Mardis Gras, German Style

Today was the Fasching parade in Stuttgart. (Fasching is also known as Mardis Gras, Fat Tuesday, Pancake Day, or Carnival.) Although I’ve celebrated Carnival in Italy a couple of times this was a first for me in Germany. Stuttgart holds the parade in the afternoon followed by a big party at the Dinkelacker brewery. The parade starts at 2pm at the Schlossplatz and runs through Planie, Karlsplatz, Rathaus, and ends at Tübinger Straße. The parade lasts about 2 hours and the party begins at 4pm. I’d recommend arriving about 30 minutes early if you want a spot up front as it does get busy. Or, as I learned today, reserve a table at the Cube restaurant and watch from above.

Unfortunately, today was really cold and rainy so not an ideal day for a parade, but I toughed it out until the very end! Since this was my first time I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I suppose I thought it would be magical and carnival-themed. Well, was I in for a surprise! The only thing that I can compare it to is American Halloween. It felt like I was at a Halloween parade in February. All of the kids were dressed up and brought little bags to fill up with candy being thrown by those in the parade. The creatures in the parade were creepy and scary. It was dark. Perhaps the weather was appropriate?! Anyway, I’ll let the photos tell the story:

See what I mean?? 🙂 This yellow guy took off my winter hat and rubbed his big piece of cheese on my head! While it wasn’t quite what I expected, it was really fun (especially for the kiddos) and I would definitely recommend going if you find yourself in Stuttgart this time of year.

And, while the parade wasn’t at all political, one group used their platform to take a jab at the newly elected U.S. President:

Good work, Germans. 🙂

The Architecture of Stuttgart West

I recently became involved with InterNations, an online community for expatriates and locals worldwide. In fact, I just became a Consul for the Feuersee Stammtisch (Fire Lake Regular Get-Together) group and hosted my first event last week — an African dinner for 12 people at Ebony. The event was well attended (11/12 showed, which I hear is very rare in a good way) and we had good conversation and ate very good food. My responsibility as Consul is to host at least one event per month. Next up: Classic English Afternoon Tea Time at the Althoff Hotel am Schlossgarten’s John Cranko Lounge on Sunday, March 26th.

On Sunday afternoon I attended an event planned by Harmut (“Harry”) who happens to live just around the corner from me. A group of us met at Harry’s apartment for a 2-hour walk and architectural tour of my neighborhood, Stuttgart West. I should start by saying that I know next to nothing about architecture, but the tour forced me to really look at the buildings around me and to look up, which is where most of the really interesting architectural elements can be found.

Harry called the event “Gründerzeit – Historismus -Jugendstil” which loosely translates to “Time – History – Art Nouveau.” (Jugendstil literally translates to “Youth Style” in German.) We saw examples of Romanesque, Renaissance, Baroque, and Art Nouveau architecture throughout the neighborhood. I should note that all of these buildings (the beautiful buildings!) were built before WWII. It is very clear, when walking down any German street, which buildings came before the war, and which were bombed and rebuilt after. The buildings that came after may be colorful (painted shades of pinks, blues, yellows) but they are very plain with flat facades made of concrete. Here I will share some photos from the afternoon, and I’ll start with my favorite building:

Here is a collage of typical buildings you’ll find in Stuttgart West:

Here is a now-school in my neighborhood that was built in 1900:

We saw so many animals! Frogs, Monkeys, Snakes, Elephants…

The Sankt Elisabeth Kirche:

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There are a few hidden green spaces, located behind apartment buildings, that can be used to plant a garden, play with kids on the playground, relax in the sun when the weather is nice, etc. Here are a couple of photos of one of these green spaces:

Unfortunately, there aren’t nearly enough green spaces! Instead, most of the space behind apartment buildings was used to house factories where people worked. Today, those old factories are where people call home:

We also walked through a little tunnel in Stuttgart West and climbed a couple hundred stairs for a sneak peak of the valley. I learned that this tunnel, at the time it was built, was the longest in Germany. Funny to think about now because it’s so little!

Finally, here are a few street views:

Thanks, Harry, for a great afternoon!

Vienna’s Naschmarkt

Although I’ve only been to Vienna a handful of times, the Naschmarkt is not to be missed when we visit Robert’s family and friends. “Nasch” means “to eat” or “to snack,” which makes sense as it’s Vienna’s largest food market, or market of any kind. The market boasts over 100 permanent stalls and is over 1.5 kilometers long. It is located in the 6th district and is within walking district of all the very touristy (and beautiful) sights including Schönbrunn Palace, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Hofburg Palace, and the Opera House.

At Naschmarkt you’ll find just about any food product you can imagine. Of course there are a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and flowers, but also seafood, cheese, nuts, pottery, tea, meat/butchers, wine, oil, sweets, coffee, bread, and more. We visited just after the new year on a very cold day in January so the market was much less busy than usual, which was actually kind of nice as it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves! We wandered around, bought some nice tea, and warmed up in one of the many restaurants on-site. Here are some photos from our visit:

If you’re planning a visit to the Naschmarkt, I found this guide to be really helpful in choosing restaurants to eat at and local specialties to buy.

A New Year in Austria

Robert and I made the long drive (~6 hours) from Stuttgart to Bad Fischau, a little village just south of Vienna, to celebrate New Year’s Eve or Silvester (in reference to Saint Silvester) as it is called here and much of this corner of Europe. We spent the evening with Robert’s parents, his sister and her husband, our two young nephews (they were asleep by the time we arrived), and a few family friends. Robert’s parents have the home in Fischau for weekends and holidays, but spend most of their time in Vienna.

We were welcomed with a large spread of meat, cheese, eggs, and veggies for raclette, a traditional holiday dinner in Austria. Simply put, you load up a triangle-shaped metal vessel with just about anything you like. Then, cover with a slice of cheese — one that melts fairly easily, of course. Stick the vessel into the raclette and wait and watch until the cheese on the top begins to bubble and brown. Remove it from the raclette, then scrape out of the vessel with your little wooden spoon onto your plate and enjoy!

Robert’s mother had a ton of ingredients to choose from including tomato, red pepper, mushrooms, capers, olives, garlic, onion, bacon, ham, boiled potatoes, bread, and of course the cheese.  This is a tradition I can certainly get behind!

Just before midnight we all headed outside with a glass of champagne to watch the fireworks, which were going off all over Vienna. It felt like the 4th of July in the U.S. Bad Fischau is 20-30 miles south of Vienna, but at a higher elevation so we had a really nice view of the entire city. Also, Robert’s father set off some very nice fireworks in the yard so we had our very own private fireworks display.

After the fireworks we all headed back inside to do Bleigißen, a tradition where you place a small piece of lead on a spoon, melt it over a candle, and then throw the melted lead into a bowl of cold water. Then you try to make out what kind of shape you’ve created and what that might tell you about your life in the new year. As you can see in the pictures below, I started with a small bottle of Sekt (bubbly) and ended up with something that kind of resembled a boat or maybe a lizard or an alien? It’s hard to say, and I have no idea what this creature might tell me about my 2017, but it was fun to do nonetheless.

Finally, we all took turns picking little good luck charms out of grab bags. Typical good luck charms in Austria include mushrooms, ladybugs, and the number 13. You’re supposed to keep these charms in your wallet all year for good luck. I picked a ladybug and a number 13 with a little mushroom:

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All in all, my first New Year celebration as an expat in Europe was really, really nice. I experienced new traditions (raclette, fireworks, Bleigeßen, and good luck charms) and felt really welcomed by Robert’s family, despite the language barrier (Deutsch, why must you be so difficult??!)

Happy New Year! Happy 2017!

 

Dukatenschnitzerl

On Christmas Eve Robert and I feasted on fresh raw oysters, a fresh whole baked trout with lemon and herbs, and parsley potatoes before opening gifts in the evening. Unlike in the States, Germans (along with many other European countries) celebrate Christmas on the 24th, Christmas Eve, with a big family dinner and  gift exchange in the evening.

On Christmas Day we made dukatenschnitzerl, or little fried balls of pork and fried potatoes with a lemon-thyme salt and fried parsley. This dish reminds me of the classic British fish and chips dish, but pork instead of fish. (Is there honestly anything better than fried pork??!) It´s a classic Austrian dish. We used a recipe from the Wiener Küche cookbook by Susanne Zimmel. FYI:  “Dukaten” is an old word for “coin” and the pieces of pork and potato are roughly the size of coins, which is where this dish gets its name — “little coin schnitzel.”

First, here is a list of ingredients you will need:

  • Potatoes
  • Fresh thyme
  • Fresh parsley
  • Lemon
  • Pork tenderloin
  • Butter
  • Lard
  • Eggs
  • Flour
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Salt & Pepper

To get started, boil the potatoes until they are soft, about 30 minutes. While the potatoes are boiling, remove a few sprigs of thyme from the stem.

Then, get out your mortar and pestle to make the lemon-thyme salt. First, place the thyme inside and add the zest of one lemon. Crush well. Then, add salt and pepper and crush well once more. (As you can see, we also added a few dried tomatoes because we had them, but these are not required.)

While the potatoes continue to boil, cut up the pork tenderloin into bite-sized pieces. Also, set up your flour-egg-breadcrumb station (from left to right) as you can see below. At this point, the potatoes are likely soft and can be removed from the boiling water. Once the potatoes have cooled a bit and are easy to handle, peel them and cut into bite-sized pieces as well.

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Pork tenderloin cut into small pieces
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Flour + Eggs + Breadcrumbs
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Boiled potatoes cut into bite-sized pieces

Next, put the butter and the lard (schmalz) into a big pot, which is what you will use to fry the pork, potatoes, and parsley. Allow the butter and lard to melt and then raise the temperature to 150ºC for frying. Add the potatoes to the pot with butter and lard and fry until they´re crunchy like french fries or chips.

Next, fry a few sprigs of fresh parsley in the same pot of hot butter and lard. Make sure to have a plate or bowl lined with paper towel nearby where you can deposit the potatoes, parsley, and ultimately the pork after frying so that any excess frying grease can be absorbed.

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Fried Potatoes
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Fried Parsley

Now, take the pork pieces and dip into the flour, then the eggs, and finally the breadcrumbs before placing into the frying pot. Be sure the butter-lard is still at 150ºC for frying. Fry the pork until golden brown in color.

Now that the potatoes, parsley, and pork has been fried you’re ready to assemble! We served our dinner in newspaper cones as if it were street food. Just load up the cone with pieces of the fried pork and fried potatoes and top with slices of lemon, the fried parsley, and the lemon-thyme salt …and bon appetit!

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Feinkost Panzer – Stuttgart West

One of my most favorite places in Stuttgart is located just around the corner from our apartment in Stuttgart West, a little shop called Feinkost Panzer. I mentioned this special place in a previous blog post, but finally got around to taking a few more pictures inside the store to share here.

The store is run by a tiny blonde woman, Theresia Panzer, and is modeled after a small  delicatessen she stumbled upon while in Paris, pictured here:

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Frau Panzer handpicks all of the items she sells, and it’s clear that she has great taste!  She sells a little bit of everything — fruit, vegetables, meats and cheeses, bread, pasta, chocolates and other sweets, wine, juice and soda, flowers, coffees and teas, oils and vinegars, jams, honey, and the list goes on and on. She’s even getting us a whole fish from the market tomorrow morning at 5am (!) for our Christmas dinner.

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Feinkost Panzer is also a stop on the Stuttgart West walking culinary tour. If you visit Stuttgart, be sure to visit this gem…and tell her that Dr. Ebner and Nicole sent you! 🙂

Finnish Christmas Market Stuttgart

Yesterday I had an appointment at the Deutsch-Amerikanisches Zentrum (or German-American Center) here in Stuttgart. (More on that meeting later — exciting things to come, I think!) Anyway, the DAZ is located at the Charlottenplatz and I had some time to kill before my meeting so I stopped at the Christmas Market (Weihnachtsmarkt) for the obligatory rote wurst (or red sausage, a favorite in Swabia) and then, completely by accident, stumbled upon the Finnish Christmas Market.

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Rote Wurst

We walked through the Finnish market while in Hannover, but I had no idea that something similar was here in Stuttgart. It’s a really special area of the market, located just across the way from the ice skating rink. There’s a really nice gift shop with Finnish specialty foods and handmade winter clothes — very nice things, but also very expensive. There are also several outdoor fire pits where fresh salmon (flammlachs) is being grilled to perfection to be served alone or on a sandwich and their famous mulled wine, Glögi, is served. If you find yourself in Stuttgart during the holiday season, I highly recommend adding the Finnish section of the Christmas market to your bucket list.

After enjoying flammlachs and Glögi, head over to the Grand Cafe Planie on the Karlsplatz for coffee and dessert. Or flammkuchen. They have really good flammkuchen too. 🙂 They have a huge dessert counter in front with all kinds of house-made cakes, pies, and baked goods. It’s such a warm, cozy spot perfect for this time of year — and it’s really nicely decorated for the holidays. I opted for the blueberry cheesecake, which did not disappoint!

 

 

A Few Days in Hannover

Last week Robert had a conference in Hannover, Germany and I tagged along for the chance to spend a few days in another German city. Hannover is in the north so the weather wasn’t so great — very windy and rainy this time of year. We stayed right near the conference center at the Congress Hotel am Stadtpark, which is also very close to the Erlebnis Zoo and the Stadtpark (city park). Here’s a photo of the view from our room:

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We were three train stops (10 minutes) from downtown and the old part of the city, which is home to the annual Hannover Weihnachtsmarkt or Christmas market. I thought the Christmas market here in Stuttgart was big, but it’s nothing compared to Hannover! In fact, they have three different holiday markets throughout the city — one in the old historic district, one in the pedestrianized area downtown, and one near the main train station. We walked through the first two of three. There are over 150 stalls selling just about everything under the sun. And the lights and decorations are just spectacular!

The market in the historic old section of the city is like nothing I’ve seen before. It felt like we were in the Game of Thrones, no joke. It was very dark and medieval. There were no bright holiday lights or music. Instead there were fire throwers, ax throwers, fortune tellers, and all kinds of vendors selling mysterious potions and artifacts. Although a little spooky, this section of the market is not to be missed as it’s definitely a one-of-a-kind experience. Also, right next to the medieval market is the Finnish Christmas market where you can enjoy flammlachs or slow-grilled salmon cooked over an open fire.

Finally, I can’t talk about our short trip without mentioning an unforgettable dinner. Thanks to Trip Advisor we found an amazing little family-run restaurant within walking distance of our hotel called Hindenburg Klassik. Highly recommend! We started with an amuse-bouche, compliments of the chef, a crab and herb roll filled with cucumber, tomato, and prosciutto. Next came a poached egg topped with fresh black truffle, three types of duck liver with poached pear, and for the main entree we shared a European sea bass (branzino) that was deboned and prepared tableside. I’m still thinking about that egg… 🙂

An American Thanksgiving in Germany

Robert and I hosted our second annual Thanksgiving dinner here in Stuttgart. We celebrated one day late, on Friday, November 25th and hosted 7 friends at our home.

(Long story short, our dinner last year was a total flop! I flew from Chicago to Stuttgart the night before and didn’t get really any sleep on the flight. Also, Robert worked a 24-hour shift the day before so we were both just beat. The only benefit of flying in just before the holiday last year was that I packed my suitcase to the brim with typical Thanksgiving ingredients that are very hard to find here — Stove Top stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy in a jar, etc.  So, needless to say, this year everything we prepared was homemade and I’m happy to report that we really pulled it off!)

Here are photos of some of the decorations I was able to find on Amazon.de that we used to decorate our living room and dinner table:

As expected, I wasn’t able to find a whole lot of Thanksgiving decorations, but what I did find made our home feel festive and cozy — and a vast improvement over the simple white tablecloth and unsatisfying food we provided last year! Speaking of food, I didn’t take nearly enough photos as we were so busy preparing food and entertaining guests. However, a copy of the menu is above and here are a few photos along with links to recipes. I’ll say here that everything was really good and I’d highly recommend these recipes for any Thanksgiving gathering, or any occasion at all.

In the picture on the left, you can see the homemade slow cooker creamed corn and roasted butternut squash and Brussels sprouts with a honey-orange dressing and pomegranate seeds. I made both of these dishes the day before, refrigerated overnight, and reheated just before our guests arrived. On the right is our custom Herbstgold cake from the bakery down the street, torte & törtchen. Our friend Caro made a Manhattan cheesecake, which was delicious and reminded me of home.

We did a really typical and easy turkey — stuffed with lemons, celery, carrots, and herbs and then smothered with butter, salt, and pepper. Our bird was 7.5 kilograms bought at the Vogelsang Bio Markthalle for 150€. Super expensive, I know. I also know that it was fresh (killed the day before) and organic, but the price still shocked the both of us. My guess is that the butcher at this market probably doesn’t sell a whole lot of whole turkeys so perhaps they’re not sure how to price properly. We also did really easy mashed potatoes with milk, butter, and a little fresh nutmeg.

I used a handy chart that I found on Buzzfeed to prepare the stuffing. The only additional ingredient I added was bacon (10 slices) and I used dried rosemary and thyme because I couldn’t find fresh sage.

Robert made our appetizers. We had Liptauer, which is a spicy red pepper and cheese dip typical in Austria that he remembers eating often as a child. He also made bruschetta — one with cherry tomatoes and one with avocado.

Needless to say, we were all stuffed and I think we were successfully able to redeem ourselves from last year’s disaster! I think (and hope!) that they’ll all come back again to celebrate with us again next year. 🙂

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving! I’m still wearing my fat pants… 🙂

Super Easy Stuffed Peppers

Last night Robert and I made really easy stuffed peppers. You’ll need the following ingredients:

  • Large bell peppers (we used red, green, and yellow)
  • Bulgar, cooked
  • Chickpeas
  • Fresh Chives
  • Feta Cheese

The easy recipe is as follows: cut the peppers in half and clean out the inside, in a bowl combine chives + bulgar + chickpeas and then use this mix to fully stuff each pepper, top with feta cheese and roast in the oven (we had our oven set at 200°C) for 15 minutes. Here is a picture of the peppers before they went in the oven and one after. ENJOY!