Swiss cheese fondue in Morel’s

Winter fare!

On 21 November a small group of friends (our typical Belgian-Dutch team) tasted the new Swiss cheese fondue in Morel’s. So what’s new? Instead of just pieces of bread to dip into the cheese, we got cubes of ham and carrots, and broccoli.
Both broccoli and carrots were cooked. Further possibilities are small young potatoes (with the skin) and cauliflower. Cauliflower might be a bit tricky as it breaks easily. Click to view the clip!

191121fondue

And yes, beware of losing your piece of bread or other in the pot… Remember the story of Asterix and Obelix in Switzerland…

 

Also served: Glühwein (mulled wine), much enjoyed by the ladies!

Governor of East Flanders

At another table was the governor of East Flanders (Didier Detollenaere). We chatted a little and Renaat was as usual the source of “real life in Beijing”. The capital of East Flanders is my hometown Ghent!
The restaurant has seen a long list of ministers and other “important people”, it is really “the” place to meet all kinds of people.

The story of the candle piece of art

You can’t miss in Morel’s Restaurant the big candle structure… Susan showed me the picture on how it all started, twelve years ago, with a simple wine bottle. Now, after hundreds of burning and dripping candles, it is massive.

 

Some Chinese even wanted to buy it! Don’t even think of touching it, you might get in trouble with Renaat!

Unique wine dinner

A gastronomic dinner

To enjoy my rather exceptional wine collection, I organize from time to time a unique wine dinner.
The recipe: tasting very old wines, supplied by me, accompanied by a gastronomic dinner feast organized and personally prepared by Chef Renaat Morel.
See the menu for the dishes and the wine list.

Participants are always carefully selected. This time, Ambassador Nicolas Chapuis (EU) and his wife, Ambassador Marc Vinck (Belgium) and his wife, along with Renaat, Susan, my wife and myself.
As it happens, I know H.E. Chapuis from the nineties when I was working in Shanghai for ALSTOM.
I was again asked for the “occasion”: did I become grandfather? I am since long, nope. It is simply to experiment unusually old wines along with exceptional food, and with nice company. It would be insane to open those bottles at home where I am the only one to drink.

The food and the wine

It was a unique wine dinner as I brought along two bottles of a very famous French wine, exactly one hundred years old. And a Rioja from 1963, plus a not so young Médoc.
See my tools; opening those bottles is pure surgery. Normally impossible to extract the cork without some mess. Then the wines were filtered and transferred to a decanter. See one successful “surgery”:

190626 winedinner

Only the Médoc cork came out nicely.

The verdict? The 1919 wines were just “drinkable” and as one said, tasted a bit like Chinese rice wine. The Spanish one was, as usual, pretty nice.
What counts is the unique experience to say, “I tasted a one-hundred-year old Chateau Lafite (Rothschild)”.

Now I am already thinking of the next wine experiment!

World’s biggest beer exporter

Belgium number one

The Federation of Belgian Brewers (104 members) has published the results for 2018: The world biggest beer exporter is Belgium.
Exports went up into the European Union. Exports declined a little outside of the EU (USA, Chine et Canada). The source is in French.

World’s biggest beer exporter

One of the famous beer shops in Brussels near Grand Place

It also mentions:

  • Exports went up into the European Union. Exports declined a little outside of the EU (USA, China and Canada).
  • Overall Belgium beats Germany in terms of exports. Top importers are France, followed by the USA, The Netherlands, Germany, Italy and China.
  • Consumption of beer in Belgium declined a little.
  • There is a notable increase in low-alcohol beer and no-alcohol beer.
  • In Belgium we have about 300 beer production centers; there were 40 new breweries in Belgium in 2018.

The joy of trying out Belgian beers in Beijing

The updated list of beers is here: https://www.beijing1980.com/belgian-beer/

See some pictures of my investigation!

Yeah hard work!

Belgian beer in Beijing updated

Problems with import

Another Belgian beer in Beijing updated.
Recently the market for Belgian beer in Beijing has been through turbulent times. Sometimes the Belgian exporters are stubborn, don’t follow advice, cut their former channels. Or the Chinese block and destroy containers of beer because of “prohibited content”: that is the little-know acesulfame story. The chambers never look into this. Delirium is suffering and will get worse. Duvel still in some bars and shops but some of my sources are worried about next months import. All very unclear.

Updated list

See https://www.beijing1980.com/belgian-beer/
Bottles added! I will post more updates on Beer in Beijing and beer stories.

Gentse Strop

Ghent, my hometown in Belgium: see the earlier post:
https://www.beijing1980.com/2015/01/30/ghent-my-hometown-in-belgium/

I mentioned the story of Stroppendragers. And the beer Gentse Strop that you can find in Morel’s Restaurant.

See here more details on that story: stroppendragers

Westvleteren in Beijing

Trappist Beer

In Beijing there is plenty of Trappist beer but finding Westvleteren in Beijing was a surprise.
Westvleteren is one of the recognized Trappist beers. See here the introduction by Listverse.

In the silent halls of a 17th-century Trappist monastery, something dark is brewing. The Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, commonly referred to as the Trappists, is a monastic order that focuses on the work of one’s own hands as the true path to salvation. Although they don’t take an official vow of silence, Trappist monks avoid speaking unless absolutely necessary, and any speech that mocks or puts down someone else is a sin. All in all, they’re not bad fellows.
But regardless of any religious affiliation, Trappist monks brew some of the meanest beers in the world. There are only 10 authentic Trappist breweries in the world, and six of those are in Belgium. Westvleteren XII, a Trappist beer brewed not far from the city of Ypres, is often called the best beer in the world. Everything the Trappists make from their beer goes back into their abbeys in accordance with their vow of poverty.

According to another source there are now officially 11:
6 in Belgium, 2 in The Netherlands, 1 in Austria, 1 in USA and 1 in France:

  1. Achel, of Hamont Achel
  2. Chimay
  3. Engelszell – Austria
  4. La Trappe – The Netherlands
  5. Orval
  6. Rochefort
  7. Spencer – USA
  8. Westmalle
  9. Zundert – The Netherlands
  10. Westvleteren
  11. Mont de Cats – France (recognized in 2011)

More about Trappist and Westvleteren

Read this: “Ale and hearty: Aging Trappist monks brew on”  by Philip Blenkinsop
A gold standard for beer connoisseurs, the Trappist ale in Westmalle Abbey streams through state-of-the-art equipment with not a monk in sight.
The full article:
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-belgium-beer-trappists/ale-and-hearty-aging-trappist-monks-brew-on-idUSTRE59J01L20091020

From Wikipedia:
Westvleteren (Brouwerij Westvleteren) is a brewery founded in 1838 at the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus in Vleteren, Belgium. The brewery’s three beers have acquired an international reputation for taste and quality, Westvleteren 12 being considered by some to be the best beer in the world. The beers are not brewed to normal commercial demands but are sold in small quantities weekly from the doors of the monastery itself to individual buyers on an advance-order basis. Read the full story:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westvleteren_Brewery

20 February 2013 – Vleteren Journal
“Cult Beer Alters Town, but Not the Monks Who Make It”, by John Tagliabue NYT:
VLETEREN, Belgium — On the face of it, this quaint Belgian town has few attractions — a charming brick parish church; a tall wooden windmill at the town’s main intersection. But it has the world’s best beer. In the past few years, several Web sites that ask beer drinkers to rate their favorite brews have accorded that honor to a strong, dark local brew known as Westvleteren 12. In fact, the enthusiastic American Web site RateBeer.com gave the beer the honor two years in a row, dethroning a Swedish dark beer, Närke Kaggen Stormaktsporter.
Read all: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/21/world/europe/cult-beer-westvleteren-12-gives-belgian-town-a-lift.html

And about Chimay:
15 January 2003 – Chimay Journal; “Monks’ Brew Showers Blessings on Belgian Town” by John Tagliabue NYT.
With his billowing white beard and black and white hooded habit, Dom Armand Veilleux, a Canadian-born monk in his mid-60’s, more resembles a figure from Umberto Eco’s novel of monastic mystery, ”The Name of the Rose,” than your average brewery executive.
Yet just across a snow-dusted garden from the room where he receives visitors, a microbrewery throbs, its six huge stainless steel vats fermenting more than 13,000 gallons of beer a day.
Only five years ago, the Trappist Abbey of Our Lady of Scourmont, where Dom Armand has been abbot for almost five years, turned out 15 percent less. But these days, Belgian Trappist beers — heavy brews, often dark and with as much as 9 percent alcohol — are surging in popularity, spreading blessings on the hilly farmland around Chimay, pop. 10,000, traditionally one of the poorer Belgian lands that snuggle against the French border.
Read the full story: https://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/15/world/chimay-journal-monks-brew-showers-blessings-on-belgian-town.html

Westvleteren in Beijing

I was most surprised to find the beer online: RMB129. Then one evening I was in “Bottleshop”, on Xindong Street, close to Jiamei Dental, a small shop and bar with an impressive choice of top beers. There it was sold for RMB200.
I decided to share my precious Trappist with Renaat Morel who knows all the little secrets of the brewing industry in Belgium.

According to Renaat Westvleteren is pretty close to St. Bernardus Abt 12. I won’t dare to judge.
I had never tasted the beer before as it it basically not available in Belgium, except if you queue up at the Abbey..