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December 1, 2007
From journal Gems in Ghent
by Linda Kaye
San Antonio, Texas
November 19, 2002
It was about 5:00 p.m. and having just completed a rather hectic day of sightseeing, we bid our guide goodbye. And wanting to avoid the traffic back to Brussels, we decided to find a quiet restaurant and have dinner. Although the sun was low in the sky, the early evening was warm. Excited from a full day of sightseeing activities, we were ready to sit, relax and reflect on the day. As we walked back to the banks of the River Leie, just around the corner from the Castle of the Counts, we found the Chez Loentine Restaurant. The wonderful fragrance waffling over the umbrellas that were covering the tables tightly packed into the terrace drew us in.
The first thing I recognized on the menu was Waterzooi. It is the Flemish version of Cream of Chicken soup according to our guide and is a Ghent original-a must try for first time visitors. Waterzooi started a long time ago when the town’s people did not have much food. They would boil water in a large pot in the town square, adding fish heads and any vegetables available. The name itself means "simmering water". When the soup was done, it was shared by all.
Today the most common Waterzooi is made with chicken, big pieces of white meat in a light cream soup with carrots, onions and celery. It has a wonderfully unique taste, served in a large soup tureen and would have been plenty for two people. Waterzooi was my choice. Harry’s was the Flemish Stew; a rich tender beef stew served with famous frites (French fries) and steamed vegetables. Both dishes were to die for and dessert was out of the question.
I cannot say that we received friendly service, the waiter seemed somewhat impatient with our lack of knowledge regarding the menu, and when asked for a refill of a drink it was forgotten. But this did not detract from the delicious food or the beautiful scenery and certainly did not dampen our enthusiasm.
I am not sure which was better, the food or the atmosphere. As we sat at the Chez Leontine overlooking the Leie River, with all the beautiful flowers around us, we recounted the sights we had visited: The Castle of the Counts, the monastery turned into a hotel, the view of the City from atop the Belfry, the river cruise, and St. Bavo’s Church, and we though to ourselves this can’t get any better—but then it did.
From journal Ghent-Somewhere between Heaven & Earth