Saturday, November 30, 2013

On The Way To Vienna ........

Quick stops in Muenster, Kassel, and Leipzig Germany. 

A vegan restaurant in Muenster called Peperoni?  Looks scary but tastes great!  Owner told us he cooks 2 dishes in this huge split cast iron pot.  When it's gone - he closes the restaurant. 

Vegetarian daughter gave this hole-in-the-wall 5 stars and meat-loving husband even gives it two thumbs up, 
......Ok, I had seconds!

Searching for Muenster Cheese in Muenster Germany.   Everyone thought we were crazy.  Found out later Muenster Cheese originates from the United States. (Who knew?)  They looked at us ( especially after our attempts at speaking German) as if we were the Munsters..

A not so great view from Mount Hercules in Kassel, Germany, while we were there.

File:Wilhelmshoehe - Herkules mit Kaskaden.jpg
How Mount Hercules should look when one visits.  (Found this picture on the internet)

We stopped for a bathroom break in Leipzig Germany and came upon where Bach's remains are buried by following a bunch of tourists into the church of Saint Thomas.  He was originally buried in St John's Cemetery in an unmarked grave, with the help of his admirers he was moved to a sarcophagus in St John's Church.  The Church was destroyed by bombing in World War II, so in 1949 Bach's remains were taken to his present grave inside the church of St. Thomas.  I guess you could call it Bach's "3rd Movement". 

Of course we know his best work - Toccata and Fugue in D minor - all those years of Disney's Fantasia!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dylan and Friends in Amsterdam

"How does it feel 
To be on your own 
With no direction home 
Like a complete unknown 
Like a rolling stone?" 

Bobby Dylan wasn't singing about our experience in this classic, but it still fits, and the answer is "Feels Pretty Damn Good".   Seeing Dylan with old friends in Amsterdam was cool, (I won't review here, but the band was tight even though much like our ability to understand Dutch, Dylan is pretty incoherent on new songs you are unfamiliar with, but he still blows a mean harp). I doubt there is a better poet/songwriter to represent Amsterdam.

In this beautiful city of canals and narrow buildings, people from all over the globe come here to taste the experience. From the cultural magnificence of the Rijksmuseum and it's architecture and Dutch Masters (the new displays housing the Rembrandts' are stunning) the Van Gogh Museum - a tribute to one of my favorites, or maybe the Hemp or Sex Museums, Amsterdam feeds that need with nearly 100 museums.

To those wanting to party, the bars and "Coffee Houses" (which are not Starbucks as Wanda discovered, but do sell a variety of blends, "Everybody must get stoned") are plentiful and people use Amsterdam as a "party destination" - from UK Bachelor/Bachelorette parties to reunions and assorted gatherings of friends looking to get loose. Summer or Fall, people were having fun. I know we did, and 32 years later it felt like yesterday. Amsterdam has that welcoming feel, accepting of all cultures, religions and beliefs, and it is making new friends everyday. Although with 900,000 people and 1.2 million bikes (crazy bikers rule the streets) I am not sure how many more vagabond/nomads they can accept.

 You have to go here in your lifetime. It is a living breathing work of Art.

I do have one negative comment - and that is about the "Red Light District". It is part of their legalized prostitution, (which has it's pluses including a lower crime rate, the Netherlands is actually closing prisons due to less crime) however, to make it part of your Tourist Maps, and openly and grotesquely market and promote an industry that encourages the sex slave market and denigrating women is wrong. Amsterdam doesn't need it and is the worse for its continuation.


We have visited Amsterdam before, and we didn't come back because it is a culinary Mecca. However, because it is such a diverse city (you can go way back to the Dutch empire and their conquests) there is a global food presence here. I prefer the Indonesian influence more so than all the fried snacks such as the Frikandel, Krokets, and Bitterballen. (Though I loved that fried meat mixture 30 years ago, somehow my tastes have changed or the meat mixture has).

The visit was very special because we were able to spend time with old and new friends. We were invited for food and drink in a wonderful Dutch home - where the entire bottom floor of a 4 story typical Dutch home is the kitchen. (My favorite room!) We were fortunate enough to have Chef Richard Messina who rivaled Martha Stewart for not only a beautifully set table but menus that would make her extremely jealous.  I would also like to congratulate Chef Messina as a new member of "Swine and Dine International"!  A Murano glass pig is coming your way.
(See the Swine and Dine Tab for more info)

We didn't get a chance to steal all the recipes from the meals Chef Messina prepared - but here are the ones where we scraped the bottom of the bowls:

Vegetable Dip: (I've never eaten so many vegetables with a dip like this!) 
1 cup Mayo 
2 tablespoons soy sauce 
1 tablespoon chopped/minced dried onion 
1 teaspoon dried ginger
2 tablespoons milk
Mix well, refrigerate and cover. Stir frequently. (The secret ingredient is the ginger!) 

Italian Chocolate Amaretto Torta:  (good luck in the conversions) 
 110g Dark Divine Chocolate
 2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur 
110g unsalted butter at room temperature 
110g caster sugar plus 1 tablespoon 
3 large eggs separated 
60g Amaretti biscuits, crushed 
60g plain flour 
Sifted icing sugar, or your favorite canned chocolate frosting, whipped cream, fresh berries to serve 

1. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas4
Butter and line a loose-bottom 20cm sandwich tin, then butter again and dust with flour. Put the chocolate and Amaretto in a bowl over a pan of steaming water and leave to melt - do not let the bowl touch the water. Remove from heat, stir and cool. 

2. Put the butter and 110g caster sugar in a bowl, using a wooden spoon or a mixer, beat until very light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, then stir in the cooled chocolate. When thoroughly blended, fold in the crushed biscuits and flour with a metal spoon. 

3. Put the egg whites into a clean, grease-free bowl and whisk until stiff peaks form. Whisk in the remaining 1 tbsp. sugar to make a stiff, glossy meringue, then fold into the cake mixture in 3 batches. 

4. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin, then bake for 25-30 minutes or until just firm to the touch. Let the Torta cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Remove from the tin and transfer to a wire rack to cool. 

5. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve slightly warm or at room temperature with whipped cream and fresh berries. 

P.S. We are museum people, so if you are here for only a short time - as Rich said the "Don't Miss" museums are the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh museum, and the Tropenmuseum. If you don't get to these museums, then you probably spent too long in the museum below:

Thanks Amsterdam!!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mussels in Brussels

Brussels is one of those capital cities that has grown so large they have a designated "Tourist-History Quarter".  Numerous buses of camera wielding tourists embark in search of the "Little Boy Peeing Sculpture",  purchases of famous Belgium chocolates,  a short break for waffles, beer and mussels - then back on the bus.

To be honest, there isn't a good deal more to Brussels, and there doesn't have to be - all of those things are fantastic, (apart from the peeing boy sculpture) and when you add the majestic facades of the La Grand-Place and the rows of restaurants side by side, it makes for a wonderful experience.  Brussels is very proud of their Musee Rene Magritte - a museum of surrealist painter Magritte and it is worth the visit.  I love views, so of course The Cathedral Notre Dame sitting on a nearby hill is also quite impressive.

Our 1st night in Brussels and everyone eats mussels in a dozen different ways,  (not my preferred shellfish) but to be in the spirit of the city we chose Valencia style Paella with Mussels at a very busy outdoor street cafe.  We were encouraged by one of the many "Hosts" to join them for a meal - a lot of pressure to choose the right restaurant since there are maybe 60-70 restaurants on top of each other.  We finally chose a restaurant named "Richard's" (hmmm...).   It was a sensory filled night with people watching,  buckets of mussels and plenty of beer - what is not to love?

There was that Beer Museum we missed- drat!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

In Bruges: Freits and Chocolate

We spent a couple of days in Bruges, Belgium. We decided to visit this city because we remembered the film “In Bruges” (with Colin Farrell) and we wanted to check out the Bell Tower. The movie is worth watching if you like very dark English "dramedy" -  just as the city is worth visiting if you are ever in Belgium!

On my bucket list is visiting all the great museums of the world. I have a few checked off – Louvre,  The Prado, Vatican Museums etc etc. The two museums that I am proud to say I have visited in Bruges were the Frietmuseum and the Chocolademuseum. Museums on the history of the potato but more importantly Belgian Fries, and Chocolate with an emphasis on Belgium chocolate! What a treat (yes museums that pass out samples!).

Factoid: The "French Fry" is an expression that came into use during World War I, where some French speaking Belgium soldiers are said to have offered some chips to the American soldiers.  The American soldiers thought the Belgium soldiers were French - hence the name "French Fries"!

Thought I would pass on a Belgium Freits dip recipe any foodie will love:
Belgium Sauce Andalouse
1 cup of mayonnaise
2 spoons of tomato paste
2 spoons of finely chopped onion
1 spoon of finely chopped green chili (not sure if that means bell pepper)
1 spoon of finely chopped red chili
1 spoon of lemon juice
1 spoon of salt
Mix all ingredients together and leave to macerate for one hour before dipping.

Time out for more of those Belgium Fries!

Oui Wanda, ma petite pomme de terre, the town is so much more than a Bell Tower - Bruges has a fairy tale type feeling of bridges and swans, narrow cobblestone streets, small pubs and a step back in time.

You are so right Mr. Potato Head!

Friday, November 8, 2013

12th Century Chateau, A Memoriam to a Great Man, Anthony C. Tirri -- R.I.P

It was 2 years ago we met Tony Tirri and 1 year ago we posted this to our site. Anthony C. Tirri passed away this week SEPT 19, 2014. We feel so fortunate to have spent a short time with Tony, yet he will have a lasting impact on us, just like everyone who came in contact with him. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Tony's family and friends. A huge loss, way too soon, and yet a great life lived to the fullest.

I am trying to fall asleep on a 17th century bed in a room played in by a 12 year old Alexandre Dumas, who pretended to be a Musketeer or imagined the Man in the Iron Mask. Crazy way to start our adventure, in France at Chateau Villers-Helon, one hour outside of Paris. A 12th century Chateau built and used as a Templar house during the Crusades...Yikes!

The village of Villers-Helon is so filled with history from those early days of the 12th century,
(the eastern edge of France being the battleground for so many wars) and WWI, and WWII  being a large part of the Chateau's history. The Nazis took over the Chateau and used it as a POW camp, and there are caves with cartoonish drawings where the soldiers partied. You can look through holes made in the walls for rifles and see the bullet holes of both sides. As you look out over fields recently plowed you can imagine troops approaching and gunfire going off as bullets whiz by your head. You can feel the centuries of history around you.

The owner, Anthony Tirri ( a man who deserves a book, not just a Post) is the father of a client of mine and was so generous to invite us to begin our journey at his home. A self-made man who reminds me of George C Scott, with a resume of Police Detective, PanAm Pilot, (certain undisclosed Gov't activities), and successful land developer. His passion for history (he has authored historical reference books on the Chateau as well as for Middle Eastern weaponry) has lead him to refurbish a dilapidated Chateau and renovate it to its 17th Century splendor. A magnificent work with antiquities and paintings completing the estate. 

Thanks Tony and to Barbara, his girlfriend and Chateau Manager, we feel so fortunate to have met and shared time with you
Merci Beaucoup.

Tony, Barbara, Hazel, Gerald, Rich, and Renata.
The Templar "Safe House" Stone

Outside of Chateau

Visiting the underground caves where it is believed the German soldiers hung out 

German soldiers artwork found on the cave walls

Rich could not keep up with Aoife and Gerald in a game of Giant Chess-
 both beat him rather quickly - actually Gerald beat him in 5 moves! 

Richard with the family pet Obama, looking for a hand-out. Obama-Care in action.

Hazel and Renata in front of the chateau

Visiting a nearby castle Pierrrefonds

As Rich said, Tony is a person of mystery and amazing talent!  He is also a man that loves to cook and cook and cook.  I think he thought there were 10 of us dining.  (Oh, that's right, Richard eats for 4 anyway) Everything from Crepes, Waffles, and Croque Monsieurs for breakfast to Coq au Vin, Spicy Lobster, Eggplant 3 ways, and numerous specialties for dinner. Check out his table.  (It was like this every day!)

What do you do in the French countryside everyday?  
I know what I did- I enjoyed great company and ate!  We discussed and consumed quite a few of  the recipes that Tony is assembling for his book.  I tried to take notes on my favorites, but like a magician, he is quick and sleight of hand (you never see a measuring cup) - one of my favorites was the fish soup, I at least got what he puts into it:

Fish Stew/Cioppino/Bouillabaisse/Brodetto: This  French/Italian favorite was the fisherman's way to dispose of the ugliest unsalable fish of the days catch. Ugly fish, tomatoes, onions, garlic and white wine along with whatever shellfish is available and you have a southern European favorite. A variation would be to use simply shrimp, scallops and a hard kielbasa type sausage.

Bon Appetit!

Bon encore une fois ma belle femme, un festin digne des rois.