Favourite Places

Magically Enchanting the Heart & the Soul

Restaurants

De Kwizien, Lady Chef of the Year

Belgium could be famous for so many things, yet the ones that are mostly catching the tourist attention, are hardly the things making the Belgians most proud. There are a few exceptions like waffles, chocolate and beer, but underneath the lacy cover of the obvious, there are so many other remarkable things to discover. I don’t know how many people may be considering Belgium the culinary capital of Europe, yet there is a constellation of rising young chef stars, opening trendy restaurants and delighting the eager guests with stunning dishes and modern and fragrant cuisine.

De Kwizien restaurant in Hasselt is one of these creations. Charming, family restaurant with a central open kitchen and surrounding tables hosting no more than 40 guests, the place looks open and bright yet cosy, intimate and embracing. Making a special reservation for a family birthday lunch, we have indeed chosen well, despite taking the risk of selecting an unknown restaurant. Starting with a traditional toast of champaign, enjoying each other’s company and sharing gifts and our love with the birthday quest of honour, could not have been done in a better location or accompanied by better celebratory food. Starting with small bites of various flavours as a compliment of the chef, the main dishes of the season menu placed on our table looked like a piece of art too beautiful to savour. But savour them we did, every bite bursting with flavour and harmonious perfection.

Looking around in the restaurant, we where initially surprised to see so many flower bouquets gracing the counter top of the kitchen. Have there been other festive celebrations next to the one of our own? But when the young lady chef, Anne-Sophie Breysem came go say hello and enquire if we have enjoyed the food a whisper settled around the table, that she is someone special, a rising star who only a couple of days ago has been awarded the prestegious Lady Chef of the Year title for her culinary accomplishments. Having tasted and fallen in love with her food, we completely understand why and we were trilled to see such a young lady receiving recognition for quality, creativity and class.

De Kwizien, is just one of so many delightful places to visit and it is a privilege and joy, looking underneath the obvious to be continuously surprised of the beautiful treasures that Belgian could offer.

Places

Schlosshotel Kronberg, Germany

There are some moments in life, when one just wishes to turn a back to the day-to-day reality and drive away to an enchanting castle. Opening a new chapter in our life and embracing a new carrier challenge which may soon require extensive travelling abroad, we decide to spend some time together in a beautiful hotel near Frankfurt am Main. Schlosshotel Kronberg is an unusual place. Build in 1893, it was originally intended as a private royal castle. Owned by the House of Hesse to this very day, stepping into the hotel one feels more like a guest to the royal family rather then a visitor to an average hotel. With a unguarded access to the specious library, the fire-lit, art-decorated medieval living room, the royal banquet hall breakfast and dinning room one can settle easily into the castle and set about to explore the place.

To our delight, there are not many other guests at the hotel. Our imagination is quickly carried away: could we dare to envisage this castle as our own royal get away, or perhaps imagine that we are authors seeking source of inspiration for a historic novel? The clues to any story we may wish to imagine are readily available at our doorstep, making our stay here even more auspicious once we notice Francois’s family initials boldly engraved on the building’s garden facing facade. Could this be possible… Being half German, does he really know his family ancestry? Did I unknowingly marry Prince Charming? For the Prince Charming part, I am pretty certain with or without the castle. Still, the sight of the magically beautiful scenery is giving our hearts a pause.

Schloss Friedrichshof is today one of the most impressive German castles and offers its guests living history to touch and feel. Exclusive furnishings and an impressive collection of antiques and paintings from the private estate of the mother of the last Kaiser convey the authentic ambience of a castle from imperial times.

A morning walk past the Italian rose garden into the golf therein greens. A trip to the charming near-by medieval town. An afternoon English tea savouring the rich red fruit aromas. In the evening, red wine by the cracking fire place debating art, politics and world history, laughing and teasing about everything and nothing. And at night, oasis of quiet and peace in a divine luxurious sleeping room with a bed designed for kings. The next morning, waking up in paradise.

Sharing the pleasures of a beautiful place, is even more rewarding when we could share the experience with friends. Having a chance to see childhood friends, that do not live near by is a chance we could not miss and what a more spectacular way to be together than inviting them to join us for dinner at the castle. There are certain people who seem meant to stay no matter how life may try to break apart. And it is a privilege, a joy and an honour to embrace them as my friends. Lost in smiles and conversation the night slips quickly away and before we have a chance to share all, it is time to kiss good buy and let them go, happy and delighted, until we meet again.

The food is delicious, too. Traditionally German, presented with sophistication and fitness. The taste of roasted dumplings in mushroom cream sauce has become for me an iconic image of the German cuisine. Delighted to discover more and eager to cook some of the classic recipes at home, we stop on our way back home to a local store and fill our car with food delights. Lost among the shelfs like two enchanted kids, we can’t seem to stop admiring the affordability of the prices and the variety of quality goods on display. Feeling like in Aladdin’s cave we carefully chose our treasures and happily take the road back home again.

Video Source: Schlosshotel Kronberg website

Restaurants

Restaurant 6 Zinnen, Hasselt Belgium

It is a rear pleasure to walk into a restaurant on a casual Sunday evening and unexpectedly to be delightfully enchanted not only by the delicious food, but by the overall experience. Nothing has prepared us to what may lay ahead when stepping through the open doors of the 6 Zinnen restaurant in Hasselt. Yes, it has been our choice to test what the best rated, number one restaurant in the city has to offer. Looking for the perfect place for a family birthday celebration, we have decided a few days in advance to travel to the city examining if the location, the sphere, the food could eventually be suitable for a big family reunion.

Welcomed by the smiling face of the charming hostess, we were guided into the impeccably designed modern interior of classic turn of the century city house. Intimately arranged into separate dinning areas, the restaurant isn’t large. It reminds of the glory days when a well-to-do family will meet for a Sunday lunch served and catered by a butler and a kitchen staff. Not surprisingly, in this setting it is the young chef himself who suddenly steps out of the kitchen, bending over our tables, offering us a taste of the first exiting meal. What an honour and what fun!

Our Menu

  • Sweet Beetroot 7 Potato Canapé
  • Mackerel with lettuce 7 pickled beetroot
  • Beef, flat green beans, courgette 7 white cauliflower pure
  • Vanilla Peach Crumble
  • Vanilla Chocolate Ice-cream

 

The food is an utter delight. Deliciously balanced flavours of fresh local meat and seasonal vegetables, every bite singing to life. We often watch on TV renown culinary experts praising the intensity of flavour in cooked vegetables, but I must admit in all my restaurant dinning and international travels, I could never boast of any similar experience as enjoying tasting the vegetables in the 6 Zinnen Restaurant in Hasselt. Innovative, lightly cooked but fresh and deliciously sublime the theme of embracing nature at its best has been repeated over and over again in every single dish, in a well thought about and executed menu.

Enjoying the purity of flavour of the dishes on our table, we tend to forget that our dinner is a test, quickly turning in an unforgettable and unexpected romantic date. When was the last time when we were so much taken forgetting where we are, who we are and only focusing on with whom we are? This is the magic of the place. Letting go of reason and agenda, to submit oneself to an amazing experience and by tasting natures best be reminded of life’s best, which sometimes may sit just across the table.

Feature image source – 6 Zinnen

Restaurants

Althoff Grandhotel Schloss Bensberg

In a fantastic location overlooking the bay of Cologne and providing wonderful views of Cologne Cathedral, the Althoff Grandhotel Schloss Bensberg certainly knows to fascinate all visitors – may it be on a business trip, a city break to Cologne, or a wellness weekend.

Travelling abroad for a romanic weekend, always offers rest and enchanting adventures. Visiting, seeing and experiencing something new is as equally exciting as it is tasting something new.

During our stay at the Althoff Grandhotel Schloss Bensberg, just a few kilometres out of Koln in Germany, we had the unexpected pleasure to feel transported to the Mediterranean for a moment by treating ourselves to a few indulgent hours in one of the acclaimed hotel’s restaurants, the Trattoria Enoteca.

The warm colours, authentic aromas, finest ingredients and select wines together with perfect service provided a setting for an unforgettable visit. The food was surprisingly delightful, offering experience of the full range of the Italian cuisine — hearty dishes from the country kitchen, light dishes from the coast, and irresistible home-made pasta.

Our Menu

  • Melanzana alla griglia, Grilles sizilian eggplant with kefir, saffron-vinaigrette and herbs
  • Ragu di costine brasate, Braised loin rip ragout with tomato, herbs and handmade Pappardelle
  • Cassata alla siciliana, Cassata siciliana, ricottacreme, pistachiobiscuit, dried fruit praline and orange flower granitée.

 

We set our eyes on a simple menu, offering a burst of taste and an unmistakable touch of sophistication. Grilled aubergine salad, mouthwatering braised loin rip pasta, and a scientific experiment looking delicious dessert of ricotta creme and pistachio biscuit.

Beautiful, surprising and delightful. Combined with the breathtaking hotel country setting, this 17th century meddival abbey transformation into a luxurious retreat, has all the recommendations it takes to entice the imagination and amaze every guest.

Markets

La Boqueria, Barcelona

They said we should visit the market early in the morning. Early, does not really apply to us, a happy family on a summer holiday vacation, eager to experience the vibrant diversity of life, and what a life could be found in Barcelona!

Sunny and warm, this is a city that never sleeps. Life floats through leanly architectured streets, zigzagging its way from a blue haven beach, through Gothic medieval quarter, to Parisian-like high-end luxurious shopping streets.  Yet, unmistakably there are uniquely “Barcelona” signs wherever we may go. From the famous Gaudi buildings, to the tapas-bar restaurants leisurely inviting us on every corner, to the Catalonian flags gracing the windows and the smiles of the beautiful people passing by.

So much to see, so much to experience. Days and nights merging long memorable hours on a string like a necklace of pearls.

Hence, we are no early risers. We take our time for breakfast, enjoying the stunning roof-top terrace view and savoring every bite from the delicious display of food. Our hotel 1898, at the La Rambla is only a mere five minutes walk from the famous La Boqueria market. We pass its iron gates just around noon and our senses are immediately assaulted by colour, aromas and noise.

It is a real market. One, that has been in operation for hundreds of years, seeing generation after generation passing by. Nothing seems changed, yet still… It is so beautifully nostalgic to see the elderly ladies, well dressed and coiffured, meeting and talking to each other gossipping and caring, not at least in a hurry to go back and cook at home. Life is simple and peaceful, and in this instance, delicious. Fresh fish, crab, lobster, seasonal vegetables and fruit, exotic tropical mangosteens, lamb and pork meat, nuts and sweets. The display is endless.

A colourful bar around the corner, transforms the sea-food catch of the day into an irresistible temptation, while people line queuing for a chance for taste. I am drifted away through the stalls dreaming, if only I lived around the corner…, if only I could buy this…., if only I could cook… La Boqueria is a dreaming place for every person passionate about food and a daily visit for many others lucky to be calling it a home.