“Want to go to Brussels this weekend?” My friend Stu emailed, posing the question. You know I did.
“Only if we can see the Atomium,” I banter back. ”Deal.” “AND that I get to eat Waterzooie, classic Belgian soup.” “Okay, okay!”
Four hours and a lot of traffic and and a lot of rain later, first stop: the Atomium. It was the centerpiece of the 1958 World’s Fair, and it is still breathtaking and breathtakingly modern, sitting off in its own remote field.
Now for the waterzooie. Here’s what I said about it 10 years ago when I published the chicken version on soupsong.com:
“Waterzooie or Waterzootsje–originating in Flanders–is one of the great national soups of the world. Belgians are pretty loose with the ingredients, though. Not only does every family have its own recipe that varies eggs, cream, and lemon–but some use fish instead of chicken. In fact, Escoffier himself captured the recipe as a fish and wine soup. Apparently wine is the ONLY ingredient all these variations have in common–and even then I have heard of variations that recommend dark Belgian beer instead of wine. This particular recipe, however, is made for the hearts and stomachs of poultry lovers–it is chicken times a thousand, and wonderfully silky and rich to boot. And just exactly what does Waterzooie mean? I hunted for weeks to find out. It translates to “a simmering, watery thing.” In other words, eggs and cream notwithstanding, the broth should not be too thick. Serve hot as a meal to 8 people–ideally with boiled potatoes, brown bread, and butter on the side.”
But as we listened to the blandishments of resto pimps on the crowded rue des Bouchers (street of butchers), we heard “Free aperitif!” “Free waffles!” “Special beer!” “Waterzooie with lobster!”
“Lobster! Did you hear THAT?”
Now we are in a bidding war of restaurants promising this heavenly dish and eventually end up in La Belle Epoch, where we are ushered to a tight little table in an elevated corner overlooking the street’s wet cobblestones. The waiter stares at us in disbelief. “We have no waterzooie with lobster.” We assure him that’s the only reason we’re sitting in his restaurant. He huddles with the man out front and comes back, grim-faced. “Okay, we have waterzooie with lobster.” “How much for it?” Stu thinks he says 13 euro.
And here you see it. Not a soup. Not 13 euro, but 30–about $43. So we don’t recommend La Belle Epoch by a long stretch. But for all that, the lobster waterzooie was absolutely delicious. And we highly recommend the chicken waterzooie recipe on soupsong.com. Marvelous!