dinsdag 5 november 2013

De Zuidkant: Gentbrugge's most elegant veggie take-way & living room restaurant

Let's be honest: after a four month break we are quite hungry here. Luckily we discovered this wonderful veggie living room restaurant just around the corner. Yes, we are sensitive about names and must admit that De Zuidkant is just perfect for this slightly mysterious house with autumnish garden, where the smell of warm apples, a fire place and lots of books pop to your mind. Bio! Home made! Different everyday! I can already see two curious rabbit noses sniffing at the gate...

When opening the heavy but elegant gate, leading to a path through the garden towards the restaurant, we completely forget about the cars or the trains passing by at the background. Subtile lanterns guide us to a minty green door, where a small sign is inviting us to come in.

An enthousiastic lady  a couple of minutes later we will get to know her as Griet – opens the door for us. Of course we can take pictures, she says, and if we wouldn't mind to come back a couple of hours later, she can answer our questions as well. It's the first day that De Zuidkant is open for customers, so we understand it's very busy. 

During our second visit that afternoon, Ellen, who is the owner of De Zuidkant, has just finished cooking lunch for the first hungry souls while Griet is busy writing a mail to their organic farmer.

The beautiful menu makes you feel at home

Rosie & The Rabbits: Ever since we have been living here, we have been asking ourselves what was hidden behind this wonderful and majestic gate.

Griet (cook at De Zuidkant): Ellen lives here with her family and this location used to be for rent for parties, gatherings, etc. She is a professional cook with lots of experience since she has worked at several restaurants. I used to work in the social sector, which was fun, but it's also a lot of communication and a lot of people. I really wanted to create something with my hands. When I saw Ellen's vacancy at the EVA forum in which she said she wanted a "veggie transformation" for this location, I was immediately interested.

The counter, carrying the weight of some wonderful cakes

Rosie & The Rabbits: Are you a vegetarian yourself?

Griet: Not in a strict way, no, but when looking into my eating pattern over a month, I notice I hardly ever eat meat. Our meals aren't all vegan either; we mainly want to cook in a conscious way. We use coco oil for baking because it's healthier for example, and we try to replace sugar with alternatives such as agave syrup. We go for veggie because it's such a creative cuisine.

Large windows bring in the light and the garden around you

Rosie & The Rabbits: We can imagine it's not that easy to convince people to try your food; where do you keep getting your inspiration from?

Griet: Ellen can rely on a very vast experience, and in order to remain creative and original we have a rotation system in the kitchen: Ellen is cooking on Mondays and Tuesdays, I am taking over on Thursdays and Fridays. We also receive a product list from the organic farmer, which guarantees seasonal ingredients and makes it easier for us to think of new recipes in time. 

Colourful apples from the organic farmer

For those of you who are still in doubt: go and taste it yourself and yes, Gentbrugge is the new black.

maandag 10 juni 2013

C is for Coffee / Ycono


If you are intensively trying to avoid Ghent’s red light district, you are actually missing a lot of nice places these days. Beside El Negocito, Café Costume, and De Vitrine, you should absolutely go and discover Ycono, a small coffee bar in a styish design setting. Ycono is a unique place in Ghent, not only for its location, but also for its atmosphere, sense of humor and guts. Since Edward Hostyn is both owner and barista we were interviewing him behind the bar, in front of the oven which was spreading delicious apple pie aromas.  

Rosie & The Rabbits: Did you have certain expectations when you started Ycono in 2011? And, looking back on things, is it what you expected it to be?

Edward Hostyn (owner Ycono): I had a certain image in mind, yes. The original idea however was to make Ycono a lot bigger. I really wanted a gallery with an integrated coffee bar, but I just couldn't find an appropriate place for it in Ghent. 

Rosie & The Rabbits: That leads us to our next question regarding the location of the bar; we assume it was not strategically chosen? 

Edward Hostyn: No, it's rather a coincidence. Anyway, I live here so I wasn't "afraid" of this neighbourhood. It’s just an affordable and unique location at the same time. And since I don't want to focus on tourists - from a business point of view I don't have much affinity with them - so that's an advantage of this location. 

Rosie & The Rabbits: Did this place bring surprises as well?

Edward Hostyn: Yes, quite some, daily actually! Contact with prostitutes, or mainly their messengers. Stories. Romanian prostitutes who cannot understand I'm gay. We once had a reception with friends at the bar and I hugged some of them when saying goodbye. One of the prostitutes then said to me when I was closing the bar that day: "you hug them but you don't hug me?". And ever since she wants me to give her a hug before I go home. I didn't expect the contact to be so "smooth" let's say. But now I really take advantage of the location, businesswise, for the decoration and naming on the menu for example. 

Let's say ninety percent of the people still have to learn to appreciate this area. You have to accept that edgy aspect. Some would like the prostitutes to go away, but it actually gives Ghent a "metropolis" feeling. I'm really happy that this street is so diverse: we have an outstanding restaurant, a latino bar, Café Costume. And prostitutes and maffia. It is what it is, those contrasts are only interesting. I would never want to change locations anymore. 

Rosie & The Rabbits: Do you remember the moment you knew: “now I'm going to do this”?

Edward Hostyn: I had been looking for the right premises for half a year when I more or less gave up. One day I parked the car where I lived and suddenly I thought: why couldn’t we have the bar right here? I still had to request a license, but not even a week later I had already signed the contract. I didn't even have a financial business plan at that time.

Rosie & The Rabbits: You focus on design; is everything at the bar for sale? 

Edward Hostyn: Most of it is. You will only find things I like myself. We have for example a rather expensive vase; chances that I sell it are small, but I just like to show it.  Artists are welcome to show their work here as well. 
I have no problem with Ikea, but there are so many nice things that are not expensive but unknown to most of the people. There's so much nice work of young artists for, let’s say, 200€ and I prefer to buy those things instead of that typical Ikea New York skyline. That’s what I would really like to show and bring to others, but unfortunately I don't have enough space for that right now.

Rosie & The Rabbits: Is coffee, and perhaps more the cups and saucers, part of an interior?

Edward Hostyn: Yes, I think it is. In the beginning I was looking for china from Japan but it was too expensive for a small business like mine. We wanted the cups and saucers to be for sale as well, but I had to make choices unfortunately so today that's not the case.

Rosie & The Rabbits: If you would have had a complete different career, what would it have been like?

Edward Hostyn: I already had a big career switch from interior design to restaurant business. If I'm tired of the bar one day, then I'll close it, but the design aspect will always be present. I just don't get tired of it. One shouldn't be doing things that he doesn't like to do.

Rosie & The Rabbits: Do you actively look for artists who could show their creations at the bar, or do they contact you?

Edward Hostyn: It started with a friend who asked me, and then a couple of customers,  and then there was March, design month, when artists were looking for  a spot. For me, it could go even further than paintings or graphical work. If a fashion design student would like to organize a mini pop up store at the bar: be my guest! Another friend of mine is taking a course to be a florist and he doesn't have a very classical way of working; that would be an option too.

Rosie & The Rabbits: Do you still have future plans for the bar?

Edward Hostyn: I keep requesting a terrace for the Glazen straatje, but it's always declined because the fire department keeps disapproving it.

Rosie & The Rabbits: Aren't you afraid to become the new place to be in the tourist guides? 

Edward Hostyn: Could be. Until now I always got good reviews, but mainly locally and some in Holland. I prefer to keep it low profile and because of that I don't really advertise. Of course that slows down the start of the business but it begins with friends who bring friends. And because of these friends it's an advantage as well as a disadvantage of being the bartender at your own bar. A lot of people romanticize having your own coffee bar. Until they realize you can't go to Antwerp during the weekends (smiles).

Pictures: Ycono

maandag 27 mei 2013

Liesbet, the hairdresser who came to your living room

We've never been the type that visits the hairdresser monthly, not because of a hair-cut-o-phobia but because it's just so expensive. Actually we once cut our hair ourselves, but of course our hairdresser noticed that even five months after. You. Cut it. Yourself. Exclamation mark. She was disappointed, we were deeply ashamed.     Since Rosie & The Rabbits is all about nice initiatives and problems being solved, we are happy to tell you that Liesbet Laroy simply comes to your living room with her fully professional scissors and skills, whenever it suits you best and takes the time to cut your hair the way you like it for a very fair price. Woohoow!

Rosie & The Rabbits: When did you start as a "mobile" hairdresser, visiting your customers at home?

Liesbet Laroy (hairdresser and former teacher): I used to be a teacher, but in September I took a career break and in October I officially started as a hairdresser. Eight years ago I took a complete training course but I was already used to cutting the hair of my sisters, husband and children, so I thought: "why not go and learn the right technique?".  It actually never was my intention to turn this into my profession, I just thought it might come in handy and finished the evening course successfully. After eight years, I got too many requests to cut people's hair to keep combining it with a job. So to be honest I didn't start from scratch in October.

Rosie & The Rabbits: Until October you were a teacher. What made you take the decision to go far a career switch?

Liesbet Laroy: It's a passion, really, and it has been there ever since I was a child. It must have been triggered by the fact that one day my two younger sisters cut each other's hair. It was already quite late in the evening and my mother of course said they couldn't go to school like that. So I cut their hair a bit. I "dared" to do it and my sisters let it happen. And it went exactly like this in the youth organization too: I braiding the younger children's hair and so. During evening class they told me a couple of times they could really see I had done it before. Because of the fact I already had some experience and because I was a bit older, the decisive step was not that hard for me. My husband "pushed" a little bit however - he's an entrepreneur himself. I mainly wanted to do what I love, be independent but have time left to spend with my children as well. Sometimes I just take them with me so they can play and get to know other children along the way.

Rosie & The Rabbits: Did it turn out to be what you expected?

Liesbet LaroyYes, but I must say my expectations weren't that high. Word-of-mouth advertising is working quite well, as well as Facebook. Although my customers still always have some kind of link with friends, family or colleagues. It was quite difficult to estimate how fast the clientele would grow, but it's still increasing.

Rosie & The Rabbits: We love the idea of having a hairdresser coming over so we assume you get positive reactions in general? 

Liesbet LaroyPeople do let me know what they think about the result, yes, via Facebook or text message.  It really does make a difference if your hair looks good because you simply feel better. A lot of people are also happy that their kids are not afraid anymore to have their hair cut, that it has become something natural for them. And a lot of customers make a new appointment immediately after, so indirectly that's a nice compliment as well.

Rosie & The Rabbits: Do you give advice about which haircut suits who and which doesn't? Do you tell when a certain idea will not work out?

Liesbet Laroy: Well, first of all I have a different clientele than regular hairdressers. Certain people have difficulties explaining what they want or expect and then of course I can suggest a certain type of haircut or model. But these types should always be adapted to the person and the face. I work in a rather careful way in order to get to a compromise and everyone can be happy with the result. It's a process.

Rosie & The Rabbits: Have you ever thought about having your own salon?

Liesbet LaroyNever say never, but I would certainly want to emphasize children friendliness and focus on families with kids. Going to people's homes however causes less stress for the parents: if their son or daughter can't sit still, they are not disturbing other customers. Another big difference compared to a traditional salon is that at home people are not "just a number". People are more relaxed and sometimes know better what they want.

Rosie & The Rabbits: Is your experience as a teacher an advantage?

Liesbet LaroyI'm a patient type by nature and if children squirm, I simply move with them. In a salon they just tell them to sit still. I used to teach teenagers and now a lot of my customers are teenagers as well. They're very worried about how they look. I often aim for a compromise between what they want and what their parents want, because that's often something completely different. We take our time and go step by step.

Rosie & The Rabbits: Salons and staff rooms are often the place to be for gossip and little stories, is that the case when visiting your customers at home as well?

Liesbet Laroy: It depends on the age group the customer is in. A frequent topic would be children and education, but sometimes I get very personal answers, for example to a simple question like "how are you?". Gossip and scoops are not really my cup of tea. A lot of customers are more or less my age, in their thirties,  but I also have a couple of elderly ladies who are very happy I talk to them, compared to some youngsters at the salon.

Rosie & The Rabbits: We read that people can also host a "hair party" with friends or kids while you cut the invitees' hair?

Liesbet Laroy: Yes, there's a growing demand for it. In the beginning it was mainly on Wednesday afternoons for children. They would see each other's hair being cut and thought it was less threatening. From a social point of view it's fun for the mothers as well, so they are happy too. A party with friends is more about catching up during a cozy evening with a glass of cava and a piece of cake while the ladies can discuss each other's haircut. You see, it doesn't always feel like working!

All info and contact details can be found on Liesbet's Facebookpage:


zondag 21 april 2013

Chocolate Jezus: chocolate pusher

Chocolate Jezus logo
I don't go to church on Sunday
Don't get on my knees to pray
Don't memorize the books of the Bible
I got my own special way

Tom Waits found his chocolate Jesus in Zerelda Lee's candy store, but you can find it right here in Ghent. With Chocolate Jezus Julie Ragusa-van Schooten, chef by diploma with roots in photography, wants to offer you a high quality and special chocolate experience. She loves chocolate so much she calls herself a "chocolate pusher". Let's find out why!

Rosie & The Rabbits: How would you describe Chocolate Jezus? What's your elevator pitch?

Julie Ragusa-van Schooten (founder Chocolate Jezus): If people needed to get any impression I would want them to think it tastes very good and the quality is very high. The products are organic and dairy free but that is just aside. It's mentioned that everything is organic but I don't want to focus on that. I want it to be unique and delicious in the first place.

Rosie & The Rabbits: Why did you call it Chocolate Jezus?

Julie Ragusa-van Schooten: Music is a passion. I don't play anything but I go a lot to concerts. And my favourite song by Tom Waits is Chocolate Jesus. The only problem was: when typing it online you only find the song, so I changed the -s into -z and so now it's even spelled in Dutch.

Rosie & The Rabbits: To be honest we're not chocolate's biggest fans... How would you convince us?

Julie Ragusa-van Schooten: I'm very particular on white chocolate, because normally it's too sweet and people don't see it as chocolate. So my challenge is when you eat it you wouldn't say it's white chocolate. I often make a delicate ganache that is so smooth and people simply love that.

Rosie & The Rabbits: Do you need your daily piece of chocolate?

Julie Ragusa-van Schooten: If there's a day without, something is definitely wrong. But when working for hours on truffles I don't touch them. I call myself a chocolate pusher because I'm always pushing chocolate on people to get an objective opinion.

Rosie & The Rabbits: Your website tells us people can also host a chocolate party?

Julie Ragusa-van Schooten: Well, I always want to come up with something new; I don't want to make something over and over again and I want to surprise people. So a chocolate party is the ideal way to try out things. I have done two now, mainly to introduce people to my ideas. I don't only make sweet things as in desserts, but any dish with chocolate is an option.

Rosie & The Rabbits: Do you use Belgian chocolate in your creations?

Julie Ragusa-van Schooten: No, to be honest mostly chocolate from Germany because it's organic and dairy free, and if you want to mention another term: it's fairtrade as well. But I love Belgian chocolate from local stores, definitely. If there would be a local company delivering organic, dairy free fairtrade chocolate, I would definitely work with them. On the other hand it can be all this, but if it doesn't taste good, what's the point?

Rosie & The Rabbits: If your career would have been completely different, what would it have been like?

Julie Ragusa-van Schooten: I have done so many things, from documentary films, over photography to food. I think it would have been music related. With food however I have truly found my niche. I know I will always work with chocolate but I will push myself to always find something new.

Rosie & The Rabbits: On your blog you are very open and honest: you share your success recipes with everyone.

Julie Ragusa-van Schooten: I like to talk about chocolate, I'm an open book. I also see it as a compliment if people ask how I did things. Sharing recipes is also a way to bring people to my site and in the end: to my chocolate.

Rosie & The Rabbits: Do you see shops selling your creations one day?

Julie Ragusa-van Schooten: Oh, that would be lovely but I prefer to take one step at a time. When processing chocolate in huge quantities I would really worry about the quality. That would be my main concern, and actually it already is now. If I got this kind of demand I would of course be very happy but tormented at the same time. Anyhow, I should start thinking about taking it to a next level because it's coming soon. Right now vegetarian restaurant Avalon is selling my chocolate but I cannot keep up with the stock; it sells so quickly!

Rosie & The Rabbits: How different would it be for you to sell your chocolate in a shop?

Julie Ragusa-van Schooten: What I'm doing now suits me better: I need to go out and meet new people and it's totally in my nature to do that. In a shop you're waiting for people to get to you.

Rosie & The Rabbits: What do you like the most: the creative thinking part or the doing part?

Julie Ragusa-van Schooten: I must say it can sometimes be stressful to think of recipes; you're putting money, effort and time into it. When it doesn't work, that's always disappointing and it lowers self-esteem a bit.... But I learn a lot; it's a challenge to solve the problems. I'm not a chocolatier and will never claim to be so but I work really hard.

The fun part is putting it in its package and putting the Chocolate Jezus logo on it! Of course, seeing people trying my chocolate and enjoying it is very nice too. Perhaps I focus on the technical aspect too much, but you can't avoid being technical with chocolate, because if you don't, you make so many mistakes. For several months I have been trying and testing and at one point it started coming together.

Rosie & The Rabbits: If you look back, are things going as expected?

Julie Ragusa-van Schooten: Things are going surprisingly well, but I'm not sure yet what kind of direction I'm going to. I get such a wonderful response and I still don't really work on it full-time. So I think, if I would, the response would even be greater. So far it was mainly an experiment to see what orders I would get.

You can buy these delicious Chocolate Jezus creations at restaurant Avalon or host a chocolate party with some friends!


Pictures: Chocolate Jezus

maandag 8 april 2013

AFt: smiles to think about

AFt − Smiling is contagious
During this cold and long winter even exceptionally optimistic people can feel a little grumpy when wandering through the city. If you are one of those people however, we have good news for you: keep your eyes open because you might see this lovely smiling lady anywhere! Perceptive souls will already have noticed some funny and cheerful objects in the streets that normally aren't there, such as colourful stencils and little painted figures. Street artist AFt, which stands for Art For Thought, has a lot of fun creating them and giving them a special place on the street; his mission is only accomplished if he can make people smile. Since AFt himself is just as mysterious as his work, we asked our questions via e-mail and constructed this interview without ever meeting our guest.

Rosie & The Rabbits: Was Art For Thought a slow process evolving gradually or did you wake up one day with the idea of restyling these little statues and giving them a new life?

AFt (street artist): It was a very slow process. Ever since I was a child I was interested in graffiti, but I have to admit I wasn't really good at it myself. It didn't go any further than a couple of forced tags. A new impulse only came when I was thirty: I was in Paris and saw mosaic figures from an old computer game popping up.  I thought it was a genius idea; it was surprising, original, new. The street artist behind these figures was Space Invader. I wanted to do something similar but it still took me a couple of years to shape my thoughts. 

Rosie & The Rabbits: Do you remember the exact moment when you were thinking: "now I'm going to do this"? 

AFt: A bottle of good Scotch can work miracles! One evening some friends and I were talking about street art when suddenly I knew what I wanted to do. The idea of painting the little statues was born. In this early phase Pieter De Kegel, a friend of mine, editor of PostrMagazin and notorious connoisseur of street art, had an undeniable role. He really convinced me to actually go through with it; at that moment I was (and still am) quite uncertain about my work.  It's so valuable to have someone believing in you then. 

Rosie & The Rabbits: Where do you find these typical statues?

AFt: It's a plague! In Flanders we definitely have more of these figures than inhabitants. Flea markets, thrift stores ..., you can find them everywhere. At home, when the children are asleep, I "tackle" these statues: I cut pieces out, add details or accessories, paint them, add text, etc. It depends on the moment.

Rosie & The Rabbits: What inspires you most?

AFt: The world we're living in is crazy enough. We take things for granted all the time but if you look around in an an open-minded and unprejudiced way, you get inspired by pretty much anything. I'm lucky to be travelling by train a couple of hours per day; gives me lots of time to think. What else inspires me? Literature, indignation, critical journalists (PostrMagazine), the internet, my job, art, my wife and children, irritation ..., but most of all: my own imagination! I want to send the world a positive message, pleasantly surprise people and perhaps make them reflect on things. Most of the people are living incredibly well here and still a lot of them are complaining, nagging, negative and bitter. What I'm doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean, but at least it's a drop.

Rosie & The Rabbits: Does the work of other artists inspire you as well?

AFt: At first I didn't know very well what was going on in the street art scene. I knew Banksy and a couple of Ghent graffiti artists like Bue The Warrior and ROA, but that was about it. In the meantime I got to know the work of Isaac Cordal, C215, the Pothole Gardener, Max Zorn, Sara Conti, ... All very interesting artists and immersing yourself in what they do works very inspiring. Recently I discovered My Dog Sighs, a British artist who paints funny faces on crushed cans to leave these on the street. Isn't that great?

Rosie & The Rabbits: Does the anonymous aspect give you a kick?

AFt: It's more a necessity really. Even if the "illegal" aspect is quite small in my case, I don't want to get one of these local administrative fines. It gives me more freedom as well: I can kick people in the shins, break taboos and express my opinion in an uncensored way, without having to worry about the reactions. Moreover I don't think I as a person matter. My work should speak for itself, the person behind it is not that important. 

Rosie & The Rabbits: In what respect would your work be different if it would be shown in a museum?

AFt: Funny question. First of all I don't think my work will ever be shown in a big museum, but it is a "tension field" to which contemporary artists are confronted more often these days. Within short I will be participating in an exposition and that was a challenge. The street context unmistakably adds an extra dimension to your work, but how do you reproduce this effect in a gallery or exposition? Recently I started to cooperate with a very talented photographer (Hanne Lamon) and she succeeds perfectly in capturing this extra dimension in her pictures. An advantage for myself is that I can keep a tangible souvenir of my work when it has been taken away by someone. 

Rosie & The Rabbits: Do you sometimes hear from people who found a little statue of yours? 

AFt: Unfortunately not... I'm curious about it, that's for sure, and via Facebook I asked for it already but without any result. The work of street artists is more and more taken away by people who think they can make money out of it. Banksy is a well know example, but I cannot imaging that in my case that would be the reason. 

Rosie & The Rabbits: Do you sign your work?

AFt: It always has AFt written on it and because I don't want the statues to fall on someone's head, I always glue them quite thoroughly.

Rosie & The Rabbits: Do you leave your creations out there when travelling abroad or in other Belgian cities?

AFt: Yes. You can (or at least could) find my work in Ghent, Antwerp, Ronse, Berlin, Glasgow and even South Africa.

Rosie & The Rabbits: You also use stencils. Who is the mysterious smiling girl on these stencils?

AFt: First of all: working with stencils is great! I prefer minimalistic stencils with one or two colours. I was looking for a powerful image that would make people feel better instantly. And then I bumped into a picture of a friend of mine who has one of the most expressive faces I have ever seen. In the past she was quite well known so people have the feeling they have seen here before but they never know exactly where. 
Recently I heard a story of a little girl who saw one of my stencils and said to her mother: "when I see that lady, I immediately want to smile too". That must have been the nicest compliment I got about my work.

Rosie & The Rabbits: Do your children know about your secret mission?

AFt: My children are a little bit too young to completely understand what I'm doing. Nevertheless, the eldest will definitely  "blab it out" one day: when passing by one of my figures he always says in a very enthusiastic way: "that's from daddy, right?".  Anyhow, in our house it's very obvious, it's one big studio, you can imagine how happy my wife is with that. Soon my godchild will drop by and he already asked once if he could make such a little statue as well and than go out at night to put it somewhere. I'm not sure whether this makes me a good or a bad godfather. (smiles)


AFt: Stencils and little painted statues in Ghent
(Pictures: AFt)