Thursday, July 2, 2015

It's the 4th of July! Time to make this glorious Rhubarb Crumble Pie with a scoop of Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream


Today, we pair two recipes. One is from that doyenne of desserts, Martha Stewart in her “Martha Stewart Pies and Tarts” (Clarkson Potter 2011) and the other is from David Lebovitz in his “The Perfect Scoop” (10 Speed Press 2007).  The Paris-based Lebovitz knows his way around ice cream and this very easy recipe proves it.
Together they’re proof that Strawberries and Rhubard are soul mates. The sweetness of the berries is perfect companion to the crisp, tartness of rhubarb.  Rhubarb is sometimes called the ‘Pie Plant’ as its emergence this time of year seems to make every baker run out and put it to work.  The strawberries are particularly welcome this year after what was likely the worst winter in memory in the East. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Tyler Florence's Asparagus Grilled Cheese with Poached Egg


         I have been a fan of Tyler Florence for years.  There are no fewer than 11 of his recipes on Chewing the Fat.  His cookbook, “Tyler’s Ultimate” (Clarkson-Potter 2006) is among the most dog-eared in our collection.  When Chef Florence took off from Charleston, SC, he first came to New York and brought with him many recipes tinged with Southern accents.  In 2008, he moved to San Francisco and ever since, his cooking has taken on a decidedly West Coast edge. Candidly, when I received my copy of “Tyler Florence Fresh” ( Clarkson Potter 2012), I astonished at the makeover.          

Monday, June 22, 2015

Top 10 Best Things about a Viking River Cruise

Viking River Cruises Longship Tor docked in Passau Germany 
I admit it.  I cannot say enough good things about my recent “Romantic Danube” cruise aboard Viking River Cruises’ Longship “Tor”. I consider myself to be well-travelled. I’ve had the good fortune to visit 6 continents, many in great comfort and on the company dime during the course of a long career in Advertising.  And of all the trips I’ve taken, I would have to say that this particular journey is certainly in my Top Ten.   It is simply an extraordinary way to travel. The hospitality aboard ship rivals or bests that of most resorts.  The ship itself is breathtaking.  The staterooms are models of Scandinavian design genius.  The crew cannot do enough for you. My fellow passengers were fantastic people.  And virtually everything is included in the fare. But I should save something for my list.  In no particular order, here goes:

Monday, June 15, 2015

Day Eight: The Last Day of the Trip in Nuremberg, Germany

It may look Medieval but 90% of Nuremberg was bombed out of existence in World War II.
This copy was built to replace it. 

         As much as you know this day is coming, there’s a certain melancholy that sets in when you realize this wonderful voyage is coming to an end.  You might want to linger longer but the reality is your cruise is about to end, your new friends among the passengers and the crew are about to go their separate ways.  And you are going home.  But first, there’s your last stop. Nuremberg.
         There’s an optional free shuttle bus that takes passengers into town in the morning, then back to the ship for lunch. That afternoon the official tours take place while the ship moves further upriver to Erlangen where the Tor will dock overnight for our last night aboard.
The Nazi's Kongresshalle,
built to look like the Forum in Rome.
In many ways, Nuremberg is a fitting place to stop. Because Nuremberg’s history is full of unpleasantness that people would most like to forget. It is here that you can opt for a World War II excursion that will take you back to Nuremberg’s history of being a Nazi stronghold and later the site of the Nuremberg trials.  These trials
The Courthouse where the Nuremberg trials
were held. 
convicted whoever among Hitler’s inner circle had not already committed suicide or fled to Argentina.  You’ll see a couple of these monuments to Germany’s darkest days on your way into town. 

Nuremberg means "Rocky Mount"
Better by far is the historic center of Nuremberg.  This is the medieval city surrounded by walls, a fortress in its very center where you will see where the city got its name.  “Nurn” means rock and “berg” means mountain so Nuremberg can be translated into Rocky Mount, whose twin in North Carolina is home base to our dear friend, Roger.

Nuremberg was practically blasted out of existence during the Second World War. 90 percent of its buildings were bombed with no regard to their historic significance or wartime usage.  The animosity the Allies felt towards the Nazis was on full display.  Modern Nuremberg is a triumph of rebuilding. It is often very hard to tell what is original and what is a re-creation.  But our guide provided us with several photographs showing the destruction firsthand.  It was sobering to say the least.
Arnie, Sharon, Moi, Rev. Al and Mare
on board the Tor
In our free hour and half, my friends, the Rev. Al and his wife Mare and their two great friends Sharon and Arnie and I decided to sample the Bratwurst that has name Nuremberg ‘the Sizzling Sausage Capital of Germany’.   We went to Bratwurst Röslein, described as “the largest Bratwurst restaurant in the world!”  Though not as old as the Alte Wurstkuchle in Regensburg, it’s been in existence since 1431 or 579 years.  It’s right behind city hall and we were delighted to seek some shade in the plaza in front of the restaurant.
Bratwurst Röslein's Brats are served on a pewter platter.
Nuremberg is indeed famous for their particular kind of bratwurst.  These small, thin bratwursts were considerably smaller than the Regensberg brats had been.   They are only about 3 to 3 ½ inches in length.  The major difference is not in the size, however, but in the flavor.   They’re pork-based and seasoned with fresh marjoram which makes them very distinctively different from the milder, meatier Wurstkuchle brats.  They’re served in sets of six, eight, ten or twelve along with either sauerkraut or potato salad and a dollop of mustard. We five shared two plates of them, along with glasses of cold beer and rosé, a nice respite on yet another warm June day.  The weather we've had has been spectacular start to finish!
The Open Kitchen at Bratwurst Röslein,
serving Braturst for 579 years.

         Once again, we boarded our coaches for a half hour trip to Erlangan, seeing a more modern Germany along the way. Once back on board it was time for a farewell cocktail and dinner. And wouldn’t you know it, the night owls held their final dance party where, although I haven’t a photo to prove it, I saw some of them dancing on the tables.  And no one even stopped them.
         I will be doing one final post entitled: "The Ten Best Things about Viking River Cruises" so please come back Thursday when I will have it up and running.   All best to all my fellow "Tor" passengers.  I will never forget you.   

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Day Seven: Part Two. Wiltenburg Monastery

Wiltenburg Monastery.
My "Tor" Friend David Jackson got this shot in a most unusal way:
It's a postcard that he took a picture of! Way to go David and thanks!

         As if Regensburg itself wasn’t enough, the afternoon schedule for “Tor” Passengers gave us more options.  Three in fact.
For Motorheads, there was a BMW Factory visit.  The plant in Regensburg opened in 1986 and since that time, more than five million vehicles have been produced there and sent all around the world.  This guided tour took Tor passengers through the production halls.  Cameras were completely verboten. From what I gleaned, this tour was cloaked in secrecy the NSA would be proud of.  So I’m afraid you’ll have to take it to know any more about it.  The second option was to stay aboard ship while it moved upriver to the town of Kelheim, a distance of just 27 kilometers but one which took several hours to complete. 
The third option, and the one I took, was to drive to Kelheim, which took all of 30 minutes and begin a tour that ultimately took us to Wiltenberg Monastery. 
         But first, we travelled through a Bavarian wood to Liberation Hall (Befreiungshalle in German) This massive structure was built by King Ludwig I to commemorate Germany’s struggle against the oppression of Napoleon and the unification of Tuetonic tribes.  It took over 20 years to build and its architect died in the process.  It’s in the midst of a restoration, covering the 18-cornered building. 
The 10 Canadians seen here at Wiltenburg.
Nobody enlivened this trip quite like
these wonderful people from Nanaimo BC
Confession time: We’re all supplied with ingenious headsets with which we can hear our guides even at some distance.  The minute we got to the Hall, I repaired to the men’s room.  When I emerged, I walked the wrong way, had a quick tour of the parking lot, then realizing my mistake, walked to the Visitor’s Center.  There I spied some of my Canadian friends enjoying a beer. The temperature at this point was 28 C or 82 F. I opted for the beer before heading back to the bus without actually visiting Liberation Hall.      
We then went down to Kelheim where we boarded an excursion boat. With yet another beer in hand, we headed down the Danube Cutthrough, a particularly scenic stretch called the Weltenburg Gap. Rounding a bend, we came upon an enormous structure, pictured at the top of this post.  This is Weltenburg Monastery.
         In this remote setting, the foundations of a monastery date from 600 AD.  It became a Benedictine abbey in 760 AD.  Through endless wars and ecclesiastical disputes the monastery was destroyed time and time again only to be rebuilt time and time again.  The current structure dates from 1714.        
The centerpiece of the Monastery is the St. Georg abbatical church.  Of all the magnificent Baroque churches we’ve seen along the Romantic Danube, this one is perhaps the most astonishing. The simple façade makes the extraordinary interior all the more impressive.  It is smaller than any one of the others we’ve seen, which makes it ornamentation all the more startling. 

This ceiling was painted by Cosmos Damian
who was lifted up on a platform from the floor of the
church and was painted while he was on his back.
Sculpture, Painting, Architecture all in one
Two brothers, Cosmos Damian and Egid Quirin Asam, painters, sculptors and master builders worked from 1716 to 1739 and succeeded in bringing together painting, sculpture, light, space and architecture into a unified total work of art.   Once again, an expert guide took us through every aspect of the Church’s design and decoration. Below, in homage to themselves, Cosmos Damian painted his own image on the ceiling, his brother Egid Quirin, the sculptor, fashioned his own on its lip.

Have another beer!  Nicole, Moi, Stanislav,
the Viking River Tor's Concierge,
Toni, Stephanie and Margaret in another photo
by David Jackson.  Thanks David!
Besides being a masterpiece of High Baroque in Southern Germany, the Monastery has another claim to fame.  The monks have been making beer there since 1050 AD.  In fact their latest offering is a brew called 1050.  So much for Colt 45.  As odd as it seems the biergarten is right outside the church.  It’s thronged with people enjoying the award winning Dunkel (Dark Lager) beer and cheese also made right there.  I couldn’t help but think that we Episcopalians could take a leaf from this book. We could set up Martini bars at the back of our churches to encourage that kind of participation!
Last Beer of the Day! Go ahead,
it's all included!
        Back on the excursion boat to Kelheim where the longest day visited yet another biergarten, this one formerly belonging to the local Duke. Miffed by the Monk’s prosperity from beer sales, he founded his own brewery. 
         At last, we returned to the ship for our German Dinner Celebration and sadly, tomorrow’s final day aboard “Tor”.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Day Seven: The Longest Day...Regensburg and Weltenburg Monastery. Part One: Regensburg

Bronze Bas Relief of Regensburg showing the Medieval Walls
surrounding the City, as the Danube flows outside them
         As I got deeper into the writing of this piece, it became all too apparent, that this particular day in Viking River’s Romantic Danube voyage needed to be split in two. It simply could not be covered in any detail without asking my readers to read the longest post ever in Chewing the Fat History. 
         The day divided easily.  The morning was spent in Regensburg, Bavaria’s second largest city, and the afternoon was spent on an excursion to Weltenburg Monastery from the town of Kelheim, where the Danube and Altmühl Rivers meet.  Here’s Part 1: Regensburg. Part 2: Weltenburg Monastery will follow tomorrow. 
Regensburg captured in
on single photography
I was highly familiar with the name Regensburg because we are reminded of it every time Andrew and I step into our car.  Regensburg is the home of BMW and it’s the only place in the world where our model is produced.  Regensburg’s claims to fame in modern Germany is not only as BMW headquarters but also those of industrial giant, Sieman’s and the German headquarters of none other than Amazon. 

While we made our way through Regensburg, one image captured the city perfectly.  While outside City Hall, a BMW Z series pulled up. Out came a couple to be married at the City Registry wearing traditional Bavarian dress for their wedding, driving a car made only in Regensburg.    

But that’s just one side of Regensburg.  The other is fascinating both visually and historically. Regensburg has the largest collection of Medieval buildings anywhere in the world.  There are 1300 of them, many of them built on top of Roman ruins.  It’s an absolutely extraordinary collection made even more so by the fact that this city of 150,000 people live and work in these buildings to this very day.  On the left you can see a medieval tower built atop the walls of the old Roman legion outpost. 

Note the Footwear.
Some other Regensburg firsts? This is the home of a former Cardinal named Joseph Ratzinger. You may remember him better as Pope Benedict XVI, the red Prada shoe-wearing Pope and the first one to resign his office since Gregory XII did in 1415.

Did a friend really ask me for
a photo of a statue of Don Juan
seen here as portrayed by Johnny Depp?
There are endless stories about Regensburg but none with quite the allure of this one.  While I was onboard the Tor,  I received an email from a very dear old friend.  She asked me if I could take a picture of the statue of Don Juan.   I could not imagine what connection Don Juan, a fictional Spanish character, would have to this German city.  But I dutifully noted my friend’s request. 

The Hotel where the trysts took place is the turreted
building on the left.  
You can hardly imagine my surprise as I stood listening to our Viking Tour Guide tell the following tale:  Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Germany, Italy, Spain, Sardinia and Sicily, and Naples, Lord of the Netherlands and Duke of Burgundy, came to town.  In their efforts to entertain the sovereign, a local beauty and singer, was pressed into service, spending several days with the Emperor. Lo and behold, a child came out of their meeting.  The local burgher’s daughter was quickly married off to a court functionary.  But before he turned three, the child was taken from his mother later to become Don Juan of Austria. 

Don Juan of Austria
And his mother...none other than Barbara Blomberg!
His statue located, I still could not figure out why my friend wanted with this photograph. Reading the plaque under the imposing figure of Don Juan, I spied a familiar name.  His mother, the beauty and singer, was named Barbara Blomberg. I pause here for all the friends of Ms. Blomberg who were as startled by this discovery as I was.

Note Ms. Blomberg's name in the third
line of the plaque commemorating her son.
I haven’t shared much food talk since my Paprika search in Budapest.  I am saving all my major food articles for my sponsor on this trip, The Daily Meal.  But I can hardly avoid telling you that Regensburg is home to the oldest restaurant in Germany, the aptly named “Alte Wurstkuchl”. 

The Kitchen looks to be original as well.
The name translates to “Old Sausage Kitchen”.  I have no idea when the word “Alte” (Old) was added to the name but when you’ve been in business for 800 years, that could have been a very long time ago indeed.  The restaurant was built in the 12the century to feed the workers building the town’s stone bridge across the Danube. 

“Alte Wurstkuchl” specializes in, what else, wurst.  The only menu decision to be made is whether to order 6, 8, 10 or 12 bratwursts.  (In a momentary loss of memory, I could not remember ‘sex’ which is six, but had no trouble remembering ‘acht’, eight).  Served with a stein of local beer, sauerkraut and sweet mustard that would make cardboard taste good, they allowed me to skip today’s lunch on the Tor.  The bratwurst was so tender and delicious, I probably should have ordered zehn or zwölf.

The Longest Day, Part Two: Weltenburg Monastery will appear tomorrow.