A Bit of Belgium for Brunch

November 2011

My brunching companion thought I was leading him astray.  We had driven over a few winding ways, some wider streets lined with large, brick mansions, expansive lawns with the last falling leaves and finally a narrower road that showed little promise of leading to a pot of brunch at the end of the rainbow [gray sky].  We were right on track!  I pointed through the red, German brunchmobile’s window, “there!” I exclaimed.  There was the tucked away corner spot I had been meaning to try for ages- a bit of Belgium in the Point Breeze neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

Point Brugge Café

The exterior of the restaurant offers both a unique neighborhood charm and a bit of a European bistro feel (especially when a bicyclette finds its way to the front area).  The interior, however, exudes all the charm of a new dorm’s common room decor scheme.  If you don’t believe me, visit a newer construct at the Carnegie Mellon campus and then proceed to brunch.  It’s a combination of beige, purple, some triangular shaped patterns and an overall decor undeserving of the menu it houses.  If anyone Point Bruggers are reading, I will design for food!

Before I properly begin, I must confess I am about to cheat you, dear foodie reader, for I brunched at Point Brugge and forfeited possibly the most talked about brunch offering on the menu:  the mussels!  In the world of seafood, I’m still mostly a virgin…I’m like the Catholic teen who has experimented without ever really going all the way.  My Midwestern roots still somehow run fairly deep, and I tend to gravitate toward the land animals.  I have made some forays into the deep, blue sea, but I have yet to run the full gamut (and for that I am awaiting a true seafood mecca, or rather, the marriage, in the case of my Catholic metaphor).

Nor have I truly found my taste for the shelled menu options.  I have tried mussels.  I have found them to be satisfactory, but I have yet to eat them and consider them a stand out, stand alone food.  As I have experienced them so far, they are merely a collector of sauce.  Forgive me, dear seafoodies, I just haven’t found that special mussel man to whom to devote my full loyalty.  I did, however, have a taste of the ocean in my meal, but I owe an apology to true seafoodies all the same.

Now, let me begin with what I did eat [and share].

Eggs Benedict with Crab Cakes

Egg yolks puddling over a crab cake perched on a thick slice of brioche?  Why yes, I shall eat that!  So I did have a taste of the sea, after all, but a crab cake is like the adult version of a fish stick (right?), so this only counts as fooling around- delicious, delicious fooling around.

A note about Point Brugge waffles from the waffle-makers themselves…

Waffles are everywhere in Belgium, with different regions laying claim to their own distinctive styles, such as Flemish, Brussels and Liege. Point Brugge features Liege waffles on its brunch menu. Liege waffles are golden in color, fairly dense and a bit crunchy. A scrumptious caramelized sugar flavor comes from pearl sugar in the batter.

Liege Waffle Special

The waiter described the waffle special with caramelized apples and an additional drizzle of caramel, and my wide eyes signaled “d’accord!”  The crisp exterior and cakey interior of the liege waffle was an addictive duo.  Eating that waffle was a bit like fooling mom and sneaking cake into the breakfast meal.  The caramel sauce did add a sweet variation from the waffle topping norm, but as it was a fairly light drizzle, I would have enjoyed the addition of pure maple syrup as both a sauce supplement and a flavor compliment.  The apples were a bit more on the mushy, applesauce side of the spectrum than I had expected from the verbal description.  I would have preferred a crunchier apple with a caramelized surface.  Conclusion:  I need my own waffle maker!

Side Note/A Note on Sides

One bruncher, moi, did the prix fixe option which meant a mimosa and a side dish.  I chose the Housemade Maple-Apple Sausage, and I recommend it with my whole, hog-lovin’ stomach!  It was a sausage patty with whole chunks of apple and a significant maple flavor.  It just now occurred to me how I missed the obvious opportunity of eating a slice of sausage on the same fork as a bite of waffle, apple and caramel.  What was I thinking?  (probably just thinking “nom nom nom”).

One Final Thought…
[and a bit of a francophile rant]

After committing to the prix fixe mimosa, a cocktail on the menu caught my attention:  a framboise mimosa.  Could it be?  A mimosa 2.0?  I was intrigued and asked the waiter what that drink would be. When he answered (framboise/juice/champagne), he broke a piece of my heart (the heartbreak was completely unrelated to the cocktail itself).

There are a few places in Pittsburgh that offer framboise.  My favorite local dive bar is one of those places, offering the bevvie on tap, served in the appropriate glass no less.  My elitist, francophile problem is this:  people are terrified of French pronunciation (it is scary, I understand the intimidation of the language all too well) and assume all ending consonants evaporate into the romantically smoky ether.  It’s just not true.  Yet for some reason, these same consonant killers really want to tack the [t] sound on croissant.  Also not true.

However, this widespread pronunciation panic causes this:

/fʀɑ̃bwa/

instead of this:

/fʀɑ̃bwaz/

I will refrain from a full fledged French grammar lesson, but my brief explanation is this:  due to the final -e, the [s] is pronounced, and as a single [s], it is pronounced more like a [z] sound.

What this translates to is a bunch of bartenders saying the first version, causing me to look like the uncultured idiot.  This has commonly occurred to the point that I questioned everything I thought I had remembered from the Parisian French Language Institute where I gained my French foundation.  I finally had to find resolution with online pronunciation guides and even a second confirmation from a friend who studied French at Cambridge!  I am willing to accept this consonant chopping from most bartenders, but from a Belgian establishment?!?  I expected the waiter to say that [s] and say it like a [z].  He did not.  Once again, I was left looking like the stupid American with no sense of French pronunciation.  Pour quoi?!?

Ok, rant ranted.  White girl problem/first world problem done.  It’s fine.  I’m fine.

Fin.

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