When in Brugges! Things to eat edition.


Not going to lie, the train to Brugges was a little bit hectic, in a super embarrassing way.

I consider myself an avid train riding professional. I am not talking, "oh I can get around the New York City subway on a weekend" train rider. I am talking, "I know exactly where I need to stand on the platform to be closest to the exit I want or to make the connection without having to wait" train rider. So when I travel internationally, I have no problem riding the train, I actually prefer it. But when you throw a foreign language in there, I like to give myself extra time. Fast forward to Belgium, I thought it would be smart to buy my ticket to Brugges when I arrived in Belgium (a day ahead) so that I wouldn't have to wait in line the morning of (all good in theory). Turns out despite me buying the ticket from the teller, a full day in advance, and she spoke English, I still ended up with the wrong ticket to Brugges.

Happily, everyone in the Brussels area speaks English well, and the the conductor took pity on me, (so even though I bought a one way ticket) I was able to continue on to Brugges no problem. But shout out to that conductor - you are my hero! And I cheers my super cute cup of espresso to you!

I spent most of my morning enjoying the walk from the train station around the outskirts of town. But as I mentioned in my previous post, I was aiming to make the climb to the top of the bell tower as one of my first activities in town. I highly recommend grabbing a quick snack outside the bell tower before jumping in line - I opted for frites! (Check out that close up below). There are two stands immediately outside the bell tower. Both are excellent. Just make sure you choose your sauce wisely. As a German girl, I opt for frites with mayo. But there are other awesome sauces including a curry ketchup that are just as good!

If you grab the fries and plan to jump in line immediately, be sure to finish the fries before you enter the ticket office. The teller will spot you from across the room and yell at you in front of everyone that "no food is allowed upstairs." Jokes on her, I got my money's worth.


After working up an appetite climbing stairs, I was super excited about eating a real meal in Brugges! I had the Rick Steve's guide in hand, and he had recommended a ton of local beer halls to check out. A place where you can enjoy delicious Belgian beer and local fare. However, most of these places are only open during "lunch hours," say from 11:30-2pm, so if you wait until late in the day to eat, you will miss the boat!

I think I came on the perfect storm of a Monday, that was also a holiday, and waited a bit too long to grab lunch, so sadly most of the places were closed already for lunch and sadly I couldn't come back for dinner. And one location was so hidden I never found it, like Diagon Alley hidden. But if you have the opportunity to eat there - definitely go for it!

When the local favorites are closed, I decided to find what was out there for "beer with a view." I ended up at Develorium Grand Beer Cafe (at this point, my sixth attempt to find a open establishment). While the cafe leaned towards the corporate vibe, you could not beat the view, and the beers were delicious.


Above you can see I ordered the tasting tray with the (from left to right) liefmans fruitesse, maredsous abbaye, and la chouffe. This was actually the first time I had la chouffe, but it is a beer you can find easily in the U.S., so if you are craving a taste of Belgium at home and it's on the list, I highly recommend it.

I closed my day with a tour at Half Moon Brewery. It was excellent! The tour is offered in English and fills up early! So I recommend booking the tour first thing in the day if you arrive in Brugges without a reservation. The tour takes you all over the brewery, you learn a lot of history and actually have an opportunity to view the city from a nice deck! 

Even better, your ticket includes a full beer in their bar afterwards - I opted for the blonde. Completely refreshing after a full day of walking. 


And with that last sip of Belgian beer, it was time to say good-bye to Brugges and hello Amsterdam, the next leg in my journey. Check back for more fun tips about eating and drinking in Amsterdam coming soon!



When in Brugges! Things to see edition.

When I initially booked this eurotrip - I thought I would spend two days in Brussels. But in a last minute switch, I decided to take a day trip to Brugges - and it was the best decision ever! Brugges has definitely maintained is medieval architecture and charm, while accepting some of the more modern attractions. The town is filled with shops, breweries, restaurants and other touristy things to do - definitely a city worth visiting!

I took the train from Brussels to Brugges. It was such an easy way to travel. It only took an hour and Brugges city center is only a 10 minute walk from the train station. Plenty of time to enjoy the multigrain crossaint I picked up before I jumped on the train. (Multigrain - still tastes like a stick of butter, but you feel like you "accomplished" something for your health).

When I arrived, I walked toward the city center stopping at sights along the way. The first stop was one of the most interesting. I walked through Beguinage, a semi-monastic community of women. The sight was serene. The community is known for its calm and quiet atmosphere, but was most interesting was at art installation within the community. In the courtyard were wooden tree houses. The houses were purely symbolic of children or playgrounds, meant as a juxtaposition with the quiet community. (No one is actually allowed to play in the houses - but it was very beautiful).

Next, I continued to walk up town through many canal-lined streets. It was so much fun to wander on my own! The town is very picturesque - as you can see from the panorama shot above!  

Whenever I visit a historic town, I love to see the old sights. Contrary to the the U.S., "historic sights" in Europe usually involve climbing to the top of a church tower or castle tower that was built during the medieval era. It's a nice way to earn your afternoon beer while usually guaranteeing a great view of the city. As long as you get over the feeling that a strong wind may topple the tower over forever.

For Brugges, that meant stopping by the Belfry of Brugges, a medieval bell tower with a narrow, steep staircase of 366 steps. Narrow is definitely an understatement here. This is a trek that could be difficult for older individuals or anyone who gets nervous in cramped spaces because there were definitely portions of the staircase that were one-way only. (Which definitely made it interesting for passing people). But the views of the city are definitely worth the wait.

One interesting aspect of the square the visitor staff didn't emphasize was across the square. A multi-faceted sculpture with mirrors at different angles. Think "the bean" in Chicago got together with a rubik's cube and had a baby. It is angled just right that when you are looking at the sculpture you can see the full view of the tower, and surrounding buildings, perfectly! 

If you are looking for some interesting shopping in addition to sight-seeing, I did stop in a few interesting shops. Nothing particularly notable to write home about beyond the typical "Belgian" touristy shops. I'll admit, I did leave town with a box of delicious chocolates and some cool postcards. But it was very difficult to walk into the shop below and leave with nothing. I guess the only salvation was the thought of traveling to Amsterdam with multiple bottles of beer - that probably wouldn't be the most fun ever. 

But if  you hit Brugges towards the end of your trip, or have a car, check out The Bottle Shop, tons of individually bottled Belgian beers (say that 5 times fast) available for sale!

All in all, despite Brugges being a bit touristy, I saw a lot of sights without breaking the bank! It is a highly walkable town, and if you want to see more, I would recommend a bike! I never felt unsafe or bored while walking the beautiful streets of Brugges!

If you are wondering more about what there is to eat and drink in Brugges, check out my upcoming post, "When in Brugges! Things to eat edition." I cover all the best places to grab a beer!

Until next time.



A solution for all the bathroom controversies: "WC"

They there wine nerds!

If you find yourselves stressed out by all this drama over bathrooms and need to fill a spot on your travel bucket list - have I got a place for you! (Confused yet?)

Now this blog does not claim to be political one way or another. But I do enjoy following politics and current events, and when North Carolina enacted the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act (HB2), the uproar was immediate. I thought, how can we solve this rationally, and for me the solution has always been obvious. That same solution also reminded me of this lovely restaurant that's on my travel bucket list for the better part of a year. (Sure you're not confused?) 

Ok, I'll explain. I have a lot of family in Germany, and have been fortunate enough to go abroad to visit them a couple times. Before our first trip, my Dad told me, "if you are every looking for a restroom, look for 'WC' not men vs. women." When I looked up where this term came from, I discovered that translated loosely, the acronym stands for "water closet." In Germany, most water closet layouts are usually shared spaces between both genders. Meaning, each stall has a floor to ceiling sturdy door than can be completely locked, but everyone shares the sink and dryers. Admittedly, it was a little bit strange the first time I tried it to see men in the space, but looking back now, it just seems like a more efficient use of space. And who doesn't love that men now have to wait in line with the ladies?

All this potty-talk aside, the bathroom controversy reminded me of the German set up and this great wine bar that goes by the same nomenclature - WC. However, this time it directly translates to Wine & Charcuterie. According to their website, Wine & Charcuterie transformed a 100 year old former water closet located underneath Clapham Common tube station into a classic cocktail bar.

I love the concept! You get the "speakeasy" vibe that is currently popular in the U.S., but you get to experience this extra level history by experiencing a piece of the London underground! Definitely a place that is worth a visit the next time you are in London!




Restaurant Review: Osteria & Publican Restaurant Swap

Hey all, I know it's been a while since we talked, but much like old friends who haven't seen each other for a while, I know we can pick up right where we left off, inside jokes and all.

I had a couple photos lounging on my phone from October 2015, and they were too delicious, I couldn't keep them from the blog. So cast your memory back to days when the leaves were changing colors, the heat of summer was subsiding, and we all were counting down the hours until the Trump campaign would self-destruct (who knew - right?).


Thank goodness for food bloggers. More often than not, they know about some truly awesome food events. It was almost buy chance that I heard about this awesome phenomenon, where the staff at Osteria would swap kitchens with the staff at the Chicago based Publican, for one night only.  I was lucky enough to grab a table for this event and taste a wonderful selection of dishes with a good looking guy to boot.

Check out the food we tasted below!


Gotta start with a cocktail.

I'll be the first to admit that it's getting a bit intimidating with the alcohol selection out there. Every establishment is pulling together craft cocktails, craft beers, brewing their own spirits in house - it can be a bit intense. But I challenge you to you all dear wine-nerds, that if you choose to imbibe, choose something adventurous or from another country. 

And when I saw calvados as a main ingredient in the Healer's Choice, I knew I had a winner. Calvados may sound Spanish, but it's actually French! It is an apple brand distilled in the French region of Normandy. It's deep apple flavor is great for an apertif on its own, or is a great addition to mixed drinks!

Healer's Choice: Ternheim theater whiskey, calvados, mint honey syrup, lemon, and angostura bitters.

When it came to the food for the evening, I will let the pictures speak for themselves. (May seem like a cop out) But really! The food was seemingly simple but layered with interesting details. We opted to order a few (sturdy) small plates and share, and it all was delicious.

Check it out below!

Publican oysters + hama hama. 

Publican oysters + hama hama. 

Charcuterie plate with whole grain mustard perfection.

Charcuterie plate with whole grain mustard perfection.

Blood sausage, squid, green chili dressing served over veggies with parmesan and macron almonds.

Blood sausage, squid, green chili dressing served over veggies with parmesan and macron almonds.

Butterscotch pudding, vanilla ice cream and homemade oatmeal cookie.

Butterscotch pudding, vanilla ice cream and homemade oatmeal cookie.

The moral of the (photobook) story here is... if you have the opportunity to visit Publican while in Chicago, it is definitely worth it. While most of the plates weren't particularly veggie-friendly (and I can't speak for the full restaurant), it's a place your carnivore friends would love!



Wine Reviews: Sancerre

I love Sancerre. 

Actually, that is kind of an understatement. We're involved. (Shout out to the awesome one-liners of "10 Things I Hate About You," anyone... anyone... no? - ok moving on).

But seriously, Sancerre is the reason I started to really enjoy the details of wine. I was a huge Sauvignon Blanc fan and I was looking to experiment with different styles. But remember, when it comes to France, the wine is named by the location where its made, not the grape. So I learned that a well known style of Sauvignon Blanc was made in Sancerre, a region within the Loire Valley.

And the rest is History. Check out my review of the latest Sancerre I tasted below!


Where it's from? Upper Loire, France.

Grapes? Sauvignon Blanc.

My Thoughts.

What I loved about this wine is that it had some body to it. It wasn't too light, like some Pinot Grigios can be, but the mouth feel was definitely medium bodied. This gave the wine a smooth start, opening up with a  surprisingly fresh and tart finish. 

This wine had a beautiful aroma. It was bursting with fruit and floral smells - lemon, white peach, fresh grass, lettuce and even some white pepper. All those fruity and fresh scents that just scream - bright summer. Yet surprisingly, the taste was relatively mild, in a good way. The wine was smooth and tasted of herbs and lettuce. It was a perfect contrast to the smell. Very indicative of more subtle european styles.


Overall, this wine is delicious, it's one of my favorites, and I can't say enough good things about this style. 

Basically, you should go grab a bottle as soon as possible. 

Seriously, why are you still reading? 



Photo Confessions: Philadelphia Art Museum

My weekend view of the Philadelphia Art Museum.

My weekend view of the Philadelphia Art Museum.

What better way to close down another manic Monday with a little photo confession.

In case you may be new to this reoccurring segment, "photo confessions" are short posts I write describing fun photos taken during my day to day. The majority of these photos are shared on the blog's instagram account,  but every once and a while I like to share a fun photo that was worthy of more than just the usual instagram post.

The feature this time - the one and only Philadelphia Art Museum! I admit, most of us have probably seen it - either in real life or at least in one of the Rocky movies. Personally, I walk by at least once a month. But I don't care how cheesy it is, I still run up the steps with Eye of the Tiger blasting - and it's fun every time. It is just an iconic cultural site. And that's why I love Philadelphia.

Philadelphia is definitely one of the most underrated cities on the East Coast. There is so much culture to soak up - and most of it is free! The food is delicious - where local chefs aim to feature inventive flavors without the steep price tag (viva la BYOB)! And it's just a great town to live in!

I challenge you to think about your favorite place! Whether you live in a big city or rural town, always strive to find those hidden gems that make your community special. 



Wine Reviews: Galer Estate Albariño

Happy Friday Friends!

Have you ever cleaned our your closet during those transition seasons and stumbled upon that perfect statement piece that has been missing from your life for way too long? Well, I was searching through my old drafts and found the blog equivalent of those perfect statement knee high leather boots for fall. (Or for the boys, that perfect plaid shirt. Or maybe an unopened bottle of bourbon that you put away to "age" and accidentally forgot about...)

For this post I want you to think back to almost a year and a half ago. It was April, after that insanely harsh winter. We were celebrating warm winds, spring flowers, and the hope of fun fresh white wine. I give you a post I drafted after visiting another great Pennsylvania winery.

Galer Estate.


Spring has finally sprung folks! And I could not be more excited! Warm weather, sunshine and wine tastings! Tons of wine tastings actually! A while back, I had the opportunity to visit several wineries in Pennsylvania and taste some delicious wine. It was a really special day for me because when I'm at my favorite winery, I usually spend my time pouring from behind the bar rather than in front tasting wine - so it was great to see what other local wineries had to offer. Two in particular were especially interesting: (1) Stargazers Vineyard and Winery (interesting post on sustainable winemaking to follow), and (2) Galer Estate Winery.

I believe I have said it before, but I will say it again, wineries are definitely the unsung heroes of happy hour! Now that I am no longer a student, but a full time employee, I have come to appreciate happy hour that much more. For me, a great happy hour has a great location, ambiance and drinks. Once location that definitely has all three (and then some) is Galer Estate Winery.

Galer Estate Winery is located in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania - close to Longwood Gardens! ThIs tasting room had a great vibe. The space has both indoor and outdoor seating. The outdoor seating overlooks a field of beautiful grape vines. Inside there is a great bar in the middle of the room where you can try the wine, check out the wine tanks, and even listen to live music. The owners also display art made by local artists on the wall, which is ever changing, and really brightens the space.

The wine was definitely just as fun, if not even more fun, than the great atmosphere. I tried several of their wines and all were delicious. However, I walked away with a bottle of their Albariño. 

The 2012 vintage was 100% Albariño aged in steel tank for approximately five months. This wine smelled super fresh, with aromas of herbs, fresh cut grass and a hint of citrus. This wine was definitely what I was looking for in a Albariño, it smelled like putting your face in a tropical fruit bowl. I particularly noticed notices of grapefruit, lemon and lime.

The taste was surprisingly smooth. With most Albariños, I expect almost tingling acidity. Kind of like licking a lemon (which is something I like!). But the Albariño at Galer was super smooth, it almost reminded me of Chardonnay, until I hit the slight tang of acidity on the finish. It left my mouth watering. I think it would have paired nicely with a fish dish, like ceviche!

So if you have some time to get out of the City, Galer Estate is definitely a worthwhile stop!