Culinaria²

We ummed and ahhed for a while about going along to Culinaria this year. 16 chefs, 26 Michelin stars between them, lots of yummy stuff to taste and see all in one place, minus the cost of the babysitter, car park and 45 Euro per person entrance fee. And then I won free tickets in a competition. Kind of. The tickets I won gave us free entrance to the event, but not the right to any of the food, and it wasn’t possible to upgrade or pay the difference to allow us to try the specially-created menus. Still, we figured we’d go along anyway to have a look, and that there’d be enough free samples and nibbbles at all the other stands to fill us up.

Upon arrival it became clear that the crowd for this event was far more chic and trendy than we were used to. We were surrounded by expensive shoes and hairdos, the VIP area was almost as large as the exhibition space (despite the fact that, from what I could see, it consisted simply of an overpriced bar and slightly more comfy chairs), and hip lounge music blared from ubiquitous speakers.

Once inside it became apparent that it’s not really worth going to this event unless you pay to get the menus, as there really weren’t that many stands offering free samples or products. The dishes offered by the chefs, many from restaurants we’ve been to, looked lovely, if small, although the queues were pretty long.

Sometimes just watching the teams plating up was entertaining enough.

We did manage to taste some unusual products, including this novelty mustard range (Coconut and curry flavour? Honey and fig?), which also had a rather interesting soy sauce/wasabi combination called, inevitably, Soyabi.

There were also molecular cuisine kits by Ferran Adria on sale in case you wanted to try your hand at spherification.

You take your sugar in cube form? So passé. Try some of these:

Probably the best value for us was the Mmmmh! stand. They’ve been offering cooking classes in Brussels for some time now, and their demonstration and free tasting of shrimp ceviche was probably the nicest part of the evening.

So in conclusion, worth popping along, but only if you pay for the menu and are prepared to queue. Otherwise I think we’ll stick to going to the featured restaurants themselves for a full meal.