summer travel food roundup
We spent most of summer at home but we did go to Graspop Metal Meeting (Dessel, Belgium) and Tuska Open Air Metal Festival (Helsinki, Finland) this summer. (Yes, I am aware and appreciative of the fact that summer is not yet over.)
Let’s start in Belgium. We stopped in an Aldi for supplies on route to Dessel from Brussels. It’s one of those low price supermarkets that sells products SIMILAR and somewhat familiar to those you normally buy from your regular supermarket. Like instead of Tony the Tiger on a box of Frosted Flakes, it’s Leo the Lion. It can be a bit of a trip to wander through Aldi and Lidl (a similar store but slightly better).
That’s when I saw Panda Salami. Now I know that Panda is the BRAND but Fredrik and I still found it humorous. You’d imagine that Panda meat would be rather expensive seeing as it would be hard to come by.
On Wikipedia, under Belgian cuisine, it reads, “Belgium has been called a nation of gourmands rather than gourmets: a country, in other words, where “big cuisine” comes before “fine cuisine”. It has been said that Belgium serves food of French quality in German quantities.”
I went to Brussels when I was 16 with my grandparents and 2 cousins. I don’t remember having any Belgian food. I remembered getting a box of chocolates.
Anyways, most people here (in Europe) will tell you that Belgium is famous for their thick cut fries drowning in mayo. I didn’t have any fries drowning in mayo during our time in Belgium. Fredrik’s friend’s wife did. I think possibly for every meal except breakfast.
In the VIP area, they had these fried lumps of mystery. While not worth the money I paid, they were rather good. 5 different kinds of fried lumps: fish, beef, pork, potato and rice.
Having only gone to festivals in Germany, I was intrigued by the food available at other festivals in other countries. I was surprised to find Vietnamese stands at Graspop. Fredrik and I tried their spring rolls as the other foods offered didn’t seem worthy of the price they were asking for.
Raspberry beer. Tasted like beer mixed with raspberry soda. Tasted ok but I wasn’t interested in enough to have more than a sip.
Fredrik and I took a side trip to Turnout on the Saturday. I got a most pretty Oilily purse (BAG LADY!) and went to a Carrefour.
I love going to supermarkets in other places. I want to find out what kind of groceries the locals buy. To my excitement Belgians also enjoy ketchup chips. I bought a bag to bring back to Sweden. Aside from ketchup chips, they also had flavours like barbecue ham. I wish I had the time to try out all the chip flavours of Belgium but alas I had time only for ketchup chips.
What is a metal festival without people wearing stripped stretch/spandex pants that channel the spirit of David Lee Roth? Turns out that the friend of stripped pants (man on the right) was also wearing stripped pants, except his were less conspicuous.
Let’s get back to the festival food.
Belgians apparently like to fry their food. First I had what was essentially a fried hot dog. Then there was the frikandel, which essentially is also a fried hot dog. There were many more fried foods, including this fried meatball the size of my fist. But food at Graspop was EXPENSIVE in comparison to food at German festivals. Not to mention, they were nowhere as good as German festival food.
The thing that surprised me most at Graspop was the offering of raw oysters. Even with ice, I would not want to eat raw oysters that’s been sitting in 30°C heat. I saw a few festival goers order oysters but I stayed away, considering the facilities available. Even with a VIP pass to the artist bathrooms, I would rather avoid spending longer than necessary time in the bathroom.
When I go to a metal festival, one of my favourite food aside from the copious amounts of grilled meat is the crepe. There were no crepes at Graspop. There were, however, poffertjes. As you can see, they serve it with a good slab of butter and a thorough coating of icing sugar. Messier to eat than a crepe, especially on a windy day. Every time I had these delicious buttery little pancakes, I was covered in spots of icing sugar.
On the way to Dessel, we passed by a bread vending machine. It was just a the end of someone’s driveway. It sold white, brown and multi grain loafs.
Our flight home was around 6 on the Sunday and since the drive from Dessel to Brussels took only an hour, we got lunch in Antwerp and wandered the streets for a bit.
We stopped in a Carrefour “convenience” store, where I saw some interesting but also disgusting things available in Belgium. I mean, do we really need Mars and Bounty in drink form? Fredrik’s friend’s wife got a Mars drink and it was, as expected, disgustingly sweet.
Sweet condensed milk in squeezable tubes so you can have it “on the go”? Maybe it lies somewhere between the German unsweetened condensed milk and sweet condense milk when it comes to how much sugar is in it but still… can’t you just wait to yourself a glass of milk?
I wish the selection of pastries were this good in the supermarkets here in Sweden.
After wandering around Antwerp till our bellies ached with hunger, we finally settled on a place to eat. I found it most amusing that the restaurant had an American menu and an English menu. Both were in English and there were no differences between them.
I wanted moules frites (blue mussels and fries) but the establishment we chose didn’t offer it. The waitress suggested steak frites since the “classic Belgian” stew wasn’t ready yet. I usually ask the wait staff what they recommend when I want to try the local food. I’ve become a bit skeptical when it comes to steak these days. I’m pretty sure it has to do with working in a butcher shop and not having a decent steak outside of North America. Luckily for us, the Belgians know how to make a good steak.
A month after Graspop, we went to Helsinki for the Tuska Open Air Metal Festival. Unfortunately the food there was not any better. I was intrigued by the fried little fish but by the time I was ready for food, the stand had sold out. I ended up having a sort of pytt i panna of french fries and chopped up hot dogs.
The Monday after Tuska, Fredrik and I stuck around to check out the city. Typical me, I sought out the food places. The first place we went to was kauppatori (market square). I would kill for the kind of market square in Stockholm. Aside from the fresh produce stands, there were food stalls. I’m sure the locals think that the place is an awful tourist trap.
I got to try those fried little fish. They were DELICIOUS. Fried vendace, a sort of whitefish. Most of the stalls sold the same sort of thing, reindeer meatballs, reindeer sausages, salmon, vendace. We tried a mix plate of reindeer sausages and meatball. It gave me the idea to make some reindeer meatballs with the reindeer in our freezer.
There were some stalls in another part of the city selling soaps and knickknacks. I’m sure by “ass” they mean donkey.
We had dinner at Restaurant Savotta. We wanted some real Finnish food. Fredrik took the Provision Master’s Menu and I ordered the fish soup and vegetables rolls à la Sanni. The supreme Savotta appetizer (Vendace in rye crust, slightly salted Arctic char flavoured with lingonberries, cold-smoked salmon roe, game terrine, wild boar set in aspic, bear salami, roasted beetroots, wild mushroom salad, Peltola blue cheese, Karelian pastries with egg butter spread and boiled potatoes) and fish soup were DELICIOUS. The mains, reindeer and vegetable rolls, weren’t as good as expected. The vegetable broth was strangely sweet. The dessert (ice cream flavoured with Finnish Sisu-liquorice, served with berry compote and birch sap syrup) that came with the menu was fantastic. Fredrik wasn’t going to have any at first ’cause we were so full from the appetizers but his mind quickly changed. I normally do not like licorice but I like liquorice ice cream. This ice cream was delicious.
Of course my choice of souvenir from Helsinki was a Moomin cookbook.