Iris and Els
Brussels was still asleep but the autumn sun shone in all its glory on the Square de la Croix Rouge where we met with the Brussels Food Friends group last Saturday. There were cups of damping coffee and scrumptious Danish pastries waiting for us at the Vroom Vroom coffee van which was a great start of a fantastic foodie day.
The previous two events of Brussels Food Friends had been held in Brussels, but this time we were going on a day away, with the bus! I had that school trip feeling when we all walked through the park to where the bus was waiting for us. Just like in school some of us took the back row seats and some went straight for the front row. The coffee had us all woken up and the happy chatter soon took over from the tweeting and instagraming. The bus brought us all the way to the Netherlands border: Maasmechelen Village, fairground for all shopping queens and as we soon would discover also for foodie kings and queens.
With a glass of bubbly in our hands we listened to the schedule of the day's activities. It sounded like a pretty full day but yes, we packed it all in and had a fabulous time! The day kicked off with an interesting talk on how to keep your blog audience interested in your writing. Tips and knowledge we all wanted to hear and a big thanks to Phil from the food and travel blog Very Hungry Explorer for sharing this with us. The group that were chatterboxes throughout the day fell very quiet for an hour. This has been so great at all the BxlFF events: there is always somebody who comes to talk about an aspect of blogging and you go home with new ideas and plans for the next posts.
We had already seen a bit of Maasmechelen Village on our way to Phil's talk, but when we stepped out again to make our way to the next stop - Le Creuset! - we all saw our first Christmas tree of the season and went ah! in choir style. Christmas has arrived in Maasmechelen village and let's be honest, isn't it the most magical time of year to go shopping. It was however the hottest 1st of November in a century so it felt more like an Aussie Christmas with t-shirts on.
No other shop in the whole village could have attracted a group of foodies more than Le Creuset. We were invited for a 'Winter casserole' cooking workshop where we learned about the great range of cooking pots and pans and utensils. Needless to say we all were standing in line at the till afterwards admiring the pots and pans we held in our hands. It was easy to follow us for the rest of the day, we were all carrying an orange Le Creuset bag. One of us of even tried out his purchase that very evening back home.
More on the cooking workshop later because we are asked to test the recipe in our own kitchens. Will be interesting.
Lunch stop was at the well-known Ellis Gourmet Burger where they had two new winter burgers on the menu. Time to get to know each other better now. There were familiar faces in the group but also new faces of blogs to discover. Meeting fellow bloggers is always nice because it is the only time you can talk all day about blogging without boring somebody! We also love the mix of English, French and Flemish bloggers, there aren't that many other occasions for the different languages to meet, which is a shame. Top marks also for Céline and her team at Maasmechelen Village who made us feel so welcome that day.
No time to yet to go shopping after lunch, there was another foodie activity planned for us: wine and olive oil tasting with Olivetus. Anna and Allesandro introduced us to two Puglian wines and the Olivetus signature olive oils. When Anna started to talk about their love of Italy and the regional products of Puglia they import to Belgium with such great passion, I must admit I drifted away with holiday dreams for a moment and it was the smooth perfume of the Salice Salentino wine that brought me back. At Olivetus you can find regional products that are made with attention for sustainability and come from small, family run businesses. The Salice Salentino had won my heart over from the first sip and we bought a bottle to enjoy back at home. The powerful Nero di Troia was a great second taste and would be perfect with some strong cheeses or meat dishes. We already had a cast-iron Le Creuset pot to carry home, so this time there ended only one bottle of wine in our bag (and we wish it had been two) but we have been looking at the Olivetus website to see where we can buy the wines soon. The jars with tomato paste and artichokes looked very appealing too and the olive oil, well we stranded with tasting only the wines, but have enjoyed the great sample in our goodie bags! Ideas for Christmas present lists are bubbling up...
Matthieu from RestoLastminute popped in too and gave us a quick intro to his new business, for those who always decide to go out last minute and want something more that a pizza quattro stagioni, there is now the website RestoLastminute.com!
In Brussels Food Friends tradition we finished with a cookbook raffle and who won... Els is proud as punch with the latest addition to her vast cookbook collection: Martin Morales' Ceviche, an introduction the trendy Peruvian Cuisine published by Luster Books.
And then we all went outside to the main square to see the launch of the Make-A-Wish campaign.
Make-A-Wish is a foundation that helps children with life-threatening diseases to achieve their dreams and perfect wish. In November and December all the shops in Maasmechelen Village will sell the Make-A-Wish cards, you can write your own special wish and make a chance to be picked to make it happen.
It's the season to be merry but also to be generous, we can only applaud such great intiative! So don't forget to buy the cards next time you are in Maasmechelen Village!
There was still a VIP pass to be used so the real shoppers ended the day in full shopping heaven. The choice of designer shops is vast at Maasmechelen Village, so difficult to chose. There is no question about it, we have to come back.
On the bus drive home we discovered all the great goodies in the bag and were treated with one last chocolate chip muffin. What a great foodie day this was.
Keep an eye on the Brussels Food friends website and facebook page for their next events, you will see us again too!