Publiek – Gent

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Yes, we did it again, we ate at a restaurant just before they where assigned a Michelin star, and on their way to stardom! We were spending a night in Gent again, and looking for a new place to eat. We wanted to try one of the new promising  restaurants with young chefs trained in three Michelin star restaurants. But as usual we only booked a few days in advance and most restaurants, especially the trending ones, were already fully booked. On the website of one of them I read that they always kept some tables for late deciders (like us), which could be booked by phone on the days itself from 10 AM on. Neil took responsibility for the reservation, so around 11 AM I received a text message that he had booked a table at Publiek in Gent, yes! Publiek is run by Olly Ceulenaere in the kitchen, one of the Flemish foodies. I find it a great idea to keep some tables that can be booked on the day itself. It gives everyone the possibility to try these restaurants, as many people cannot book very far in advance, and therefore miss out on some restaurants who are always fully booked months in advance. I hope they keep this policy as a Michelin star restaurant.

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We had booked quite early in the evening, and when we arrived were told that we could take a table instead of the seats at the bar, which are I guess the seats often set aside for the late bookers. We were very happy, and sat down next to the wall adjacent the open kitchen. The restaurant, though very sober in decoration, had a very warm  and relaxed atmosphere. I think the lightning, the natural wooden touches and the open space are responsible for the ambiance. The personnel is very young and casually dressed.

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We both chose the menu made up of five dishes (55 euro). You can opt for an extra dish, but we declined. We started with a glass of of Vouvray bubbles (8 euro/glass) followed two glasses of white Croatian wine, recommended by the hostess. The wine was really very good.

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You first get some homemade bread with butter with herbs and nuts, beautifully served, and a real treat. Each dish looks really beautiful, is well balanced in its aromas, pure and honest in taste, with original sauces and a lot of fresh herbs. It is a blend of the pure authentic taste of quality ingredients and the flair of good combinations spiced up with fresh herbs.

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You can choose between two deserts or a cheese platter. We each chose a different desert. I took a carrot cake which was delicious, Neil was a bit less pleased with his granité, which seemed to miss taste. He better go for the cheese platter next time.

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It was a great dinner, worthy of the first Michelin star they received last month. Congratulations Publiek!

Publiek, Ham 39 – 9000 Gent +32 9 330 04 86

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Chez Bene&Bolle

Today’s review is not about a fancy new gig in town or about a promising young culinary artist on his way to stardom. Today is a small reminiscing about a great evening among old friends. It has been many years since we had last met with Bene and Bolle, and they have made it a night to remember. To add to the harmony, our best friends Patrick and Hilde were also at the rendezvous.

Lounging in front of the fireplace we started effortlessly, cracking jokes,  sharing views, casually, as if we had last met just the other day.

And it goes to say that the most important ingredient of a successful night out is not the food nor the dress or the music, it is the company

Having said that, with great company, great food is often not far away 😃

And Bolle definitely did not disappoint. With Bene as a perfect host serving us delicious plate after delicious plate. I liked the idea of fresh oysters with passion fruit (a great marketing recipe for a love potion!) and I wonder why so few people know about the never failing delight of freshly baked crispy cheese wafers.

One of the gains of finding yourself among real friends is that few subjects are off limits. We had neither time nor intention to deep dive into heavy personal topics this particular evening but it is comforting to know that diverting opinions do exist, that they are allowed to exist, that they are respected and that there is willingness to explore one’s point of view.

Of course we talked about the events in Paris, the brutal killing of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, of the policemen and of the hostages at the supermarket. And of course we all condemned this barbary and there are no ‘buts’ to attenuate the circumstances. Yet, when all was said,  the one aspect I missed, not just in the evening’s  discussion, but in all I have  heard, read and seen in the various media,  was  a simple reflection, the question if we, if  our society, could have done something to prevent young  citizens, born and raised among us, homegrown children,  to get radicalised to the point of giving in to blind hatred and self destruction. The question has to be asked. And just like we, friends, try to understand each others point of view, why don’t we try to understand theirs? When Boku Haram in Nigeria kidnaps children and exterminates entire villages, we do frown, we do find it horrific, but then we shrug and get on with our lives. Only when it hits us at home, do we act. When a minute fraction of Boku Haram violence hits us close to where we live, we suddenly wake up and demand changes.  in my view, this attack did target Charlie Hebdo, but more than that, it targeted our Western society as a whole. Our response is now focused on repression when it actually should focus on better understanding and prevention. Unfortunately, that is  a type of language that did not seem to be lost to our current ruling politicians these faithful last few days.

On the other hand, the bouillabaisse, this particular evening,  was ‘to die for’ and when it was  followed by one of my all time favourites, a succulent roast of rabbit, any leftover resistance to restrain my calory intake was thrown overboard. Lucky too because just in time to accept several slices of  mocca and vanilla ice cake.

Hmm, somehow, after the terrorist paragraph talking about food suddenly sounds less appetising. But maybe it’s just me. I am not at peace with myself, I admit. I do feel a sense of guilt, being among the lucky few on this planet who can bathe in affluence. Even though I also feel that we deserved every bit of it, as we didn’t get it for free but through hard study and hard work. Even though I do acknowledge that our system has entrenched layers of solidarity and a well established safety net for our less talented or less fortunate co-citizens.  Yet, in spite of all of this,  I can not help to think that there is a lot of bias in our sense of ‘egality, fraternity and liberty’. It seems to me that somehow, some of us are still more equal than others.

So, let’s again raise our glass my friends! I praise myself lucky to live among you. You who are yourselves of sound mind and who, while sharing good wine, can uplift a nice and relaxing dinner into great and intelligent conversation. And isn’t that precisely what differentiates us from the other animals?

Your ultimate ski-holiday check-list

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On our ski-holiday this year I realized I again forgot to take some essential items with me. Not as essential as my ski jacket or helmet. I took everything I basically needed to go ski every day, but I forgot a small back pack for instance, and really missed it almost daily. I therefore decided to write down the essential ski-holiday check list for next time, and why not share it with others, who might need it too!

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Your ski outfit:

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-Skijacket -Skipants -Skisocks -Sleeveless shirt or top -Underfleece sweater -Upper fleece sweater -Gloves or mits -Undergloves (with touchscreen tips if you want to use your smartphone when skiing) -Helmet (do wear one, it is just a sad way to die while skiing) -Scarf -Fleece neck warmer (to pull over your underface when very windy) -Ski hat (there are very thin hats which you can wear under your helmet for extra warmth) -Ski goggles (do not underestimate the strenght of the winter sun, also essential when it snows) -skis or snowboard -skishoes -ski sticks

If it is very cold you can wear following items for extra insulation:

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-shirt with short or long sleeves as extra layer -thicker socks (do not wear two pear of socks!) -panties to wear under your skipants

Accessories you need on your holiday:

-sunglasses -regular gloves -regular hat -snowboots of sturdy walking shoes or moonboots -regular scarf (it might seem dum to take two pairs of hats, scarfs and gloves, but the ones you use for skiing are often sweaty or wet, so it is comfortable to be able to change them for others at the end of your ski-day) -umbrella (where it can snow it can rain…)

For your days on the slopes:

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Ski-pass In some ski-areas you can re-use your ski-pass (and not have to pay for it again). So keep it somewhere where you will find it- again next year.

-a small or medium backpack (to take lunch, water, sunscreen, put away carfs, sunglasses…) -small thermos flask -some sandwich bags to pack lunch -a pocket knife. On very busy and sunny days you might prefer to eat your lunch outside on te slopes in the sun, rather than to wait for a table at one of the restaurants on the slopes for a much too expensive lunch.

-sunscreen, and an extra small tube of sunscreen to take with you on the slopes -one lipbalm per person -packs of disposable handkerchiefs

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-a plastic sheet to put in the trunk of your car to put the wet skis and boots on after skiing, snow chains (do put them on at home at least once, so that you are familiar with how it works. Most often you have to put them on when it is dark, in the snow, in cold weather ….), and you can take some old gloves and an old sweater with you to put on your chains, because it is often a very dirty job!

-a credit card: when renting skis the shop often asks a credit card as guarantee, and it might come in handy at other times too! -your social security number and/or assurance cards

-telephone numbers of close family members

first aid kit: -plasters -disinfection spray -wound healing cream -ointment for burns -after sun cream -facial cream (the cold dehydrates your skin) -painkillers -thermometer -other medication you regularly take.

-If you wear contact lenses: spare contact lenses and/or glasses, fluids and holders for your contact lenses

-cords and chargers for phones, computers and tablets

If you rent an apartment or chalet these are some useful items you should take:

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-Take the address and telephone number of your destination with you in the car in an easy to reach spot (do not pack it in your suitcase).

-Breakfast for the first morning (you usually arrive late in the evening): coffee, coffee filters, tea, breakfast cereal or muesli, milk, sugar, jam, chocolate spread, chocolate milk powder -cookies

-garbage bags -washing up liquid -dish washing sponge -toilet paper!! -handkerchiefs -paper towels -salt and pepper -fondue fuel cartridge (if the place has a fondue set) -reusable supermarket bags -kitchen towels -dish washing gloves (if you use them) -some bottles of wine of champagne

Toiletries and cosmetics:

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If you rent an apartment or chalet you should bring -shower gel -soap -shampoo -hair dryer -toothbrush -toothpaste -bath and hand towels -bed linnen -earplugs (against noisy neighbours) (all other personal toiletries you need)

-Books to read (or download them on your tablet) -download some films on your tablet or computer for the evenings (films you always wanted to see but never got around to)

For the car trip to your destination:

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-You are not the only one who goes skiing in the holidays, traffic tends to get really bad on these days, and if you are unlucky and the weather turns bad, who knows how long your trip will be: So pack enough food and drinks to cover one or two meals, with some extra fruit and cookies to munch. Gas stations are often terribly crowded on busy days during the holidays, so you can eat in the car instead of standing in an endless row for something to eat or drink. And if you are as unlucky as some during these last holidays and you get stuck in a huge traffic jam, you will be so grateful you packed food.

-For the same reason do not wait until your gas tank is almost empty before filling up, if you get stuck somewhere you do not want to run out of gas!

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Enjoy the snow!