Monday, August 2, 2010

Seeking The Belgian Grand Prix

Ever since My Beloved and I spent two weeks in Belgium several years ago, we have been Belgiumophiles.

We love moules frites with lemon mayonnaise. We swoon over Belgian chocolates - a single piece is enough to send you to heaven - even the imported kind that really aren't as good as the fresh ones they sell in La Belle Belgique. We are thrilled when we come across Belgian beers, or bottled water from Spa. We have longing memories of the Café Liègeois we enjoyed on our trip to Spa to see where the Belgian Grand Prix is raced.

And every time we see someone selling a supposedly "Belgian" waffle, we have to try it. We have stood in line at the waffle truck at the Marin farmer's market - pretty good, but not the real deal. The street food waffles we had in the Grand Place in Brussels were both richer and lighter at the same time. The search continues.

Fast forward to early last Friday morning when I was walking briskly down Market Street in San Francisco between Powell and McAllister, not the world's prettiest neighborhood to say the least, when the scent coming from the former loan shark storefront transported me in an instant back to the Grand Place. Waffles!

If you have experienced that particular part of the world, you will know that "mid-Market" is not in any way reminiscent of Brussels' stunning central square. The street people of mid-Market are likely to panhandle you, even at 8:30 in the morning. Or to shout obscenities at a woman in one of the apartments above who won't come to the window. Or to relieve their bladders against a newspaper kiosk in full view of the passersby. Mid-Market is its own little world, separate from any other part of San Francisco. As the charming young man baking waffles put it, "Welcome to mid-Market, where every day there is a full moon."

I almost walked on past the waffle kiosk but, oh, that smell! Vanilla and yeast and pearl sugar - it's simply irresistible. I doubled back and engaged the waffle guy in shared memories of Belgium while my waffle wafted fragrant steam around us. He had the urban grunge look down pat - black hoodie, black pants, black goatee, black hair - but the more we chatted the more he revealed about his travels and his clearly upscale background. We enjoyed a conversation of exclamations - "Moules frites!" and "Yes! Yes! and lemon mayonnaise!" and "Spa Reine water!" reveling in our mental fantasies.

I can recommend this as a way to start the work day. A fresh waffle, lightly dusted with sugar and heavily sprinkled with pleasurable memories sets you up for a great day. I may not have found the Holy Grail of Belgian waffles yet but this one came close and I know the real deal is out there somewhere just waiting to be discovered, if not in mid-Market then on a return visit to Belgium.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Greg said...

Wow you are brave. Keep both eyes open and hand on mace canister. I have been eager to try Show Dogs nearby.That waffle may be the draw that gets me down there.

Monday, August 02, 2010  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

You're a brave dame. That stretch of Market is creepy. Openly shooting-up addicts, pigeons eating the barf off the sidewalk outside Crazy Horse, some guy grabbing me by the shoulders and saying, "I want to love you, baby, but I can't open my zipper."

Hah! All true.

Glad you found a ray of light.

Monday, August 02, 2010  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Greg, I had lunch at Show Dogs today - will report soon. And, goodness, it's not _that_ scary down there.

Cookiecrumb, well, at 0830 mostly it's funny in a wry sort of way rather than creepy. It gets creepy after dark. The Crazy Horse is still there but the porn shop that played classical music is shuttered.

Monday, August 02, 2010  
Blogger namastenancy said...

I am not sure that I would stop for food, waffles or not. That is one dark stretch of the city - now, is he in a store or one of the food trucks that park on Market St. and sell food to those of us who go to the Farmers Market?

Monday, August 02, 2010  
Blogger Zoomie said...

He's in a storefront, but not exactly a store. Not a food truck, either. Nice kid.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010  

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