Friday, 16 July 2010: Ghent to Seoul!

Written 19 July 2010

t-shirtFriday, the conferees had a lot to get through. We went off bright and early to breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien so that David could be there for the first papers of the day. The lunch break was very short so that everything could be scheduled, and the ever-thoughtful organizers therefore had sandwiches catered in to save time. I looked for more of that great smoked halibut, but it was not to be found. David found the smoked salmon (with mayo and radish sprouts, but I had a whole-grain baguette filled with salami, hard-cooked egg, cucumber, and shredded carrot). I also asked a friend to stand still for a moment so that I could get this photo of the back of the official FourtIMCo t-shirt (the front just has a small conference logo). David told the organizers that they missed a bet by not adding, below the little animal silhouettes, "Please give generously."

After lunch, a few more papers were presented, and a summing-up plenary talk was delivered (saying, as it always does, that the number of posters had gotten out of hand and should be reduced, that talks needed to be 20+5 minutes rather than 12+3, and that younger investigators should not be ashamed simply to listen rather than making presentations; then people in the audience replied, as they always do, that you can't get funding to attend unless you present and that maintaining single sessions was more important than lengthening talks; and, as usual, nothing was changed). Then the business meeting was opened. New officers were elected (mostly by acclamation, as the groundwork had already been done), some changes to the constitution were voted in, the treasurer reported (especially on the proceeds of the raffle, which was very successful), and awards were presented for best papers and papers by students. Then, at last, the part we'd all been waiting for (or I had, anyway), the proposals for hosting the next meeting! Two were presented this year, and the winner, by about 5 to 1 by show of hands among the membership, was—Wanyang University, Seoul, Korea!

The presenter of the other proposal, for Tunisia, made a gracious concession speech and took the opportunity to repropose for the 2019 meeting, which will be the golden anniversary of the organization, which met for the first time (all 28 of them) in Tunisia ca. 1970.

I, of course, immediately started asking myself, "Just how does David regard retirement, really? How will he take this?" I didn't like to ask him directly in front of colleagues, so imagine my delight when someone else did it for me, "will we see you in Seoul?," and he simply answered, "Yes"! Gotta get those language tapes and start early!

Finally, we were down to the last 20-30 people, hanging around the foyer making sure they'd said goodby to each friend, reminding each other of plans for future visits and collaboratations, and straggling reluctantly away. We went back to the hotel to drop off our stuff and change for dinner. I'd made reservations at Belga Queen, a relatively new restaurant just a couple of blocks from our hotel that features haute cuisine using fresh, local Belgian ingredients.

fest prepconvenienceWalking back, I took these photos of the temporary installations in place for the festival, which starts tomorrow at 2 p.m. The top of our restaurant is visible (third pointed façade from the left) behind the temporary bar in the white tent pavilion, which is raised on scaffolding so that its patrons can see over the temporary bar set up on barges (blue railings with red trim) to the right of and below the white pavilion. The streets and squares just don't provide enough surface area for all the revellers to buy all the beer they want, and these are prime locations, facing the large black temporary stage across the river. I also just had to get this shot of one of the four-sided, um . . . conveniences placed on street corners for use during the festival, apparently draining into the storm sewers. Note, in particular, the little blue man pasted on the side, in case there should be any doubt.

fest prepBelga queen is beautiful inside, sleek and modern in design, but rustic around the edges, where the renovated inside meets the medieval exterior.

chairsMost of the tables, including the one where they initially seated us, have these low, leather-upholstered chairs. The chairs are very cushy but so deep from front to back that you can't get close enough to the table to eat without piling three cushions behind you, so we asked to be moved to a table with more conventional chairs.

The setting sun was pouring in through the windows, so as the beams from the windows swept slowly across the room, shining first in one person's eyes and then in another's, the waiters lifted the large wooden shutters (which are just standing in the window embrasures, not attached to anything) into place to block one or another of the panes.

foie grasscallopsAfter an amuse-bouche of the ubiquitous tiny gray shrimp in curry mayo, I started with cold foie gras of duck (I wanted the snails with ham, herbs, potato mousseline, and mushroom juice, but they were out of it.) The foie gras is shaded by its accompanying loaf of whole-grain bread, but you can see a sliver of it and the spiced crumbs in which the log of it was rolled before my piece was sliced off. The little jar hold freshly made apply chutney, and the dark ripples are balsamic syrup. The foie gras was seasoned differently than the ones in the southwest of France but delicious nonetheless.

David's starter, lit to better advantage, was "ceviche" of scallops with candied lemon, omato, fennel, and pistachio. The fennel is the tangle of paper-thin white slices piled on top. It was good, but it turned out to be a tartare of rather than a ceviche—the scallops were simply raw rather than having been marinated in citrus juice. We agreed that a squeeze of fresh lemon would have sparked it up a good deal.

barsoleDavid's main course was grilled "bar" (sea bass, Dicentrarchus labrax) draped over a mound of risotto made with "vieux Bruges" cheese (excellent) and topped with arugula. Around the bottom of the risotto is a ring of samphire (Salicornia sp., Amaranthaceae) a salt-tolerant, sea-side flowering plant often mistakenly described on menus as "seaweed" or "algae."

I had a "sole meunière" a whole sole (head, tail, and fins trimmed off but otherwise intact) crumbed and sauteacute;ed crisp on both sides and laid over "seasonal vegetables," a deliciously seasoned, lightly sautéed sort of ratatouille mix with mushrooms. With a little lemon squeezed over, excellent!

friesdessertWith the sole came "frites" (the also ubiquitous fried potatoes). Many restaurants just bring you a huge heap of them in a soup bowl, to be shared around the table, but tradition really calls for their being served in a paper cone, so many other restaurants (especially those of pretension) use a variety of devices designed to support such a cone. This one had a brass base and a ceramic cone-holder.

For dessert, we split a "panna cotta" (the purple bar at the right) accompanied by sugar-frosted fresh red currants, a "marmelade" of virtually raw mixed red berries in a thick berry sauce, a ball of vanilla ice cream, and a lattice of violet-flavored spun sugar. The fruit marmelade was the best part.

They had decaf, and once I finally got them to bring me enough cream, it was excellent, too.

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