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Wednesday, August 29

You-Pick Farms

This summer has been perfect. Let’s hope I don’t jinx it by saying that. I know in United States it’s been hot and uncomfortable in most parts of the country while in India it’s the usual humidity. We lucked out in this part of the world and had bearable temperatures. I will admit part of last week was uncomfortably hot and without air conditioning it felt miserable inside the apartment as well outside. But thankfully the late August, high 60s to low 70s, are back this week.

This warranted a trip to the local farm that has you-pick veggies and fruits. I wanted to go to the you-pick farm since I heard about it in Spring. You-pick farms allow customers to come and pick their veggies and fruits. I went with couple friends few weeks ago and bought way too many veggies and blueberries. I’d bought 1/2 kilogram of blueberries and they were gone faster than I could say pancakes! I went back and bought more veggies and raspberries. This time around, I bought a kilo of raspberries and hope they last longer. But this isn’t about raspberries. This is about the corn.

Corn isn’t local to Germany, it’s local to North & Latin America. And Germans are keen on eating foods that are locally grown in the area, which I fully support. However both summers we’ve been here I haven’t seen much of corn at the market or at the grocery stores. When I saw the corn field at the farm, a very small one at that, I made a dash for it. I’ve missed eating sweet corn in summer.

And unfortunately the husband isn’t a fan of sweet corn so that’s the first thing he passes up at state fairs or festivals. I believe, growing up in India has something to do with that. Fortunately for me, the only way he (and most Indians) eat sweet corn is in “sweet corn soup.” The soup tastes nothing like what people in America call sweet corn soup. None the less, I could make my version of sweet corn soup and the husband would eat it just based on the name. Deception is a fine art. With an addition of Jalapeño and sausage, the husband would eat anything, really.

Summer Sweet Corn Soup 

1 teaspoon clarified butter, ghee
1 link smoked pork sausage, sliced (I used garlic wurst from a local farmer)
1 medium red onion, cubed
2 garlic cloves, halved
2 Jalapeño peppers, chopped
3 ears of corn, husks removed
2 cups stock, homemade preferred
1/3 cup whole milk
salt and freshly ground pepper

In a small dutch oven or sauce pan, add ghee on medium low heat. Add the sliced sausage and brown for 3- 4 minutes. If the sausage becomes too crispy too fast, lower the heat to low. After 4 minutes, remove the sliced sausage with slotted spoon onto a plate, leaving behind pork fat. Add onions and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in a pinch of salt, garlic and chopped Jalapeño peppers.

Hold the corn on the cob straight up on a cutting board. With a sharp knife, cut the kernels off the cob. Some kernels will fly off the cob. 

Add the kernels to the dutch oven. Cook for few (2- 3) minutes then stir in stock and milk. Add salt and black pepper, to taste. Add less salt than normal because the sausage is salty. Bring the liquid to a slow boil; once it’s bubbling, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Using a stick blender, blend the soup in the dutch oven. If using food processor or blender, carefully transfer the soup from dutch oven to processor and pulse. If using stick blender the soup won’t be absolutely pureed and that’s okay for us; if you like yours very fine, pass it through a sieve.

Ladle soup into bowls and top it with cooked sausage. Adjust salt and pepper accordingly.

The soup was a hit and I'm glad I bought 4 ears of corn. I’ve got one left to boil and eat with butter.  Lunch tomorrow will be alone in my balcony enjoying the sun and the sweet sweet corn. 

Friday, August 24

Würzburg, Bavaria

Würzburg is a small town 100 kilometers from Nürnberg. We took a day trip there by train on a Saturday. It is so close but yet so different than Nürnberg; full of wineries and thus offering great tasting wine. We arrived at 11 am, in time for a glass or two of wine. After sipping local wine at the wine shop, we ate lunch at an Asian place because the German restaurant we wanted to try was full. It was just okay. Post lunch we hiked up to Fortress Marienberg. It’s a 30 minute uphill hike so good walking shoes are vital.

After wandering through the open-air fortress, we walked back to the old city for a tour of the Residence Palace, a World Heritage Unesco site. There we learned the city was affected and destroyed during the last few weeks of World War II. However the rebuilt architecture is like before, unique to the city and its wine culture.

The city sits on river Main so we succumbed to a river boat cruise. Thankfully we did, we thoroughly enjoyed the sights and views on the windy river.
There was a wine festival that day so we joined in for festival food and local wine.

Monday, August 20


I’ve talked about running plenty of times before. I was training for a race or two when I started running.  Both the husband and I ran a half marathon in 2010 so I was excited to run another race but nervous since this would be by myself.

The 10.5 kilometer race was few weeks ago. I was especially thrilled when a local American expat wife was also planning to run the race.  Having prepared for months, I was ready to start and finish.  At 10am, we started together.  The first 5 kilometers felt comfortable.  Although the sun was out in full force, having my music to run with as well as a partner helped pushed me through the first half.  Though at some point in the first half, I said to her the sun was really making it tough to stay cool.  She was supportive and encouraged me to keep going.  After couple quick water stops and 30- 45 second walking breaks, I slowed down at 7,5 kilometer.  My partner slowed down also to run at my pace. Between kilometer 8 and 8,5, I started walking and told her to keep going. 

What ensued is dreadful, especially with all the training I had done.

Around kilometer 9 I started feeling lightheaded.  Instead of stopping to walk, I kept running because I believed I was close to the finish line.  Then I saw big balloons and lots of people cheering so I was happy to cross the finish line.  I called the husband to meet him and our friends.  He was confused because he didn’t see me and couldn’t find me near the finish line.  After multiple failed phone call attempts, we both realized I was disoriented and did not finish.  I was in fact 0,5- 1,0 kilometer from the end.

I stumbled to get help.  Using my best German the emergency unit drove me to the finish line in an ambulance to meet the husband and friends that were impatiently awaiting my arrival.  (side note- when we were driving to the finish line in the ambulance, a young nurse offered me aswater and asked me if I needed to barf. To this day that makes me chuckle because I didn't know barf was medical terminology. Before you roll your eyes, I credit him asking and using his best English.) Once at the finish line, I admitted myself to the make-shift hospital tent to seek help.  The nurses gave me water through ivy and once the first bag was finished, I received another because my blood pressure was too low.  While I was getting ivy, the nurses said I experienced sun stroke and dehydration hence the lightheaded and disoriented feeling.  After two bags of water through ivy, I was discharged to get some food.

Our friends with a car offered to drive us home, thankfully.  I slept for an hour before round 2 began.  And by round 2 I mean all the water I had consumed through ivy and the food I had eaten came back up.  This lasted for couple hours before we decided to go the hospital.  The doctor there gave me water through ivy again and that didn’t last long.   While I was hooked up to the water ivy, I felt the sensation to throw up and did.  Then the doctor took me off of the ivy and gave me anti-vomit medication.  That helped, I came home and went to bed.  The next morning, I woke up feeling a bit sore (from not stretching post run) but fine. 

Looking back there are some lessons to learn from.  I drank 2 glasses of water pre run; I now know that wasn’t enough and any (especially mid morning or mid day) run requires lots more water for a race.  I also didn’t eat a hearty breakfast before the race, another lesson learned.  Eat what works for you; for me fruit, toast and drink plenty of water.  2 mini muffins are not enough.

It’s important to set a pace that works and keep going at that.  Although it was great to have a partner and I will always be thankful to her for running with me, she’s a faster runner than me so I ran too fast in the first 5 kilometers.

There was another race recently the husband and I ran together.  It was at 7:30pm and still too warm for a race but we had the whole day to consume plenty of water and food.  And fortunately for both of us and other runners, it was only 6 kilometers.  We both finished at a good time.

The husband did the 6 kilometers and is finished with running.  The shorter race was motivation for me to keep running and try running another race.   

Thursday, August 16

Free Music in the Park

Klassik Open Air is a show in the Nürnberg that happens twice a year in the summer. It’s sponsored by large companies hence the free. One show is the philharmonic performing and the other one is with the symphony. We were fortunate enough to go for both this year.
We brought picnic, blankets and drinks the first time. The 2nd time we brought picnics, lawn chairs and drinks. Both times it was entertaining and we hope to attend the he future years we are here in Germany.

Saturday, August 11

Sightseeing in Amsterdam

First comes the food than comes sightseeing.

Amsterdam is a city built on canals and so anywhere we went, there were waterways.  My dream is to live near the ocean some day and although canals aren’t exactly ocean I was happy to see water everywhere. 

For the tourist spots, we both highly recommend Van Gogh Museum.  Van Gogh Museum will be a short visit in the day because it’s only 4 levels that are spread out but worth the time because it houses many works by him as well as his mentors, teachers and students.  Another key stop for us was the Dutch Resistance Museum- Verzetsmuseum.  This describes the history of National Socialist party (NS or Nazis) occupation in Netherland, against the Dutch's will.  It shows the Dutch eventually coming together (underground) and standing up and fighting for wrongful killings of mass number of people.  I was very much moved by this and suggest all tourists go see it because it’s important to see there were people that questioned and stood up before the Allies arrived.  

We also visited the Rembrandt house.  This museum is in the house Rembrandt lived in for few years while in Amsterdam.  This is also a multi-level museum but small enough to spend few hours.  The first couple floors display works of Rembrandt’s tutors and students or people that followed his work closely. The next few levels are based on Rembrandt’s work on etching. This is etching. It’s a lengthy read but valuable and it explains how he was able to make so many prints in his time as an artist.  There are at least 100 etched prints displayed at the museum.  On one level of the house someone shows the precise technique of etching which we both found instructive.  Anne Frank Haus is well renown and tickets must be reserved in advance for entrance.   Due to the diaries and the story the house is a busy tourist spot, unfortunately that was the exact reason I didn’t like the visit.  It was very crowded and everything in the house is seen in a line full of people.  There were too many people and not enough time to see or read the excerpts.  For those that really want to see it, go but I wouldn’t do it knowing what I know now.  Instead read the diaries to really understand Anne’s day to day life and the small space she and her family lived in at that time.  Another site that no one misses is the royal palace in the main square.  It’s great for photographs.

One place that we wished we could’ve visited but didn’t have time to was the Amsterdam History Museum.  It came highly recommended to us and we hope to go there the next time we visit Amsterdam.

The city’s flea markets are known to the locals as well as tourists.  Spending an hour at one in Jordaan neighborhood was enjoyable especially since many people had antiques on sale.  Additionally, some vendors were selling clothes, shoes, and things you wouldn’t see in a store.  If time permits, pick one of the better known flea markets and check them out. 

almost all forms of available transportation
We took a ferry ride around the city canals and that was fun.  Our ride was reasonable, 25 euros for two and it was 60- 70 minutes.  It was educational so we learned about the city while being on a boat touring the city.  We recommend doing that but only if at a reasonable price.

No trip to Amsterdam is complete without a stop at the Red Light District.  And although distinctive enough to make Amsterdam what it is, I found the central streets underwhelming.  We didn’t stroll through any of the smaller side streets so we may not have gotten the full experience but couple streets were enough to get a taste for the area.  I was surprised to learn that these sex workers work legally and pay taxes like every other working citizen in Netherland.  Another interesting detail was when Amsterdam tried to introduce male sex workers, the city received unwarranted publicity and eventually had to close.

And unlike the female sex workers having legal rights to work in the city, the biggest misconception of Amsterdam is the legality of marijuana.  To our surprise, marijuana is illegal.  Since it is considered a soft drug there is no-enforcement on locals, tourists, coffee shops or public smoking.  However as of January 1, 2013, it will be tough to buy marijuana at coffee shops because the new law prohibits tourists coming to the city just to get high.  Under this new law only locals with Netherland ID can buy marijuana legally.  That should be interesting for the city's tourism industry.  Oh and don’t be that tourist that’s so high they can’t decipher good decisions from bad.  We saw plenty of those people and were disappointed by the abuse of the drug in the name of fun.

I loved Amsterdam for many reasons but one of which is the English speaking population in the city.  All the locals we spoke with spoke fluent English and were willing to help us translate from Dutch.  I was impressed by this act of generosity especially because Germans (at least the ones we’ve encountered) are total opposite of this.  Germans don't like speaking English or helping translate because they think their English isn’t very good.  Most probably not true but it coincides with us feeling like they aren’t very helpful.  None the less, I loved Amsterdam and its people. 

The weather while we were visiting was cold, wet, grey, dreary and not fun.  So it put a little damper on our spirits but it didn’t keep us from exploring the city and wishing for the sun to come out.  We enjoyed seeing the sights of the city, the waterways and I particularly loved the canal houses.  The moral of this post, go visit Amsterdam! 

Monday, August 6


There is no excuse for this so I better get right to it.

There have been multiple trips in this time away from blogosphere. One was to Amsterdam. YES, Amsterdam!

We flew into the city on Friday midmorning and planned to make it a short weekend getaway. And boy was it a short weekend. We stayed at an apartment through AirBnB, those unfamiliar with this site, it’s very much like couchsurfing.  And if you’re not familiar with that also, you (most of the time but not always) rent a room in someone’s apartment and stay with “hosts.”  It’s usually very casual and can include breakfast and other fancy amenities but it doesn’t always.  Unfortunately for us, this particular apartment on AirBnB was not very nice. When we arrived, the apartment was a hot mess, I mean really messy.  The husband of the couple showed us to our room and explained the basic format.  Fortunately our room was clean and we had access to the balcony.  We were also a bit surprised with the apartment’s proximity to the city, too far! It was a good 20- 25 minute tram ride to the heart of the city.  While he was chatting with us, his wife came home with their young baby and shared with us some food recommendations.  The few great things for this place were 1. We had the place to ourselves because the couple and their baby were traveling to Paris for 3 weeks on Saturday.  So although we paid for one room, we got the whole apartment 2. It had a fantastic balcony that we used and 3. The food recommendations from the couple were excellent.

So, Amsterdam has Dutch food, obviously, but it also does Surinamese, Indonesian and other ethnic foods really well.  If you’re like me, you’d ask, why? (without much thought of it).  To answer simply, Dutch had many colonies and in the process of colonizing those countries, they brought back the foods and culture of those places.  Suriname is a small country in South America.  In 1667, the Dutch traded a city called New Amsterdam for Suriname with the English in the Treaty of Breda.  And this was an ideal arrangement for the Dutch because they were able to reclaim their sugar factories in Suriname.  Fun fact- that city known as New Amsterdam is present day New York City.  I bet the Dutch are still pissed off about the exchange.   So Surinamese food is one of the best we tried.  It’s definitely influenced by Indian food because a large portion of Surinamese population is of the Indian descent.  Wiki has all kinds of information on why that is.

Our first evening’s dinner was at a hole in a wall joint called Roopram Roti.  When we arrived, there was a line out the door, a definite sign of the restaurant.  The owner of this place has multiple locations including one in India.  We each ordered a platter; the husband got chicken with roti and I got lamb with roti.  Each platter comes with sides of 2 vegetables, always potatoes and green beans.  The chicken and lamb curries are cooked in a special sauce while the vegetables are cooked in their individual spices and are perfect complement to the main meat serving.  (Veggie platters include a larger portion of potatoes and green beans which I highly recommend for a meatless meal.)   The potatoes reminded us of aloo subji, if that’s any reference.   The rotis are the clear standouts; filled with grinded lentils and spices, they taste great by themselves but paired with meats and/or vegetables are mouthwateringly tasty.  Due to the large demand of the rotis, we noticed two women managing a sturdy machine cranking out perfectly round, flat rotis.  We enjoyed this place so much we returned another day (upon a recommendation from another customer) for a roti roll.  In this the roti is filled with meat and veggies and wrapped like a burrito for a fast food version.

One morning for breakfast we tried Dutch Pancakes at Pancakes!, also a lovely experience.  I ordered a cheese pancake and he ordered one with spinach, goat cheese, pine nuts and balsamic.  The pancakes are large, thin, round pancakes made with a savory (or sweet) batter.  Mine was crispy on the outside and soft and cheesy on the inside.  His was very flavorful with the cheese and balsamic.  Both were delightful.  It’s a very small restaurant and fills up fast so be ready to wait or get there at opening for seats.

BurgerMeester is a place that specializes in burgers.  On menu they have about 8 burgers.  We went there with a mission to get a lamb burger that would knock our socks off.  And BurgerMeester delivered.  We haven’t been able to get any lamb (or turkey) burgers in Germany so when I read about this place I had to have it on my list.  Thankfully it lived up to all its hype.  I asked the server how they served lamb burgers and she said well-done.  Her precise explanation, due to many Americans complaining about their burgers being “raw in the middle” or “undercooked”, they started serving well-done burgers.  I laughed.  Oh Americans.  So we both asked for our burgers medium and we got just that.  Mine was topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion compote and cheese and his was topped with chorizo, jalapenos and cheese.

Greenwoods is a sweet little breakfast/brunch place on Singel 103. There are two locations and we were at this one.  It’s a very small place with 8 small tables and space for outdoor seating.  I ordered an eggs benedict and he ordered an English breakfast which came with baked beans, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon and homemade Irish soda bread.  We ordered coffee but many others were ordering tea so I am sure they are also known for it.  The eggs benedict were tasty but I was surprised one of the poached eggs was well done while the other still had a runny yolk; not much to complain about when the overall breakfast is tasty.  We especially liked that both servers were really sweet and helpful. 

Here is good blog writing and journalism going bad.  Thankfully, I didn’t apply for that reporting job in Fiji because I would’ve failed.  We tried a restaurant for lunch that’s worth noting but I have no idea what the name is.  I will explain exactly where it is and what it’s around if you wanted to go there.  But first the food.  Upon entering at 2pm on Friday and hoping to get some food we asked if they still offered lunch, she nodded and seated us.  She offered the À la carte menu and suggested a 2-course or 3- course lunch where the chef picks the courses.  We decided on the 2-course with one contingency, no beef.  Our first course was a salad of frisee served with thinly sliced pork and herbed butter dressing.  The pork was, I believe, sous vide.  I can’t recall having pork in this form before and it didn’t taste like it was pan fried, roasted or braised.  It was perfectly done and the flavors all melded together. Our 2nd course was pan fried cod over vegetables floating in a broth.  The veggies included potatoes, carrots and sea beans.  The sea beans were new for both of us and outstanding.  He doesn’t care for fish skin but after trying it in its crispy form here he devoured it.  Overall this place is very good.  Pricey but good.  So the restaurant is in an area called Javaplein and behind Badhuis.  (Badhuis used to be a bath house but now is converted to a restaurant.) 

Finally an Indonesian place that we were excited to try.  Most Indonesian restaurants are listed as pricey in Amsterdam because of the way the food is served.  Many even recommend sharing the main entrees with another person to valuable experience.  We went to Café Kadijk for our last meal of the trip. It’s a split level restaurant in a quieter neighborhood, with friendly staff.  When we were there the bartender split his time serving and bartending.  The husband ordered the traditional rice table and I ordered the eggs and shrimp dish (it’s listed in appetizer course).  The rice table comes with rice, chicken curry, pork curry and maybe beef curry with pickled veggies.  (It’s a large plate hence the suggestion to share.) I wasn’t in the mood for all that meat so I let the husband tackle it on his own.  Thankfully Café Kadijk’s rice table portion was small enough to order for one. The eggs and shrimp dish was good but nothing extraordinary. It was a good meal and worth returning to if we were in the mood for the rice table.

Thai Bird is a Thai place in the city that we tried after reading many reviews online.  It’s pricey and the food was just okay.  I wouldn’t recommend it but the lines out the door would suggest otherwise.

I loved Amsterdam’s food culture and would return to eat some of the good foods we had and didn't try.