After a little break in blogging due to my move to Brussels, I’m breaking my silence with snail soup, aka Caricoles comme à Bruxelles (like everything else, it sounds a lot more appetising in French). My landlady claims this is one of the most common kinds of street foods in Belgium alongside waffles and frites, but this is highly disputed by Miss Salted cod. Either way, my curiosity got the upper hand, and I felt obliged to try a pot. An old lady sells these from a stand in the daily market at Parvis in St Gilles, which happens to be my local square (a market which is really lovely by the way, and also open on Saturdays). You can buy twelve escargots in broth for 4 euros, which isn’t too bad if you just want a little try.
Now, I’m a massive fan of French Escargots de Bourgogne, which tend to be smaller, slightly more tender snails drenched in parsley and garlic butter sauce. The soupy Brussels snails, however, did not quite fall to my taste. The broth was great for a cold afternoon in the ubiquitous Brussels rain: warm and spicy, with loads of celery and white pepper. However, the snails were a bit too large and chewy for me, and did not quite hit the spot for my slightly tender weekend post-beer stomach. Perhaps it was the fault of this particular snail soup stand, but my next culinary street food adventure is probably going to be more safely frites-based.
Now, if you do want to try out the snail soup, or just visit the lovely Saturday food market in St Gilles, you can find it below on the map:
This is the best burger I’ve ever had in London. I would say it’s the best burger full stop, but I’m too sentimental about In&Out burgers in San Diego to give that title away. But seriously, this is one of the juiciest and most perfectly balanced burgers I’ve ever come across. It comes from Dirty Burger, which is a newly opened burger shack at a backyard in Kentish town. The area is a bit unwelcoming, but for the amazing burgers, this is absolutely worth the detour.
There’s only three things on the menu: cheeseburger, fries and onion rings. We ordered all three. The burger was made up of a perfect patty – perfectly sealed, made of finely ground mince and hot but rare in the middle. The meat was tasty, juicy and very well spiced – and dare I say it, one notch better than Meatmarket! The cheese was strong, and added a savouriness to the whole thing which I find is unusual for cheeseburgers unless you go for a black & blue variant. It was topped with a creamy dressing, lettuce, thinly sliced tomato and pickle. And then there was the bun, which I read (madly enough) held a 15% fat content. It was glazed, and when you bit into it it oozed a little. In all it’s unhealthiness this is simply sublime, and a bargain bite, given how gourmet it is, at £5.50.
The chips were nice, double fried and crinkle cut which made them very crispy on the outside but nice and soft within. The only drawback were the onion rings. Both me and Mr Meatball could have done without them: they just tasted of batter and weren’t salty enough. Thus I must disagree thoroughly with Timeout’s raving about them. But perhaps it’s me who has a problem with onion rings, I always find there’s too much batter and not enough salt.
The lovely staff gave us two free milkshakes as they messed up our order, and the vanilla Milkshake was loose and sweet, which I like. Not stodgy and frozen like McDonald’s. Dirty Burger has a cute shack eating area, but sadly it doesn’t have the same people-watching view as Meatmarket. The sides aren’t quite as brilliant either. However, given the affordable price and the insanely nice cheeseburger, it is awarded 8.5 meatballs out of ten.
I went flat hunting in Brussels last weekend, and my first food experience over there were the best frites I’ve had my entire life. (You have to discount times of hungry drunken euphoria over soggy chips, because as we all know, hunger is the best sauce, and I’m pretty sure alcohol only adds to that truth). The Belgians are of course renowned for their chips, and it is fully possible that I will sample even better ones during my stay. But these were beautiful: golden, handcut in odd sizes, in large shapely cuts, balancing perfectly between being shoestring and a chip shop chips. They must have been double fried because every single chip was perfectly crispy on the outside, but soft and velvety inside.
In typical Belgian chip stand fashion, you have a confusing array of sauces to chose between. As you can see above, you have a slightly wider choice than ketchup, mayo and brown sauce. For me, this choice is always simple: pick Andalouse. Andalouse is the best chip sauce ever, and I’ve had it sneakily imported into the UK for the last four years. I even composed a special bacon and cabbage sandwich around it (which may see the light of this blog on a rainy day…). The base of Andalouse is mayonnaise, but then imagine smoky, spicy paprika and chili, and soft hints of curry, and you are kind of on the right track. But words don’t do it justice: you have to sample it yourself.
Frites Flagey is an excellent place to try it, and for €2.60 you get a large cone of frites with your choice of sauce. Perfect street food, especially on a crisp autumn day. And don’t feel guilt over eating just chips – it’s one of Belgium’s national treasures.
As mentioned in my previous post I took it as my mission to taste as many of Boston’s food trucks as I could. On Sunday I walked all the way to the South End to SoWa Market – a big market that takes place every Sunday. I quickly moved to the food truck section which was already crowded with hungry Bostonians. I started my lunch with a pork taco at BBQ Smith.
For $3 you got a taco filled with crispy and smoky pulled pork topped with avocado salsa and a spicy sauce. This was incredibly tasty and a really good start to my lunch. They also had really good looking sandwiches but I had to save my stomach for my next truck: Lobsta Love.
Lobsta Love’s lobster slider was all that Chowda’s slimy lobster roll wasn’t: fresh, not drowned in mayo and made to order. The lobster was mixed with mayonnaise and tarragon but kept its strong flavour. The brioche bun was lightly toasted and seemed to be brushed with butter and was the perfect accompaniment to the lobster. Lobsta Love offered many lobster options including a lobster mac and cheese which I will absolutely have to try before I leave Boston. By this point I was pretty full but could not leave before trying famous cheese melts from Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese.
Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese are a bit of food truck royalty as they have won many prizes and have taken part on the Food Network’s Great Food Race, so I knew I was in for a treat. I thought I might as well go all out so I went for the Mighty Rib: Fontina cheese, braised back ribs and caramelised. Yes, ribs, in a cheese toastie! After 20 minutes waiting with other 50 people the beast finally came out. It looked glorious, all cheese and and pork amazingness. This toastie completely changed my idea of what cheese toasties should be and I am definitely recreating this at home. The only thing missing was a bit of spice like some sliced jalapenos or a salsa I could dunk the toastie in. Aside from that…fatty perfection!
All I can say is that Boston is a great city if you like food! Now I can’t wait to go back to London and explore the food truck options there.
After the disillusion of Chowda’s lobster roll I took it to my online bible of American food – Serious Eats – to find some tasty food for my next few weeks in Boston. I began my search for a place to have lunch around my office – Downtown Crossing – and came accross Chacarero’s, a small place that serves enormous Chilean sandwiches called Chacarero’s. I came back to the office and quickly messaged Miss Meatball to tell her about one of the best sandwiches I had ever had. This thing was gigantic and so so good. It’s basically and white homemade bap, smeared with avocado, topped with your choice of beef, chicken, or both (I tried chicken but really should go for both next time), munster cheese and then runner beans (yes, runner beans), tomato, lettuce, and an incredible mistery green spicy sauce.
All the ingredients were incredibly fresh and every sandwich was made to order. A large chacarero came to 8 dollars (that’s roughly 5 pounds) which fed me for both lunch and dinner (it is a really big sandwich). This made me think about the amount of times I had a horrible sloppy sandwich from Pret or worse, Sainsbury’s, simply because there are no other affordable options around (read Holborn). If only I could have walked five minutes from LSE and pay five pounds to have a gigantic, fresh and made to order (no Pret making your sandwiches in the morning doesn’t count as ‘fresh’) for five pounds. But on to more food from Boston.
On my third day of work I was asked by my boss to replace someone at a talk at MIT.It was a conference on food trucks and mobile payments (yes these exist) and while it was totally useless from a work point of view I got to find out a lot about the Boston food (and fashion) truck scene. I found out that Boston is one of the cities in America with the most food trucks per capita and I have made it my mission to try as many as I can. I started by having my leftover sandwich with some rosemary french fries from Clover – one of Boston’s most famous food truck enterprises (they have over 5 trucks and a restaurant) which has one of its trucks close to my hotel on the Boston Common. These fries were so good – crisp outside and soft inside and speckled with fried rosemary. At first I thought the rosemary was just a gimmick but then I started thinking about all the possibilities of dishes that could be sprinkled with fried rosemary – which made the herb milder than usual and very crispy.
My next food truck experience was my next day’s lunch at Bon Me. Sadly I have no picture of my food so you will have to drool on this image of their menu from their Flickr page. Bon Me is a Vietnamese food truck and serves three main dishes plus some extras (no more noodle soup). You choose your base then add your filling. I had the Bahn-mi with bbq pork which was incredible. Fresh bread, pork pate, punchy pickled carrot and daikon and smoky bbq pork topped with fresh coriander. This was amazing and incredible value for $6. The truck stops quite close to my work on Fridays so I will be sure to try the other options next week. Now I’m off to SoWa open market to test as many food trucks as I can.
Some of the rioters who smashed up shops in Hackney last summer were so fond of Ali Baba’s kebabs that owner Cerkan was pre-warned by masked people on bikes before things kicked off on the 10th of August. Rumour has it they demanded free kebabs before heading on (but whether they went for lamb kofti or chicken shish in unknown). The threat was countered by anti riot-page on Facebook, and instead of closing up, the kebab shop workers and store owners of Dalston took to the streets with döner knives and broomsticks to defend the community, and in a bizarre turn became Daily Telegraph heroes. Oh well, that’s how it goes in Dalston.
These kebabs are in my opinion the best post-club grub in Dalston, and they are also incredibly edible during the day. The döner and chicken shish kebabs sold in here are similar to other kebab shops (yet of high standard) but the feat of Ali Baba’s if their lamb kofti. The large lamb kofti at £5 is succulent and herby, and strongly recommended with mixed garlic and home made chili sauce. For its location one would have expected it to be slightly cheaper, however, and they sometimes get orders mixed up. 6.5 meatballs out of 10.
144 Kingsland High Street, E8 2NS
In preparation for the weekend and hopefully some sunny weather, we’ve decided to give you a mini-guide of some of our favourite markets in London. In procrastination-overdrive we even made a map with details on where they can be found.