Posts Tagged ‘Belgium’

Steaming mussels in Belgian witbier

Eric Cauwbarghs of Brasserie Kouterhof

Eric Cauwbarghs of Brasserie Kouterhof

As Belgians will attest, beer is every bit as good as white wine for steaming mussels. Chef Eric Cauwbarghs of the Brasserie Kouterhof, which is attached to the ‘t Wit Gebrouw brewery in Hoegaarden, Belgium (about a half hour east of Brussels on a commuter train), showed me this straightforward but aromatic way to make a hearty winter dish of mussels and vegetables. The brewery’s Hoegaarden witbier (white beer) is made with Curaçao orange peel and coriander, and the aromatics make a big difference in the flavor of the mussels. When I can’t find Hoegaarden witbier at home (it’s distributed selectively by Anheuser-Busch), I substitute another wheat beer and augment it with a little fresh orange zest.



2 pounds mussels
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 stalk of celery, cut diagonally in 1/2 inch slices
2 small crowns broccoli, sliced 1/4 inch thick on the long diagonal
1 large red pepper, seeded and cut in 1/2 inch strips
3/4 cup Hoegaarden witbier
1/4 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped parsley


1. Scrub mussels in cold water, removing any adhering beards or barnacles and discarding any broken mussels or any that don’t close when touched by cold water. Reserve cleaned mussels.

2. Place olive oil in large sauté pan with tall sides. Warm over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft, about 2 minutes.

3. Add garlic, celery, broccoli, and red peppers. Turn heat to high. Stirring continuously, sauté until broccoli begins to soften, about 2 minutes.

Mussels and vegetables

Mussels and vegetables

4. Add mussels to sauté pan. Add beer and anchovy paste and stir constantly over high heat until mussels open (2-3 minutes). Pour in cream and stir until warmed through.

5. Add sliced scallions and chopped parsley to pan. Stir well over high heat for another 30 seconds.

6. Serve with freshly cut bread, cold beer, and extra bowls for the shells.


12 2009

Is it the beer—or the pour?

The Bestowal

The Bestowal

I’m a little slow on the uptake, but I just learned that Avril Maxwell of New Zealand won the 2009 Stella Artois World Draught Master competition, which was held in New York on October 29. She beat representatives from 25 other countries in what might be the most harrowing bartenders’ competition in the world. It’s a promotion for Stella Artois that fixates on the brand’s nine-step pouring ritual. If you want to practice at home, you’ll need a pressurized keg with a proper tap. The steps go like this:

1. “The Purification.” Clean and rinse the glass.
2. “The Sacrifice.” Open and close the tap quickly to clear the line.
3. “Liquid Alchemy.” Place the glass under (not against) the tap at a 45 degree angle and begin the pour.
4. The Head.” Lower the glass to allow the perfect head to form.
5. “The Removal.” Close the tap quickly and move the glass without letting any beer drip.
6. “The Beheading.” Smooth off excess foam with a head cutter.
7. “The Judgment.” The proper head should be about two fingers.
8. “The Cleansing.” Clean the bottom and sides of the glass.
9. “The Bestowal.” Present the beer on the proper coaster with the logo facing the drinker.

Inbev Brewery, Leuven, Belgium

Inbev Brewery, Leuven, Belgium

I had the pleasure of watching (and cheering) the 2008 competition held in Leuven, Belgium, where Stella is brewed. A pass to the competition requires an invitation, but anyone can visit the brewery Monday-Friday and taste the freshest Stella you’ll ever encounter. The beer is impeccable. I’m still trying to decide if the pouring ritual makes it even better. If nothing else, my thirst keeps building as the bartender pours. Despite the brand’s best efforts, though, it’s hard to find a proper Stella pour in most bars I frequent.

Some other InBev tastes

And, to be honest, I’m even fonder of a sister brewery in Inbev’s Belgian portfolio, Hoegaarden. Like Stella Artois, it is distributed in the U.S. by Anheuser-Busch (another Inbev line). While the Stella brewery is a large industrial complex, Hoegaarden’s ‘t Wit Gebrouw brewery is small and colorful—and has a great restaurant/pub attached: Brasserie Kouterhof.


11 2009