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Tuesday, November 20


I had trouble coming up with the first sentence for this post. Waiting in restaurants in Germany (and most of Europe) is standard. The timely customer service Americans and Southeast Asians are used to doesn’t exist here. A typical restaurant experience consists of arriving at a scheduled time and lots of waiting. Usually we have to wait to order our drinks and to order food. (If the menu isn't closed the server presumes the customer isn’t ready to order.) If we aren’t ready when the server is, we wait even longer. Once the order for food and drinks is placed, we don’t see our server again until the food arrives. And when the food arrives, if we need anything we must ask then, otherwise it’ll be some time before we get it or not at all. During and post dinner the server doesn’t (rarely they’ll ask about the food) come back at all. There could be hoards of people waiting in line to be seated for a table but the server is in no hurry to have the customer pay the bill, get them out of there to make room for others. The husband often jokes, when the server brings our food we should ask him to bring our checks so we can pay and leave when we’re ready rather than waiting to flag him/her down. In general, the server doesn’t come back to the table, after food’s served, unless flagged down.

The German restaurant experience is very laid back, to fault, but many Germans believe American service is dreadful with fake smiles and servers periodically watching over the customers. Some even insist it’s uncomfortable to be in an American restaurant because the servers and the service aren’t genuine.

While I’d be the first to call Germany service slow, I don’t intend to get beat up while here so I rarely share my frustration. until now.

Oh and free refills, what planet are you from? Not EuropEarth. No such thing exists here. (In this, I appreciate there isn’t overindulgence on sugary sodas.) And while we’re on the subject, water does cost money and no one orders tap water because it’s considered rude. If a customer wants bottled (sparkling or still) water, they have to order it and pay for it! I’ve seen someone order tap water for free but that’s one case in hundreds I’ve encountered in the past 1.25 years.

Slow Restaurant service is just the fact of life.

Here’s where my experiences differ from some I’ve talked to.

I had a doctor’s appointment at 9:40am. It was the first time at this particular doctor’s so I went to the address listed on a “yellow pages” site and it happened to be incorrect. The offices had moved so it took me longer to get to my appointment. I arrived at 9:50 and signed in. At that appointment I waited 25 minutes before being seen by the doctor. I concluded it was because I was lost and came in later than the scheduled appointment. I had a follow-up appointment with the same doctor before leaving for India. (Yes, I am typing this while sitting in a big living room of my in laws’ home in India, more on that later.) This time the appointment was at 9:20 and I arrived at 9:15. Unfortunately like before, I waited 25 minutes before being seen by the doctor.

(Doctor’s appointment is nothing of stress. I am having issues breathing through my nose 100% of time so I got it checked. It may require surgery but that’s Plan B; for now Plan A is to use nasal spray.)

And then there’s the hair salon experience.

I scheduled a hair appointment at a salon that came highly recommended from friends. Many said the owner and few hairdressers speak very good English. When I arrived for the appointment, I was offered a drink and then waited 15 minutes before being seen. The guy that washed, cut and dried my hair was available so I don’t know why I waited. He took more than 1 hour and 45 minutes to finish the cut. I was exasperated, 1 hour 45 minutes for a haircut? I can’t confirm but I believe he was a student and was being extra careful.

Then I scheduled a second appointment at the salon. This person (a friend explained) spoke great English and is a professional stylist. After arriving, the receptionist offered me a drink and asked me to wait. 30 minutes later, I was finally taken to the back to have my hair washed. The woman that washed my hair was doing my stylist a favor and didn’t want me waiting. Then I waited with wet hair in the chair for 15- 20 minutes before my stylist was ready. I noticed she was running behind from a previous cut that took longer. Although I understood and accepted her apology, I am bothered.

These repeated instances at same locations have me wondering why people schedule appointments if I have to wait before being seen. None of the Americans I know have encountered this at the hair salon. But that makes me question even more, is it me? Is it them? Do I give off weird vibes? You’d tell me, right? I’d hope so.

Friday, November 16

New Restaurants to Share

As you may have noticed, I haven’t written many restaurant reviews here. One reason for that is it’s truly difficult to find memorable restaurants here. We try various places but without success. Sadly, I’ve found myself saying I rather eat in or make something from scratch instead of testing a new restaurant only to be disappointed. But here’s a list of few that are worth mentioning.

Per Bacco is an Italian place we most recently tried with some friends. It’s in a residential corner of Gostenhof. The restaurant has a deli on the right side and formal seating on the left. The seating area for customers is small but intimate. There is a large map of Italy on the wall with wines listed shown from the country’s regions. There is also a large blackboard that lists the daily pasta specials. In the 15+ pasta dishes to choose from, they had 4 homemade pastas. The ones I remember were Ravioli, Pappardelle, and Fazzoletti.

That night, the husband ordered spaghetti with scampi (langostines) while I opted for the Fazzoletti. (I always get homemade pasta because it features the chef and the restaurant’s pasta making skills). One woman in our group got the ravioli, her husband the calamari. The 2nd couple ordered Fazzoletti and pasta with horse meat sauce. Generally speaking, I think calamari is really hard to make or easy to overcook or undercook but the person that got it said it was perfectly cooked. The ravioli was filled with spinach and cheese and appreciated for its delicate taste. The pasta with the horse meat was unexpectedly delicious. We were all a tad nervous to try horse meat but it was one of my favorite new tastes. The husband’s langostines looked tasty (he said they were fine) and the pasta and sauce were good. Fazzoletti are little handkerchiefs and filled. Mine were filled with chestnuts and then sauteed in a sausage, olive oil sauce. At first it sounded unusual but upon first bite, I was intrigued. I wouldn’t normally pair chestnuts with sausage sauce but this was delectable. Unfortunately for me, I am not a fan of sweet filling for pasta as a main course so I was put off by the chestnuts but I highly recommend trying it if it’s on the menu. We shared a Tiramisu and that was rich. Overall Per Bacco gets high praise for the service, wine and food; it’s hidden for good reason.

Another place that I am raving to everyone about is a sushi restaurant. Sushi is my all-time favorite food and it’s close to impossible to find a place that offers fresh fish and seafood with impressive rolls. I’d heard good things about Sushi Edo from various people but hadn’t made it to the place until recently. A friend and I met up for a sushi lunch and were surprised by its location. Not only is Sushi Edo few stops from Altstadt (downtown), it’s hidden behind business/office buildings. The restaurant is a large space with modern Japanese décor. I got the Spicy Tuna and Salmon Skin roll and their version of Spider Roll. The fish was very fresh and there was an actual fiery kick to the spicy Tuna roll. My friend liked all her rolls. She is also a sushi fan and agreed this was one of the best restaurants she’d tried here.

The first time the husband and I tried Ethiopian food was in Cincinnati US. Contrary to popular belief, Cincinnati isn’t the hotbed of Ethiopians but the one and only restaurant offers authentic food. It exposed us to a new type of ethnic food. I believe, Ethiopian food is very much like Indian food in that it has lentils of some sort, various vegetarian dishes (cabbage, potatoes, collard greens in its own spices and herbs), and a meat dish that’s all eaten with Injera, a 3rd cousin of the sourdough bread in a spongy, flatbread version. To eat it, you take the Injera bread in one hand and use it to pick up one or mixture of veggies or meat.

We first tried Shashamane months ago but I’ve been behind on reporting on it. Its location is behind the Hauptbahnhof (main railway station), tucked away in an business area. (There's a pattern with all these good places being tucked away.) On the inside the restaurant feels like a Rastafarian home with multiple pictures of Bob Marley and flags of Jamaica. There is also a disco ball. When we went we got a large platter (for two); it came with lamb stew, lentils slowly cooked in spices, cabbage with cumin seeds, sautéed collard greens and lots of Injera bread. Enough bread to fill us up, to the brim. Everything tasted like we had in Cincinnati. Although that doesn’t justify its authenticity, we believe the food we tried in Cincinnati and here at Shashamane was memorable, real and worth repeat visits. The disco ball, we later learned, is for the nights the restaurant turns into a reggae bar.

Finally Herr Lenz is an organic restaurant. It’s one of a kind because they source most of their ingredients locally. They have a weekly menu that changes based on the ingredients sourced for that week. The night we went we ordered a large salad and a braised chicken. My salad came with romaine, red lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and onions. The dressing was made of yogurt and mustard. But the one thing that made my salad memorable is the brie wrapped in bacon and briefly toasted. The saltiness of the bacon tied in with the creaminess of the brie was the ultimate addition to the salad. The husband’s braised chicken was browned and then braised in wine sauce with onions, carrots and potatoes. This, by no means is original, but we were both pleasantly surprised with the simple, home cooked taste. Although a salad isn’t a solid enough reason to rave about a restaurant, we are happy to have a restaurant that sources locally on our list.

Tuesday, November 13

Self Employment

I’ve already written about how difficult it is to obtain a work permit without a job offer or get an offer without a work permit. After some research and speaking with some friends, I had an idea to apply for a work permit on my own. I intended for this to be a self employment or a freelance contractor permit. I submitted my basic information for the application 10 weeks ago, more or less. Within a short period, I received a letter from the Einwohneramt (Residence Registration Office) asking for more information. They required a resume, a business plan (what I intend to do with the permit) and my German language course information. I revised my resume to reflect the food experiences, created a basic one page business plan to reflect my plans and submitted all the necessary paperwork within few days. I had read (and heard) the review process takes 4- 8 weeks so I patiently waited. (Thankfully mom was visiting so I didn’t think too much of it.)

On week 5, I went into the office to inquire about my application. The information desk referred me to the person who was in charge of my application. The door to his office was slightly ajar, implying, he was inside and free to speak. I knocked and then entered. Once inside he asked if I had an appointment and I uttered no. He asked why I was there so I explained my dilemma; I submitted my paperwork 5 weeks prior and had not received a response. He looked at the letter I had brought and pondered over my name. He then said he remembered my name because he just created a letter to send to me. He showed me the letter (while in his hand) that was to be mailed shortly. Since it was already Thursday, he would send it next week. The letter is an invitation for a meeting with him, he explained. I asked if I could have the letter in his hand and he looked at me, puzzled. He declined and said the letter has to be mailed. (I hope the expression on my face didn’t say “Useless!”)

I obliged and left.

The next week came and went and I still hadn’t received the letter. 2 weeks after I met the guy, I called to ask about the letter and the meeting. He politely offered to send the letter, again. Then I suggested if there was a meeting, could he share the meeting time and location on the phone so I could have it on my schedule? He gave it to me (a week from our conversation), told me all the details would be in the letter. I impolitely told him if I didn’t get the letter, I would still be present for the meeting next week.

Thankfully this time, I did get the letter. It asked me to bring my passport and 30 Euros on arranged time.

That meeting was last Wednesday at 8:30am. I took a close German friend with me, for support and questions. I was called into an office and the woman explained she would handle my case. She took my passport and typed some things on the computer. She told me to pay 30 Euros at the cash machine. After returning, she was ready with a paper. She took my old form and gave me the newest version, had me sign a paper and had me out of there in 20 minutes. The new form is my work permit and affirms I can work independently and as a freelance contractor in the city.

After this long (10 or so weeks), overdrawn process, I am ecstatic to have the work permit in my hand.

I recently taught a group of women, friends, a cooking class. I loved it and miss the class format very much. My intension with this permit is to teach on a larger scale, to friends and strangers. I would love nothing more than to teach cooking classes on weekly basis (on various cuisines, foods and subjects), cater dinner parties and be a personal chef to busy, working families. As a Personal chef, I can create home cooked meals for clients to pickup, enjoy and have on hand for evenings there aren’t enough hours in the day to cook for the family.

Do you need a cooking instructor?

Do you want to have a dinner party catered?

Hire me!

Sunday, November 11

Bank Card

Since moving to Germany, we’ve learned having cash on hand is very important. Life Lesson #7. Most German establishments (restaurants and small, private shops) only accept cash. This means we’ve had to carry wads of cash at all times for purchases. However for backup for that unusual purchase of a TV or sofa, we keep a debit card in tow. Yes, I am giving you permission to mug me now that you know this.

We got the Deustche Bank debit cards within the first couple months of arriving. I’ve used it few times; I am not often shopping for a TV or Sofa. Recently at a store, I ran out of that wad of cash and needed to make a purchase on the card and it didn’t work. The card machine gave me an error saying the card was unreadable. Thankfully the husband was with me and he paid.

Then while purchasing warm clothes for the winter that’s arriving really soon, I tried to use the card again. Again it was unreadable.

Twice was enough.

Twice was enough. I took the card to the bank to have it checked. At the main information counter, I explained my situation and that the card was not working. The “teller” says he’ll order a new one. I ask before he orders a new one, could he find out the problem? He shrugged. This is what irritates me about this country. Customer Service or lack thereof. It’s not nice to make comparisons when living in a different country but in this case I am forced to make a comparison. Something as simple as seeing if the magnetic stripe on the back can be repaired can be reassuring for the customer in America.

And furthermore, I had to pay 15 Euros for a new card. Here in lies a problem, if I have to pay for a new card, I would hope that the Bank ensures all other measures are taken before a new card is ordered. Or if it isn’t to the fault of the customer, (i.e. I didn’t lose it myself or cut it in half on purpose), order it for free for the customer. That may be too much to ask for but I am very irritated.

Thursday, November 8

Raspberry- Walnut Bread

This is one of those recipes that I am grateful to post because I found it accidentally. I was looking for a recipe for raspberry bars or streusel bars but instead found a quick bread with walnuts and bananas. I generally keep bananas in the freezer, ones that are overripe and could be thrown away but are stashed in the freezer for a happy accident like this.

The berries were from a local farm, when I had bought picked a full basket. I considered freezing the berries but chose not to since freezer space is at premium in this kitchen. Instead of the bars I made Raspberry- Walnut bread. It is a good snack to have on hand.

Raspberry- Walnut Bread
Yield: One 9” loaf
Adapted from Self Magazine

Vegetable-oil or cooking spray
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large ripe or overripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup fresh raspberries

Heat oven to 350°F or 180°C.

Coat a 9" loaf pan with cooking spray or vegetable oil.

In a bowl, combine sifted flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix with a whisk.

In a separate bowl, combine bananas, milk, egg, walnuts and vanilla. Pour batter into center of dry ingredients; fold together until combined. Gently fold in raspberries. Do not overmix. 

Pour batter into prepared pan; bake 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely.

Wrap in plastic wrap and store in an airtight zip bag for up to 3 days at room temperature. For longer period, store the bread in the fridge.

Monday, November 5

Dublin, Ireland

Speaking of Dublin, we arrived safe and sound. We rented an apartment in Ballsbridge through Air BnB and were warned the apartment was 10- 15 minutes from city center, by bus. Having said that, it was a sweet cottage close enough to the city but far enough from the madness. We took the bus daily to travel to the city and back.

The first day in Dublin we did the free walking tour of the city (they’re always instructive in learning about the city) and strolled on our own. Dublin, often cold and dreary, is a great walking city. We were all surprised by how small the actual city is. Although there are nearby areas of the city we didn’t visit, the main tourist attractions are within very close walking distance. In that walking tour we visited the city/town hall, Christ church, Trinity College, St. Stephen’s Greene and the area of National Museum of Ireland. The tour covers Ireland’s history especially to England. We learned about the potato famine of 1800s; many Irish believed the English Rule had an influence on the lives lost and efforts were not taken to prevent or lessen the impact in Ireland. St. Stephen’s Greene was very serene and picturesque in the middle of the city. I thoroughly enjoy these large parks many European cities house.

We ate lunch at O’briens Pub in the city center. Craving fish and chips, this was exactly as we’d expected. The fish was lightly battered and fried and the fries were larger than normal size, both tasty.

Post lunch we headed to Trinity College’s Old Library. The library contains many manuscripts, volumes of books from centuries ago, and the Book of Kells. Until Dublin, the husband and I were not aware of Book of Kells so it was an eye opening experience. The Book of Kells contain manuscripts of four Gospels of the New Testament from the 800. Additionally the Long Room in the Old Library is a gem to see; books from before outlasting its time. There are also busts of famous people.

Dinner that night was at Parnell Street Bar/Pub and as the name states it’s on Parnell Street. This pub is 10 minute walk from the Trinity College area but well worth the walk. Our group ordered Irish lamb stew, Beef stew made with Guinness and a pork dish. Everything was fantastic. The lamb stew was hearty and very well flavored. The husband tried the beef stew from our friend’s plate and he said it was delectable. Although we didn’t try the pork dish, our friend said he liked it very much.

That day also happened to be Arthur’s Day. Arthur Guinness created Guinness beer many years ago and just recently the brewing company started honoring Arthur for his great creation. Arthur’s day in Dublin is like St. Patrick’s day in Dublin. It's free marketing for the brewery. There was a big party inside and outside the bars near the Temple Bar area. All the bars we went to were packed with people partying and celebrating Arthur. We’ve had Guinness couple times before and disliked the taste each time however Guinness from tap is a world of difference. Although we didn’t love the beer after Arthur’s day, it was great to taste it in the country it was created.

The next day we visited the Jameson distillery. The distillery in the city no longer produces the whiskey and is used only for tours and events. My opinion on the tour was it was but slightly cheesy. I was surprised by the videos, they seemed comical instead of informational. I will admit I am the only one in our group of four that felt this way. The others thought it was a great walk through of the Jameson story and educational on the brewing process. At the end of the tour they offer a shot of Jameson for people that are interested in trying it. So all wasn't lost. 

That day’s lunch was at Messrs Maguire, one of the better microbrews we’ve tried in a while. I can’t remember precisely what beers they had on tap but I got the seasonal Pale Ale and it was really good. But more importantly the food at Messrs Maguire is worth mentioning. We split a plate of mussels and wild salmon bruschetta between the two of us. The mussels were cooked in a wine, cream, shallot sauce that I still think about and the bruschetta was made wild salmon, red onions and chives. Many others around us ordered the fish and chips and a seasonal stew (I am guessing lamb) and with the large number of people ordering those dishes, this place deserves a visit while in Dublin.

We visited the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin. It is full of archaeological artifacts from Irish history. There is an exhibition on the Vikings and their day to day life as well as the Medieval era. There are some unrelated Egyptian displays so feel free to skip those unless you’re interested. The museum is a good place to be on a rainy Irish day.

There is a large deal of countryside in Ireland that we wanted to see and visit but unfortunately with limited time we could only take one day trip outside of Dublin. We chose Cliffs of Moher with a tour bus company. The bus would depart early morning and stop in couple different places along the way.

One of the first stops on the tour was Dunguire Castle near Galway. A great castle that’s small enough to be someone’s mansion. I wished we could’ve gotten more information about this place but we didn’t. Our bus driver for the day trip was very intelligent and shared a lot of great knowledge about the country and the areas we were driving through but unfortunately there wasn’t much he discussed on the places we visited.

Our next stop was Corcomroe Abbey in Burren which was a monastery in 13th century. Part of it is cemetery now.
We stopped for lunch in Doolin at a restaurant that had famous seafood chowder. The chowder was worth a stop. Finally 30 minutes after lunch we arrived at Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs are 120 above the water, Atlantic coast. They were formed millions of years ago and the formations prove its age from the oldest rocks at the bottom to the most recent on top. We didn’t go to the beach, sea level, but I would highly recommend that for others that have time and interest in seeing the rocks closely. There is a small museum created by the Clare County administration to explain details of the rock formation, thousands of variety of wildlife that live on (and migrate through) the cliffs as well as in the water below. The museum is short and takes 30 minutes and is very informative. We were thrilled to visit this true natural wonder on this part of the world.
Overall our trip to Dublin was memorable and one of the first trips we took with friends. Thankfully we are still friends with them and it was an adventure for all. I highly recommend visiting Dublin for couple days and seeing Ireland’s countryside. Unfortunately our time is limited here in Europe or I would go back to Ireland to see Galway, Cork & Kilkenny and Belfast up north. And I would go back for the fantastic fish and chips, lamb stew and the fresh seafood.

Friday, November 2

Fall in Nürnberg

This year the seasons have been unusually short or unexpected. Earlier in the year, Spring sprung suddenly and was oddly short. And same for Fall. Although we’ve enjoyed the fall colors on the trees, it has been surprisingly cold. Maybe we aren't used to the colder Fall months.  We found ourselves, bundling up more than usual for afternoon outings and evening strolls. None the less, when I started notching the change in leaves during my runs, I grabbed the camera and dragged the husband on a long walk along the river. 
Neither one of us are ready for winter but are appreciative of the change in the seasons, even this far north in the hemisphere. In the meantime, we can enjoy what we have now.