Sunday, November 29, 2015

Dining with new friends at Osteria da Gino's in Nagold

We wanted to have a really great meal this weekend.  Since the weather was nasty and the Schoenbuch Tunnel was closed, we decided to stay close and not try to use 81.  Osteria da Gino is in Nagold, which is about five kilometers from our little town.  Since our first time in March of this year, it's become one of our favorite restaurants in the area.  We were long overdue for a visit, since our last one was in July while my mom was visiting.

Bill sent an email on Friday requesting a reservation on Friday or Saturday night.  Friday night was totally booked, so we were set for last night at 7:00.  I was really looking forward to it.  Then yesterday morning, I got a message on Facebook from my new friend Sarah, who asked if I could remind her of the name of "that awesome Italian place I wrote about."  I told her about Gino's place and that if she went last night, she'd see us there... and probably even at the same table!  Sure enough, that's what happened!

It was great to see Gino, who was in the front part of his restaurant/store when we arrived.  We were immediately and enthusiastically greeted.  In fact, he even gave me a big hug and asked us in German why it had been so long since our last visit.  He asked about my mom, too.  Given that she was here over four months ago, I thought that was very impressive!  He led us to his tiny dining room, the few tables of which were almost all decorated with "reserviert" signs.  

Sarah and her husband, Mike, were already seated and working on their first courses.  Although this was our first meeting in person, I had exchanged Facebook messages with Sarah a few times.  Mike and Sarah live in Sulz am Neckar, which is not that far from Nagold.  Gino could tell we were going to be fast friends, so he invited us to sit at their table.  As much fun as it is to dine with Gino as a couple, it's even more fun when you're with friends and can share the unique experience as well as the fantastic flavors!

I have mentioned before that Gino doesn't really offer menus to his guests.  He also speaks very little English.  Although I don't speak much German or Italian, I have always managed to communicate with Gino, who by now knows full well about my hatred of mushrooms.  With a bottle of San Pellegrino and a couple of glasses of red wine on the table, we were ready to have dinner.


We started with the usual orange, salami, and fennel salad.  This time, it came with a little cheese.   It tasted like Parmesan, but I'm not absolutely sure that's what it was.  There was also a fresh breadstick.


Next came a trio of antipasti.  Pictured above is tuna carpaccio with what tasted like a mustard cream and topped with capers.  Although I was a little leery at first, I have to admit that this was absolutely delicious.  It was one of my favorite of the dishes offered last night.


The usual medley of grilled vegetables included peppers, zucchini, and eggplant...


And everybody loved the Burrata, which was a sinfully smooth creamy cheese that reminded me a bit of mozzarella, only it was smoother, milder, and much creamier.  I don't usually go for cheeses, but I have to admit I really enjoyed the Burrata with its garnish of sweet tomatoes and basil.  Wikipedia tells us that this cheese is made with cow's milk mozzarella and cream... the word Burrata means butter in Italian.  


The pasta course for us consisted of spaghetti with crushed tomatoes, fish, shrimp, and mussels...  Sarah and Mike had what looked like homemade stuffed shells with cheese.  Sarah said there was a spice that tasted a little like nutmeg.  I'm pretty sure I had the same pasta course they had on our first visit.  I enjoyed watching her facial expressions as she tasted it!  Likewise, Bill and I enjoyed our pasta course, though maybe it was a little bigger than we needed.  I didn't eat much of the actual pasta because I knew the main course was coming!  But I eagerly tucked in to the fruits of the sea, which were expertly prepared and delicious. 


Bill had osso bucco (veal) for his main dish.  So did Sarah.  Once again, I watched their facial expressions and they could only be described as orgasmic.  I like the taste of veal, but seldom eat it.  I did try a little of Bill's dish, though, and could see why it was such a hit.  The meat was like butter and could have been cut with a spoon...  It was served with spinach and potatoes.


Mike and I both went for the fish option.  Stacked on a bed of spinach and potatoes was what I think may have been John Dory filet and a large grilled shrimp.  It, too, was a winning dish!


Sarah and Mike were too full for dessert.  Bill and I decided to go all the way and this was what the chef brought us...  a medley of panna cotta with currant sauce, a sliver of coffee flavored ice cream, a small piece of cake, and what tasted like a tiramisu inspired sweet.  We also had a round of espresso.

By the time we were finished eating, it was about 9:30.  The dining room had filled up.  One table included English speakers who sounded like they may have been Europeans speaking a common language.  They were having a fabulous time, too!  And Gino and his staff were joining in the merriment.

Sarah and Mike spent 119 euros on their dinner, while ours was 160 euros (we had dessert and the pasta with fish and shrimp).  On the way out, Gino's wife and the chef invited us to enjoy some grappa and Gino's wife asked me about my mom!  She does speak a little English, as does the chef, who was wearing a shirt that read "Make food, not war."

On the way home, Bill and I were talking about how amazing our night was, not just because of the food and Gino's warm hospitality, but because we left his place having made two new friends.  It goes without saying that I highly recommend Osteria da Gino in Nagold.  Just make sure you make reservations, can spend a few hours, and aren't looking for pizza.  Also, go with an open mind and a willingness to try something new and exciting!  As we found out last night, it's also a great place for friends.  Sarah and Mike were raving about the experience as we said goodnight!  



Saturday, November 28, 2015

Mmm... Friday night Greek food!

Yesterday, we tried and failed to get a table at Talblick, a gourmet and apparently very good restaurant in Wildberg...   As a matter of fact, when Bill called and tried to set us up with a reservation, he was told they are booked solid for the next three months!  He was advised to try again in January, since the entire month of December is booked with holiday parties.  Now we have to go!  We'll keep trying!  Someday, I will write about the very nice Michelin starred restaurant eleven miles from our house in Jettingen.

Anyway, because it was dark and cold outside and we heard about the Schoenbuch Tunnel being closed all weekend, we decided to stay local for dinner.  It had been awhile since our last trip to Taverne Beim Griechen, so we decided to go there last night.

I wasn't super hungry, since I had a big breakfast and a late lunch yesterday.


Mmm... cheese souffles, sausage, and biscuits! Bill made a wonderful breakfast!

I opted for gyros, while Bill had souvlaki.


As usual, the gyros were great!


So was the souvlaki!

Our waitress was the same lady who helped us last time we visited.  She doesn't speak English.  In fact, she doesn't speak German that well, either.  We had some misunderstandings about our beverages.  I asked for water with gas and Bill ordered wine.  He asked for two glasses, but she brought out a small pitcher and one glass for him and just the water for me, along with ouzo.  After he clarified, she brought out another water glass and wine glass.  We enjoyed dinner... then we decided to have another glass of wine.  This time, she brought out two small pitchers of wine and another round of ouzo...  I gave the "cowardly ouzo" to Bill.   

It was no big deal, really.  If we had to, we could have walked home.  But once we were done, Bill asked for the check.  I think she either didn't hear him or misunderstood, since we sat for another twenty or thirty minutes before I finally asked the owner for the check.  I'm pretty sure his wife is Korean and she came over with the bill.  Bill thanked her in Korean and was rewarded with a huge smile.  

It's always a pleasure to have Greek food on a Friday night.  It's sort of becoming our ritual lately.  Tonight, we have reservations at Osteria da Gino's in Nagold.  I have a feeling we will be joined by at least one other American couple...  ;-)  I look forward to writing tomorrow's blog post.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Our Thanksgiving meal and other delights...

As I wrote earlier today, we decided to go out to a restaurant for our Thanksgiving meal.  Although I know I could have found a place that offered really good and somewhat Thanksgiving appropriate food for our celebration, I ended up choosing to dine at Herrenberg's Gasthaus Lamm Inh. Wolfgang Mezger.  I chose this place because on Trip Advisor, it is listed as Herrenberg's number one restaurant.  I figured that since it was a gasthaus, it would have the hearty fare I was craving.  I had visions of Stuttgart traffic and decided we should stick closer to home.

Earlier today, I also had the idea that I would like to go to the SI Suites near Kelley and visit the Schwabenquellen spa, but when Bill found out it was textile free, he was having none of it.  We compromised and decided that later we'd visit the Mineraltherme Boeblingen.  I even gave some thought to visiting the textile free area by myself.  

Before we went out to dinner, though, I had some household chores to do.  Since I don't have a job that pays me big bucks, I like to earn my keep.  So on Thursdays, I vacuum the house and typically do laundry.  This morning, the weather was absolutely shitty.  Bill took the dogs for a walk and I did my vacuuming.

**Skip this part if you have a weak stomach.  I'll let you know when to read again...**

About an hour after they returned from their walk, I heard the sound most dog owners dread.  Arran had vomited up something extremely foul all over my ugly hallway rug.  It was so nasty and vile smelling that I almost sympathy hurled.  Bill grabbed one end of the 5X8 rug and I grabbed another.  We took it outside, where the weather was misty and cold.  I brought Bill lots of hot water with vinegar and baking soda while he kindly cleaned the rank smelling rug for me.  It's still sitting outside deputrifying.

Arran's puking episode made me nervous, since when you look up "dog's vomit that smells like poop" on Google, most sites tell you it's a veterinary emergency because your dog has surely got a bowel obstruction.  However, Bill had seen Arran eat some kind of feces while they were walking in the field behind our house.  I know Arran well enough to know that he fancies himself a poop hunter while on walks...  but he doesn't have the iron constitution of his predecessor, MacGregor, who was a true connoisseur of all things crappy.  Arran usually throws up when he eats shit; that's why I tend to keep him on a short leash behind our house.  Since Bill was walking him today, he had a little more freedom to get into trouble.  Anyway, fortunately after his one extremely disgusting vomit fest, Arran was fine.

**Nasty part is done... weak stomached readers can read again...**

So off we went to the Mineraltherme.   I was drying clothes before we left and had the dryer running.  Bill was nervous about it, so we went back and turned the dryer off.

I was a little hungry when we got to the spa.  We first stopped in their restaurant and I had a glass of Riesling and a nice bowl of carrot and ginger soup.  It was served with a somewhat soggy piece of bread covered with melted mozzarella cheese.  Bill had a ham and cheese panini and a beer.  They served us a house shot of soup, which I didn't eat because it was made with mushrooms.  I don't ever eat mushrooms, but even if I had liked them a little, I was still a little grossed out by Arran.  The earthy mushroom aroma was doing nothing for my stomach or my nerves.


My carrot ginger soup.  It was okay, though probably could have used a little salt... or maybe more ginger.


Bill's panini.  He declared it "substantial".  He also enjoyed the wild mushroom soup shots.  

We spent the next couple of hours enjoying the pools at the Mineraltherme.  Although Bill is generally reluctant to go there, he's always relaxed when we leave and never regrets going.  We did have a good time, despite getting a few peevish looks from a couple of older gentlemen.  I didn't go down to the textile free area today because we didn't have time.  One of these days, I will disrobe and enjoy the freedom of being naked in front of complete strangers.  I may need more Riesling to do it, though.

We got home at about 5:30 or so, took the dogs out for a wee, and I washed our swimsuits and such on a short cycle.  I put them in the dryer.  Then we left for our dinner at the Gasthaus Lamm.  On the way there, I started feeling nervous about the dryer.  I went as far as to look up on the web to see if we were taking a big risk by letting it run while we were out.  I had visions of coming home to an obliterated house and two dead dogs.  At the same time, the rational side of me told me I was being ridiculous.  I now know that leaving major appliances running when you aren't home is probably not worth the risk or my neurotic worrying.

Bill parked the car and we headed for the adorable Gasthaus Lamm.  Although the restaurant is clearly popular with locals and we used to visit Herrenberg all the time when we lived here the first time, we had not been there before.  When we entered the building, we were immediately charmed by how cozy and quaint it is.  Make no mistake, the Gasthaus Lamm in Herrenberg is a very small venue.  You may wish to make reservations before going for dinner.


Herrenberg at Christmastime... sehr cute.

We were warned that we would be sharing a table.  Sure enough, we joined a German couple at a rather private little four top tucked away in a corner.  We had a good view of the bar, where the young, attractive waitresses were slinging beers.  The place was pretty much packed and it was all Germans, having a good time on a Thursday night.


Outside of the restaurant.

It was a little like being home at Granny's house in the restaurant, since we were sitting at a table with a couple of people we didn't know and the place was wall to wall people.  Those who went to Longwood with me in the 90s may remember Macado's restaurant during that era.  The ambiance was much more authentically charming at Gasthaus Lamm, but the space constraints were very similar...  Those who don't know what I'm writing about can just imagine themselves in a really cute but tiny, cozy restaurant.


We started with Schimpf Christmas beers...  These were nice, though somewhat pedestrian.  They did chase away my thirst, though.


Bill ordered the special wild boar being offered tonight with spatzle and red cabbage slaw.  It came with a little pot of gravy to go with that already on the meat.


I had a cordon blue schnitzel with fries...  I awarded points when the waitress asked if I wanted ketchup or mayo to go with my fries.  That rarely happens!


This was what our plates looked like when we finally quit eating.  The food was very good.  Bill's boar was especially good.  But it's for people who have huge stomachs!  


For dessert, we both had hefeweizens.  This was very good.  Reminded me a bit of Franziskaner.  I had never before had either of the beers offered at Gasthaus Lamm, but I liked them both.  I especially enjoyed the Berg Ulrich Bier.


Obligatory Bill shot, after our German stranger dinner companions departed.  It was a little odd sitting with them, because it seemed like both couples were trying to pretend the other couple wasn't there.  The table was rather intimate, rather than the long table I was expecting.  Also, I know people think I look dumb when I photograph food for this blog.  I did like the little alcove, though.  It was nice and private, otherwise.  The other couple was nice enough, too.  Anyway, breaking bread with strangers and family is what Thanksgiving is all about, right?


A shot of the bar from where I was sitting.  Other people were sitting on the other sides.

As I was sitting on the cute little bench, I noticed my buns were warm.  It reminded me of our old house, which had a masonry heater.  When we used it, the bench would heat up and I'd have a nice warm butt...  warmer than sitting on the dryer or getting a good spanking.  But actually, last night I was just sitting over a heating vent.  What a thrill it was having my buns toasted in a restaurant!


A shot of the other side of the table from where I was sitting, again after the other couple left.


Wall art.  They had a lot of cool stuff on the walls.  We also tried that beer...


A message on the bottom of my glass... Is it German or Schwabish?  Who knows?  It's backwards as well as in a language other than my mother tongue.


Anyone want to translate?

Our total bill came to 44,60.  That was for two very substantial and tasty meals and four beers between us.  Service was pleasant, friendly, and competent.  Our servers seemed to take pride in speaking English to us, even though when it comes to restaurants, we can sort of get by in German.  The lady who took our reservation also spoke English.  The food was very good, though the portions were huge.  It seemed like more of a bar atmosphere than a restaurant, but clearly the locals love it.  We will definitely be back...  In fact, we need to get back into the habit of visiting Herrenberg.  I had forgotten how cute it is, especially at this time of year!

We came home and happily found our house still intact, despite my decision to run the dryer while we were out.  The dogs were glad to see us and are now blissfully sleeping on my new sheets.  I am about to join them.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Stay tuned, because we will make up for last week's lack of restaurant outings this weekend!

Thanksgiving and new sheets in Germany...

As you probably know, it's not a holiday here in Germany.  Bill is home from work, though, and because it's just the two of us, we won't be cooking a big meal.  Instead, we will seek a nice place that serves hearty fare of some sort.  It would be nice if we could find a place that has something similar to what we might be eating if we were at Granny's house.  However, since we are in Germany, the chances of that happening are probably pretty slim.  I'd be appeased by chicken or duck... I know we can find turkey, but it probably wouldn't be the kind of turkey I'd want.  I like chicken or duck better anyway.

The weather is positively yucky.  It's cold and drizzly.  Bill just took the dogs for a walk, which should make them happy.  I'm glad he's around to do it so I don't have to.  I kind of struggle to be active when the weather is like this.  It makes me want to hibernate.  But we'll find someplace to eat and I will be sure to review it!

Speaking of hibernation and taking to one's bed...  I just bought us some new sheets.  I have some really nice, expensive cotton sheets that I have been using for about 18 months or so.  Sadly, they are starting to wear out.  They also don't really fit the bed with the feather top on it and they wrinkle horribly!  That might be okay if I liked ironing, but I hate to iron.

So, a few weeks ago, I ordered a new set of sheets from Comphy.com.  I'd actually been thinking about buying these sheets for some time.  We encountered them last Thanksgiving, when we went to Virginia and stayed at The Hummingbird Inn, a B&B in Goshen... the very same one we stayed in for our honeymoon in 2002.  It was owned by different people then.  Last year, it was owned by different people than the ones who own it now, as the inn was sold over the summer.

Anyway, last year, The Hummingbird Inn used Comphy microfiber sheets on the bed in our room.  I noticed how soft and comfortable they were, but since our expensive Italian linens weren't that worn out, I didn't order a set.  When I recently noticed my Italian sheets were fraying, I decided to take the Comphy plunge.

Comphy doesn't ship to APO, so I had our sheets and a set of pillowcases sent to my mother-in-law in Texas, who kindly forwarded them our way.  They arrived on Monday.  I washed them, then put them on the bed.  Immediately, I noticed that the sheets were very generously sized.  Comphy's sheets are larger than conventional sheets so they can fit pillow top mattresses.  My bed does not have a big pillow top, but it does have a feather bed on top.  With conventional sheets, I was constantly having to pull the corners back down.  I don't have to do that with Comphy sheets, though they are actually a bit too big for our king sized mattress.  When we upgrade our mattress, I am sure I'll be glad for the extra roominess, though.  The elastic on the fitted sheet is wider than it is on other sheets I've used.

The next thing I noticed is that the sheets are supposed to be silver blue, but actually look more like light green.  That's not a big deal to me, but I would just say that the sheets look like they do on the Comphy Web site, even though they are supposed to be blue.  I was thinking maybe the sheets would be blue in person, even though they looked greenish on Comphy's site.  There aren't a whole lot of colors to choose from, unfortunately.

Finally, I will comment that the Comphy sheets are indeed very comfortable.  I wouldn't have thought I'd like microfiber sheets because I prefer natural fibers.  These sheets are very soft, don't wrinkle, and they breathe well.  Bill loves them and actually thanked me for dropping a big wad of cash on them!  He says he's sleeping better than he has in a long time.  These sheets are not cheap, but they are probably among the best I've ever slept on.

So... if you're in the market for sheets, you might want to consider Comphy.  However, I do want to warn that their return policy is not very liberal.  You may want to get swatches and/or even find a bed and breakfast that uses them so you can try them out before you buy a set.  Just do a Google search for Comphy sheets and you will find places that use them.  You can also find Comphy sheets in spas.


No, this is not our bed... this bed was at The Hummingbird Inn.  It was outfitted with Comphy linens. My bed is too messy for pictures.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

November snow...

Yet again, we stayed cooped up yesterday because the weather was kind of yucky.  But we were rewarded this morning with some pretty snow.  I have taken a few photos for your perusal.


Just as the snow was starting yesterday at about 2:00pm.



The sky was pretty angry.  One thing I like about where we live is that it's easy to watch the weather.



An hour or so later, the sun came out...  It looks like it's literally chasing the clouds away in this photo.


Another view.  Looks like a totally different day.


One more shot of the crazy sun/clouds...

By about 11:00pm, we had a good covering of the white stuff.  This morning, we had about two or three inches.  Although we got rare snow during our Thanksgiving visit to Virginia last year, where I come from, snow in November is almost unheard of.  


It's not very cold outside and I see the sun trying to peek through.  This may be gone by tonight.


I do enjoy watching snow, though... especially if I don't have to go out in it.

Maybe later, I'll have the chance to dine at a new restaurant...  We'll see.












Saturday, November 21, 2015

Winner, winner chicken dinner? Not at our house!

Those of my readers who live in the Stuttgart area may already know that the weather was horrible yesterday.  It rained all day.  It was cold and nasty and neither Bill nor I were in the mood to go out.  Bill resolved to stop by the "baby" Real (a German store kind of like Walmart) in Jettingen for some supplies.  Since they didn't have any whole chickens at the commissary, he looked for one at Real.  He found one, brought it home, and cooked it...

I was really looking forward to last night's dinner.  I love roasted chicken.  I especially love it when it's moist, tender, and juicy.  That's the vision I had in my head last night as Bill roasted the chicken he found at the Real.

Finally, at about 7:30pm, he called me downstairs to dinner.  I was hungry and definitely ready for a nice meal on such a miserable night.  Bill had prepared wilted spinach and mashed potatoes and opened a nice bottle of locally produced red wine that we picked up in Tuebingen last week.

He goes to cut the bird and had surprising difficulty, even with our trusty Wusthof knives at the ready.  At one point, he broke out the kitchen scissors to separate one of the legs the rest of the carcass, noting that the bird was pretty scrawny and tough.  I started wondering what kind of chicken this was.  I mean, I know Germans don't use a lot of antibiotics and crap in their chickens like Americans do, but this was a most unusual specimen of fowl.  It was like the bird had been in training for marathons her whole life.

We struggled to eat the rubbery chicken.  I swear, in all my years, I don't think I've ever run across such a tough bird, even when I lived in Armenia.  Bill ended up throwing the rest of it away.

This morning, Bill looked at the label on the packaging and noticed that it said "Suppen Hänchen", which I take to mean that it was supposed to be used to make a nice stew after having been boiled for hours.  Now we know.  I'm writing this post for others who might be similarly fooled.  Soup chickens are for soup.  Got it?

The weather is supposed to suck again today.  I wish our house had a fireplace or a masonry heater.  Last time we lived here, we lived in a house that had an awesome masonry heater that was perfect for days like today.  The house we're in now is relatively inexpensive, but has no romantic heating methods.  I guess we'll have to depend on oil and each other... and our two spoiled dogs who both begged for that chicken last night.


Part of the awesome masonry heater in our first German house.  This house also had heated floors and a cistern that used rain water to flush the toilet.  You could sit on the bench and toast your buns...    

I don't know if we'll get out today or not.  When the weather gets bad, I tend to want to stay in and hibernate.  But if we have another gourmet meal cooked at our house today, it'll for sure be something other than chicken.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Breaking boundaries at Five in Stuttgart...

Yesterday, Bill and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary.  Since 13 is a quirky number, I decided to find us a quirky restaurant.  I found it when I booked at table at Five.  No, I am not referring to the time at which I reserved.  The restaurant, which has a Michelin Star, is called Five.   I found the place on opentable.de, and decided to book it when I noticed the stellar reviews on TripAdvisor and OpenTable, as well as the super imaginative Web site.  Well, actually, Bill was more into the Web site than I was.  He gets off on artsy stuff and science fiction movies like Blade Runner.


I snapped this photo before we left... I don't know how he does it, but Bill makes me smile so pretty.  I usually smirk in my selfies because when I smile, it doesn't look real.  But when Bill is in the photo, no problem!

Anyway, we battled Stuttgart traffic to make our seven o'clock reservation at the downtown restaurant.  We were warmly greeted by a young, casually dressed man at the door.


The front door.  Directly across the street is a huge parking garage that is open 24 hours.

He invited us to take a look at the bar area while he alerted the wait staff of our arrival.  It turned out we had the first reservation, so he was back quickly. Too bad, because the bar area at Five is really cool looking.  It's dimly lit, with wooden tables and comfortable chairs everywhere, along with chilled out music on the sound system.  I'm pretty sure they serve light fare there, but again, I didn't have a chance to check it out too thoroughly.

We climbed a flight of stairs to the restaurant, which was slightly brighter and quieter, but still decorated with an interesting mural that included a nude depiction of a woman's body.  Seated at a thick wooden table with a rough surface (which Bill said almost gave him a splinter), we gazed around at how the room was decorated.  If you're into visuals, Five offers a feast for the eyes.  From my seat, I had a good view of the kitchen, which was enclosed with glass so clear I couldn't even tell it was there... except for seeing one of the staff cleaning it before dinner got started.


The view from our table.  As you can see, the kitchen is easy to observe.  I was enjoying an introductory glass of champagne, which was served in a wine glass rather than a flute.

We were taken care of by a man and a woman, both of whom spoke English.  They were handling the whole dining room, though at 7:00, we were the only ones there.  By the time we left three hours later, several other tables were occupied, though the restaurant was not full.  My guess is that it gets a lot more business on the weekends.


Obligatory Bill shot for all his fans.

The female server explained to us that we could either order off the menu or do a surprise tasting menu.  Although I tend to be very picky about some things, Bill is more adventurous.  He wanted to try the surprise tasting menu with a wine pairing.  I agreed to be brave.  We told the waitress the foods we absolutely can't do.  For me, it's mushrooms.  For Bill, it's liver or other exotic organ meats (and I wouldn't want those, either... yecch!).  Also, since Bill was driving, they gave him half pours of the wines.  We also ordered a bottle of sparkling water.  I noticed that both servers wore black gloves when they presented the food.


This was the amuse, which was not part of the four course tasting menu we chose.  It looks like an egg, but actually, it's not...  The green base is leek soup.  The "yolk" is made of mascarpone cheese, and the white is a different cheese.  It's garnished with a little ham, some sprouts, and a cracker.  Bill loves cheese, but I'm very particular.  Nevertheless, I took a deep breath and enjoyed this.  I definitely loved the artistic presentation.

When we were finished with the "egg" that wasn't an egg, out came the first course... which also was a challenge for me because it included more cheese...   As this was being served, I told the male server that I don't do mushrooms or truffles.  He gave me a horrified look and said, "Not even truffles?"  Ha ha ha.  I wish I could eat them, but I can't.  I will happily eat turkey corpse, though...  ;)  


The two whitish half discs in the center of the bowl are sheep's milk cheese.  They are surrounded with beet root and topped with crackers seasoned with pink pepper.  Bill's version included mushroom juice.  Sheep's milk cheese is usually not something I enjoy, but this was very mild and not at all offensive.  And the beets, while usually too earthy for me, were kind of sweet.  The color definitely added to the visual presentation.  I managed half of the cheese and let Bill finish it, since he's an aficionado.  


Next came the bread.  It was very fresh and served with butter infused with walnuts and an eggplant spread.  Bill like the eggplant spread.  I couldn't really taste it, though I did think the gilded walnut butter was nice.


I really enjoyed the second course.  This was a langostino served with fennel salad and Belgian endive.  They drizzled date syrup over it, which really played beautifully with the slight tanginess of the endive.  And, of course, the shrimp was perfectly cooked.  This was paired with a local Riesling from the Keller vintner.  We really liked the wine and will be looking for a bottle of it soon.  


We had a slight problem with the next course, which consisted of sweet potatoes, pistachio syrup, bacon, and what appeared to be mushrooms.  As I have mentioned so many times, I can't do mushrooms at all.  It took a few minutes to get the server's attention, and at first, she explained that they weren't mushrooms but were kind of like them.  Then she said they weren't earthy.  I tried to eat one, but couldn't... So she brought out another version of the same dish without the fungus.  I was able to finish that and enjoyed it.  The pistachio syrup seemed to be infused with citrus, which set off the sweet and starchy qualities of the sweet potatoes.  The salt in the bacon also cut the sweetness a bit.  I don't usually like sweet potatoes that much, but I enjoyed this.  Later, the server explained that they had sneaked in mushrooms with the first version and she apologized.  Bill loves mushrooms, so none of this was an issue for him. We had another Riesling with this course, this time from the Mosel Valley.  It was more of a semi-sweet wine.  Again, it paired very well.

It was finally time for the main course.  We knew we were getting different items, since they laid down different silverware for us and we got different wines.  For Bill, they poured a lovely red from the Rhone Valley.  I knew he was going to love that, since he loves red wines from southern France.  For me, they poured an Austrian chardonnay.  I had just been talking about how I like my whites with a little kick.  But when they poured a chardonnay, I knew I was going to be having fish...


And I was right.  The server said the fish was called "kalt" fish, or something that sounds like it.  She said it was similar to cod.  Having tasted it, I would swear it was sea bass, which happens to be one of my favorite fishes!  This was served with wilted greens, artichoke, potato puree, and a sauce made from potato peels.  I think this was my favorite course.  It was delicious.  And whether or not I was eating sea bass, this was sinfully buttery and delicate.  


Bill was served venison, which came with mushrooms and sauce made from blackberries.  I didn't taste Bill's main course because I'm not a big fan of venison.  He loved it, though.  


The above photo is of what they called "pre dessert", which I think was a palate cleanser.  The star tasted like vanilla ice cream infused with cardamom.  It was paired with apple puree and nuts.  The dots around the star were what they called "hot wine", though it wasn't hot.  I liked it... not only was it creatively presented, but it reminded me of apple pie a la mode and was perfect for the fall...


Another obligatory shot of Bill drinking wine...


Finally, we had dessert.  Pictured above is a plum pudding with discs of hazelnut ice cream, chocolate "air" (think Aero candy bars), and drizzled in a plum syrup.  Again, imaginative, creative, and not a lava cake!  It was the perfect ending, paired with a dessert wine from Austria that had the essence of roses.  


We were presented with this little platter of housemade candies just before we asked for the check.  I commented to Bill that in America, no one would ever present food sitting on a tray of rocks.  They'd be too afraid someone would think the rocks were candy!  Lawsuit time!  But here in Germany, people are expected to be able to tell a rock from a Jordan almond and not break their teeth...  I find that refreshing!

As we were finishing up, the restaurant grew louder.  Lots of people were in the bar area, including one woman who seemed to have a really bad case of laryngitis, yet was chattering loudly and incessantly.  Listening to her talk from all the way down in the bar and sounding like she needed complete vocal rest, I quipped that perhaps they should hand out ballgags to go with the rather unorthodox environment at Five.  I'm kidding, of course, but do want to point out that if you're looking for a quiet, romantic restaurant, Five may not be your venue.  It does get rather noisy.  Also, it's definitely not a kid friendly kind of place.  I noticed that many of the other diners in the restaurant were somewhat alternative looking, which I thought was very intriguing.  By alternative, I mean they appeared to be somewhat young and sexy, not stodgy, formal, or curmudgeonly.  Five has a youthful, upwardly mobile, ortherwordly kind of feel.

Our bill came to 282 euros before tip and they do take credit cards.  Although it's been awhile since we last spent that much on a meal, we did enjoy dining at Five.  The surprise menu concept is always risky for me, but I have to admit, it was rather successful last night, even with the mushroom incident.  Bill loved the feel of Five.  I tend to enjoy more traditional kinds of places, but I would certainly not be averse to coming back to Five.  The service is friendly and competent and the food is exquisite.  Besides, everybody needs to venture out of their comfort zones once in awhile.  I'm proud to say that, more than Bill, I did that last night.  Eating cheese and enjoying it was in and of itself a thrill!  If you're up for a culinary adventure and have lots of money to spend, I recommend Five.  They made our 13th anniversary memorable.