Archive for the ‘Culinary’ Category

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It’s Spargelzeit — Asparagus Time!

Monday, April 16th, 2012

The months of April, May, and June are an awesome time to find yourself in a number of German towns. I should say eat yourself silly in a number of German towns. All because of the Spargel, or asparagus to the English speaking readers out there.

Now I’ve said time and time again, this veggie really doesn’t get the respect it deserves. And most people just think of these green stalks served under Hollandaise sauce. Uh, they ain’t never showed up at a rustic German restaurant deadsmack in the middle of the King’s Vegetable Season.

Whether you serve or eat asparagus, it’s a very versatile veggie (and really healthy chocked full of potassium, folic acid, and some B vitamins) that can show up in a number of dishes.

A Couple Of Asparagus Recipe Ideas

A dish called Spargel-Nudelsalat mit Einern is a yummy pasta salad dish made with asparagus (hello!) and eggs.

Eggs show up again in the scrumptious Spargelsalat Vinaigrette recipe, thanks to

For something a bit more hearty, try Kartoffelauflauf mit Spargel (Asparagus Cassarole) that’s got (besides asparagus) potatoes, ham, and creme fraiche.

Asparagus Tips

Because in Germany we eat an average of over 70,000 tons of asparagus a year (amazing since the country only grows just over 55,000 tons) we sure do know how to cook it. As if the recipes I just mentioned above didn’t prove that. So if you’re going to try making it at home here are a few tips.

Never cook asparagus in an aluminum pot; always cook in salted water with butter; and to check if what you’re buying is fresh—squeeze the end to see if any “juice” comes out. If it doesn’t, it’s not fresh.

Asparagus Hot Spots

Asparagus is so popular it’s no wonder there are quite a few festivals to the veggie. Schwetzingen holds theirs on the 1st weekend of May, Bruchsal is two weeks later, and Graben-Neudorf has theirs the same month, too.

Great, another way to eat great German dishes. Plus, it’s nice to be home—I’m from Schwetzingen! :-)

Kaffee und Kuchen, Delicious And Relaxing

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Between 3pm and 4pm millions of Germans stop for Kaffee und Kuchen, or a coffee and cake break, to help get them through the rest of the day.

I guess you could drink tea, but what’s the point (unless you’re in East Frisia)? ;-)

But, whatever you choose to drink, might I suggest some of these delightfully, sinful treats to go with it?

Bayerische Creme

Anyone who’s been to Dunkin Donuts knows the Bavarian Kreme donut is one of the coffee chain’s most popular. Ha, they don’t know what true Bavarian Creme tastes like — made with sugar, milk, and vanilla bean, you serve this up in a pretty dessert dish — not a Berliner (which is also great, BTW).

In case you want to make it (it’s not all that hard) — here’s the recipe.

Oh yeah, it just hit me — Bavarian Creme isn’t a cake. Ah, no matter, the dessert is the stuff of legend — from its creation all the way back in the 1300s. ;-)

But to stay with the cake theme, try the famed Berliner. It’s one of my all-time favorites.

Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte

The famed Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, or Black Forest Cake in English, is a layer cake of cherry schnapps, cherries, chocolate, and heavy whipping cream. I think I need to let my pants out just writing about this decadent cake that’s popular all over the world.


Käsesahnetorte is cheese-cream cake, not a cheesecake. But, it is made with white cheese (called Quark), sugar, flour, and whipped cream. One thing: you’ll be disappointed if you’re into instant gratification — it’s got to sit in the fridge overnight to solidify.


Yeah, it’s got all the basic cake making ingredients — sugar, butter, milk, and yeast. Yet, the crumb topping (make with vanilla sugar, sugar, and butter) is what makes this Crumb Cake the bee’s knees. ;-)


I don’t care that the Linzertorte cake’s origins were in Austria (and baked in the Baden region since the late 17th century). I just know the inside is filled with almonds, rasberry jam, and cognac. Delicious!


The Strudel has been a staple around many German kitchens since the mid-15th century. Today you can order it with just about anything on the middle from Blood Sausage to poppyseeds, fruit, and veggie versions.


Sounds like a mouthful, but Zwetschgenkuchen is just a delicious plum cake. The crumb topping is made just like a crumb cake — but the fruity goodness on the inside is what makes this a little slice of Heaven.

Excuse me, I have a date with a cup of coffee and that plum cake. Care to join?

On Green Living And Ecotourism

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

As I’m sitting here at the computer my attention is a bit distracted. I keep looking out the window to a veggie garden—grown totally organic. Yup, they didn’t use any chemicals or anything harsh to come between us and the corn, radish, lettuce, and tomatoes.

They’re just like a lot of folks in Germany who have taken to organic and “gone green.” And it’s not just amateur farmers.

Tell me that that yummy food bought at a local Farmers Market or picked right from a local orchard doesn’t taste delicious? Yeah, I thought so. ;-)

It’s more than just eating Bioprodukte (organic food) that makes Germany a leader in the green movement. Eco-tourism is big business here—in a totally environmentally friendly way.

Ever heard of a climate neutral hotel? No? Me either. That was, until recently. They’re popping up all over these days. So if you’re hell bent on saving the Earth one vacation at a time, consider staying at accommodations that strive for ZERO emissions and no carbon footprint whatsoever.

A night or two at a German farm or eco-friendly campsite would work just as good, I would think? You’d tell me if I was wrong, wouldn’t you?

I’m torn on the next part of being environmentally friendly. We Germans have a love of the automobile not seen by the likes of many others around the globe (I say it’s a healthy obsession). So, before hopping into your sleek, sexy, gas-guzzling ride, think about the impact of all the gasoline and emissions.

Yikes, did I just say that? OK, you can always ask for a hybrid instead.

I just hope they’ll bring out energy and/or hydrogen powered cars sooner rather than later.

For you diehard Greenies, don’t worry about the car; take public transportation, the train, or your own two feet for that matter (like I often do myself). There are hundreds of nature parks in Germany, not to mention over a dozen National Parks—all meant to be enjoyed on foot or bicycle.

Yeah, I guess I need some more of those organic veggies to keep me going.

Teaching your kids to be nice to our planet is another adventure. Good thing Germany’s got museums like the Klimahaus, an interactive museum in Bremerhaven that’s all about the weather and climate.

Munich has got an exhibit at the Deutsche Museum that details the horrid effects of our non-green ways. Even the car maker Volkswagen has jumped on the green bandwagon (or, should I say green Volkswagon?) with its Level Green exhibit in the city of Wolfsburg.

Do you think it would be bad form me to drive to the Level Green exhibit by car?

On second thought, maybe I’ll walk…

Hessian Cuisine

Monday, March 19th, 2012

Scarlet O’Hara (from Gone With The Wind, if you’ve lived under a rock for the last 70+ years) said, “If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”

Well, Ms. O’Hara, you wouldn’t have been hungry if you ate your way around Hesse. There ain’t anyway that anyone could go hungry around here.

Start with Kassler Rippchen, a smoked pork that looks like ham, but isn’t. Kassler Rippchen has got a deeper, smokier flavor. Fry it. Grill it. Bake it. Just serve it with some red cabbage or kale for a true Germanic culinary dish.

Yeah, talk about baking — try the Zwiebelkuchen. It’s a “cake” made with onions and served with sour cream. Try it right outta the oven for the best flavor — but still manages to taste delicious as a leftover.

Another goodie right from the oven is Wasserweck, a wheat flour bread that’s yummy topped with butter & jam, cheese, or a number of wursts.

One wurst that’s popular here is the Frankfurter Würstchen. It looks like a long, skinny hot dog — but it ain’t anything like it, even if you do eat it with mustard. The proper way to cook these bad boys is to drop ’em in boiling water for about 10 minutes — but make sure you turn the flame off as soon as you drop them in.

Tired of the same old-same old with potatoes or eggs? Add some yummy Grüne Soße to them and feel your tastes buds pop with gratitude. It’s made with 7 different herbs — but only traditionally served from Holy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter) until the first frost shows up in the Fall.

Don’t have to worry about that if you live in a tropical climate, eh? ;-)

Make some Bethmännchen afterwards. These marzipan cookies with almonds and powered sugar are a sweet treat after a salty dish like Kassler Rippchen.

Uh, why am I talking to you when I should be munching on Bethmännchen instead. Thanks to, I’ll give you the recipe for Grüne Soße. This way I can enjoy my cookies… ;-)

If You Can’t Be German, Eat Like One

Monday, February 6th, 2012

My friend makes jokes that there are two types of people in the world — Italians and those who want to be. In her world she might be right, but in mine — if you can’t be German, you can, at least, eat like one.

Now, I’m guessing you’re aware that Germany has 16 federal states — and encompasses a pretty large area. None of which are alike. So, it’s not hard to believe that the food varies by region; and I’ve got the Rhineland area in my culinary sights today.

Meats, breads, sweets, whatever, you’ll find it all in the cooking of the Rhineland.

The most versatile is the Schwarzbrot (Dark Bread) that’s made with whole grain rye; tasting so delicious on its own or topped with any kind of wurst or cheese. Eat up, it’s good for you too.

When fried foods are calling your name, you got a choice of either Frikadellen (ground beef or pork) that can be eaten hot or cold (hmm, a multi-tasker, I like that). Or, try some pan-fried potatoes in oil or butter, and goes great with schnitzel or a wurst.

One meaty dish that’s been around for centuries is Sauerbraten. Made with either venison or beef, this marinated meat is usually served with red cabbage or potato dumpings.

OK, enough of the real food — I want dessert. Don’t you? Ahh, life’s short — eat dessert first! ;-)

Anyway, the Rhineland’s got the most delicious Obstkuchen, a fruit cake (not the Christmas re-gifting fruit cake) that’s made with either a sponge or yeast dough bottom.

My buds over at the say it goes good with whipped cream and a cup of java. Inasmuch as I agree — I think the fruitty goodness can stand alone. Here’s a fruit cake recipe, in case you’ve got a hankerin’ to make your own.

I will, however, take the cup of java with Kreppel. Similar to Berliner, this is a fried pastry that’s not really a donut. Who cares, we Germans have been making them since the 15th century. Hmm, looks like we were the original Dunkin Donuts, huh?

After eating meals like that, is it even possible to feel even MORE German? Uhhh, yeah! :-)

Tipping And Table Etiquette In Germany

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Ya know, Americans get a really awful rap about table manners when traveling abroad. I ain’t saying that it ain’t rightfully deserved (in some cases), but navigating your way around a restaurant in a foreign land could, well, be foreign.

As progressive as we Germans are, I’m sure we seem a bit foreign to the average traveler. So, I’ll help you figure out the simple nuances of eating like a German — even if you’re not eating traditional German cuisine.

Your first test is when you arrive at the eatery. You’re going to have to find your own seat (exceptions apply). Second, it’s not unheard of some stranger to come sit with you if the restaurant’s crowded — it’s an efficient use of space.

Don’t worry about making small talk — that’s definitely not the German way. Just eat your food and be on your merry way.

Next, see that basket of bread on the table? First rule of Economics applies here — no such thing as a free Mittagessen (that’s lunch in German), so chances are you’ll have to pay for what you ate. Just ask if you’re not sure.

You’ll even pay for condiments (ketchup, mustard, etc.) in fast-food joints. Although traditional fast-food in Germany is the Döner Kebap (served in a pita) — and never once have I seen ketchup on it. So eat that — and you’ll be fine.

All right, your food’s arrived, now what? Um, good manners say that you don’t eat until everyone has their food. Also, eating with your fingers — use forks & knives to eat pizza, will you?

It’s not bad form to eat “American-style” (that’s with the fork in your right hand, cutting with the right while switching the fork to the left) — it’s just not the most efficient way to eat.

And we know how much that makes a Kraut crazy, right? ;-)

Want to see a German get really indignant? Ask for a glass of tap water with or before your meal. You’d think you had just sprouted a third eye and a turned purple. Actually, I think that would garner less of a reaction. Do yourself a favor, if you want water drink Mineralwasser (sparkling water like Pellegrino or Perrier).

You’re fed. You’ve got your drink. Now it’s time to pay the bill. I sure hope you’ve asked if the restaurant took plastic beforehand. That’s right, even the best restaurants don’t always take your Master, Visa, or AMEX card.

And, never, never, never, leave your tip on the table for your server. It’s customary to round up your bill (usually 5-10%), telling your waitress or waiter what you’ll pay, then give it to them.

Just don’t ask ’em to wrap up your leftovers in a Doggy-bag. That’s almost as bad as asking for that tap water. ;-)

A New Jewish Germany

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

When touring our German History pages, you’ll notice that a few of them have to do with, shall I say, some of the darkest events of the 20th century.

Throughout the reigning years of the Third Reich, Germany’s Jewish population suffered and many of their buildings were destroyed.

But, I’m here to tell you that Germany’s Jewish population is again on the rise (just over a hundred-thousand people)—and many of the country’s big cities have enough to see if you’re looking for a Jewish Germany.

Let’s start at the capital, shall we?


In what was once part of East Berlin you can see the Old Jewish Quarter and the New Synagogue Museum (the synagogue is thought to be one of the most beautiful in the country). Also in Berlin is the German History Museum with an entire Hitler exhibit—and the city is home to the Berggruen Museum, an art museum filled with works donated by a Jewish art collector.


Frankfurt’s Jewish community lived in a ghetto-like area known as Judengasse from around the mid-15th century. Its West End Synagogue is one of the very few to have survived the anti-Jewish Kristallnacht in November 1938. At the Old Jewish Cemetery you’ll find the names of every Jewish Frankfurter deported; and the Jüdisches Museum highlights the history of the Jewish community from medieval times right up to the 20th century.


Yes, Heidelberg was once a hotbed of Nazi activity. However, the city was home to a Jewish community since medieval times. 13th century scholar, Rabbi Meir came to live here. Today you can see one of the best preserved Jewish Quarters on the European Continent.


Ah, the city of Worms—this is home to Germany’s oldest synagogue (which is also known as Rashi’s Chapel), built in 1034. It did have to be rebuilt a few times over the last millennia—the last being after it was destroyed on November 10, 1938.


Dresden’s New Synagogue was built using parts of the original 19th century Semper Synagogue—that was left in ruins after the infamous Night of the Broken Glass.


The Swabian town of Augsburg has a beautiful Art Nouveau Synagogue and its own Jewish Museum.


There’s a whole lot of Jewish history in the big city chic of Munich, and part of a visit to it means heading towards the city of Dachau, and the infamous Dachau Concentration Camp. Guided tours are available of the camp 9am-5pm, Tuesdays through Sundays.

Within Munich itself, its synagogue finally reopened sixty-eight years to the day after the original was destroyed by the Nazis. You’ll even find Jewish manuscripts in the State Library—and a place that serves a kosher Weisswurst.

Hey, after all this touring around a new Jewish Germany—you’ve got to be hungry, right?

Insects In German Cuisine, Anyone?

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Gag. Ick. Um, excuse me. I’m trying to hold down my lunch as I type this. Shouldn’t have been digging around that site, so I guess it’s my own fault.

I’ll be the first one to sing the praises of fine German cuisine from the rooftops. But, bugs? That’s a bit much for me.

It isn’t, however, for a man by the name of Thomas Knack. He decided to sell all sorts of (dare I say it?) bugs for sale on his German website Braidy Snack.

German health officials kind of had a cow (do you blame them?). Yet to be fair, to Herr Knack dung beetles, scorpions, grubs, and spiders have long been sold in places like exotic Thailand, as well as plenty other towns & cities across the Pacific, Asia, and South America.

Mr. Knack and scientists state that bugs are full of vitamins and plenty of protein. Bamboo worms are said to taste like ham. I say, why not just eat the ham? And grasshoppers have a flavor like chicken. Again, give me the chicken.

You don’t have to order your grubs online; you can stop in at the Weinkeller on Linienstrasse 147, Berlin—just in case you can’t wait for your, aack, insecty treat to arrive in the mail.

Ugh, I can’t believe I’m writing this. ;-)

Doesn’t a fine Cannibal Sandwich (meat, onions, mustard on rye bread) sound better? Yeah, I’ll take that over some grass moth munchies any day of the week.

It’s no wonder that Mr. Knack has had a hard time getting local folks to try his wares. This is a land of Black Forest Ham and Black Forest Cake (made with delicious cherries, not crunchy cooties).

I’m also pretty sure that Andrew Zimmern on his Bizarre Foods Blog didn’t mention all these crawly delicacies when he came to Germany. I’d like to think I would have remembered that. But, I could be wrong, since I’m so inclined to tune out when bugs are involved.

What do you think? Does the bug treat thing sound like it could make its way into German cuisine?

Nah, bug (I mean, but) good luck to Mr. Knack for trying.

Bavarian Cuisine, Famous Around The World

Monday, November 14th, 2011

You can probably tell when I’m hungry, because it seems like that when I write blogs on Germany’s most amazing cuisine.

So where’s the place that piqued my culinary interest this time?

Bavaria, my friends, good ol’ Bavaria.

Bavaria is a pretty big place, and it’s known for three types of regional dishes—Franconian, traditional Bavarian, and Swabian.

Since Swabia encompasses parts of Baden-Württemberg, I’m only going to give you the scoop on some of the best of Franconia and traditional Bavaria.


It’s not uncommon to see both Rotkraut and Weisskraut served as a side dish to schnitzel or potato dumplings. Rotkraut (that’s the red stuff) is a bit sweeter than the white (I mean green cabbage), so expect it when you eat it.

Spargel (asparagus) is also common in Franconian cooking; and you’ll find it on a menu from April to June. It’s chocked full of vitamins and minerals, so not only is the “king’s veggie” delicious—it’s good for you too.

The Knieküchle isn’t all that great for you (it’s a deep fried sweet bread), but oh is it simply divine. A nice way to end a meal, I must say.

Traditional Bavarian Cuisine

Sure, you’ve heard of the pretzel—well thanks to Bavaria, this has become a modern day snack. However, that’s not the only contribution the region has given to the world.

Ever heard of apple strudel? Of course you have! This is a yummy dessert made with apples, cinnamon, and often rum. Oh, that’s why I like it so much. ;-)

But, before you have dessert you got to eat something normal, right? Try Wiener Schnitzel or Schweine (pork) Schnitzel. My Italian-American friends call it a cutlet, but I ain’t splittin’ hairs, OK?

For a starter, try the simple yet delicious Kartoffelsuppe, a potato soup made with bacon, onion, celery, and carrots.

If you’ve come to Munich you might have heard people talking about Weisswurst. This is a sausage that has its own set of “rules” to eat it by—never after noon (and I mean precisely at noon), never consumed with a knife & fork (use your hands), and mustard is generally the only acceptable condiment. Although…

I am one of those who willingly and frequently dismisses these rules…

If I wasn’t hungry before, I certainly am now. I think I better go get a schnitzel and some apple strudel before I eat my keyboard.

And the next time I get hungry—I’ll bring you another blog post on German cuisine, OK?

Groupies Sure Do Eat Great

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

I think it was my lovely neighbors (the French) that kicked off this tirade. They sure were mad when Cologne’s Anuga Food Show (an annual event in October) said that foie gras wasn’t allowed.

Oh boy, were they mad.

What’s the big deal about foie gras? Isn’t it a luxury food like caviar?

Yeah, except the practice of making geese or ducks binge eat like they got bulimia (without the evacuating part of it) to fatten their livers is now a heated debate.

Lots of people out there don’t eat certain meats because of handling practices (one person I know doesn’t eat veal because of how they’re treated).

But, whether our French friends are up in arms over whether foie gras was allowed or not, rest assured that there are a variety of other food festivals and shows that don’t include eating fat duck liver.

Food Fairs & Festivals in Germany

January is a big month for food shows. One of the biggest is the International Green Week in Berlin. Actually, it’s a food, agriculture, and horticulture show (2012 date: January 20-29).

Just as Berlin’s show ends, the Sweets & Biscuits Fair kicks off in Cologne, which is all about new trends in confectionery delights. Who cares, bring on the chocolate—FAST!

Berlin’s at it again with the Freshconex Fair, that’s all about the juiciest, freshest, yummiest produce (salads, juices) you can find. I guess you better go if you want a healthy option after hittin’ up the sweets fair.

Munich is not to be outdone—their response is the Starkbierzeit (Strong Beer Week). Yes, I’m aware that this 2-week festival (kicking off around March 19) in the middle of Lent is about the beer. But, I did have to give it an honorable mention.

And don’t confuse this with Bavarian Beer Day that’s the official start to Bavarian Beer Week.

Now do you understand why I make jokes about Bavaria and beer all the time?

Anyway, Bavarian Beer Day kicks off on April 23 in honor of the date that a Bavarian Duke decreed the Beer Purity Law in 1516.

One of the biggest festivals is the Bad Dürkheim Sausage and Wine Festival in Bad Dürkheim. It might seem like it’s all about the wine (150 varieties available) but the Wurstmarkt is about the sausage. This festival is so popular (with fireworks) it takes place over 2 weekends (2nd & 3rd weekends in September). Make new friends while you’re sampling some great vino at a Schubkärchler, a small wine stand.

It’s back to Bavaria for one of the biggest food festivals in the country, Oktoberfest.

Stop laughing! Oktoberfest might be where more than 7 million liters of beer are consumed during the 16-day festival, but lots of local specialties are eaten during the event too. Try some Hendl (it’s chicken so don’t be alarmed), some roast pork dishes, Kasspatzn (cheese noodles), Weisswurst, and/or Obatzda.

Look, you better eat while you’re drinking—otherwise you’ll be what we call a Bierleiche (a “beer corpse”), all passed out in an Oktoberfest Beer Tent.

Who’s laughing now? :-)

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