Monday, August 25, 2008

Sour Ale and Shrimp Croquettes on the Coast.

We could have gone shopping or sightseeing. We could have visited the Ensor House, the art museum, walked the beach, or even rented a bicycle built for two. But no. On a dry and mild day in Oostende, we spent basically all of it eating and drinking.

So, it was a good day.

I had half-baked idea for an article on democratic seafood. By that I mean good and fresh at reasonable prices, upscale restos need not apply. In short: pubs and street stalls.

Of course we nipped into the Botteltje, one of the best specialist beer cafés in all of Belgium. But our highlight was probably the James, a brown café that finds its way into several guidebooks for a singular reason: its garnaalkroketten, or shrimp croquettes. They are freshly handmade, crispy on the outside, and exploding with fresh grey shrimp in creamy goodness.

A pair of these little guys will set you back €10. I haven't decided whether that price is democratic really... Did I mention it's a nice pub? Squeeze your lemon over them and wash down with a bottle of Rodenbach Grand Cru to learn what pairing is all about. The shrimp's natural sweetness and lemon's sharpness find mates in the Flemish red's unique sweet-sour flavor. Then the acidity and carbonation handle that thick creaminess and reset the palate.

That alone was worth the train ride.

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