The rich flavour of the menu? Beer!
TEXT: MICHIEL STOL | PHOTOS © RESTAURANT ‘T HOMMELHOF
“When you cook with wine, you have a choice between red or white. Beer has numerous varieties that all give an extra dimension to the food,” explains Stefaan Couttenye, owner and chef of ‘t Hommelhof restaurant in picturesque Watou, in the heart of the hop fields of Belgium.
“I have always been a beer lover. And I was destined to become a chef. So I combined the two things I love,” says Couttenye. He became a pioneer in cooking with beer, and, with the help of some famous chefs, more than thirty years ago, Couttenye created the concept of a beer inspired menu and opened ‘t Hommelhof. “Beer has been used in the kitchen since the beginning of time, but I can say that my experimenting has often lead to pleasant surprises.” All recipes are inspired by different types of beers, both well-known brands and beers from the two local breweries in Watou.
The menu changes with the seasons. “For one, we use local and seasonal ingredients all from producers here in West-Flanders,” elaborates Couttenye. “But it also has to do with the weather and what beers go with that time of year. In the summer, people tend to want a lighter, more hoppy beer, and thus lighter foods. Whereas in winter, the heavier, amber beers and a good roast or stew are much more popular.”
Asked about the chef’s specials, Couttenye laughs. “All of the dishes are my children. You wouldn’t ask a parent to choose between them, would you?”