My trip planning left something to be desired. I bought train tickets from Brussels to Lyon before I had fully fleshed out what would be the best route for our culinary adventure. Though there were a number of restaurants I wanted to try, the sheer number was too great for the time that we had available. Thus, I selected those that intrigued me the most: In de Wulf, La Grenouillere and L’Air du Temps, all on my 2013 Wish List. Given the constraint that I had made for myself with the train, our first stop would be In de Wulf for lunch. When I made my reservation, I had enquired about booking a room as well, but alas, the rooms had already been fully booked No problem. Since our next stop would be La Grenouillere, I simply booked the hotel there for two nights.
I had been under the impression that it would take about three hours to drive from Zwolle to In de Wulf and that picking up our rental car in Zwolle at 9AM would have left us with plenty of time to make our 1PM reservation without difficulty. Of course, it was not going to be that easy. We did not get out of the hotel until about 9:30 and then we couldn’t find the local Hertz car rental. Once we did and actually got in the car to get going, it was around 10:30. I knew that we were in trouble. The car was a brand new Ford Focus – not what I had reserved, but well tricked out. Unfortunately, everything in the car was in Dutch. My son and I still managed to figure out the most important controls, but we left a lot of potential functionality untapped.
As we got our GPS programmed and finally figured out how to get out of Zwolle, it became abundantly clear that there was no way in hell that we were going to be close to being on time for our reservation. I called the restaurant and explained our predicament. They graciously offered to change our reservation to dinner. I accepted. With circumstances changed, I inquired about any last minute availability for a room for the night, but alas, that was still not to be.
With not having to totally scramble to get to Dranouter by 1PM, we know had some time to play with. Since Antwerp was on our way, we decided to stop to continue our pilgrimage with a bonus visit to Dominique Persoone’s chocolate shop, The Chocolate Line. A veritable fantasy land for chocophiles, Persoone is one half, along with Bernard Lahousse of the team behind FoodPairing, a scientific analysis of what flavors combine well with each other. As such, Persoone’s shop was chock full of exotic and wonderful combinations including chocolate with marijuana. We tasted a few and made some purchases and then set back on the road. (For more photos of The Chocolate Line, please see my Flick’r photoset)
As we got closer to In de Wulf and left the main roads, it became apparent that this was truly a “destination” restaurant. It is located in the country side of southern Belgium. The roads on this wintry day were even more difficult thatn normal. Wide enough for a single vehicle only, yet with traffic in both directions, we encountered a few challenges of playing “chicken.” We made it through a few particularly icy and desolate spots to get to the restaurant by about 4PM (only 3 hours late!). After stopping in to meet Chef Kobe Desremaults and see the place, we set out to fill our take with gas. This proved to be an even greater adventure as we came to loggerheads with another vehicle in the middle of an icy and snowy hill. Somehow I managed to back up to a point where the other car could get by me, without either of us getting stuck. When we had left the restaurant, I laughed that “if we were not back in an hour, to send out a search party!” We returned an hour and a half later as the nearby station we had originally made out for was closed. We had to search for another and with the hillside standoff, time passed quickly.
With another hour and a half of wintry driving ahead of us after dinner, we took the earliest time of 7PM. The staff, knowing of our predicament, paced us aggressively, but still comfortably. Not wanting alcohol, we opted for the pairings of fermented juices. Dinner was superb, tainted only by the knowledge of what lay ahead of us for the evening as well as continued diminution of our appetites from our illness earlier in the week. A full report on dinner at In de Wulf will be coming soon.