Tuesday, May 22, 2007

final meal in Germany

The German Bank holiday has wrecked havoc on our holiday in Germany. Today, Mr. Cupcake wanted to go to the Porsche Museum for a tour of the factory. Much to our dismay, they weren't giving tours since the factory was closed due to the bank holiday. Boooooooooooooooooo.

The museum itself was pretty lame. Unless you're an absolute Porsche enthusiast who lives and dies by all things Porsche, this place is a miss. That is unless you can get in on one of the tours anyway. This left us with four hours before we had to catch the train to Paris. We decided to give the Gasthaus zur Linde another try after our failed attempt last night.

The Gasthaus zur Linde is on the South side of Stuttgart, so it's a bit of a trek from the city centre. J9 read about the restaurant on the Internet a few days prior in Nürburg. The restaurant has received many accolades for remaining true to its regional Swabian roots. We had been itching to try some regional cuisine since there wasn't much available in the remote mountains where we were. This was a perfect solution to cure to our disappointment from this morning.

When we arrived, we found that the restaurant was a classy joint, and we felt way under dressed. Silly Americans! Fortunately, they were willing to take us since we were the first to arrive for lunch. We entered a room where there was a wall of fame. The chef/owner (not sure which) was plastered all over a long wall with various notable figures such as the Prime Minister of Japan, Lionel Richie, and Bai Ling. Well, those were the only ones I can remember off the top of my head. Seriously, if Lionel Richie has been there, we knew had come to the right place!

I ordered the maultaschen which is described as homemade Swabian Ravioli with creamy sauerkraut. According to Internet factology, maultaschen roughly translates into "little ones who cheat the Lord". Odd yes, but the back story is Catholics can't eat meat on Fridays during lent, and the Swabians still wanted to meat. To accomplish this task, they wrapped the meat in ravioli dough in order to fool God.

I was still trying to block out the horror of last night's dinner, so I was pleased to see a much more sane presentation of my meal. The raviolis were filled with small amounts of pork and some light seasonings like parsley and maybe some eggs. The raviolis laid on a bed of creamy sauerkraut and the plate had a few streaks of reduced balsamic vinegar. The sauerkraut was still sour, but not as pungent as the stuff I'm used to in the US. It was the German meal I'd been dreaming of, without even knowing it.

My meal also came with a salad and potato salad. The salad was just lettuce with an oily dressing. It wasn't anything inspired. However, the potato salad was actually more sour than the sauerkraut in my meal. It was surprising, but also very enjoyable.

J9 ordered a meal fit for a queen! It was basically a sampler plate that included a sirloin steak with fried onions and ravioli.

Mr. Cupcake ordered the oxtail which was in a ragout of oxtail in a "Lemberger" red wine sauce.

Both of their dishes came with a side of spatzle, and ab unidentifiable brown paste.

We managed to clear off most of plates and decided we had enough time to grab some dessert before dropping off our rental car. This was sort of a mistake - not because the dessert wasn't good, but because we almost missed our train. Service isn't the speediest, but that's pretty typical all over Europe. It's the whole meal is an event thing that is far more uncommon in the US.

We ordered some apple fritters in a vanilla sauce and ice cream. This was the best dessert of the two we ordered. It was basically just slices of apples battered and then fried. It's something that'd be hard to mess up, but I was especially fond of the ice cream. It complimented the fritter nicely.

With our second dessert, we decided to be more adventurous and ordered the sweet ravioli stuff with cottage cheese and stewed berries. This dessert didn't really work for me. It wasn't the same large curds of cottage cheese that we're use to in the States. Instead the cottage cheese was creamier. With the ravioli, it was more of the textural experience that I wasn't too fond of. However, one lackluster dish out of five is hardly anything to complain about.

Our fancy lunch cost us about 95 euros which included tax, tip, and alcohol. I'd highly recommend this restaurant if you're in the Stuttgart area. It was an excellent way to close out our trip Germany. It was the first time we'd been able to experience some of the regional cuisine albeit being on the fancy side.

Mr. Cupcake was also a fan of their kitty cat sugar packets.

We're on a six hour train ride to Paris right now. I'm actually a little sad to leave Germany. I never really had any desire to go, but now that I've been, I've found it's a charming place full of distinct local culture and meat. I'm sure I'll be back sometime in the future because I doubt Mr. Cupcake will be satisfied with only one visit to the Nurbergring.


If you couldn't tell, this is a little old. We're actually on our last day in Paris, and heading to Avignon in a few hours via the TGV. I will write more about Paris later.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Oh the horror!

Last night we had a most interesting dinner on our first and only night in Stuttgart. Our dinner destination to Gasthaus zur Linde was closed (much to our dismay) due to the German holiday. Unfortunately, we could only find two restaurants that were open for business. The restaurant that won was only because it was the closest. I'm not going to name names, but I will show you the colorful presentation of what was called 'dinner'...

I'm pretty sure the once diminishing zit on the side of my cheek has found new life thanks to this meal.

street food

Mr. Cupcake accomplished his Nürburgring laps and we were off to Stuttgart! Up until recently, I had been dying to try the following things in Germany in no particular order:

- a pretzel
- a bratwurst
- sauerkraut!
- any regional cuisines

On this day, I was able to mark one of these things off my list. The drive from Nürburg to Stuttgart is a long one. It's about two hours. We had a late start, so we ended up grabbing lunch in a town which I think was Boppard (will have to double check) that happened to be situated on the Rhine River. This was random stop, but our Nuvi GPS managed take down to another picturesque town.

Unfortunately for us, this was also German holiday, so many of the local businesses were closed. We walked along the river walk and only found hotels restaurants open. One place was only willing to serve ham OR cheese sandwiches even though they advertised more. Mr. Cupcake wanted to go to another museum along the way to Stuttgart (which we never made), so we decided to do a quick lunch at a little stand called the Konigsbacher.

It was a one man show. There was a guy behind the counter who took orders, and fortunately for us, he spoke a little bit of English. We struggled a little bit but he was very friendly and happy that we were customers. Mr. Cupcake ordered the currywurst because he had heard it was good.

The currywurst was sliced up and drenched in a curry/bbq like sauce. It was pretty tasty, but I was glad I went for the bratwurst. After all, I've been dying to have one in Germany.

It was quite different than what I was expecting. For one thing, it's noticeably longer and skinnier which is very much unlike the American versions. I'm not sure if this is how all bratwursts in Germany are, but I will say I like it! It wasn't as greasy or heavy as the bratwurst I'm use to. It also has a similar texture to a hotdog. It wasn't overly seasoned and it came with spicy mustard. Another bonus was that he fried it on his griddle. This made the skin crispy and extra delicious.

We also ordered a batch of pomme frites (French fries). Out of the three countries we've been to thus far, Germany wins for its deep frying execution. I'm just not a fan of soggy fries, chips, or what have you. I much prefer the crispity, crunchity fries like the ones served at this little stand.

Our total bill including J9's pork sandwhich, potato salad, and liter of Coke light was about 10 euros. I'm pretty sure it wins as the cheapest meal in Europe thus far. It was a satisfying lunch because I heart a good bratwurst.

A detour into Luxembourg

We're in Nürburg, Germany right now, so that Mr. Cupcake can drive the famed Nürburgring race track.

It's been a very drizzly, and very rainy day. Actually, our entire trip thus far has been all rain and clouds. I'm hoping France will finally give us some sun. Though I must say, I'm happy being in rainy Germany compared to our previous destinations. The mountains and little villages are very picturesque and very quaint.

Since Mr. Cupcake was driving today, and it wasn't nice out, J9 and I decided to take a little detour and go to Luxembourg. It wasn't a planned route, but we were talking to the one of the owners at the Ringhaus where we're staying and he suggested the drive. It's only an hour from where we're staying.

Why Luxembourg you ask? Well, it has the highest concentration of Michelin starred restaurants per capita in the world. We decided to pick one and have a leisurely lunch. We settled on the two star La Tables des Guilloux. It was described as 'country' on a random Internet page. We decided that would be a more unique experience than the other two star Italian restaurant nearby.

We headed off to Luxembourg with our Garmin 370 GPS (which is awesome in Europe btw except for Ireland) to guide us.

The restaurant is located in a little village outside of Luxembourg City. It's actually hard to distinguish the restaurant from the other houses along the little lane.

One inside, I was pleased to find they had a bunch of peonies - my favorite flower. For me, this was the sign that it was going to be a good meal.

It Luxembourg, they speak French. Fortunately, J9 was able to invoke her high school French vocabulary from years past. If one cannot speak French like moi, fear not, the servers are friendly and some of them speak English.

We started off with an aperitif. J9 was able to try a white wine from the South of France. She then decided she was going to like France (our next stop).

We were also given a piece of crostini with foie gras and mackerel with a light mustard sauce. I'm not a big fan of mackerel due to the fishiness, and this was no exception. However, I did really enjoy the mustard sauce. I also find the more I eat foie gras, the more I adore it. It's the creaminess and smoothness along with the slightly salty flavor. It's dreamy. In recent history, the foie gras I've eaten has been prepared very airy and light, but this was more dense. I think I prefer it this way.

The entire menu is in French, so I had a difficult time trying to decide what to order. J9 went with the special which was an asparagus ravioli.

It had chopped pieces of asparagus and artichokes covered in a thin blanket of homemade pasta. The unique part of the pasta was that it wasn't crimped like the ravioli we all tend to know. If it hadn't been for the butter sauce, it would have been a waist friendly meal.

Since I didn't want to decipher the menu in detail, I decided to go with a fish. I ended up with a lovely piece of slightly seared St. Peter's white fish in a creamy tomato and basil sauce. The fish was light and had many fine serrated pieces. Like the mustard sauce in the first dish, the sauce on my fish was very well prepared. In fact, I couldn't get enough it. It also went very well the crusty bread that was on the table.

With such a lovely, leisurely meal and a crappy, rainy day, we couldn't pass up dessert. I wasn't sure what was on most of the menu, so I asked one of our servers what his favorite dish was. Without hesitation, he responded with the chocolate cake. I wasn't going to argue with the man, so I ordered one! J9 on the other hand went with the cheese plate.

This chocolate cake was very similar to the molten chocolate cake that have become ever so popular in many restaurants these days. Don't get me wrong, it was still lovely, but what saved the dish was again the sauce. It was a beautiful vanilla sauce with chopped up hazelnuts. It married very well with the chocolate cake and I was pleased with the direction our server had steered me.

J9 topped the meal off with a cup of coffee. Our server then brought out a complimentary dish of dark chocolate chunks.

And a plate of cookies and caramels. This was a nice ending to a very pleasant meal.

Our meal was about 106 euros including alcohol, tax, and gratuity. It was well worth the venture into the Luxembourg especially with all the rain we've been experiencing. It's been almost two weeks now and there hasn't been any sunshine. I'm hoping France will change this rainy pattern for the better.

Oh the nekkidness

I was planning on writing more about Dublin and London, but to tell you truth, I wasn't overly impressed with either. We didn't go out into the countryside very much; I'm sure that would have been a different story. I may write more about both trips later. However, I wanted to share this tidbit that isn't related to food at all. The highlight of London (my first time) was being about 10 feet away from Daniel Radcliffe aka Harry Potter.

At least initially. I'm not even a Harry Potter the movie fan (yes, I've read all the books). I generally find the acting difficult to watch at least among the child actors. Though, I do adore Alfonso Cuarón. My only interest in going was because of what I've read about the play in the media and sheer curiosity. Perhaps it's because I read to much ohnotheydidn't.

Anyway, somehow, we managed to snag front row tickets to Equus, and yes, that means we were about 10 feet away from all of his glory. I won't go into details (if you really want to know, you can email me). But seriously, him being naked wasn't the highlight. It was (to my surprise) a play that was well done. Based on what I had read on the Internet, I was expecting him to do some strange and twisted routines with the horses as I haven't read the book. He didn't, and really, the thing that surprised me the most was that there was a naked woman in the play. I guess I haven't been paying enough attention to the promos. Besides, I'm sure promoting a naked Daniel Radcliffe was part of a marketing ploy to get people to see it. I'm not going to lie, it worked on me and all the others in the nearly full theater.

Anyway, to sum things up, the play was entertaining and well acted in particular the psychologist and the two parents. I'm also happy to report that Daniel Radcliffe isn't as tragic as I once thought. He was believable in this role and did a nice job. Though, the juvenile part of me wants to tell everyone that I've seen Harry Potter nekkid.

Friday, May 11, 2007

In Dublin... Leaving Dublin

I thought I'd be better about posting in Dublin, but to tell you the truth, the jet lag and general time adjustment has been killer. We've been here for almost a week, and it's been interesting to say the least. We're heading to London in the morning, and I plan on posting more about our Dublin food adventures on the plane. If you asked me at the beginning of the week how the food was, I'd say omg, it's terrible! However, given time, we've managed to experience some gems. I also have to say that the clothes are very cute here! My pocketbook might be in for a hurting by June...

During the week, we took a tour of the Guinness factory. The line was incredible long, yet they usher people through pretty fast.

For 14 euros, one can tour the 5+ floor factory on a self guided tour. It was interesting, but I particularly liked the marketing aspect. Did you know the Guinness Book of World Records is related to Guinness the beer?

Or that the guy who created the famous Guinness character illustrations was once wooed by Walt Disney? He turned Disney down though.

We also had lunch at the cafe in the factory, but I won't go into that. Mr. Cupcake and J9 did enjoy Guinness Import Extra Stout which is only available in Europe, Japan, and maybe a few other countries. They can comment on the beer if they want since I didn't have any.

At the end of the tour, everyone is treated to a pint of Guinness. It should make it worth the 14 euros.

They fill the Guinness glasses up most of the way, and then let it settle. Once settled, they fill it up to the top. Genius. There's also a lovely view of Dublin from high up if you can push you way past gazillions of people.

Okay, that's all I really have from Dublin tonight. I have to go to bed so I can pack for London in the morning. Aye!

Oh, p.s. I had a big error on the 5 things to try before you die. I said the Spalding Bakery cooks their doughnuts in lard. This was a lie, lie, lie!!! I had no idea, but they were kind enough to post on my blog and correct me. They actually use soybean oil. I think what happened was a crazy person (who shall remain nameless) at my old job in KY told me it was lard and I believed them. My apologies for the misinformation, but now you know.

Friday, May 04, 2007

A Slice of New York

Mr. Cupcake and I are sitting on a turbulent flight to Chicago from San Francisco. It's our layover on the way to Dublin, which means we have some time to kill. So, I'm going to give my little blog some love.

We've been in California for about a year and a half now, and let me just say, life is great. The weather is usually sunny and happy, we've made friends who we run around with, there's lots of good things to eat, and places to see. Yet, there's still a hole in Mr. Cupcake's heart, and that hole is NY style pizza. I realize many East Coast transplants experience this same sense of loss, and like many others, we haven't found a replacement. In order to make due, we either make pizza at home or eat pizza at Costco . Yes, I know, I said Costco. It's been our staple for the last year and a half. We've tried other places, yet none of them fill that void in Mr. Cupcake's heart.

I often peruse various sites including Chowhound, Yelp, blogs, etc., and keep an eye out for new pizza joints. I read about A Slice of New York Pizza sometime late last year (I think). It's been on my radar for awhile, but San Jose can be a trip for us. What now seems like many moons ago, Mr. Cupcake and I were having the what should we have for dinner debate. I finally offered up a Slice of New York. In typical fashion, Mr. Cupcake was skeptical, and wasn't sure he wanted to drive down to San Jose to be disappointed. We realized we weren't getting anywhere, and decided to bite the bullet. Mr. Cupcake called and ordered a large pizza for carry out and the conversation went something like this:

Mr. Cupcake: "Hi, I'd like to order a large pizza, half pepperoni, half tomato and onion."

ASoNY: "Sorry Sir, we don't have tomatoes or any of those fancy ingredients like artichokes, etc."

Mr. Cupcake to me: "No tomatoes."

Me: "WwwwwwwHHHHHhhhhhhAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatttttttttttttttttttttttt?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!"

No tomatoes, seriously? Fancy ingredients?? Argh. I panicked. Tomato and onion are my pizza topping staples. I've been eating tomato and onion pizzas for as long as I can remember. Well, as far back as my days at Lehigh, when we'd order a large pizza from Alpha Pizza Pie. The guy who ran the shop would use crushed tomatoes in place of sauce and we'd add onions. Alas, I had to pick some new toppings on the fly. All I could come up with was Canadian bacon and green pepper. Yeah, I know, weak.

A Slice of New York is in a small strip along Steven's Creek Blvd., and if you're not paying attention, it's easy to miss. There isn't much parking and even fewer seats inside. Don't expect to throw your kid's next birthday party here because there's limited space. I believe most people probably do carry out at this place. When we arrived, our pizza was ready. We paid $22 and went on our way.

I took a peak in the car and found the pizza to be a respectable size and coved in ample toppings. I could maybe forgive as long as the crust was chewy and delicious.

When we came home, Mr. Cupcake tested the pizza's bend-ability factor. It passed reasonably well.

The verdict? This pizza is the best NY style pizza we've had out here on the West Coast. The crust was chewy and had a slight crispness to it even after the drive home. It also didn't have that overwhelming yeasty flavor that a lot of NY style pizzas have out here. Mr. Cupcake was pleased. I was mostly pleased. The Canadian bacon/green onion combo was more satisfying than I was anticipating.

The owners have definitely tapped into a lacking market in the Bay Area. The other thing they have going for them is that they're open late into the night. Now, if only they carried tomatoes and opened a few new branches closer to the Peninsula. Maybe next time I'll be the psycho/weirdo customer who brings in her own sliced tomato in Gladware and begs them to add it her pizza order. I'm okay with being psycho/weirdo. So, yeah, maybe.