As the sun sets on our Pacific coast many of you have already started the New Year hoping for peace and new beginnings. No matter where you are I wish you all a happy and peaceful
filled with love, happiness and renewed hope.
I would like to thank all of you for the kind and encouraging comments and for visiting my humble little blog. It means a lot to me to be able to share this part of my life with you.
and cheers to a new year wherever you might be. I hope to be able to share some new adventures and recipes with you and wish you all the very best.
November in Germany
For the last three years, my husband and I have taken a trip to Europe in November. The tourist crowds are gone and the flights and hotels are much cheaper. On the flip side, the days are shorter and the weather colder. I don't mind cold as long as it doesn't rain. I wouldn't do the countryside, but the big cities are fun. I enjoy going to the different Christmas markets and museums. We started doing this when my mother was still alive and I was visiting her as often as I could. This year, we went for ten days, spending a long weekend with my German family and friends—and four days in Berlin.
My husband and I flew into Frankfurt and took the train to Berlin, which is easy and provides a scenic tour through Germany. I love trains and take them whenever I can. The Frankfurt airport is like a second home to me (just kidding but almost). There are two train stations, a local one and one for long distances. The Fernbahnhauf (long-distance railroad station) is where I usually take the train to my village or other European cities. It's attached to the airport and is easily reached. The ICE is the fast train, and a ride to Berlin is only three and half hours. I don't like changing trains when I have luggage, and this year we had too much luggage with lots of gifts and goodies for my family and friends. Each time I promise myself not to do it, but I always end up with too much stuff. After I give away the gifts, I buy things like chocolate, marzipan, some vinegars and spices or some cute handmade Christmas ornaments for my friends
Last year, we took an old Hungarian train from Berlin to Prague. It was an enchanting trip, with the old-fashioned train that went through some gorgeous countryside including the Elbe river valley and mountains. The train ride itself was a real highlight of the trip, which continues on to Budapest. I enjoyed Prague last year, but what I didn't enjoy was the Nürnberg Christmas market, which was totally overrun with tourists.
Germany is known for its coffee culture. In the afternoon, you have coffee and cake. Friends meet in favorite cafés and have something sweet with coffee or tea. When my mother was sick, I often brought cake to the nurses and and they loved it. As a child, if we didn't always have sweets, instead I would have a piece of bread with butter and jam. Birthdays are also often celebrated by being invited zum Kaffeetrinken (which literally means you are invited for coffee and cake). My girlfriend had bought some gorgeous cake from my favorite bakery (here is the link), my favorite being a Sara Bernhardt cake (named for a French actress). After a few hours of talking and having fun, dinner or Abendbrot (as it is called in German) was served. She made a very tasty sweet potato soup followed by a chicken salad with bread, cheese, olives, as well as some ham and lox. It was divine. My brother had a similar but larger party the following day in the local pub. We had sheet cake for coffee around three in the afternoon and later a German-style charcuterie. Fresh homemade wurst, ground raw pork tartar, and cooked bacon served with sauerkraut and fresh bread—a real country feast— washed down with beer, schnaps and a herbal digestive.
I had to say goodbye too soon to the ones I loved and take the train to Frankfurt am Main (there are two Frankfurts in Germany) to catch a flight back home the next day. Frankfurt also has a Christmas market around the Altstadt (the old town). The old town center is the Römer, a medieval building that has been the city hall for over 600 years. The Römer is opposite the old St. Nicholas church. On the Römerplatz, as it is called, I ate a delicious goose leg with red cabbage and potato dumplings at the restaurant Schwarzer Star (black star) and it was delicious. My husband's spätzle (homemade noodles) was also superb. What a great way to end a beautiful vacation.
Hopefully, I will find some time for baking my favorite sweet treats for Christmas. Last year, I baked up a storm, packed most of it to take to the mountains where we have celebrated Christmas many times. As we left on December 23, I got messages from my niece saying that my 91-year-old mother had fallen down and was on her way to the hospital with a fractured hip. I made my poor husband turn around and was on a plane to Germany the next day, December 24, arriving in Germany on Christmas Day. My mom by then had peacefully passed away with my brother's family around her.
I took a tin of cookies with me sharing them at the airline ticket counter and later in Germany. They were a connection to my life in California. Food can be so comforting and nourishing. As long as I can remember, I have baked goodies for the holidays. I don't always bake the same things. My Christmas recipe folder is bulky. Depending on how I feel, I bake different things, some of which I haven't posted yet. For my girlfriend, Marie, I bake the hazelnut
meringue cookies (click for recipe here). My husband's favorite treat are his mom's sugar cookies that my sister-in-law bakes every year for him. His second favorite are my chocolate chip walnut bars (click for recipe here). I like gingerbread cookies, but nobody else does, so I don't make them very often. My Vienna vanilla nut cookies remind me of my childhood (click for recipe here).
My fruit and nut chocolate chunks are a healthy and tasty treat. Click here for the recipe.
I enjoy making individual graham cracker gingerbread house ornaments with young children. These cute little ornaments are a lot of fun and children just love them (click here for the recipe ).
Another staple in my family have been blueberry mini-muffins.These tiny muffins have a crunchy almond sugar flavor with a burst of blueberries and lemon. The recipe comes from an old Gourmet recipe and is my son's favorite.
I hope your holidays are filled with warmth and happiness.
Four Days in Berlin
Berlin has been part of my life for a long time. I was 14 when I visited Berlin the first time, the youngest in a youth group. We stayed in a youth hostel and the older students showed me the town both day and night. I remember climbing around in the ruins of the Gedächniskirche and getting frostbitten in my toes. It was my introduction to life in a big city. I lived on Berliners (fresh donuts filled with plum jam) and curry wurst. From the beginning, I appreciated and liked the sense of humor and dialect of the locals. Even the worst situations are turned into a joke.
I visited Berlin many more times. It was fun once we got there, but the journey was scary. In the late 1960s, we could either go by train or on a chartered bus, or by private car. Going through the DDR (East Germany) was dangerous and as a German you could get arrested and disappear. Thinking back on it today, it was surreal.
Years ago, my family was separated when my husband and I took our just adopted 6-year-old son to Berlin. As we crossed the border into East Berlin, my son and husband (being American) crossed at checkpoint Charley and as a German, I had to cross at Friedrichsstraße. This prompted me to apply for American citizenship as soon as I returned to the States.
Then in 1989, the wall came down. Berlin was free again and became the capital of the new united Germany. The old East Berlin was rebuilt. My husband and I prefer to stay in the Mitte, the center of the new Berlin near the Brandenburger Tor and Friedrichsstraße. One is within walking distance of many museums and other attractions.
If you decide to visit Berlin, you have to visit the Museum Island, a UNESCO heritage site. It is the home to the Pergamonmuseum, one of the world’s major archeological sites. You walk through a series of impressive huge structures of the partial reconstruction of the Greek Pergamon Altar (170-159 BC) with the two-story Roman Gate of Miletus and the Ishtar gate of Babylon. With a day ticket, you can see all the museums on that island. There are many more museums throughout Berlin. During our last visit, we decided to go the Gemälde Galerie , a wonderful collection of medieval Renaissance and early modern art housed in a low-key but tasteful setting. It was not crowded and the art was spectacular. Adjacent to the Gemälde Galerie is the Kunstgewebemuseum (Museum of Decorative Art). It houses world-famous examples of European arts and crafts.
As for food in Berlin, you will find everything. Berlin now is part of the international food scene. Right around the corner from our hotel was Galerie Lafayette, a branch of the luxurious Parisian department store. My husband, a francophile, was in heaven. My favorite department store and food mecca is the KaDeWe (the department store of the west) which is in the old West Berlin on the Kurfürstendamm. Over the years, it has lost some of the glamor but the food section is marvelous and you can buy anything you want for a high price. The restaurant on the top floor has a great view of Berlin, but the food is cafeteria-style and I prefer to have a light meal on the floor below. If you are not a vegetarian, you have to have a curry wurst on an outside stand with the locals. It is a sausage with curried spices and ketchup. In the summer, you have to drink a Berliner Weiße, beer mixed with sweet woodruff juice. It was November and cold, so we drank Glühwein (mulled wine) instead. Late November and December are the months for goose: goose with cabbage and dumplings. I love it and my best goose meal has been in Potsdam, a 30-minutes train ride outside Berlin. This place is a small bakery that serves lunch. The goose is cooked fresh every day and it is delicious.
I love the Christmas market on the Gerdamen Platz, which makes for an enjoyable evening celebrating the season. The live performances are great and there is a lot of fun food. Several Berlin restaurants build huts with heat and great decorations. I enjoy this so much more than the large Christmas markets like Nürnberg.
ne night, we had dinner at Brechts, an Austrian restaurant with a great Wiener schnitzel. For me, it is all about the small delicatessen shops and bakeries. I found one right around the corner and had wild pig salami with fresh crusty bread and a fruit tart. There is no better dinner in my book. Oh, and let's not forget the bakeries with all their temptations There are many little cafes where you can sit inside or outside (weather permitting) and have a treat in the late afternoon. I often call that dinner. My husband will not leave Germany without having his Schweine Haxe, (pig’s knuckle) and a large beer. We always enjoy Berlin and I hope to visit there again soon.
I am back from my whirlwind trip to Germany. It was short, but I was so happy to see my German family and friends. I love them and miss them when I'm here in sunny California. I am fortunate that I can visit them often and stay in touch. Read about my four days in Berlin and my visit with my family on my Wanderlust blog (click here).
It's time to share some of my holidays recipes with you. Every year, I make my country pâté for the lighted boat parade party at my friends’ house. Here in Santa Cruz, people decorate their boats for Christmas and parade around the harbor just after dark. Hundreds of people come to watch, which is the launch of the Christmas season. The pork country pâté is rich but delicious and a great treat for a large party. It has to be made ahead of time and will earn the cook many compliments.
For those of you who prefer a lighter vegetarian appetizer, my goat cheese with fresh herbs olives, and garlic is easy to make and tasty.
WELCOME TO SUNNY COVE CHEF
Thank you for visiting my blog. My two passions are cooking and traveling. Traveling exposes me to a wide variety of food and experiences. I walk around cities looking for markets, restaurants, bakeries, shops, you name it, and if it is related to food you will find me there, tasting, smelling, talking to vendors, and having a great time.