Despite being the plebeian I am, I have been fortunate enough to have traveled well-beyond where I was born here in the United States of America. In fact, I can't actually remember the state where I was born. I was too young, and we moved when I was six months old due to my father being re-stationed. He was in the military.
However, the wanderlust in me has always been strong. I found myself planning, down to ground transportation and looking at bus and train schedules, how I would get around despite the fact that I was in quarantine and not allowed to go anywhere.
To my great fortune, I was able to visit Europe again in the time before the pandemic. I started in the Netherlands, and then took a train to Belgium. Specifically, I got off the train in Brussels. It was a bit of a relief, as I speak zero Dutch, and my knowledge of German only made every sign I saw in Amsterdam seem like something was slightly off. As if I were a child barely being able to make out what something said.
But in Brussels, oh, lovely Brussels, everyone I encountered spoke French. My French is definitely not perfect, but the only time someone spoke to me in English was when I was looking for a particular author in a bookstore, and mid-sentence, they started giving me guidance in English, because my then-husband walked towards me, and was probably the only person in Europe wearing khaki cargo pants at the time. He blew my cover.
In Brussels, despite my allergies, I had to have mussels. They were amazing, but that is not the recipe I am going to share with you today. I am going to share with you the drink I stuck to for the entirety of my honeymoon. We went from Amsterdam, to Brussels, to Paris, and then back to Amsterdam, but my drink was almost always the same: the Kir, or the Kir Royale.
So, a Kir is a cocktail made with creme de cassis and a dry white wine. A Kir Royale is a cocktail made with creme de cassis and champagne. When I'm feeling ye olde wanderlust, I'll find a bottle of creme de cassis (I am lucky to live in a large city), and either grab the driest pinot grigio I can find, or spring for champagne if it won't break the bank. I do mean champagne - not sparkling wine. Somehow, despite my humble existence, I cannot make a mimosa or a Kir Royale without real champagne.
It's really a simple cocktail with only two ingredients. Creme de cassis, and either a dry white wine, or champagne. What I do, is I get a glass and pour what is probably a tablespoon of creme de cassis. Then, I pour the glass three fourths full of either the dry white wine or the champagne. And there you go. You have a Kir, or a Kir Royale.
I realize this is not strictly food, but I can't share a recipe of the delicious mussels I had in Belgium as I should not have eaten them in the first place due to my allergies. The reason I chose the Kir for this story is because, years ago, when I had only been to Europe once, a friend of mine extolled the virtues of creme de cassis. She studied in France years ago, and I was very curious.
Then it became my drink of choice, no matter which city or country we were in. When we were in a French-speaking country, and my then-husband would order a wheat beer, and I would order a kir, I would see our waitstaff smirk. Not in a snobbish way, really, but in a "this is a really odd pair." I was always in simple dresses with flats, and my husband dressed as he always did in the summer - a graphic tee and his cargo shorts. One is not better than the other. One will affect your service in a Francophone country.
But...I love the Kir. It is sippable, but also chuggable. It tastes like a wonderful, dry fruit juice. If it's a Kir Royale, the bubbles inspire the giggles. It's a delightful drink that always, always reminds me of sitting outdoors in a large square in Brussels, or chit-chatting with a waitress in Paris while we smoked cigarettes, or a bartender in Amsterdam pointing out that the drink matched the color of my hair, which at the time, was a bright pink.
The Kir brings me happy memories of the last time I was on a real vacation. Of a time where my drink order both baffled and amused the waitstaff after my husband would order the most German beer they had. (He didn't mean to, that's just his taste. Honestly we should have gone to southern Germany together)
Yes, the delicious Kir. A tablespoon or half a shot glass of creme de cassis. Put it in your drinking glass. Then pour the wine or champagne on top of it until the glass is three fourths full. Do not shake it. Stir lightly if you must. Ice is not necessary. Hopefully your white wine or your champagne is slightly chilled. And then maybe, you will take a sip and travel back to a delightful summer in Brussels, much like Proust and his medeleine.