It was a depressed dad and a reluctant 14-year old daughter that were dragged into Loving Hut, Leuven's Vegan restaurant in the Tiensestraat. Mother and wife Anne decided it was time for some culinary education, knew the restaurant from her lunch breaks and despite our lack of enthousiasm this was the place where we were going to have lunch. Images of weird food, bland tastes, small portions and strange people spooked through our minds, and we looked into the menu with the enthousiasm of a Michelin-inspector in front of a MacDonald's. We were wrong, and utterly, shamefully and completely wrong !
This was one of the most surprising and best meals I had in Leuven since a long time. It started with an elderflower juice (no alcohol here !) that was surprisingly good, and suddenly the daughter said this was the best apple/cherry juice she had ever had. We exchanged drinks and confirmed opinions. This put us into a somewhat better mood, and when my dish arrived (wokked vegetables and seitan) I had to admit the thing smelled very good, and tasted even better. I have not often eaten such tasty vegetables (everything is bio of course), and rarely have i tasted them so well, nicely combined with cashew-nuts and some sauces and herbs. My dish had perfectly cooked rice and the tastes blended perfectly into each other. I thought it was brilliant...
Back home I found to my surprise out that Loving Hut is an international chain of vegan restaurants (about 200 of them until now). They even sell vegan dog food (OK, that's weird), and the one in Leuven is for the moment the only one in Belgium. There is one in Paris, one in London and even in Vancouver, in Yaletown (this one's for you, little bro').
I will continue to hunt for the ideal andouillette, brewers will keep the smile on their face when they see me, and no liver & bacon will pass me unordered, but by the vegetable and the root, I'll be back here ! I saw some other quite nice dishes on that menu...
If you need more adresses, this is their website: www.lovinghut.com
When I stepped out the door this evening it was the first time this season that i smelled winter in the air. A cool, almost neutral air promising ice and cold, and a strong smell of woodsmoke, I guess someone in our street was putting logs on the fire. It felt very different, and it was suddenly as if winter was fighting autumn, jostling it out of the way, make place, make place, here i am !
It seemed the right moment to go for a red wine this evening. I bought it last week at Cora, a supermarket near Brussels, for 7,95 euro, a very good price for a wine like this.
Xavier Vignon is a very special man, since 1995 at the head of one of the most important winelabs of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and a well-known consultant in the area. He is still one of the master-blenders of Moët & Chandon and consults over 100 properties. He does not own his vineyard, but makes wines with grapes from parcels he particularly likes from his customers, and he likes experimenting. He allways tries to remain affordable and good, and I like him for it, and buy his bottles almost blind.
This Côtes du Rhône was slightly atypical as it consisted of 60% grenache, 25% mourvèdre and 15% syrah. At first i detected a whiff of filter, but it opened so quickly that i am not certain of this. First it developed cassis, but quickly chocolate and a bit of cold coffee followed. In the mouth it was soft, nice fruit, low acidity, but good, again with chocolate and berries. A nice wine to start the winter with.
There was a full moon outside, and the leaves start falling fast now. In the Black Forest it is allready snowing.