Friday, 29 June 2012

Histoire Ancienne, Calais

So, you're not supposed to judge books by their covers, but sometimes, just sometimes, it's perfectly acceptable to judge restaurants by their exteriors. Especially when you turn out to be right. 

Historie Ancienne was easily the best-looking joint in town, especially when the rest of the town was in a fairly battered state due to roadworks when we were there. The restaurant was just as handsome inside, filled with plenty of leather and brass 1930s-style booths, and black and white photos and paintings of naked ladies. 
Bread basket with assorted breads, butter, sea salt, chilli flakes and taramasalata
Starter - monkfish tartare, herbs, and pipette with oil and flavourings
It was the first time I've had a dish with a plastic pipette in it - very exciting! The monkfish tartare was delicious and substantial, made even more interesting by the savoury herb-infused oil from the pipette. 
Starter - foie gras terrine
Little grunts of pleasure were coming from Manbacon's side of the table, so I took that as a sign that his foie gras starter was highly enjoyable. 
Main - White fish, rice and oysters
My main was another sculptural dish - don't the little sticks poking out of the rice oblong remind you of a robot head? Delicious fish again, but the oysters were the real winner here. 
Main - veal liver with root vegetable mash
Manbacon had no complains about his veal liver - in fact, he was too busy savouring it all to speak much. 

Although we were stuffed to the gills by the time we finished our mains, we had to get dessert too. The creamy, sweet sabayon was complemented with a cold, slightly tart raspberry (I think?) sorbet, not too heavy, but the perfect end to an already wonderful meal. 
Dessert - Sabayon with strawberries and sorbet

I'm saving my pennies and planning on another trip across the Channel soon, just to sample more of the menu. 

20 Rue Royale
62100 Calais 

Saturday, 23 June 2012

The Picnic Dress Refashion

Dress - refashioned, Belt - vintage, Satchel - op-shop, Shoes - Brussels, Sunglasses - op-shop
Some of you might remember this dress from my 'Handmade Holiday' post earlier this month. Well, glance down to to view its original incarnation. 
I know, it looks like I got swallowed by a picnic blanket, right? The dress was discovered - as with so many of my other clothes - in a local op-shop. It was clearly waayyyy to big, but I can't seem to resist red-and-white gingham. So I bought it, with the idea of harvesting the fabric to make...something. 

After trying it on back home, I realised that with a few nips and tucks, it would make a fairly nice little sundress-type thing. Grabbing my trusty seam ripper, I proceeded to unpick the skirt from the bodice portion. To make the bodice more fitted, I added waist darts to front and back. The unflattering sleeve length was dealt with, by simply hacking off a few inches. I then hacked more length off the bottom of the skirt, to bring it up to above-knee length. To finish up, a gathering thread was sewn through the top of the job, before I gathered it slightly and re-attached it to the bodice. Voila! 
Well, not quite...the puffy sleeves still made me look like I was an American football player in drag. Not exactly a good look on me. I dealt with that troublesome area by cutting two tiny pieces of elastic (each about 5cm long). The elastic was then stretched and sewn along the underside of the shoulder seams, to give a shirred effect and reduce the shoulderpadded look. 

Despite the darts, the waist area was still a little baggy, and I found it looked better with a belt around it. The dress is made of a very thin polycotton material, which turned out to be very see-through - er,  diaphanous, I mean - especially in bright sunlight. Problem? Meet solution - a part of shorts. It's the same thing I did back in school, and it makes me feel so much more confident when wearing short skirts. 

Friday, 22 June 2012


Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Ribs 'N Beer

Sometimes, that's all you want in a meal. No need for extensive wine lists or square plates with delicate smears of jus, just a hearty rack of tender ribs, washed down with cool blonde beer. On our second night in Bruges, Manbacon and I headed to Ribs 'n Beer in search of some of the good stuff.

The restaurant was fairly empty when we arrived, with only a party of three middle-aged couples, and two other giggly girls occupying the other tables. We decided to go for the all-you-can-eat ribs and a glass each of Maes beer. Our waiter kindly gave us a plate of savoury starfish shapes to kick things off. Manbacon was excited by the prospect of 'all-you-can-eat', boasting that he would have at least four refills, and possibly even have the kitchen begging him to leave by the end of the night.
Tin for bones.
I went for the beer and chocolate sauce, over tender, falling apart slowcooked ribs, so soft that it all fell off the bone with hardly any persuasion from my fork. I still dream about the sauce sometimes - a slight hint of darkness from the chocolate, tempered by some sweetness from the beer. 
House sauce - Beer and chocolate
Manbacon went for the Chef's Special Rub, which was served with barbecued ribs. Although tasty, it didn't leave much of an impression on me, unlike the awesome beer and chocolate sauce. The barbecued ribs were juicy, but tougher than the succulent slowcooked ones.
Chef's Special Rub

The tin provided for bones soon filled up. I was ready to give up by the end of my first rack, but Manbacon wanted more. MORE! More came in the form of slowcooked ribs smothered in spicy barbecue sauce - another winner. The meat was just as tender as mine had been, with a memorably spicy dressing garnished with teeny-tiny little dried chillies. Despite his earlier boasts, this was the one the defeated my Manbacon. Only one half rack refill, and he was more than ready to throw the towel in. 
Spicy Barbecue Sauce
We didn't even have dessert.

According to our cute waiter, the most any customer had ever eaten at Ribs 'n Beer were four full racks of ribs - that's six portions of refills, readers! We'd need a lot more training to achieve anything near that record.

Ribs 'n Beer
Ezelstraat 50
Brugge 8000

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Marche aux Puces de Bruxelles

I was not joking when I said in an earlier post that we managed to cram a lot into a mere day and a half in Brussels. Not only did we squeeze in visits to the Atomium and the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, we also managed to have some mussels at Chez Leon, and perhaps most importantly, visit the Marche aux Puces not once, but twice! 
Having arrived in Brussels too early to check in to our hotel, we decided to make our way to the Marolles district to visit the flea market. If you're the sort of person whose heart beats faster at the thought of a new market or boot sale to explore, and who daydreams about trawling through boxes to uncover that one perfect item, then welcome to your dream. 
She came home with me!
Look at that - boxes and boxes of stuff, from travel kettles to antique dolls, vintage dresses to dead birds.  Neon pink ballroom dancing dresses. Antique French laces. Rainbow sets of Victorinox kitchen knives (plenty of those there - everyone in Brussels must get given a set as a wedding present). Absolute heaven. I had to rein in my desire to purchase huge framed wedding portraits and antique chandeliers. Some stalls were fairly nicely organised, with items displayed on rails and tables, and neat little aisles carved between  rows of boxes. Other stallholders resisted the temptation to make their stalls look presentable, and simply laid their goods on the ground. I find that I tend to gravitate towards the messier looking stalls - more chance of finding a treasure among that mess, perhaps? 

Treasure-hunting made us very hungry, so we headed across the road to Charlotte, lured by the wonderous smell of cooked onions and burnt meat, and shared a very massive hotdog. 

Friday, 15 June 2012

Your Sugardaddy Needs You!

From top: raspberry brownie, tomato soup cake (aka raisin cake), pear and walnut cake, Guinness and ginger loaf, and lemon and poppyseed slice. Find these cakes and more at the Sugardaddy Bakes stall at the Tea Rooms, just off Brick Lane, every weekend until the end of June. 

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Animal Expressions

A lot of stuffed animals are waiting to look at you at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. The museum was strangely quiet the day we went - we walked through vast, empty rooms with nothing but taxidermied animals and interactive exhibits. Eerie but fascinating.