2 in the Sunken Garden!! Currently there are over 125 student clubs and organizations signed up. We want to show the multitude of ways to get involved on campus and get you excited about your future at William & Mary.
- The Performance Showcase: Have you ever wanted to see ballroom dancing or listen to amazing a capella!? If the answer is yes, you will have things to check off your bucket list after watching the Performance Showcase on Saturday during lunch. We have two hours of entertainment and a few surprises!
- Screen on the Green: If you are planning to stay in Williamsburg for the evening, I would definitely make this event a priority. On Saturday night, our student-programming group Alma Mater Productions (AMP) will be screening two movies back to back on the Sunken Garden. My inside sources have informed me that the movies will be Wreck it Ralph and Silver Linings Playbook. The first movie will begin at eight o’clock with the second following after. Remember to bring a blanket to sit on and munchies to enjoy!
There are so many other fun and exciting things to learn and see this weekend in Williamsburg. Feel free to check out the schedule of events online for more information! We can’t wait to show you everything William & Mary has to offer. So bring on the masses—we REALLY can’t wait to meet you.
March 25, 2013 by Admission Ambassador
One of the glorious parts about being in the Business School is that you don’t have any Friday classes. But, since I am double-majoring in Music, I don’t always get the break that my other classmates get! Thursday night was spent finishing my composition assignment for my Music Theory class, Tonal Forms & Post-Tonal Techniques. The class is unlike any other music class I have taken before—challenging, but very rewarding! Here is a photo of one of my friends and I taking a late-night Wawa coffee. When I first came to W&M in 2010, I never drank coffee. Now, I thrive on it!
I woke up early Friday to put my finishing touches on my project—I really wanted to make sure I did a good job on it! At 11, I headed over to the Music Library in Ewell Hall to work a 2-hour shift. This August, I was hired as an Assistant and absolutely love it. The atmosphere is generally pretty relaxed, but my bosses always keep me busy with special projects to work on. Currently, I am working on cataloging all of the CDs from various performances on campus—groups like the Symphony Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble, and so on. Working in the Music Library has been a productive and fun way for me to earn my little bit of spending money.
After my work shift and Music Theory class from 1-3, I headed over to the admission office for our weekly intern meeting. This day was a little different than others: after updating our fellow interns and advisers on where we stood with our respective projects, it was time to start filming our first video for the Day for Admitted Students (DFAS). Filming was hysterical, and I am almost certain we have more ‘blooper’ footage than ACTUAL footage, but am confident that the final product will be both funny and professional. Be on the lookout for that!
After getting a good workout in and a nice dinner at the Caf, it was time for an end-of-the week nap. Then, later that night, my roommate, friend and I (<— pictured here) went to my high school buddy’s 22nd birthday celebration. It was great to catch up with him and see that he was doing well!
The bulk of my Saturday was spent working with my Business School team on a project for my Organizational Behavior and Management class. Our project consists of reading over a case, analyzing the problems within the case, and coming up with our own solutions for said problems. It will take a lot of work putting everything together, but it won’t be anything our team cannot handle!
Saturday night I went to an a cappella performance by the Cleftomaniacs on the Barrett Hall Porch. They sounded great! The group was hosting another a cappella group from American University while they were on their Spring Break. It was a fun way to segue in to my quiet night, consisting of Netflix and (again) late-night Wawa.
Sunday is my work day. I woke up a little late (11:30-yikes!) in order to get ready for MY a cappella group’s rehearsal at 12:30. It was a blast! We are currently learning a song that I personally arranged, and cannot wait for it to be premiered at our group’s Wren 10. For those of you who don’t know what this is, Wren 10 is a concert held every week on Wednesdays at 10 o’clock on the Wren building’s portico. Each of the 11 a cappella groups get to perform once a semester!
After my rehearsal, I turned in a job application (fingers crossed!) for the summer, and headed back to Ewell Hall for another work shift from 4-7. After my shift, I went to the Williamsburg Library Theatre for a special Piano Trio performance by a traveling group, Triple Helix. It was so great to see and hear such a talented group play selections written from all around the world. My personal favorite was the Mendelssohn Trio in d minor.
Now, I write this from the Psychology Lab in Tyler Hall (where my friend Lisa does research) at 1 am while I take a break from my homework. I think I will head back to my dorm in Jamestown soon to get a good night’s sleep! Overall, it was a busy, but very fun weekend. I was productive, so here’s to hoping the rest of the week will be just as awesome!
March 25, 2013 by Sarah Nicholas
I set a goal for myself this semester: to eat at as many of the local cupcake shops as possible. Each neighborhood is home to many “boutique bakeries,” each of which specializes in special flavors, classes, décor and atmosphere. I’m proud to say that in the last 2 months, I’ve had at about a dozen different cupcakes from 5 different cupcakeries.
Taking it from the top, we had the pleasure of visiting Red Velvet in Gallery Place during our orientation back in January. The W&M in Washington staff and our entire class had the opportunity to mix, whip, stir, bake, and learn to frost their signature red velvet “Southern-Belle” flavor. It was a group effort to make over 3 dozen cupcakes, and frosting them put our artistic skills to the test – being an arts-based semester, this was an early start to fully immersing ourselves in the arts scene in Washington. Red Velvet is known for using the freshest, “healthiest” ingredients (albeit it is difficult to find a “healthy” cupcake), including huge blocks of cream cheese for their signature whipped icing. I have since made a trip back to Red Velvet for their “Black Velvet” vegan, gluten-free chocolate cupcake. If I hadn’t read the sign myself, I never would have guessed this rich treat would be vegan AND gluten-free.
Inauguration Day prompted a visit to Georgetown Cupcake, the famed bakery of TLC’s “DC Cupcake” television program. I indulged in yet again another red velvet cupcake, this time decorated with a gold-plated, fondant presidential seal honoring Obama’s re-inauguration. The tiny shop usually has a line down the street and around the corner and offers the cheapest cupcakes in the city ($2.75 each), but I disliked the gritty consistency of the cream cheese frosting when compared to that of Red Velvet. An experience, certainly, but probably not worth huddling in the cold for hours.
A sunny February weekend prompted yet another trip back to Georgetown, this time for some light shopping and a quick stop at Sprinkles. A cramped little shop on K Street, Sprinkles actually originated in LA and is relatively new to the DC cupcake scene. I got the vanilla coconut cupcake, vanilla cake with coconut cream cheese icing lightly dusted in coconut flakes. A bigger cupcake, the cake was moist and fluffy and not overwhelmingly rich. Less than 5 minutes away from rival Georgetown Cupcakes, the shorter line and friendlier atmosphere were enough to make me return a second time, this time for a strawberry cupcake complete with a light coat of strawberry cream cheese frosting.
As the Community Advisor in this semester’s program (a class of all females), I hosted a Valentine’s Day cupcake movie night. We ordered a dozen cupcakes from Hello Cupcake in Dupont Circle, which we divided and sampled together. My favorites were you tart! (lemon cake with lemon cream cheese frosting), chocolate strawberry (a Valentine’s special, chocolate cake with strawberry icing topped with a chocolate-dipped strawberry), carrot cake (a classic), and samoa (a cupcake spin on America’s favorite girl scout cookie). Between the five of us, we devoured the entire dozen, resulting in a series of stomach aches (I supposed the Chipotle burritos before didn’t help our cause).
Alex, one of my beloved roommates, treated us to yet another dozen cupcakes from Lilly Magilly’s, a bakery in her hometown, Gaithersburg, MD, a suburb of the city. I scarfed down a Chocolate Ganache, chocolate cake with a generous serving of vanilla icing coated in a dark chocolate shell with a small fondant flower. Up next was a seasonal cupcake, Pumpkin Spice, which was muffin like in texture. It was so delicious I ended up eating a second for breakfast the following morning.
In honor of Roxane’s birthday, the W&M in Washington staff treated us to a mix-matched box of cupcakes. In “luck of the draw” style, I randomly selected a yellow cake cupcake, thinking it might be lemon, a personal favorite. Instead of a citrus treat, the cupcake turned out to be a banana muffin, complete with vanilla cream-cheese frosting. Upon further research, I discovered this was the “Vanilla Gorilla” from Hello Cupcake. Not my personal favorite, but an interesting surprise!
I found myself this past weekend wandering around the Penn Quarter when I stumbled upon Crumbs, a very very small bake shop with very very big cupcakes. For those of you looking for a place to sit and eat cupcakes, Crumbs is not the place to go – there’s only two chairs! After a long process of elimination (the St. Patty’s day cupcakes were hard to resist), I finally picked the “Mudslide” – a chocolate cake cupcake with cappuccino cream filling, frosted with a coffee cream cheese frosting rolled in chocolate chips and topped with Oreo cookie crumbs – quite the chocolately treat! First off, this cupcake was massive. I quartered it and took it to go, eating it over the course of a few hours. It was incredibly rich (might have been the candy) but the cake itself was fluffy. It was by far the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had – I will be going back ASAP to break from my diet and splurge on another.
With the exception of the snow right now, spring has sprung in the city, meaning the cherry blossoms are finally here! We were lucky enough to get tickets to the opening ceremonies, which included some amazing performances by award winning Japanese pop stars as well as Andy Grammer! The best part came in the form of – you guessed it – cupcakes! Cherry cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake were given to all attendees; a vanilla cake with cherries folded into the batter, topped with cherry cream cheese frosting and a beautiful fondant blossom!
Hopefully I’ll get the chance to eat many more cupcakes in the second half of the semester – I’m also planning on running outside more often now that springtime is here, just so I’m not made of cupcakes! Upcoming: Baked and Wired, Sticky Fingers, and more!
March 11, 2013 by Adam Labriny
As Spring Break comes to a close, I’ve been thinking about what an intense (yet immensely satisfying) month February turned out to be. Between Charter Day, Mardi Gras, Chinese New Year AND midterms, it was definitely one of my busiest months here at W&M.
For Charter Day (that’s on February 8th!), the Student Assembly asked my jazz combo to perform during a special dinner in the Sadler Center. Since I don’t have a meal plan this year, it was great to re-experience the dining halls (i.e. an endless soul food buffet, a sick salad bar, and ICE CREAM!) Mainly, though, it was great to see my peers’ looks of befuddlement change to excitement as they realized their dinner would come with a serenade!
The next week, Mardi Gras was by far the most pressing thing on my (non-academic) schedule. In the past, I never really thought twice about Mardi Gras. I didn’t grow up with it, I didn’t understand it—it just wasn’t on my radar. However, I’ve recently had the pleasure of befriending a native of New Orleans, Naomi. Between her excitement about the holiday and the bits of New Orleans’ history I’ve picked up in my Southern Cultures class, I was determined to make an effort to learn more about Mardi Gras this year. Thus ensued a day of purple, green, and gold beads, dancing on the Sunken Garden, and (dreaming about) king cake. Success? I think yes.
With February also came the Chinese New Year! This year, W&M’s Chinese Student Organization (CSO) put on a spectacular event in PBK Hall, complete with calligraphy, dumpling making, video presentations, and a catered dinner. The event also offered the opportunity for students to mingle with Chinese exchange and international students; I was thrilled to learn more about how the holiday is celebrated in China.
The latter half of February brought with it a whirlwind of exams, papers, presentations, and obligations—in other words, it was finally midterm season (cue dramatic “dun dun dunnnnnn”). My new home became Swem. In fact, I was spending so much time in Swem that by the end of the month, I had established “study spots” around the library: the little nook near the Children’s Book section with the round, sunny window overlooking Andrews Hall and the courtyard, the strangely-placed desktop on the second floor that only a couple other people like to use because it’s vastly inconvenient, and another super-secret spot I will only divulge post graduation. (But seriously, let me know if you’re curious and I’d love to share.) I developed weird eating habits that week, too. Lunch? Who needs it—I’ll take a triple Americano and this bag of Cheez-its, please!
But as most things, midterm season came and went. Looking forward, I’ve only got half a semester left at this lovely institution, and I plan on making the most of it!
February 28, 2013 by Kaitlin Noe
After having thoroughly immersed myself in the savory world of French cuisine for about a month, I decided it was time to make my first venture beyond the borders. So for Valentine’s weekend, I and my fellow W&M member CC, who is studying in Paris through a different program, packed our bags and headed off on our first hostel adventure: to Bruxelles (Brussels) and Bruges. We arrived with very little knowledge and even less experience with the Belgian culture. Luckily, we knew three things for certain: chocolate, frites, and beer. We were not disappointed. I present to you, a Valentine’s weekend food tour of Belgium:
1. First, Chocolate
The first thing we did was head to the Grand Place, which was itself a marvel of architecture and culture… but first we stopped in every single chocolate shop along the way. We were pleased to find that they all seemed very determined to offer us free samples of their truffles. We, of course, politely obliged. It’s only good manners. Valentine’s Day also proved the perfect excuse to treat ourselves, and the Belgians brought their A game.
2. The Second Course of Dessert…
Determined on our first day to do everything possible to avoid real food, we stumbled into a Turkish pastry shop. It turned out to be a wonderland of fantastical sugary inventions in a bright array of colors.
3. Our First Taste of Frites
After stumbling (our trip was mostly filled with meandering and stumbling) upon one of the typical Brussels frites stands, we decided it was about time we tried the legendary Belgian frites. We’d been in Brussels an hour already, hadn’t we?! They were everything we could’ve dreamed of.. crispy, fresh, hot out of the fryer, and coated in an incredibly savory sauce with a vaguely exotic name (we opted out of the traditional mayo accent). They single handedly destroyed every fast-food place ever for me.
4. A Brussels Brew
Our second official destination, after the Grand Place, was the Cantillon Brewery for our first sip of Belgian beer. Cantillon Brewery is one of the few places in Brussels that still practices spontaneous fermentation, which means that the beer made there can only be made in Brussels because it ferments by interacting with the bacteria in the air. As unappetizing as that process sounds, it somehow results in the most incredible harmony of flavors I have ever tasted in a beverage. (Yes, harmony. This stuff was music to our taste buds.) Our tour included a glass of the basic Lambic, and the Kreik, which is a cherry-flavored beer.
5. Le Premier Gaufre
The second day of our trip, we hitched a train to Bruges, a small medieval town not far from Brussels. It is everything Disneyland always dreamed of being. Plus it has waffles, as we discovered when we ducked into a small café called Salé et Sucré. Picking up a pair of coffees, we carefully selected the traditional Belgian waffled dusted with powdered sugar, and a more elaborate creation loaded down with fruit and whipped cream. They each lasted about three minutes after being placed on our table before we devoured them. Belgium had officially ruined Friendly’s and IHOP for me. Also, I recommend dropping in on the specialty food store next door, for a plethora of incredible post-gaufre samples: everything from olive oil dipping sauces to salsas. The perfect savory complement to the delicious sweetness of the gaufres.
6. More Belgian Beer?
This time we stopped in a small bar in Bruges to sample some of the flavored beers that Belgium is so well known for. The Pecheresse, a Peach beer, is at the same time the most girly and delicious thing I have ever tasted.
7. Something’s Fishy…
The morning of our third day we made our way to a stray parking garage off the main touristy streets of Brussels in pursuit of a city panorama. After taking a rickety elevator up to the top floor of the garage and marveling at the skyline it revealed, we meandered around the streets looking for a place to get out of the cold. Then we stumbled upon a place called Nordzee (so much meandering and stumbling…): a small corner-side joint, with no seating and no indoors. It consisted of an outdoor counter and several tall tables where locals were standing about chatting and eating. Curious, we wandered up to the counter and were greeted by a blond hair-blue eyed Belgian angel who served us shrimp croquettes from his heavenly fryers. I think the photo might speak for itself on this one.
8. Thé à la menthe
Searching for anywhere to get out of the blustery cold that descended upon Brussels the last day of our trip, we entered the first café with WiFi (a precious rarity in many parts of Europe, next to nonexistent in Paris). Looking around we noticed everyone seemed to be drinking the same leafy-looking beverage. We requested two from our waiter and were delivered two fresh, hot glasses of mint tea, made with real crushed mint leaves. It was the perfect sweet cure for our frozen tourist bones.
9. The Last Supper
For our last meal in Belgium, we decided to switch it up a bit. We went to a Swiss Fondue restaurant, figuring it wasn’t that far from Switzerland. Whether or not geography had anything to do with it, it was an incredibly satisfying meal. We split a pot of cheese fondue with bread, a glass of wine each, and a chocolate cake for dessert. The dinner was made all the better by the fatherly, protective waiters and owner who kicked three Belgian men out of the restaurant for “bothering us”, and the friendly American man who shared his exotic melting-cheese-scraping machine with us. (Apologies, that is the best I can do to explain the witchcraft he was using for his dinner.) The perfect cheesy end to a foody trek through Belgium.
Before I sign off, I couldn’t resist throwing in a few pictures of fairyland Bruges, my new favorite place on earth. They’re almost as mouth-watering as the food pics.
Nothing beats a Valentine’s weekend filled with chocolate by the pound, beer by the pint, and frites by the cone. Worth every weird glance I got for whipping out my camera to capture them.
February 11, 2013 by Kaitlin Noe
I would not be doing my job as traveler, temporary Parisian, or human being if I did not dedicate at least 90 percent of my time to talking about French food. I have probably far exceeded that–food is about all I have talked about since setting foot on this continent. Luckily, being considerably food-obsessed themselves, the French don’t seem to mind.
Before departing for this land of food finery, I was warned by many a friend or relative who had dipped their toes into the French culinary pool that French food was not edible. Unfortunately, this was not true. French food is so addicting that it has both emptied my wallet and threatened my waist line consistently over the past month. Allow me to demonstrate.
1. Baguettes. Camembert. Comté.
Baguettes cost a single euro here. If you wander into the local boulangerie around meal time (make sure to look out for the artisanal ones for the proper, baker-rises-at-3-in-the-morning experience. It makes a difference), there is almost always a line. The boulangerie is also the only place in France with quick service because French people cannot live without bread at every meal. I’ve become personally addicted to tradi, the baguette au traditional. I honestly don’t know what exactly is different about it from a regular baguette, but I attribute it to a magical characteristic in the rising process, or the wheat, or the rolling?… My addition is exemplified by the fact that my dinner tonight was an entire tradi and two-thirds of a circle of camembert. When I’m drinking wine (which people here often are) I generally go for the comté. Because I like to pretend I know fancy things like how to pair wines and cheeses.
2. French onion soup.
Only here it’s just “onion soup” because the French is implied. Which I thought was hilarious when I first saw it on the menu. Unfortunately this hot, flavorful soup topped with a crust of cheese and thick bread doesn’t translate too fantastically to photos. But if I’ve had one bowl, I’ve had one at every single meal since I’ve been here.
3. Local food.
The French’s trick to everything. They only eat things grown fairly nearby, and you can tell. There’s a whole new level of freshness when your food hasn’t been flown half-way around the world before it reached your mouth. Downside being that it’s nearly impossible to get things out of season, or things that don’t grow in nearby climates. Like peanut butter and maple syrup. My I miss you, PB&J. I found a little brunch place in Montmartre that takes this to an extreme and only serves locally-grown products in their ever-changing brunch menu that is open two days a week for one meal. At long communal-style tables, I devoured the greatest bread, butter, and eggs Benedict I could ever imagine. Too eager to eat it to take a picture of what it looked like before I started destroying it, my apologies…
4. Creme brulée.
One of my favorite desserts back home, in its home country. Goodness, this stuff is magic. I could probably eat it with every meal of the day…
5. Fondant chocolate.
A flour-less chocolate cake, homemade by my house mother and left up to me to finish over the course of the weekend. Let’s just say I ate very well that weekend.
6. French attempt at American food.
After a month of incredible Parisian food, I got a little homesick, so my friends and I sought out “Breakfast in America”. We were greeted by a very goofy caricature of an American diner, complete with decorative toasters next to every booth (I guess they kind of look like jukeboxes?), a huge “Friends” poster, and an “Obama” milkshake (peanut butter and chocolate). I have to admit though, they make a mean burger.
7. The famous Angelina’s coffee.
Almost no words. Thick and nearly pure chocolate, mixed in with fluffy white chantilly (french whipped cream). I drank about two pitchers. I would’ve waited twice as long as the 15-20 minute line out front for a taste of this magic.
8. Last, but not least: escargot. Yes, snails.
With some fellow W&M friends coming in from Florence and Barcelona, we wanted to treat them to all the french specialties, so we found a little bistro near the Louvre with escargots on the menu. We were all but squirming with anxiety when the waiter brought over the plate and showed us how to pry them out of their shells. Surprise: THEY WERE AMAZING. We all fought over the last one and seriously debated ordering several more rounds. We used our bread to soak up every last drop of flavor from that plate. Who knew?
Apologies for the food obsession, but when everything tastes this good, it’s a little tough to stay cool…À bientôt!