Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Merry Christmas to all!

Well, my promise to be more active didn't hold up, did it? This isn't good because I really did mean to. I can't believe that Christmas is here already. Can you?

I have already decided that the chocolate thumbprints I made before are good enough to be considered a Christmas favourite for the recipe files. I made at least 10 batches of them during the first week of December for home, school nosh or gift donation.

oooey, gooey cinnybun centers--it's all butter,brown sugar and cinnamon, baby!

Now I have cinnamon buns to look forward to on Christmas morning. Never has there been a Christmas without those gooey, bready, sweet confections (sans icing...bleah!). EVER. It wouldn't be the same.

I hope all of you out there have a wonderful winter holiday season and enjoy the traditional treats it brings. Peace, Love and Harmony to you All!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Thumbs up to Christmas

I guess sometimes you can just loathe the idea of using the kitchen. Especially when you are busy and reinvigorating your love of teaching. It’s not that that I didn’t cook some creative things. I roasted duck for the first time in my life back in September and, according to the Frog, it turned out perfectly. I’ve just spent so much time trying to be creative all day at school that all I wanted to do at home was crash. Well known, quick recipes have been the norm. No Boeuf Bourguignon. No sushi. Nothing that required too much planning or thought. But now that reporting period is over and I feel more in the swing of things at school, I’m coming back to haunt the foodie blog halls. After all, who can resist the temptation of Christmas baking. I’m already ten-fold happier with the scent of spilled cinnamon wafting up from my be-floured clothes and the multi-coloured lights glimmering around the computer nook window.

I’m actually playing around with a recipe right now that has been one of my less favourite family Christmas cookies--the well-known thumbprint. When you are in the mood for them they are so perfectly sweet and rich with their dabble of nuts and little cup of gooey jam. But I’m often not in the mood for them because I find them too sweet and, okay, let’s face it—I really don’t like the walnuts on them. So I’m on the hunt for a good thumbprint recipe that will satisfy a sweet tooth without being too cloying and a little less walnutty. I'm not even sure what I'm looking for. I'll know when I've found it. ;-)

Experiment thumbprint cookie # 1 : Chocolate thumbprint cookies
Source: One Smart Cookie by Julie Van Rosendaal
Tweaks: for half the recipe, I added chestnut spread in the indentation
Marks out of 10: 8 (quite good as a carrier but base can't stand on its own as well)

¼ cup stick margarine or butter, softened (I used salted butter)
½ cup sugar
¼ cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp corn syrup ( I used golden)
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp instant coffee granules, dissolved in 1 tsp water
1 ½ cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¼- 1/3 cup raspberry jam or other preserves ( I used raspberry for ½ the batch and
chestnut for the other ½)

icing sugar for sprinkling (optional) (I used ground up pink decorating sugar for
the raspberry preserves and cinnamon for the chestnut spread)

* Preheat oven to 375ºF
* In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar and brown sugar until well-blended. Beat in corn syrup, egg, vanilla, and coffee until smooth
* In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to the sugar mixture and stir by hand just until you have a soft dough.
* Roll dough into 1” – 1 1/2” balls, and place 1” – 2” apart on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick spray (I actually used parchment paper and it worked just fine). Make an indentation in the middle of each cookie with your thumb ( I dusted my thumb with flour after I found the dough too sticky to use just my thumb). Fill each dent with jam.
* Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes, until just set around the edges. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. If you like, sprinkle cooked cookies with icing sugar (or crushed sugar/ cinnamon in my case)
* Makes 2 dozen cookies.

My thoughts:
(1)The chocolate dough acts as a good carrier for a more prominently-flavoured filling. The French chestnut spread I had was relatively weak in flavour to stand on its own but with a touch of cinnamon it was certainly elevated. Raspberry, of course, took center stage and needed little help. In fact, it made the chocolate really come out in the base cookie.
(2)The timing they give was probably fine for a less finicky oven as mine. Keeping it to a 11 minute period was just fine and made the cookie more chewy, which I like. You really have to be careful with the timing of cooking. The first batch was a bit dark around the edges because I relied on the book’s timings instead of instinct.

The results

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Memories of France

Since I was such a slacker in Summer to show my Brittany food, here's a teaser of items I ate:

A tartar of salmon with beets and creme fraiche: surprising flavour mix 9/10

Foie gras with an apple tart and parsley salad: amazing taste, way too rich for me 8/10

sliced rolls of pistachio and pigeon: I can say I had pigeon.Very strong in taste 7/10

Rouget with Mediterranean veggies and a sauce with black olives: 7/10

Palais of cream cheese with strawberries. Lime Creme Anglaise. Almond scented cookie
20/10... I would live in this dessert if I could. For Life. It is what I would describe as perfect. Everything was so perfect you'd either have to cry or swear to get out the type of emotional impact it had on me. God, those strawberries were absolutely perfect.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Strokin' Ye Ole Ego

I love teachers. Seriously LOVE them! Not only are they ready to piranha-swarm any food you lay out for them like it was their last meal but they will compliment you when they come up for air. It can really go to a person's head when you have people saying, "Oooh! Who made this? I'll bet it was Nerissa!" That's what I heard at the last potluck luncheon we had at the Friday workshop.

Potluck luncheons are fairly common in our corner of the world if a workshop is at hand. There's a variety of foods brought every time but salmon presence is particular evident. Everything from spreads to the latest batch of salmon from the smoke house made regular appearances. In this season and on this coast we are spoiled rotten with salmon. So, on Friday, who was I to change anything? I had a yen for a holiday treat gleaned from my grandmother's recipes so I treated everyone to it. With all the cream cheese in it, it wouldn't be wise to eat it all by myself anyways ;-)

It is seen here without the nut decorations but we have staff with severe allergies (sucks to be him). However, sans the nuts I found a great opportunity to use my new dishes which I got for a song.

Salmon Log

2 tins Pacific Salmon (7 1/2 oz.)drained of most its liquids
8 oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese
1 tbsp Horseradish
dash Lemon Juice
1/4 tsp Liquid Smoke
1 tbsp green onion

Mix all ingredients together until well blended. It is best when made the night before serving. We've put it in decorative moulds or chilled it in bowls. You can shape it into a log hence the name. Garnish with walnuts and chopped parsley. Serve with crackers, toast points, a spoon ;-)


That's it! It's really easy with lots of yummy comfort food goodness. I like it best on Saltines or Melba toast.

Monday, September 18, 2006

5 Foods To Eat Before You Die

Four score and seven years ago I was sent a meme... I'm just getting to it now. I do apologize to all those who tagged me for the 5 Things to Eat Before You Die meme for the long wait. Bless you, Bonnie, Cyndi and Jasmine for your patience.

Narrowing down foodly perfection isn't easy. And sometimes the best food in one's eyes isn't necessarily exotic or rare. Often it's the food we desire in the moments of comfort. We wonder why everyone doesn't love it or has not yet experienced it. I thought of foods that changed my view of the world and the way I eat.

My list is as follows:

1) Wind-dried Pacific salmon flesh and sun-dried kelp with a dipping sauce of Nass Valley ooligan-fish grease. I know it's rather specific but of the three kinds of ooligan grease I know, Nass grease has better flavour. This suggestion really has ocean written all over it. Each one has a unique flavour but together they are better than the sum of their parts.

2) Foie Gras. This blew my mind more than once. The taste experience, the texture, everything about it is so overwhelming that it defies better words to describe it. And it tastes even better with cooked fruit. Buttery and sweet, it's a great treat but make sure your gallbladder is prepared.

3) Thin-skinned green eating apples taken right off the tree after it has been warmed by the afternoon September sun. I know, I know... very specific again. You have to trust me. By the afternoon in September, the apple is a perfect temperature to release every nuance of sweetness and yet still retain a bit of a sour edge.

4) Duck. This is not your average poultry meat but it isn't so difficult to find. The breast really is the best part, I think. Cooked well, it will make your toes curl in pleasure. I did, however, cook a duck recently. I would be hard-pressed to find a part that wasn't lovely to taste.

5) Dragon-eyes (Long-an): These odd little fruits are an experience unto themselves. Borne on their branches like bark-covered grapes, you can easily peel off the skin to reveal a translucent litchi-type flesh. The best ones have a perfume that takes a joyride through your sense. There is a large black marble sized seed inside the flesh but it gives a cool look to the fruit and makes the name understandable. They do rather remind me of the eyes on Oriental dragons--a black dot encircled in white. Bite into one and find out for yourself.

Gosh... There are so many more things. Five only? This really sucks.

Just a word about my disappearance. I am sorry it took so long to get back on track. With some things I really have been bogged down but some of it wasn't entirely just that. I beg forgiveness because of two things. I kinda lost the steam to blog in the last while and was quite delinquent. I didn't feel any creative juices flowing in the food department because I was spending so much of it in school. I also got satellite... and, um, errr... the Food Channel. I've been watching food being made instead of making it when I had spare moments. This will change promptly.

Monday, August 28, 2006


I'm up to my ears in prepwork and finally getting back to my own little apartment so I've been rather scarce and may yet be for the next week or two. The beginning of the school year always stresses me out to the hilt. I did not forget however that I owed some people some pictures of Chartres. So, if you hadn't looked over there yet, I did upload some on my flickr account along with commentaries on each. Have a gander if you would like to see my all too short visit to that charming place:

I thank Bonnie of daydreamdelicious for thinking of tagging me for the foodbloggers guide to the world even though I've been so scarce lately. I promise I'll get on it and other posts as soon as I can.

Enjoy the flickr pics! Eat well! Until next time...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Back from Bretagne

Dear Bretagne,

I miss you already. I long for your endless outcroppings of ferns,

your prickly little flowers and berries,

your wind-swept trees,

your seaweed-scented shores.

Even your sometimes stony heart...

When I look out the window, I don't see your many boats and little villages dotting the rivieres, ocean or shores anymore.

When I step out the door, I see geraniums everywhere but no more the purple and blue hydrangeas you wore so gallantly.

All the houses I see now are peach-hued and carrot-tops. I look to your pictures for the white skin and black tresses.

Give me back the time when I saw your black and white flag defiantly declaring your uniqueness culturally and linguistically in a sea of French.

Take me back to the shores which offer so much sea wealth

You shipwrecked my heart on your sandy shores and never let it go.

But I don't want it back. It's yours.

ever enamored,



I won't be able to cover so much about Bretagne in the next days as I'd like but I'll do my best until I leave for home on Thursday.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A Vacation during Vacation

I will be away for about 8 days or so visiting my beloved Bretagne and taking a look at Chartres Cathedral. I hope to get some more Brittany sea salt and other local treats. Hope everyone has lots of foodie fun. I'll be back with pictures and tales next Monday. In the mean time, enjoy the recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon
Ta-ra for now! Or should I say 'A bientôt!'

Friday, August 04, 2006

Boeuf Bourguignon: A French Gift to You

A family recipe is something precious especially when it is given freely and with love. Although I think my Frogger-in-law doesn't really like people hovering over him as he cooks he granted me the privilege of shadowing him as he prepared Boeuf Bourguignon. I peppered him with lot and lots of questions and had notes upon notes as I watched. He was very good about it all but the recipe was his mother's so I had better get every scrap of information right or suffer ancestral wrath. Frog swears it is the best version of the dish he's ever had. I was a bit worried to ask but he granted me the privilege of letting you, my readers, in on the family recipe, too. Merci, Papa. You may see there are a lot of notes but they are interesting additions and suggestions. You might want to read through them. If anything, read the note about the wine if you read nothing else there. It's important to have the right vine stock for the meat.

So, without further ado, REAL, honest-to-goodness Boeuf Bourguignon.

Bœuf Bourguignon
(à la Papa)

Step 1

3-4 cups beef (stewing beef, chuck steak or roast) cut up into large chunks, about 2-3 inches square each

For the marinade:

1 bottle of inexpensive Pinot of Burgundy stock
1 carrot, cut in chunks (optional)
1 onion, cut in chunks (optional)
1-2 bay leaves (optional)
1 sprig dried thyme (optional)

Open the red wine. Place in medium-sized metal bowl all the stewing beef (or chuck roast chunks). Fit together tightly on the bottom in one or two layers. Add the optional flavouring agents with the meat, tucking them in with the meat. Pour all the red wine over the beef and ensure that any meat sticking out above the surfuce is pressed under the wine. Cover the bowl with tinfoil. Place the bowl in the fridge for a minimum of 24 hours. However, if you can, leave it for 48 hours as it will improve the flavour. During this time the beef will absorb some of the wine.

Step 2 NB: This step should be started four hours or so before you want to eat.

3 tbsp margarine (mix of margarine and olive oil OK)
3 large shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
4-5 small onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1½ -2 cups lardons (N.American equivalent is the same amount of cubed bacon slab)
1½ cups flour

1. In a large, deep-sided skillet or dutch oven, melt the margarine over medium heat until golden-brown.
2. Add shallots, onions and lardons (cubed bacon slab) to margarine and cook over medium heat until the onions are a light golden colour and soft.

3. While the onions, shallots and lardons are cooking, remove the marinating beef from the fridge for preparation.
4. Take the beef out of the marinade and place on a paper towel-lined dish. Lightly dab the beef to remove excess moisture but let it a bit damp so that a coating will adhere. Set the wine marinade aside for later use as the cooking sauce. The herbs need not be removed as they will continue to add flavour to the sauce during cooking
5. In a flat dish add the flour for dusting the meat. Drop in the meat and lightly cover each piece completely with a layer of flour. Set the coated meat aside.

6. When the onion mixture is browned, set aside the onions, shallots and lardons in a separate dish but leave as much of the drippings in the pan as possible.
7. Add 2 more tablespoons of margarine to the drippings and set back on the medium heat. Lightly scrape off any leavings from the onion mix as you stir the margarine.
8. Add the floured meat to the pan in one layer( if your meat cannot fit in one layer you may have to repeat the procedure more than once). Over medium heat brown and seal in the juices of the meat chunks. While a side is cooking do NOT stir around. Let them remain in their layer and only press down on them from time to time. Once a side is a nice dark brown colour, repeat the process on another side. Add a bit more margarine if the meat seems to be sticking too much. Continue this until at least four sides are brown and sealed on all the meat. (NB: Darker brown is better so don’t be scared to let this part take a while to finish). If necessary, set aside first set of meat and repeat step 8.

9. When all the meat is completely browned (and, if necessary, all returned to the pan) add a ladlespoon-full of the wine marinade to the pan and deglaze anything stuck to the pan. Let the wine come to a boil and then add another ladleful of wine marinade. Again let the wine come to a full boil. Repeat this procedure of slowly adding the wine until it is completely added and the wine is bubbling.

10. When all the wine marinade is in with the beef and bubbling gently, add the onion mixture. Stir until completely mixed in to the beef and wine.
11. Cover with a tightly fitting lid, turn down until a gentle simmer. Check every ½ hour, stir, return lid. Simmer for 3 hours (2 is okay, 2 ½ is pretty good, 3 is best).

12. Serve hot with suggested side dish and a nice Bordeaux (we had a nice Château Lieujean Haut-Médoc).

Notes :

1. Take a Pinot red table wine in which the meat must marinate. Be sure it is a Pinot from the Burgundy stock of vine and not the actual Alsatian wine. This Pinot does not have to be expensive because you will not taste the difference with the cooking. Also, do NOT use a Bordeaux red as it is not acidic enough to create the right flavour for the meat.
2. Rich people have been known to use an expensive Pinot in their Boeuf Bourgignon and have another expensive bottle of the same for drinking with the stew. This is really not necessary and only an affectation of the nouveau riche. It will not make the meal taste any better. Cheap wine works just fine.
3. Take beef for stewing (chuck roast) that has a bit of fat to it. A stewing beef with no fat will not taste as good. Pack this beef into a metal bowl as tightly as they will go together but not with too much squishing. The tight packing will help make sure that not too much wine is needed to completely cover the beef.
4. Flavouring agents can be added to the wine to give the sauce more flavour: bay leaves, thyme, carrots, onions. The herbs can be added whole to the wine and beef but the vegetables can be added cut up.
5. Butter can be used for the cooking of the onions or the beef but it will sputter and spit more. However, if you want to use it, it will impart more taste to the meat.
6. If the meat, for some reason gets a bit burnt during the browning process do NOT worry. The three hours of simmering will improve the state and it will still taste fine.
7. This meal can be served with Alsatian egg noodles, a nest of flat fresh pasta, spaghetti, boiled potatoes or mashed potatoes.
8. You can create a chicken dish, Coq Bourguignon, using the same procedure and ingredients except replacing the beef with chicken.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Travels to Alsace and Southern Germany: Part 3

9:30 am 33°C (nearly 100°F) Walking to Hohenschwangau Castle

Me: We have to walk up there?
Frog: Yes, first we climb up to Hohenschwangau and then we climb up to Neuschwanstein. What's the problem? That's the way it's supposed to be done.
Me: *grumble* <--me being mad in the already scorching heat

- - - - - -
Later, walking in the shade, up the hill, to Neuschwanstein, Castle of Ludwig II of Bavaria

11:22 am

Frog: *gasp, wheeze* Do you need to slow down? We can slow down.
Me: Nope. It's a good pace for me actually. Grade's not too steep.
Frog: Wha..? *wheeeze... kabloosh!* (Frog exploding from heat and never-ending hill)
Me: Hmmph... told you we should have taken the horse and wagon ride up *continues walking, leaving a pool of Frog behind her on the road*

§ § § § § § §

Where do I begin with German breakfasts? Well, first thing, they are NOT the spare thing the French call breakfast--bread, butter, 2 kinds of jam, coffee. Yet they are not North American either. Not a bagel, poached egg, pancake or muffin to be seen for thousands of miles. Let's just say that Germans seem to embrace the idea of a hearty breakfast with all their heart and soul.

It would take a whole post just to name everything a hotel will offer at breakfast. I'll give you a quick version: 8 kinds of sausage both cold and hot, 4 kinds of rolls, 3 kinds of bread, Quark, Yoghurt, 5 kinds of cheese, scrambled eggs, bacon, liverwurst/paté, 10 kinds of cereal, fresh meusli, fresh milk, orange juice, carrot-orange juice,whole fruit, cut fruit, cut veggies, 3 kinds of honey, 10 kinds of jam, Nutella, a weird chocolate donut thing, coffee, tea, hot chocolate and so on and so on. Really, it makes the mind explode at 8 am to have all these choices.

A couple things I'd never had before and really liked. The fresh, creamy meusli was quite good with lots of things in it and the alpine honey I had was almost molasses-like in its richness. Even the wasps were waiting in line for it.

We spent a good part of the morning climbing hills and visiting the two castles of Ludwig II of Bavaria, also known as Mad King Ludwig. He was known for his extravagent tastes in architecture and interior decorating. Neither castle allowed photography inside due to all the original paintings and fabric in the rooms but if you want a sense of the inner castles visit here and here.
The castles are breath-taking inside and out. Each is unique in its own way.

Hohenschwangau is replete with silver, ivory and painted scenes of history and myth all over the walls. Neuschwanstein is a fairytale castle come to life. The throne room alone is enough to make you cry it's so beautiful. A pity he drowned mysteriously in the nearby lake before it was completed. I doubt I can even imagine the beauty or wealth involved if he had finished it all. I guess you can tell which of the two was my favourite. It was worth the climb up.

We decided to have lunch at a restaurant that lies just below Neuschwanstein. Again, no A/C in such hot weather. The spinach pizza I had was mehh... but I had something more local for dessert. Bavarian waffles with stewed apples. It was very yummy and even had a dab of the local cherry specialty dabbed on top.

I was glad to leave the warm, sticky interior only to find that, at the bottom of the hill, our car's interior had reached 49°C (120°F)YUCK! After a while the car's A/C finally made the temperature bearable but it wasn't until we reached within 50 km of Ulm, our next stop, that clouds and rain hit and we were really cool at last HURRAH!

After a quick break in our rooms of Innercity Hotel in Ulm we were off to see sites and have dinner. First we saw the Cathedral which has the tallest spire in the whole world. The exterior was amazingly covered in statues and scenes. The inside was scrubbed down clean in many places because it was converted to a Protestant church. A lot of the old scenery of saints and such were no longer decorating the interior walls. A bummer but it made finding the remaining original paintings (which, surprisingly, hadn't been removed) amazing.

We wandered through part of the old town to find a place for dinner and found a little place with a name I have forgotten but the dinner was not so easy to forget. Nor was our waitress who was worked off her feet, poor thing (Not by us LOL). Dinner didn't start out promisingly for me as I found out that I don't like the German's idea of salad. The creamy-vinegary dressing poured over it was not at all to my taste as it was just like the dressing of my much loathed nemesis--coleslaw. A restaurant salad in Germany, according to my Frogger-in-law, is always this way--dollops of saladbar type concoctions, topped with lettuce and THAT dressing. However, the main meal made up for it. A giant thick crêpe, in the style of the Bavarians, served with the local bacon and fried onions and bit of potato salad. It was so huge and so filling that I just couldn't bring myself to finish it all. My companions ordered a shared dish of the local specialties of meats and spaëtzlé which they quite enjoyed with a German red wine.

It seemed this place was a pancake house of a kind because a lot of the desserts were served on those huge crêpes too. Thankfully, we were told we could get a card with light desserts on order. Light... ha! They were quite large cups of ice creams. Still it was nice on a warm evening. My companions chose a mixture of three kinds of ice cream including pistachio and walnut. I chose a local specialty with tipsy cherries, chocolate and vanilla. The menu said it had a little bit of kirschwasser added. Rather it was drowned in the liquid. The kirschwasser bowled me over (I really felt like I had been punched) when I ate it with the vanilla but it was REALLY good with the chocolate part. Now I understand why kirschwasser is used in the original blackforest cake.

It was a really slow, enjoyable dinner on the sidestreets of old Ulm and I wouldn't have changed it for the world. Despite my negative reaction to the salad, I would do it all over again.

* The next day was spent driving back home. Nothing much to write about in that.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Travels to Alsace and Southern Germany: Part 2

Day Two:

After such a hellish heat the day before, it was a blessing to wake up to cloudiness and cool weather. Even if the church bell woke me at 6am, I didn't really care so long as I was no longer hot.


Ever had those experiences where you go slack-jawed when the names and places you heard in geography or social studies back in school suddenly present themselves to you boldly? I've had it happen in the past many times in Europe--stunned before the kiss-covered tomb of Oscar Wilde, looking at THE River Seine, standing atop a man-made hill, looking down on the battlefield of Waterloo. When you are told that, yes, you are crossing over the Rhine River (as I was that morning), you forget to breathe for a moment. Until you see these things so often told to you in history classes or that you've drawn on maps, these names of places really doesn't make sense. Not fully, at least. To really understand the sense of history and culture, you literally have to be in the place and experience it.

The Rhine River

Now, it's true, the first place we stopped in Germany, Freiburg, probably never crossed my eyes in literature before but I wish I'd known about it earlier. It's such a pretty little German town. There are little man-made streams throughout the old parts of the town rather like gutters with a constant flow of water. The houses and cathedral are charming to say the least.

I was so happy to see a European open-air market at last. Everything from sausages to herbs, fruits and veggies to houseplants, toys and tourist trinkets were being sold. Even the smell of freshly fried sausages or stalls selling big pretzels were in full force. Over it all towered the huge Gothic catherdral.

It was here I was starting to see the difference of culture between the French and the Germans. The most obvious to see in this town (and I saw in the Alsatian-border town of Strasbourg) was bikes-lots and lots and lots of bikes. Except during the Tour de France, it's rare to see the average French person ride bikes (I exclude kids since they don't have cars). Well, at least what I've seen so far in the North. The only place I think there's an exception to this is Brittany (Bretagne). Chances are, if you see somebody riding a bike in France (barring the exceptions), it's likely a German, British, North American or Dutch tourist.

The rest of the day until past 5pm was spent mostly in the car trying to get to our next hotel. It was really remarkable to see the scenery change from the flat yellow-green plains of France to the rolling green hills of southern Germany. Again I was stunned to be told that, at one point, we were driving through THE actual Black Forest. How cool is that?

The Black Forest

We did stop at a tourist road-café in Germany for lunch. Well, let's just say, it was a cafeteria. You know what to expect of the food in cafeterias. But it was remarkable different from the tourist road-cafés I've been to in France. There seems to be a greater amount of functionalism and efficiency in German establishments. And it was considerably brighter than the average French style which are usually quite moody in their dimly lit rooms. The options were certainly more varied and there were were actual attempts at offering food to vegetarians. So many French don't seem to understand or want to understand vegetarianism. You should have been around the year I was trying out raw veganism. I might as well said that I was planning on growing three heads by the looks I got from my French in-laws.

When we reached the Bavarian Alps at last, we were all ready to crash. The computerized tourist program had planned our trip according to short distances but never took into account that wending your way through little country roads in Bavaria meant a lot of slow speeds and farm vehicles. In the end the short distances became just as long as taking the regular roads. Still I got a good gander at the part of Germany to which so many Germans flock for vacation.

Our hotel, The Rübezhal, was a four-star hotel and boy was the wait worth it. Cool temperatures in the room, clean white and pine finishes, tonnes of storage space, a desk, a table, a daybed with reading light, even a balcony with chairs. It also came with the guilt-inducing stickers reminding you, in rhyme, to be nice to the environment. After a lovely walk to the lake, Der Forggensee, and through paths that led by bell-wearing cows (a nice sound), we returned to dinner at the hotel.

The fixed price dinner I had was actually not too shabby! First a mocktail of cantaloupe juice and green tea (very refreshing). A trip to get a plate of charcuterie/salad bar items, followed by white asparagus soup with bacon (the worst part of the dinner). The main course was breaded and pistachio'd catfish on a bed of dilled, creamed cucumbers (excellent) served with a nice German white wine (excellent too!). And I was totally not expecting what I got for dessert because, well, do YOU call the picture below of my dessert "a parfait"? It was good though. I got pistachio cake and the Frog got a chocolate cake but the creamy home-made ice cream and the slightly sour berries all worked together with either flavour.

All the while that we were eating this lovely dinner, we had an amazing view of the nearby Alps and the castles we would visit the next day: Hohenschwangau and Newschwanstein. We went to bed as happy, full little piglets under down-filled covers listening to insects and the odd, out-late bike riders. What a change from the day before.