In Kobe’s world

Antonia Klugmann tiptoes in the universe of her colleague Desramaults, a great Belgian talent

04-02-2013
The snowy exterior of the In De Wulf restaurant, i

The snowy exterior of the In De Wulf restaurant, in Dranouter, Belgium, close to the French border, tel. +32.(0)57445567. This is the den of chef Kobe Desramaults, who writes that he’s fascinated by the “obscure past and the war and vagabond stories” of his native town. Kobe will be a protagonist at Identità Milano on the morning of Tuesday 12th, in the Auditorium hall, on the day dedicated to Belgian cuisine (photo by Antonia Klugmann)

The border between work and pleasure is almost never neat, in the life of a chef. Taking a plane to taste the food of a better and more expert colleague can only be sublime and sweet, a source of considerations and turmoil. I tasted Northern cuisine, already seen in photographs and heard in stories, when I was in the North, under the snow, in the winter, by candle light. We had a white welcome, and nothing could be more incredible than the Belgian countryside on the border with France.

The heat of the fireplace and the delicate colours charmed us straight away, and transported us in another world, made of measured and elegant gestures, of details: there were homemade liqueurs on wood shelves, salami hanging next to the fireplace, in the sitting room where we received our aperitif, together with the first part of a long tasting: pork crackers (made with light and crispy pastry), very delicate Brussels sprouts, served in a wooden bowl, hidden among other raw Brussels sprouts, thus highlighting their beautiful shape, fermented and slightly acid carrots together with fresh ones, beetroot cones filled with yogurt, delicate and sweet snails on a spit. What struck us, straight away, was the variety of materials used in the service: wood, stone, marble, ceramic ware.

Butter biscuit with cheese and wood sorrel. In de Wulf's 2 tasting menus are 105 and 125 euro (165 and 205 including wine pairing) (photo by Passione Gourmet)

Butter biscuit with cheese and wood sorrel. In de Wulf's 2 tasting menus are 105 and 125 euro (165 and 205 including wine pairing) (photo by Passione Gourmet)

We chose a wine that accompanied us throughout the evening: Domaine des Cavarodes “Guille bouton”, acid and mineral. At the table, we received the bread cut in view and served with a small bowl of butter. First came five dishes made with crustaceans and molluscs follow; the first one was incredible: a raw, almost non seasoned prawn, served on thin layers of green radish and cress mayo. The squid cut in julienne and served with buttermilk and chickweed – almost a warm salad - followed. Then came the (soft and succulent) scallop from a French village 10 km from the border, served with Audresseles seaweeds. The marine itinerary ended with an incredible morsel of turbot.

The dishes that followed were the foundations on which my memory of the evening is based: a pork variation with black pudding, red onion and chervil; Wild duck breast hung for a long time in hay and smoked oil, to be eaten using your hands; Jerusalem artichoke, cooked in butter in one piece, together with its skin, as if it were a piece of meat to brown slowly; Mature cheese seasoned with the dehydrated salted powder obtained from its crust, and to finish small Potato gnocchi (made without eggs, only with the addition of starch) served in a mushroom stock, a dish in which strong and extremely delicate, countryside and earthy flavours ran after each other. The desserts were perfectly coherent with the rest of the menu: the first, made with carrot and yogurt, was incredible from an aesthetic point of view; the second, made with hay, was delicious and welcoming.

Kobe Desramaults, 32 years old

Kobe Desramaults, 32 years old

Breakfast, the following day, was served by a minute and elegant lady who cooks bacon and eggs on the spot, on an ancient wood stove, and she lets you taste the flavours that Kobe, the chef, had discovered as a child: beetroot juice, the ham and cheese of which a hint was in the gnocchi dish, the previous night, and a terrine of confit of meat to be eaten with their incredible bread. In the end, we left the In de Wulf, this red-brick house with the light green shutters immersed in snow, wishing to be back in spring.


Sections

Chefs' life stories

Men who, for a moment, leave pots and pans to tell us their experience and point of view