35 Before 35: Eat fondue in Switzerland

KäsefondueFondue is technically more of a winter food (for obvious reasons!), but when we took my brother to Basel for the day I was determined to find some despite the fact that it was July! Amazingly, I actually managed to find two restaurants in Basel that serve fondue year round. The first place we tried turned out to be closed as the owners were on holiday, so we ended up at a restaurant called Steinbock. (Steinbock, by the way, is the German name for the star sign Capricorn).

The restaurant was a fairly unassuming place on a busy street near the Schweizerische Bahnhof (Swiss railway station – there is also a Badische Bahnhof, which is the German train station, meaning you can travel there from Germany on a German rail pass). If I hadn’t discovered beforehand from the Internet that this was one of very few restaurants in Basel that does fondue year round I doubt we would have stopped there! However, it turned out to be a good choice. Apart from the many different types of fondue (including meat ones), the restaurant also had raclette and several different dishes involving Rösti, as well as some other traditional Swiss dishes and some pasta/gnocchi dishes. Jan initially wanted to order cheese fondue for three, but I suggested it might be better for just the two of us to get fondue, that way my brother could try a little bit but wouldn’t be left without any food if he didn’t like it. So we ordered fondue for two, while my brother went for the Schnitzel.
Just look at all the cheese in this pot… and remember, that’s for two people:

You can’t even tell what it is I’m dipping in! (For those who aren’t familiar with fondue, it’s bread).

The fondue was nice enough, although it had a little too much alcoho for my taste (cheese fondue is not just melted cheese – it actually consists of cheese, white wine, “Kirschwasser” – a kind of cherry schnapps – and usually some garlic). Most of the times I’ve eaten fondue, it’s been at work (we have a Swiss costumer who likes to send us fondue cheese), and obviously we’re sparing with the alcohol there. I prefer my fondue to taste more of cheese! It was still nice though, and Jan enjoyed it. But I do have to admit, my favourite part of the meal was the bread basket they brought out before we’d even ordered… filled with warm bread rolls that I’m sure had a hint of cheese in them I would go back there just for those! And for the record, no we did not finish the cheese! We used up all our bread and decided we were both too full to ask for more (trust me, it was a loooot of cheese!)

The food was fairly expensive – Jan spent nearly all of the 100 Swiss francs (just over 82 euros) he had on him just on our three meals plus three drinks! But by Swiss standards it was actually quite reasonable… I have seen Swiss cafés that charged 15 Swiss francs (about 12 euros) for basically cheese on toast! If you ever find yourself in Basel, I would certainly recommend Restaurant Steinbock. But do make sure you have plenty of cash on you – the waiter said they didn’t accept credit cards, and Switzerland is far from cheap!

And there’s another thing crossed off my 35 before 35 list. Just 31 left to go!

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Bratar burgers and Bratwurst

Yesterday, after an afternoon spent clothes shopping (and not for me I might add – although I did get some new winter boots) Jan, me and a friend we had met in town decided to try out the new burger and Bratwurst restaurant that’s arrived in Karlsruhe. By “new” I of course mean it arrived some time in the summer and we hadn’t got round to trying it out yet…

The table we chose to sit at
The table we chose to sit at

The basic concept behind Bratar seems to be organic and local. The menu assured us that the pigs from the Bratwurst are kept in a manner appropriate to the species, with plenty of space and the right kind of food. They live in Schwäbisch Hall, which makes them local in the sense that it’s the same Bundesland (and there probably aren’t too many pig farms in the Karlsruhe area, to be fair).

All three of us chose to drink Alpirsbacher beer and eat a burger. The burgers come in three different sizes – single, double and triple. I chose the double burger, which was 300 g of beef! They also had turkey burgers, vege-burgers and a children’s beef burger, which I assume was smaller. All the burgers come with lettuce, tomato, onions and gherkin (I ordered mine without the gherkin) and you can then add extra ingredients yourself. The list of extra ingredients is fairly long and I’ve already decided I will have to go back to try out more combinations! This time I went for jalepenos, goat’s cheese and bacon. The bacon was grilled and very tasty, but I think another cheese would have been better in this combination… the mid taste of the goat’s cheese was pretty much drowned out by the generous portion of jalapenos. That was my fault though, nothing to do with the restaurant! You can also choose from three different types of bread bun, although I just went with the traditional burger bun that it comes with automatically. To go with my burger, I chose the rosemary potatoes, which were amazing! I love potatoes, and these ones were nice and crispy with just the right amount of rosemary. They came with a sour cream dip, which also contained rosemary and provided a nice contrast to the spiciness of the jalapenos.

My burger... please excuse the terrible photography!
My burger… please excuse the terrible photography!

The kitchen, which is in the middle of the restaurant, has glass walls so you can see inside. I saw some chips (fries) through the window as we were leaving and thought they looked tasty too… nice thick cut chips, not the barely there “fries” you get at McDonalds and co.! This is definitely the best burger I’ve had in Karlsruhe and I intend to go back some time.

So, I got my poppadoms

After all the talk of poppadoms and Indian takeaways right here on my blog, there was no way I was going to get through Friday without one! So I texted Jan the message “Want to meet me for curry tonight? I really fancy one!”. His response was “Sure, where?”, and so he left work relatively early and met me for Indian foods. He ended up going back to work afterwards, but that didn’t bother me… I was fed and watered by that time. Well, mango lassied anyway…

Papadums
I was too busy stuffing my face to take photos, so you’ll have to make do with someone elses… (Photo credit: Renée S. Suen)

The place we went to is called Continent. If you go there straight from England expecting the kind of curry you would get at home, I can guarantee you will be disappointed. But the food is reasonably tasty and at €8.90 for the all-yo-can-eat buffet, I’m not complaining. And anyway, they have poppadoms (which is what I was mostly craving) and some very nice Naan bread, so it’s all good. Basically, it’s a budget place and it shows… perfect for students and other people who don’t have a lot to spend. Oh, and it caters to German tastes, so the so-called “Lamb Vindaloo” was roughly as spicy as your average chicken tikka masala… The vegetable pakoras are… odd. They literally slice up some vegetables (courgettes, onions and potatoes as far as I can tell) and coat each individual slice in batter before deep frying it. The shape and size of the potato ones makes them basically battered chips (fries). I’m pretty sure that’s not how pakoras are done in the UK? But what do I know… I’m not Indian. And they’re still tasty even if they’re nothing like any pakora I’ve ever seen.

I don’t think they do anything vegan, but the buffet has 4 or 5 things that are suitable for vegetarians and I assume there’s more on the main menu (I keep telling myself that I’m going to order a full meal from them one day, but the idea of trying everything on the buffet is always too tempting…). So if you’re ever in Karlsruhe and fancy eating something vaguely Indian without spending too much money, you can do worse than a trip to Continent. The food there is certainly a million times better than the place we went to in Rottweil

Farscape
Farscape (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday, we travelled to Germersheim (a village an hour’s tram ride away) for a birthday party. I ate a delicious panino with goat’s cheese, honey and sun-dried tomatoes. Then we came home, watched an episode of Farscape and ordered pizza for tea… or technically supper, I suppose. It was around 10 p.m. by that time. Yes, I’m pleased to report that 16 days after removal of my wisdom teeth I finally managed to eat pizza again! Hurrah.

The plan for today is to rearrange some of the living room furniture… whenever Jan decides to get out of bed, that is…

Happy Sunday everyone! I hope you’ve all had an enjoyable weekend, too!

Schwäbisch Hall

So, I promised you a post about my trip to Schwäbisch Hall, and you would have got it sooner if I hadn’t gone down with the cold from hell and ended up spending most of the weekend in bed (I kind of got up on Sunday… I moved as far as the sofa, where I wrapped myself in a blanket and watched Newcastle play football against Liverpool. We drew. *Sigh*).

Anway… Schwäbisch Hall. It doesn’t quite have the fairytale beauty of Tübingen, but it’s old and has lots of pretty half-timbered houses, which is good enough for me.
We arrived just in time for lunch, which we ate at a little place called Entebäck. If you ever find yourself in Schwäbisch Hall go there! Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo of the inside, but it’s very quaint (all wooden beams and stuff) and our waiter was so friendly! Whenever the waiter brought a dish out he would introduce it like this: “For you, sir, the fantastic duck Maultaschen soup” (except in German obviously). It was pretty cute 🙂 And look what they did to my after dinner coffee:

Well, it made me smile anyway 🙂 Add to that the fact that the food was, in fact, delicious and you’re on to a winner! Entebäck definitely gets my recommendation. Also, the people on the table next to us had a million special wishes (one of them seemed to be on a very restricted diet), all of which were complied with without complaint, which doesn’t always happen (as I know from experience after many meals out with a family friend who has coeliac’s disease, i.e. can’t eat gluten. You’d be amazed how many restauarants have trouble with the question “what do you thicken your sauces with?”).

After lunch we headed to Marktplatz, which was just around the corner, and went into the church there, St. Michael’s. Here’s the outside of it:

And opposite it the Rathaus (Town Hall) – slightly nicer than Karlsruhe’s effort! (One day I’ll post a photo for you and you’ll see what I mean. Or you can Google it. I’m sure there are images somewhere on the web).

The river that runs through Schwäbisch Hall is called the Kocher. I love that the town is built up around the river – Karlsruhe is technically in the Rhine valley but the River Rhine is nowhere near the town centre. I miss living near water!

Bridge over the River Kocher

We were lucky with the weather for most of the day (just look at the blue sky behind the Rathaus1), but by 6:30 p.m. it had started to rain quite heavily. Since it was also dark by that time and my throat was already beginning to hurt (the start of the evil cold from hell!), we decided to head for home. And that was Schwäbisch Hall, number seven on my list of 30 towns to visit before 30… I wonder where my travels will take me next?

Update from August 2014: I’ve added this post to the Travel edition of the Expat Bloggers Bloghop over at Young Germany, check out the other entries here.

Let there be light!

As of yesterday, Jan and I have been together for 7 years! Time really does fly… it doesn’t feel like that long. We started the day with a nice breakfast together… scrambled eggs on toast. Mmm. Then, after we’d both had showers, Jan suggested we go to Bauhaus (DIY type place) and see whether we could find a bathroom light we liked this time. Amazingly we actually did! It’s only about th 6th time we’ve looked and either not found anything suitable or just plain hated everything available. We picked up a few other things as well, including a ladder so we don’t have to keep borrowing the one in the cellar, and ordered a mirror for the bathroom. We have to get a special size cut so we couldn’t just take one of the ones that was there. Then we came home and Jan set to work. First he put up the kitchen light, which actually came with us from my old flat, so it’s been sitting around for 9 months waiting to be put up!! We need an extra piece of cable for it, which we also picked up while we were at Bauhaus. Then he went and installed the new light in the bathroom. SO now I’m no longer relying on clip lamps for any room. We have proper lights all over the flat. Not a bad anniversary present 🙂 We finished the day by going out for a meal at a lovely restaurant just round the corner from where we live. We’ve been saying for about 3 years that we should go there at some point, and now we finally have. And it was certainly worth the wait! My starter was a rocket salad in some kind of white wine dressing with gorgonzola cheese, slices of fresh pear and roasted pumpkin seeds. For the main course I had the best duck I’ve ever tasted with ginger potatoes (delicious!) and vegetables, and I finished things off with orange parfait on chilli-chocolate sauce. Also fantastic.
Here’s hoping we last another seven years! 🙂

Frog’s legs, football and snow all in one week

You know it’s been too long since your last post when you go to WordPress only to find you’ve been logged out! (I have mine set up to keep me logged in).
In my defence though it has been a busy, busy week.

On Monday it was Jan’s birthday. He turned 30 (causing a friend of mine to say “Wow, you have an old boyfriend” when I told her. She thought he was only a year or two older than me, not 3 and a half). Thirty being a special birthday I obviously wasn’t going to let him ignore it – like he has pretty much every year since I met him! So I started asking him what he wanted to do at the end of January, and finally managed to persuade him to let me take him out for a meal. We went to a slightly more expensive than usual restaurant which we had both seen from the outside but never been in. Actually, the prices were slightly better than I thought they would be, but the total still ended up being over €100. That did include an apertif each, a bottle of wine, starter, soup, two main courses and a dessert though, so not too bad. And we tried frog’s legs. In case you were wondering no, they don’t taste like chicken! They were nice and I wouldn’t object to eating them again but it’s not something I need to do every day.
Jan has decided he’ll be having a proper party once the two of us have found a flat, so there’s still that to look forward to as well. (We are officially looking now… exciting, yes?)

On Tuesday I went out for dinner with a friend. I hadn’t seen her since before Christmas and it was sooo good to meet up. This time we went for a slightly cheaper option – a bar/restaurant type place that mostly students go to. I think it was the first place I ever went for a drink in Karlsruhe, way back in my Erasmus days. That was the same year I met my friend, so we spent some time talking about homw time has flown since then… my year abroad was 2003/2004 and now we’re three months into 2010. Unbelievable!

Wednesday was the day of the long awaited Germany-Argentina match and I was right there in the stadium! A friend of Jan’s got tickets ages ago, and since I had 2 days holiday from last year that had to be taken before the end of March I decided I would go along. Some things just have to be done at least once in a life time. The match was in Munich, so Jan hired a car and we left the house at 7:30 am to drive down there. I still can’t believe I was up that early on my day off! It took us until nearly 12pm to get to Munich (damn traffic! Damn roadworks!) so the first thing we did was go and get something to eat. I had the biggest burger I’ve ever seen! That alone would have been enough for me, but it came served with homemade potato wedges (with the skin left on. Mmmm) and salad. The best thing about it though was that the gherkins and tomatoes had been left on the side of the plate, so I didn’t have to pick them out before I could start eating. It also came with three types of sauce – ketchup, mayonaise and something that may have been mustard (I didn’t try it) all of which came in proper little jars. Excellent! We then went for a wander around town, did a bit of shopping (I got a new coat) took some photos and finally headed for the stadium. Those who watched the match on TV thought it was boring and that Germany were week, but from where I was sitting it was pretty good. Germany at least seemed to try for once (number 24 played excellently!) and I enjoyed myself, despite freezing to death the whole way throguh – the Allianz Arena is completely open and unheatable! Germany lost 1-0, which is a shame, but the goal was so pathetic that they almost deserved it. We left Munich after the match and drove back to Karlsruhe, finally arriving at just after 3 am. I’m very glad I didn’t have to work on Thursday!

Last night we were invitied to a friend’s place for a DVD evening, to celebrate Jan’s birthday. We watched Office Space, which is funny if a little strange in places. By the time we left (at just after 2am) it had started to snow. Not the nice kind of snow either, horrible little flakes that are basically just freezing rain… and all blown about by a nasty cold wind. We missed the tram as well, but luckily our friend has a car so he gave us a lift home. We went straight to bed when we got in, then woke up this morning to find it was still snowing (at least I did, it’s now 1:20 pm and Jan’s still in bed!). Snow in March is unheard of for Karlsruhe, and it’s meant to continue for the rest of the weekend. And there was me thinking Spring was on its way.

That was my week. Very enjoyable, but now it’s time to get back to the boring stuff. Housework and my dissertation are calling…

That was the weekend that was…

Thank you all for the lovely comments on my last blog post. We celebrated six years of being together by going for a meal at an Italian restaurant close to my flat. It’s fairly new and we hadn’t been there before, but every time I’ve walked past it was packed. As it was again on Friday night. We arrived at just before 8 o’clock and were told they did have a table for 2 free, but only until 9pm! We had a lovely meal, complete with wine and actually were finished by 9… not bad! Will definitely be going there again, but perhaps with a reservation next time? After the meal we came home and watched the Goonies on DVD. I bought it for myself the other day as a treat, because it was cheap, and Jan had never seen it! Slowly, slowly I am filling in the gaps in his education… I’ve already introduced him to Edward Scissorhands and The Breakfast Club… and now The Goonies. I wonder what other classics he’s missed out on?

Yesterday we drove over towards the Pfälzerwald (Palatinate Forest) and went for a bit of a walk through the trees. There’s still deeo snow up there! Afterwards we drove into Landau, had a bit of a walk around then went to a wine tavern for something to eat. I had pike-perch fillet in a really nice sauce. And a glass of wine of course… what else should one drink in a wine tavern?
We had a lovely day, culminating in a talk about the possibility of actually getting a flat together… but more on that tomorrow, it’s such a mile stone that I think it deserves a whole blog post of it’s very own 🙂

Today I have mostly been working on my dissertation.. or at least attempting to. I have a grand total of 536 words so far, which I may or may not be able to use in the actual dissertation. *sigh* Can someone please remind me why I wanted to do a master’s?

Oh, and I’ve just heard (courtesy of my sister) that a friend of mine back in England has become a father today. He’s actually the son of a family friend and I’ve known hi since I was about 10 years old… rather strange thinking of him having a new born daughter! We are all growing up, alas…

So, that was my weekend. How was yours?