While the US is getting pounded by snow storms evidently not everyone minds being stuck at home.
My sister sent me this adorable photo of Mieka. She looks as happy as all of the neighborhood children who had several days off from school this week and had nothing to do but play in the snow.
I love everything about this picture - from the little star snowflake on her nose, to the little bubbles on her tongue, and her breath frozen in the air. She exudes happiness. Thanks for sending that Meem!
It's no surprise that I want a dog. It's so difficult to be in such a dog friendly city, where I constantly see people on the subways and in the parks with their partners in crime. Having a dog isn't conducive to our small apartment or our on the go travel plans... and so I will have to wait.
Saturday, January 31, 2009
While the US is getting pounded by snow storms evidently not everyone minds being stuck at home.
Friday, January 30, 2009
I have seen interesting pastas more recently and decided that I should be adventurous and try them. The Kaufhof grocery has a large array including chocolate pasta, truffle pasta, and maroni (chestnut) pasta.
And then I saw the berry filled ravioli at Käfer. The color is very bright, and the pasta is very fresh, but I wasn't sure of what to expect. I purchased some fresh blueberries and strawberries from Viktualienmarkt and decided they would be a perfect accompaniment.
In my molecular cooking course, we learned that cinnamon and strawberries should not be paired together, so I was trying to think of another simple sauce to serve them with.
(As a side note, if you are interested in what foods go together or provide suitable substitutes check out Food Pairing - some are unconventional, but it's a great resource!)
I probably should have gone with a healthier approach and simply pureed berries and served them over the top, but instead I made a vanilla sauce.
The flavor was interesting, but good. I don't know that I will be craving them anytime soon, especially because I prefer zesty foods, but I'm glad that we tried them.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
I often think cities tend to have character, much like a dear old friend. Some are open and inviting due to the way the streets are layed out and the buildings are constructed, while others are slightly more difficult to see the beauty in. Sometimes they aren't so easy to navigate or leave me thinking 'if I was the urban planner I would have...', but I tend to leave a new city with the same impressions I get from meeting new people. The first impressions aren't always right, but it's easy to trust your instincts before letting your guard down and really getting to know a place.
There are a few that I have instantly fallen in love with. The hustle and bustle of New York City is amazing. I appreciate the diversity and how it really seems like a place where, despite differences, people keep striving on and seem to understand that getting along with each other is a part of getting ahead.
In Barcelona, I fell in love with the Gaudi architecture, the proximity to the ocean, and the winding back alleys of the Barri Gòtic. The laid back attitudes of the people that lived there reassured me that it wasn't an overly complicated or fast paced place to live.
And then there is Vienna. As of now I would probably say it was the least exciting city I've visited thus far. It reminds me of a stuffy great aunt with a lot of great art and an incredible menagerie of animals, but is very insular and narrow minded. The city is distinctly more contained than any other large city that I've visited in Europe.
I have issues with how acceptable it is be far right politically in Austria, which for some reason Vienna felt more this way than Salzburg does. This Turkish Hurriyet Daily News opinion article sums things up pretty well. However, I'm trying to see the good in things.
There is definitely a regal feeling within the innenstadt, but I couldn't quite figure out what the hype was about. As soon as you left the grandiose buildings in the middle of the city it turned gray and ramshackled really fast. I also was really sorry to waste my time at the Prater, which is a stationary carney exhibit.
Sometimes I feel like I should give Vienna a second chance. Part of that new found optimism for the city is that I just read about an Austrian business man who has decided to save Polaroid film. They also have an exclusively polariod museum called Polanoir.
Not only that, there is also a first of it's kind lomography store in Vienna, which I was able to visit when we were there.
There were a few things that I undeniably loved about Vienna - Hundertwasser Haus, the zoo (probably the best I've ever been to!), and our hotel, The Levante Parliament.
Now, in the words of Semih İdiz, "We hope, for the sake of truly civilized Austrians, that their country elects a black man or a Turk as chancellor as soon as possible."
Hopefully they'll also find some beauty in diversity through art.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I was pleasantly surprised to find two of the new Zagat 2009 books in my post box. I received them as a thank you from Zagat for completing their online survey regarding my favorite restaurants in Europe and New York City.
It looks like they are currently offering promotions for London and San Francisco, so if you sign up on their site and write a review they will send you a complementary copy.
Most of the restaurants they have listed for Munich are places we have heard of, however there are a few that are new to us.
We have a long list of places that we would like to check out so we decided to make a date night jar. Inside we've put the names of various restaurants we would like to try, which I hope will help for those indecisive evenings and will serve as a simple place to put new places we hear about so we don't forget. There are also a few surprises thrown in, old favorites, and Stefan's choice.
Here are some on our list to try - most recently visited and reviewed listed at the top:
(click the links for addresses, menus, and types of food or reviews)
ocui - review Teatro Tapas - review grinsekatze - review
Mangostin (airport review)
Boettner's - Pfisterstrasse 9
Punto Di Vino*
Rüen Thai *
* recommended by a kind reader - Sambasson.
Here are a few of our tried and true favorites (scroll down to restaurants)
If you are interested in restaurants in the area, I also suggest checking out the following links for Munich:
Saturday, January 24, 2009
This month's words: soft, lovely, smell, beautiful, and bright, are courtesy of Jessica.
I decided to do a bit of a retrospective using photos from my visit home, except for the Kandinsky exhibit, which is currently going on at the Lenbachhaus here in Munich.
It feels like 2009 is going to be one of those years that passes so quickly. I still can't believe I was home this month... it feels like ages ago.
I promise once February rolls around I will get out of my homesickness funk and concentrate more on exciting things (like our upcoming trip to Rome!). I will also get back to taking more photos because it makes me happy!
Please leave a comment if you participate - as always, I love seeing the results that everyone comes up with!
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
I appreciate how Americans come together, despite differences, in an event like this. Millions of people gathered to watch the event. In Germany, we don't even have the chancellor's inauguration on TV. This is the support and excitement that I really love.
Wouldn't you love to know the conversation between Obama and his wife at the end of the festivities once they go to their new home, the White House. When they are completely alone and brushing their teeth before bed what do they look into the mirror and think?
What was he thinking when he woke up this morning? Was he more concerned about potentially having to give up his blackberry or was he more concerned about pressing issues that the average American has no idea is even going on.
Seeing the humanness of the Obama Family and how he stumbled a little during his oath makes him seem like such a real person.
What does he think when he receives his briefcase with all of his bomb codes?
I really liked the speech from Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Lowery. His humorous ending "when Black doesn't have to get back; when Brown can stick around: when Yellow can be mellow; when Red can get ahead; and White can embrace what's right" really breaks things down. If only people could follow some of the words of wisdom, like 'be judged by what you build, and not what you destroy!'
Munich may have a visit from Obama for the NATO meeting next month. I can only imagine what chaos it could be.
This morning I headed to my German class with a red cardigan and a blue and white scarf for some understated American spirit. It's incredibly difficult living far away today. Not because I feel some dire urge to be standing on the Washington Mall with few toilets available (according to the news, if 2 million arrive, there is one porto potty for every 400 people). There are also freezing cold temperatures, and a very minimal view of anything other than the back of people's heads for hours on end. It's difficult because I truly miss the camaraderie. I'm certain I would be watching the events on TV, just as I will be today, but it doesn't make up for the American spirit that I dearly miss.
German spirit, and more specifically Bavarian pride, come in very different forms. There is the constant deferral of patriotism for reasons stemming from the dark past. If you spend enough time here you will soon see the pride is still alive and well. Some may even say it has ethnocentric tendencies, especially the foreigners who are constantly being reminded that they even though the law welcomes them, they will more than likely remain oppressed for several generations.
Something I truly love about America, 'the country that always lands on its feet', is that despite being a mix of cultures, nationalities, and races, there are some days and events where people unite. I realize it's not always been that way. Progress does take time, but it's nice to see that it happens.
I also realize not everyone is an Obama supporter, but to me the Americanness is something beyond him or his capabilities. I appreciate that he's a bit of a rabble-rouser and able to inspire so many, because I think Americans can be fairly passive when it comes to politics. It's also possible that it only appears that way considering how much coverage he had and how much money was invested into his campaign, but people definitely look for a positive change.
I'd rather see it as a fire lit from within and hopefully people see that they can make an impact and they are capable of more than they ever thought possible. There's a hope for something different and more freedoms for the people that make the US such a unique and special place.
I'm back in German class and it always shakes me to my core, but not because the grammar is brutal or because every noun has an assigned article. I think I learn more and question more about the social issues and struggles facing people from various cultures, nationalities, and races while I am there. I am constantly analyzing the place of a foreigner in the German world, obviously because that is something I identify with.
That is one aspect that my slightly sheltered American upbringing that I've really been able to come to terms with. Each day while I sit among classmates from places like Iran, Syria, Bulgaria, Australia, Spain, the UK, Kosovo, Brazil, Turkey, Russia, and a multitude of other cultures, I realize how fortunate I am. I am not fighting to survive. Life has been relatively easy and I know that I have two perfectly good homes. There isn't anything I am fleeing.
I realize just how blessed I am due to forces of fate, to feel safe, to have the support of my family, to receive a wonderful education and to have the ability to graduate from a university that focused on service work. It makes me feel very responsible for helping those that aren't afforded the privileges that I have.
Something Germany is severely lacking, is the inclusion of the foreigners. It's a much colder place than what I am familiar with. Here I notice so many politically incorrect things that make me cringe and an overall critical attitude towards each other. I attribute that to the fight to get ahead, or the feeling that they are being taken advantage of due to their liberal social systems. I realize in the US I have a slight bias. My social and economic circle doesn't often cross with people who don't come from similar means, which is one of the reasons I am forever grateful for this experience.
Life here can be so bureaucratic that even volunteering or being compassionate towards others isn't easy, which is difficult. Somedays I feel like I am fighting to belong and yearning for community and connections that are thousands of miles away. Here that is entirely a foreign concept. Since they had such far right leanings during the early part of the 20th century, at times I think they have tried to make amends by opening their borders even if they are resentful. I'm sure they get even more angered by the fact that Germans are not repopulating their country and fewer and fewer people are having children.
So... if you got this far, I'm hopeful that it is a year of change. Not simply for a change in politics, but a change in people realizing how much we can learn from each other and that a little compassion goes a long way.
As said in the Declaration of Independence 233 years ago:
Sunday, January 18, 2009
This weekend we went to dinner with our friend Martina at Der Gesellschaftsraum. They have a lot of unconventional pairings and ingredients that they incorporate into the dishes, so we didn't know what to expect.
Something I definitely didn't expect was our 4 course menu to take 4 hours. We were one of the first tables to be seated, but slowly the restaurant was filled and the courses seemed further and further apart.
A lot of the menu had to be translated even for the native German speakers, because the methods and ingredients would often be word plays, so we wanted to make sure we knew what we would be eating.
The evening started with a variety of breads in a paper bag. It felt slightly like we were opening a gift, which everyone seemed to enjoy. The breads were an interesting mix - one with red beet, another with curry, and finally one with banana.
After sampling the breads we had an 'amuse-gueule' which consisted of pork, parmesan, and fish, with celery and was oddly fashioned in a foil ashtray.
My next course was a Lobster soup paired with a thickened walnut cream and a walnut crostini (Hummerkokosupper mit Stopfigenwalnuss crostini). Martina had the same and we both felt it was too sweet to come pre-meal.
Next, Martina and I both tried the basil sorbet with pineapples. Nearly all of the fruits and vegetables were rendered unidentifiable after sitting in various soaks and marinades.
I was expecting something like the basil sorbet that I tried and loved at Cocoon, however this was once again on the overly saccharine side. Served alongside the basil sorbet was a vodka shot that was in a syringe with a packet of 'Ahoi Brause' children's candy, which is effervescent and slightly tart. Stefan had an interesting jasmine tea with beef broth with pumpernickel cubes (Gebrüht Jasminkalbsessenz mit Pumpernickeläsche).
He also had the smoked lamb with tuna (Rauchlammnuß mit Topiko tuno im Tamarillokohlrabibrunnen) which he enjoyed. Martina and I both really enjoyed the wasabi caviar on his dish, which they told us was made by soaking the caviar from a 'Fliegende Fisch' in wasabi powder.
Our Hauptgänge (main course) consisted of: Adlerfish with Ostrich and cinnamon cucumber paired with a chocolate drizzle corn strudel (Adlerstrauß mit Zimtgurke und erfrischendem Kornstrudel) for Stefan, and the vegetarian nut filo dough with a quinoa type filling paired with black root and chicoree (Nussiges Seithan cordon Bleu auf Schwarzwurzel und Chicoree) for me.
For dessert we opted to try three of the four options. Martina and I had watched the cooks create a variety of dishes through the window, so we tried to pick a few with the most distinguishable ingredients. We ended up with a coconut hops ice cream on a maracuja celery foam (Kokoshopfeneis auf Maracujasellerieschaum), a BBQ chocolate mousse on vanilla quince with pop rocks (Eletrisiertes BBQ schokomousse auf vanillequitte), and my absolutely favorite from the entire meal - the sesame cheese with pumpernickel apple ice cream with chili marmalade (Sesamtaleggio mit Pumpernickelapfeleis).
What I appreciated: The unpretentiousness and the ease of experimenting. The cooks used cereal and candy in several dishes, which is fun because it's unexpected and unrefined.
What I didn't like so much: It seemed like there were so many ideas running wild and they could have been edited more. Often times it felt like there was too much going on on the plate and things were competing. There also seemed to be one unidentifiable flavor that ran throughout the meal and was used in a variety of dishes.
What I enjoyed most (besides the company): The small elements to create universal appeal, like using childhood candies, interesting serving wear, and the presentation. The Sesamtaleggio and pumpernickel ice cream was also my favorite.
Looking at the crowd we deduced that people probably come for a special event or as a small group, but this isn't a place that gets regulars. The evolving menu may inspire people to try things again, but that also prevents people from finding a favorite menu item and returning to 'play it safe' and have it again and again.
Martina had been to Essneun, which is a similar concept, with less exotic flair. We'll have to sample that sometime soon!
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Today we went to the zoo with Martina. I don't typically thing I would hit up the zoo in the winter, but surprisingly the animals were quite active. I don't know if it was due to the warm spell or if we came around feeding time.
We decided to meet in front of the petting zoo, which was closed due to 'brunft' (animals being in heat). One mother told her daughter that and then asked another mother what 'brunft' meant.
I stood around eavesdropping on the conversations and then came a small girl, who was probably 5 or 6. She was telling her friend that the petting zoo was closed and people can't be around because the animals are 'wild' and then she started telling her that the two men fight and the strongest is the papa.
I had a great laugh out of that, especially for how knowledgeable and articulate this little one was.
Several of the animals seemed to be stressed and really discontent. One of the polar bears and one of the wolves were just pacing in the same pattern over and over again. That was really disheartening. We got another good laugh out of the jaguar pictured above, who took a swipe at a little boy on the other side of the glass, who then fell down.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Tonight Stefan came home from work a bit early and we made dinner together. It's quite a feat considering we have the tiniest of tiny kitchens and there's not much counter space. But, as the old saying goes, if there's a will, there's a way.
I always love being able to make a proper meal rather than having the options of eating alone or at 10 o'clock at night.
While searching about for something that looked delicious on Food Gawker, my old go to resource on nights like this, I searched for salmon and found a great recipe for Salmon Cakes that are similar to Crab Cakes.
I was also able to incorporate Panko, which is a Japanese breading, that my mom raves about. I had to visit the specialty Asian grocery for that. Whenever I go to an ethnic grocery I get inspired and think that I should visit more often.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
I'm a firm believer in doing little things to make yourself and others happy.
Simple notes tucked into pockets, or into luggage, are bound to bring smiles to people's faces. I also think it helps to surround yourself with beauty - people who radiate happiness and make you feel good, as well things that brighten up life.
Being away from home makes me appreciate my friends and family so much more and to realize just how fortunate I am to have them in my life.
My family knows me so well and surprised me with the most thoughtful gifts for Christmas and my birthday. I would even go as far as saying it was one of the best and most memorable holidays for me. It was so nice to be home and have time with everyone.
A few of my favorite gifts that make me smile and think of everyone at home are a shopping basket, the classic style cafeteria trays, and further fueling my wanderlust is 'The Europe Book' by Lonely Planet.
My shopping basket makes grocery shopping that much more enjoyable and the reactions to it are priceless. The cafeteria trays make me think of cookouts and gatherings, plus they are eco-friendly. And I'm already reading up on Rome for our upcoming trip... and the smallest country with the lowest birthrate in the world - The Vatican.
And what do you know - as I was unpacking I found notes in my own luggage. What sweet reminders of home.
Monday, January 12, 2009
While I was home, I stumbled across this antique book from 1906 about 'true stories of boys and girls in every land: their sports and games and how they live'.
I haven't read the entire book yet, but I immediately flipped to the section on Germany, and got a good laugh out of the description and drawing.
"This mode of swaddling has its advantages. Baby's limbs are in no danger of being broken by an accidental fall; he cannot scratch his little face to pieces with his sharp, rosy nails, after the manner of American babies; and he may be placed on a table, a shelf, or the counter of a shop, like a plate of soup, or a loaf of bread, or a parcel of goods, or anything else which cannot move."I'm sure those were the days, when you could put your child on a shelf.
Here's another great excerpt:
"A party of peasants once had to carry their child some distance before they came to the church in which it was to be christened. It was winter, and the snow lay thick on the ground. After the christening ceremony, the parents, the sponsors, and the friends took something to eat at a near-by inn, to prepare themselves for the return journey.This book is certainly going to be filled with other gems. I can't believe how times have changed in just over 100 years!
They then set out in great good humor, and reached home safely with the pillow, but there was no baby in it. Perhaps they had by mistake held the pillow upside down; perhaps the blue bows had become loose; at any rate the baby had slipped out, and was found lying on the snow, half-way between the church and the village. Fortunately, he was a sturdy young peasant-child, and escaped with a cold in his head, which the fond parents tried to cure on reaching home by popping him, pillow and all, into the oven, that was still warm from the baking of the christening-cake!"
Thursday, January 8, 2009
When we travel, we often pick up an ornament, if we can find one. I was so happy to see a unique store front in Georgetown that had tons of beautiful paper cranes and I was even more delighted to later find ceramic ornaments fashioned after them.
In Japan, cranes represent long life, prosperity and good health, so they are fitting for the new year or to keep up year round.
The New Year has been really good to us. Recently everything seems to fall into place, and I just want to sit and take in all of my happiness.
I just celebrated my birthday and I can already tell that it's going to be a fantastic year. I also realize just how much I'm loved and the lengths that people go to make me happy. It truly makes me feel like the luckiest person in the world to have so many caring people in my life. I need to let people know I appreciate them more frequently, which is my challenge to myself for 2009.
It's nice to be content where I am and to have such wonderful people all around me. Tomorrow that will come to a tear filled halt, when I am forced to say goodbye to everyone. It's not exactly goodbye, but more of an 'until next time, whenever that shall be'. And, on the bright side, it will give me something nice to look forward to when we are able to see each other again.
2009 will be a year of change, not because of the Obama mantra, but because there are plenty of surprises in store for us. Some of the surprises are under our control, while I'm sure others aren't, but I'm looking forward to seeing how things unfold.
I'm enjoying my final days in the US and I have many updates in the coming days. I hope everyone is enjoying 2009 as much as we are!
Monday, January 5, 2009
The holidays are always action packed with Christmas, New Years, and my Birthday all falling around the same time. This year I celebrated my birthday twice. Once with family in DC, and again when we were back in Ohio.
After all, who doesn't love an excuse to eat cake?
In Ohio, we decided to go to The Melting Pot, a fondue restaurant to celebrate. I really liked the variety and small portions, although once the chocolate fondues came out we were feeling very full. It was a great way to spend the evening.
My sister made some wonderful cupcakes to my exact specifications and even Mieka enjoyed some 'frosty paws' (ice cream for dogs).
I really love being able to spend my birthday with family. That was very much my favorite gift of all.
Soon I'll write about the other fun things I received during the holidays as well! Thanks to all of my friends and family for making it such a fantastic visit home. The time always passes too quickly!
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Visiting family is something I never can get enough of. We were lucky enough to visit some of my family in the DC area and it always surprises me how quickly my cousins are growing, it's the harsh reality that time doesn't freeze while I'm away. It can be so difficult to feel like I am missing out on so many things at home.
Our first stop was to the National Air and Space Museum at the Udvar-Hazy Center, and the IMAX theatre. I was most amazed by the Enola Gay (plane to drop the first Atom bomb), Concorde (retired passenger plane that broke the sound barrier), and the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird (reconnaissance plane).
We managed to squeeze a bit of time in to head into the city and observe the Obama inauguration preparations. Our first stop was the Capitol building, which I forgot was so grandiose and majestic.
I always have to remind myself that the Greek buildings these are fashioned after weren't white, but very colorful in their day. I can't fathom a multicolored Capitol building or White House.
The city was filled with bleachers and construction as everyone was gearing up for the big event on January 20th. The tickets to go up the Washington monument were sold out for the day by the time we arrived, but we still enjoyed the sights as much as possible.
It had been such a long time since I visited Washington and this was my first visit to the National Museum of the American Indian. The building is so striking with the undulating lines and the Kasota limestone façade is aptly fitting.
A lot of the architecture in the capital is really beautiful. The row homes, especially in the Georgetown area, make me wish more of the country had architecture like that. I think the close living and open parks give more interaction, consideration, and compassion for neighbors.
My aunt and uncle did all they could to give us the things we don't have in Germany. We went out for Mexican, chicken wings, and they surprised me with an ice cream cake for my birthday. Again, the best part was having time with them.
My family has a history of sharing birthdays and I'm not alone. My cousin, Caitlin, was born the exact day and time that I was, only 18 years later. This year we were able to celebrate our birthday together, which was really fun.
I miss everyone so much and hope it's not so long before I see them again!
Thursday, January 1, 2009
We flew to New York City to visit a lot of friends and were greeted with chilly weather and many happy reunions. It was really wonderful to spend new years with so many people. Stefan captured a few photos beautiful of the city as we flew in.
Our first stop was to visit our friend Mary Kate. It's always so great to see her.
What was even better is that we were able to see more of her family, including her adorable niece Annie, who lives downstairs from her. I always love MK's close family because even in New York City they manage to make it feel more like a small neighborhood. They are always so welcoming. Her mom even called to say hi.
Mary Kate's view of the city is really a stunning sight. We stared out her window in awe of the lights and action happening all around. Stefan and I both love New York. It can be slightly overwhelming since you can easily spend a life time exploring. I think if I lived there it would be really difficult to figure out where to eat dinner because the options are endless. Fortunately any meal is better with great company.
One of the most simple, but delicious meals we had was at Maggie Brown's in Brooklyn, with Mary Beth. I am still thinking about my sandwich. While we were in the subway, we saw a floating orange balloon. It reminded me of the French tale of 'The Red Balloon'.
The Brooklyn half of our trip, we spent with Mary Beth. She lives in a beautiful Brooklyn brownstone with exposed brick walls that I love.
If I had an endless cash supply I think I would buy one and refurbish it. They have so much character and charm. The funny thing was that one of her cats did not think we were so charming. The cat in this photo actually liked us (he was yawning), but the other one would lurk in the hallway and take swipes at our legs. I couldn't stop laughing as Stefan walked past and the cat tried to scratch his leg out of no where. I guess he was angry we were taking MB's time from him.
Rather than standing in Times Square and dealing with the frigid temperatures and being surrounded by drunkards for New Years Eve, we opted to celebrate with friends who were throwing a graffiti party. Everyone wore t-shirts and wrote comical messages on each other.
It was so nice to see so many familiar faces and we didn't tell everyone that we were coming, so there were also a lot of surprised to see us faces.
Seeing everyone really made me home sick for my friends and made me realize just how much I miss everyone. Stefan and I both commented to each other that at times it felt like we were looking in on things and how much fun everyone has together.
We really didn't feel like tourists since we were always with our friends and not doing much of the tourist circuit. Plus, we know we'll be back again... maybe even sooner than we think. I'm already looking forward to that and missing everyone!
Thanks so much Mary Kate and Mary Beth!