Kortrijk – Cliff’s Herf

29 Jul


nfc capBeing a dedicated follower of the “seafood diet”, also known as : “I eat all the food I see”, I have discovered a more effective and terrifying diet exists, the Belgian diet – you eat with Belgians and go away hungry ….

Seriously now, the waiting period for the great culinary experience of home-made sauces and chutneys, snacks and meat skewers was used to drink artisan perfect G & T’s courtesy of the men of the G & T brigade, savour great cigars, share time with more than dedicated Aficionados and have three wonderful days in West Flanders.

The idea surfaced last month while smoking cigars and drinking heavenly Trappist beer in Leuven with Frank and Didier – why not attend Cliff’s herf in Kortrijk.
We were both invited to attend and accepted immediately.

A good chance too of taking Inge along as there would be other wives along and it would be a more familiar atmosphere, which it was indeed with families coming.

Good chance too to delve into my lockers and “rape” virgin boxes as Didier loves Trinidad Fundadores and I promised to bring along a box from ’98.

It was a relaxed drive for Inge and me on the Friday.

Well, relaxed it was until after the coffee break near Leuven.

Frank, refusing to pass on precise route details to the Germans since 1940 sent me on the way to Diest claiming it was a nice little place for coffee.

I followed his instructions to leave the motorway at exit 24 and turn left for 10 klicks and found a sleepy, empty village with a Cafe. Good enough, funny it wasn’t called Diest, so I called him and found out I had followed the E40 instead of the E314.

Oh well, the coffee and the cigar in Boutersem was good anyway.

Leaving the village at 2 pm to continue our journey we had a Belgian “Louis de Funes-the Gendarme” encounter.

Pat and Patachon in Police uniforms were waiting for the one tourist car ( or maybe for just any car to find itself in that village ) they could get their hands on.

They stopped us.

Nice and friendly guys.

Papers, ID, car documents, etc., I could see it was their “On The Job” training quota day.

The tall, thin and older Pat guided the short, fat and young Patachon through the moves – Non, Patachon, ze Germans ‘ave mandatory insurance, no need to ask for those papers ….

And while Inge laughed surprisedly, they asked me to do a breath analyzer test.

Hey, it’s 2 pm and 30 C and I drink my coffee with milk, not Brandy.

They nodded sheepishly but, hey, the quota has to be fulfilled.

An embarrassed attempt to terrify me by Pat when he announced some shock figure before bursting out laughing at my 0,0 %.

Thank you, have a good day and journey and by the way, Diest is over those hills far away.

It was only when we reached the Brussels maze of motorways and I had to concentrate on driving that we stopped laughing at the episode.

We arrived at tranquil and idyllic Het Bintjeshof  in Bellegem, a potato farm and charming B & B and were the only guests that night, so Pieter gave us the keys, a cold beers and the instructions on how to open the main gate ( call this number and the gate will open ) and left the estate in our hands.

A beer, a cigar and a shower later it was off to meet Cliff, have a beer in his patio, a good cigar and admire his walk-in humidor and cigar lounge-cum man cave.
Double Wow.

I’ve been and seen Casas del Habano with less stock and definitely much less atmosphere and character than this passionate, tasteful and dedicated place. All planned and done by himself too.

Choc-a-bloc full of humidors, jars and boxes plus a few guardian alligators. Which made me want to cry as I gave away my own alligator 15 years ago as Inge didn’t like the creature ….

Stephanie, Cliff’s most lovely and sweet wife arrived and it was off to Kortrijk and Brasserie Royale at the main square or Grote Markt, an old, converted cinema that offers great food in a cozy and elegant restaurant and has a spacious cigar lounge upstairs with, among other things, a beast of a Harley.

We were starved, but this time we got the Garnaalkroketjes that I missed out in Leuven. And a juicy, tender rib eye steak too.

Fortified and happy, it was back to the Bintjeshof and a bottle of Mulata 15 year old rum, good cigars and good conversation until 2 am.

If Frank is my “brother from a different mother” then Cliff is my “cousin from a different uncle” ever since we met a few years back in Lommel.
A great no bullshit-feet on the ground character.

Next day we walked the nice and sleepy streets of Kortrijk, picked up a ton of home-made pralines and chocolates at Sweertvaegher’s tiny shop.

We were back at Cliff’s to meet Frank and his family, but refused the home made spaghetti & tomato plate looking ahead to the coming BBQ. Wrong move that we were to regret later.

I passed the La Corona shirt to Frank who tried it on right away and loved it.

The guests started arriving, all from Belgium and the Netherlands and members of Sigarenplatform.

Great praise to all for the dedication and passion – especially to the most professional team of the G & T Men mixing fantastic Gin & Tonic and other yummy beverages with tender loving care and the best ingredients. Chapeau !

Cigars were exchanged back and forth, nick and names became faces, good conversations, great weather – a fantastic cigar day.

Made even more attractive by a bell and the music selection mix.

You see, there was a tombola and every time Guantanamera was played, the first one to ring the bell would get a prize. A Pampers box with cigars and accessories. Great !

Then Didier and his lovely wife arrived, he fresh from the Las Vegas cigar convention, she fresh from Singapore, and they shared the fun with us.

We smoked the Trinidad and Didier passed Pitbull cigars around, a tasty, perfectly constructed Nicaraguan Cañonazo.

After all the drinks and cigars stomachs were empty, it was getting late and food was eagerly awaited.

Christian, a blessed chef and dedicated epicurean started passing around succulent amuse geules with tasty sauces and it was 9 pm by the time we sat down for dinner.

But first the winner of the SCDLH Torreon jar had to be picked, which was done by Christophe picking the winners and Charlotte passing the jar around.

Finally young Koen won the empty jar as well, and all were happy. Well deserved.

With all this fun and camaraderie it was 10 pm before eating in earnest began.

You see what I mean about the “Belgian diet” …..

I finished a fantastic 8 cigar day with a glass of Mulata 15, a happy grin on my face and the promise to attend next year’s herf.

A solid 8 hr sleep followed until the roosters at Bintjeshof woke us up.

We met again at Cliff’s to help clear the garden and stow away the furniture, coffee and a cigar – ice cream was passed around.

The bad news is that it will be a year before we meet up again – the good news is that I will be meeting Christian, Frank and Michel here for our pharmacy cigar week-end pretty soon again.

Van harte bedankt, Cliff en Stephanie voor jullie gastvrijheid !!


3 Responses to “Kortrijk – Cliff’s Herf”

  1. Arild 30/07/2014 at 00:05 #

    I had a smile on my face from the first sentence to the last through your journey Nino. Experiences like these makes life worth living, thank you for sharing!

  2. Frank 30/07/2014 at 09:50 #

    Thank you for posting Nino. Splendid as usual.

    @ Arild : I am still smiling thinking back on saturday.
    What a beautiful day we had

  3. Michel 02/08/2014 at 14:29 #


    Thank you for another great write-up. It was a fabulastic time!