20 minutes east is about all it takes to get into a small town with a lot of college students (and their trademarks signs, such as beer cans, blaring techno, and regurgitated dinners caused from way too much alcohol...rookies...). But it is a quiet reprieve from the hustling and bustling of Brussels. Plus, the food is great, and I pretty much crossed off two extremely good regional dishes in the matter of 8 hours. Gluttony is Leuven should of been the title for this blog post.
The first is a Koninghapje. Imagine roasted chicken in gravy over a biscuit, only with a white sauce that makes American gravy look like sewer water. And let me remark that I have had many a mashed potato. I've had them out of a box, made out of red potato, sweet potato, just about anyway to mash a potato that is legal, I have eaten it. Leuven's Nachttuil has simply the best. Yea I was the only one eating there, but it was really a date between me and the mashed potatoes that oozed of some spices that I still have no idea what they were. Anyone who knows me what happen when I have a "food moment." Well, that whole bowl was one big "moment."
No. 2 are my beloved kaaskroketten met Brabantse witlof in hesp and kaassaus. So you take something that looks like a slender cabbage, wrap it is thick cut English bacon, dump it in molten and slightly charred cheese, and serve it with deep fried little pieces of ragout and cheese. Heart stopper? Yes indeed. Totally decadent and worth the 6.40Euro to go into the east of Belgium to get it? Double Yes indeed. Yes, I may have gained third degree tongue burn and may no longer taste anything, (there is no way that the practically melting cheese is that hot!---Dead Wrong), but I think that I Belgium-ed it out big time. Who would ever wrap a vegetable in savory meat and put it in cheese but the Belgians of course! (Americans would deep fry the whole thing and add copious amount of salt and butter...plus with Belgium, how can we be surprised, I mean their national icons are beer, chocolate, and frieten).
Now besides the very tasty food scene, Leuven as quite the main square. The town hall literally has as many statues of people that could completely inhabit the "Mini Europe" exhibit in Laeken. In fact, I doubt that the upper statues are even different people, they could easily the be the same people in different clothing. Granted it would be a cop out, but just staring at the building kind of boggles the mind. But seeing that this is a college town, and I am sure every freshman must take "Leuven 0101" and during week 4 there is the dreaded, name "every single human being on this building, extra weight given to those who can do it in order."
I must say it was very appealing to be back in "Nederlands country." All Dutch here people. No "Bonjour" but the guttural 'Goedemiddag" no more "Boissons" but "Dranken" and I can freely talk without feeling completely apprehensive of being "that guy" in line who finally just the forsaken Brussels language. I actually pulled a lot of my Dutch out of my rear-end over the course of lunch, and the waiter actually held conversation with me, until he just stopped and said I was either a native English speaker or had lived in the Netherlands. Everyone knows my affinity for the Netherlands, and indeed, told him I had lived in Amsterdam for some time, he too had lived there, and we had a small reminiscing moment. Looks like that place seems to suck everyone in. After shaking off some dust, my speaking skills are still there, and unlike the untrained ear of the Brusseleir, Leuvenaars are good....very good.
Oh and everyone in America who thinks Stella Artois is made in some fancy, posh, elite, high-crested Spanish city along the Atlantic, you are completely wrong. It is in the landlocked, East-Belgian and medieval town of Leuven. I hate that beer, in America it is usually too bitter and icky. However, having it fresh from the factory in a bar called De Oude Tijd (a pint of beer for 1.50Euro?!?!?!?!) while waiting for my train, made me a believer (but only in Leuven). It tasted like a very good Czech lager, and just knowing it was made not 3 miles away kind of makes it all the better. Leuven, surprisingly, is quite the beer haven. Not only did I have 3 uniquely Leuvense Bieren, a Leuvense Tripel, Com Domus Feeste Bier, and the freshly prepared Stella, but the entire middle of the city is truly the largest bar in Europe. Of course I could not go to all of them, though given one other day, or at least it not being Sunday in Belgium, meaning things close, I would have sampled a beer in all of them. So, given limited opening times and limited daylight, I chose a homage to Trappist brews, a bar that plays only 50s-70s French music, and a bar with a pulpit in it, plus 1Euro jenever. I believe it is a college student's dream. Not too far from the school, and a nice area to read about the finer points of mass media organisation while sipping on a nice Belgian brew. Can't say I disagree with anything about that. Not too mention in a school that has been around since the 1400s. I don't always venture to small towns in Belgium, but when I do, I go to Leuven.