It’s always exciting when I start putting together the pieces of a dining trip. Especially the anticipation of trekking to locations I’ve not yet been to savor my first bites from the kitchens of chefs I’ve not yet met. When it’s the case that the tour I’m planning is focused around a particular restaurant that I’ve long been particularly eager to visit, I often like to go twice. Sometimes two days in a row, and many times twice in a day. After assembling the majority of the building blocks of my recent dining campaign in Belgium, I was feeling regretful that I had only booked a single meal at In de Wulf. Just as I was beginning to accept that I would have merely one dinner in Dranouter, my good friend Simon, who is currently working with Sergio Herman in Antwerp, expressed a desire to join Rocky and me for a great meal while we were in his part of the world. So I was quick to oblige and booked a lunch table for three, three days after my first affair with Chef Kobe Desramaults and his team.
Waking up on a rainy Sunday morning in Brussels, Rocky and I checked out of our hotel, packed up the rental hybrid, and hit the road for our return to Wulvestraat. After racing with a couple in a bright yellow Lotus Exige down the final stretch of highway, we pulled into the farmhouse compound, met up with Simon, went straight to the table and got the party started with a bottle of Jerome Prevost’s 2010 La Closerie.
Naturally, since this meal was mere days after my first, the majority of the menu was the same. Though there were a few extras thrown in from Chef Kobe.
Porkskin. With mustard mayonnaise and white currants and more mustard powder than last time.
Whelks. From the North Sea with bay leaf white wine vinaigrette.
Mackerel, mugwort. Mackerel cured and smoked with mugwort and topped with fermented beef miso.
A bonus dish of swimmer crabs, which Kobe told us were typical of Belgium. He instructed us not to eat them, but just suck out the juice. Pretty tasty.
Radish, egg yolk. Egg yolk poached in the shell and dressed with radish flowers, powder, and sauce.
Bread service: sourdough baked out back in a brick oven. With butter and rapeseed oil.
North sea sepia. Cold ‘noodles’ cut from the sepia, dressed with squid jus, garlic vinegar, and chamomile petals. Served in a bowl fashioned of frozen ink and water.
Dogfish, kohlrabi, rhubarb. Meaty dogfish sandwiched with kohlrabi, rhubarb, creme fraiche, lovage, and rye toast.
North sea crab, carrots, lemon thyme, carrot flower. Just like in the previous meal, a terrific plate of sweet compliments and textural contrasts.
Broad bean, goat cheese of Uxem, verbena. In line with the last meal, but without the surprise addition of peas.
Lobster of Audresselles. Once again, tremendous lobster meat in a jus from the head of the animal.
Snails of Comines, fat-hen. Snails and goosefoot. Delicious snails accompanied quinoa wrapped in a fat-hen leaf.
Cauliflower, whey-mussel sauce. Borderline mind-blowing dehydrated cauliflower in a foamy sauce of mussels and whey. A stellar combination.
Roasted turbot and onion. On paper the same, but on the plate quite different than the turbot and onion we had a few days before. A much tastier piece of fish(especially the skin) and an even prettier winter onion.
Lamb, roasted gherkin. Lovely brisket and filet of Dutch lamb alongside a roasted stuffed gherkin dressed in lamb jus.
Flax seed tart and pig brain. A light, crisp flax seed tart with a rich gelee of pig brain topped with carrot flowers. Served on a pig skull.
Another bonus dish from Kobe. Pigeon aged whole for two weeks, cleaned and smoked, then aged with smoked hay. Effing fantastic. Amazing, rich, intense flavor.
Flamiche Vieux Lille. A traditional Flemish cheese tart.
Beetroot/ Sloeberry. Lightly crisp beet pastries filled with chocolate ganache.
Meadowsweet, yoghurt, honey and cherry. Meadowsweet ice cream, yoghurt parfait, cherries, and local meadowsweet honey. Sweet and floral. Wonderfully beautiful light dessert.
Pineapple weed, young cucumber. Pineapple weed ice cream inside a chamomile meringue covered with slices of cucumber compressed with lemon verbena. Light and very nice, though not as nice as at the previous meal. This one had thicker meringue with much less ice cream inside.
Wild strawberry, fresh cheese, poppy. Gorgeous young strawberries from a local farm with creamy fresh cheese, poppy petals, and a sauce of strawberry, rose and verbena. Delightful.
Mignardises: Nuts and seeds in chocolate and honey. Goat cheese tart with red currant. Fresh berries. And cake.
Some nice wines to accompany a stellar meal:
After we closed down the dining room for lunch, Rocky, Simon and I shared some pleasant conversation with Chef Desramaults then relaxed in the adjacent lounge with a few rounds of excellent coffee.
Another outstanding meal in Dranouter with Chef Kobe and crew. Two months later, I’m still singing praises of In de Wulf, and will continue to do so until my next visit.
Date of meal: July 6, 2014
In de Wulf. Wulvestraat 1. Dranouter, Belgium +32 57 44 55 67 www.indewulf.be