Sunday, February 28, 2016

On not finding what we need at AAFES...

In a couple of weeks, Bill and I will be traveling to Scotland and taking a cruise on Hebridean Princess.  We have cruised on this ship before, back in November 2012.  We were celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary.  It was actually a rather bittersweet journey because one of our dogs got very sick while we were gone.  Despite MacGregor's sickness, we had a wonderful time in Scotland and especially on Hebridean Princess.  Scotland felt very comfortable to me, probably because a number of my ancestors were Scots and my earliest memories are of living in England.

Anyway, when we took that first cruise, Bill brought his dress blues and wore them for the galas on the ship.  These are special meals where haggis is served.  The men wear tuxedoes and the women wear cocktail dresses.  Bill made many people, including the ship's officers, stop dead in the their tracks when he showed up wearing his uniform.  The Brits love it when people dress smartly for a special occasion.  It was one of a few times when it seemed like Bill was so much prettier than me.  Lots of people congratulated him for looking so sharp.

I hope we can get a nicer shot on this upcoming trip...  Yes, we were a little hammered.  We needed some Scotch courage to try the haggis.

As it happens when guys get older and retire from the Army, Bill has gained a little weight.  Although I have been nagging him for weeks about trying on the uniform, he finally did it today.  And he found out that his uniform no longer fits him properly.  It's enough that he needed to invest in a new shirt and jacket.  We went to Panzer today to shop for uniform essentials so he'll be all spiffy on our cruise.  He lucked into the last jacket in his new size and found a shirt with no problem.  Sadly, clothing sales was missing the piping that he needed for the jacket sleeves and no one there could help him.  He'll either have to get the piping off of his older jacket or go on a crash diet for the next two weeks.  Maybe he'll find someone who can help him before we take off in a couple of weeks.

While he was buying the jacket and shirt, I took note of some "fresh fruit" being offered for sale...

I think it might be time for banana bread...  Also, at least one of those apples has seen better days.

We stopped by the PX for a potty break and to pick up some feminine hygiene essentials, then we went to the Auld Rogue for a late lunch/early dinner.  Bill tried the chili, which was pretty good but not very spicy.

I might be persuaded to order this sometime, though my chili is much better.  I'm not a big fan of lots of heat, but this was pretty bland for chili.  I liked the cheese.

This was pretty good, as usual.  I couldn't finish it all, though.

After we ate and had a few rounds of Guinness, we went to Patch to pick up a couple of things from the Shoppette.  I took the opportunity to use the bathroom because I knew that if I didn't, I'd really regret it on the way home.  Folks, I'm here to tell you that despite AAFES' promises of a clean restroom that is inspected every hour, the potty in the Shoppette was even grosser than usual today.  It looked like someone's abnormally large turd was stuck in the commode.  And there was also no toilet paper.  It's a good thing I had some Kleenex with me.

Clean restroom promise... HA!

I have ranted about the nasty bathrooms before, but I just figured today's experiences represented an unusually high level of suckitude.  It truly makes me sad.  I've seen some really gross toilets in my day, but they were in developing countries.  I think we should be able to do better in a place like Germany, where there is plenty of running water, people get paid regularly, and detergent is affordable.

Oh well...  Somehow, we'll get Bill in his uniform so he can be stunning to our friends the Brits.  I'll try to keep up with his natural beauty.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Watching the game at Wirtshaus Drive Biergarten

Because we are going to attend a gathering next weekend, I needed to visit the PX at Panzer to purchase a cake carrier.  When we were finished shopping, it was about 4:00pm.  Bill and I had talked about visiting the Irish pub in Herrenberg, but noticed that their food offerings were kind of skimpy.  Since we were hungry and Vaihingen is not far from Panzer, we decided to head there.  Instead of visiting The Auld Rogue as we usually do on Sundays when we're in the neighborhood, we decided to visit their neighbors at the Wirtshaus Drive Biergarten.  

Bill and I had noticed the Wirtshaus Drive Biergarten when we lived here the first time, from 2007-09.  We lived at the Vaihinger Hof for six weeks and really got to know Vaihingen's restaurants pretty well because we ate out all the time.  For some reason, we never visited this particular restaurant when we were here the first time, nor had we gone there prior to its recent renovation.  I had noticed how nice the place was looking since it was redone, even though we had never been in there before.  It looks like they bought the building to the left of the original structure and about doubled the size of the restaurant.  Since they open at 4:00pm on Sundays, we decided to have a look.  As it turned out, it was a good thing we got there early.  

Bill and I awkwardly sat down at a booth close to the door and not far from the impressive bar.  I was admiring the beautifully made tables and benches.  They are very solid and high quality.  It took some time before the bartender approached us.  I didn't realize that he was working alone and was feeling a little weird.  At first, I suggested that we just have a drink and then head to The Auld Rogue.  But then, maybe after we'd been sitting for about ten or fifteen minutes, the bartender came over.  He was friendly, spoke excellent English, and very quickly brought us our first round, a Bock and and a Keller Bier.  

The bar area.  Note the dartboard on the right.

Obligatory shot of Bill.  He was mid sentence.

My bock...

Bill's beer...

Really impressive television.  I counted four of them in the upstairs dining room.  There is also a downstairs dining room, which has its own rest room.

Nice menu.

About halfway into my beer, I decided I wanted to stay and have dinner.  Wirtshaus Drive Biergarten offers Swabian specialties, pizzas, pasta, and spare ribs.  They also have a children's menu and daily specials.  I decided I wanted to try their American spare ribs.  Bill had the pork Wiener Schnitzel.  

Look over Bill's left shoulder at the dog, who was working the tables the whole time we were there.  That dog is obviously a fixture.

The dog is sitting under the table as a lady watches the football game...

The restaurant began to fill up as we waited for our dinners.  Before long, all of the seating near the bar area was taken.  It wasn't long before I realized that Bill and I were sitting in prime real estate as far as bar patrons were concerned.  Lots of people were having to settle for the dining area in the newer part of the restaurant.  For some reason, they didn't turn on the TV in that area.

The crowd thickens...

Our food arrived fairly quickly... and it was enough food for four people!

My pork ribs, which came with delicious potato wedges and a garlic and dill dipping sauce that was very addictive.  I have had better ribs, though these were not bad at all.  The barbecue sauce was a little mild for my taste, and that's really saying something.  On the other hand, that dip for the potatoes was like crack.

Bill's garden variety schnitzel.  This was nothing to write home about, though Bill enjoyed it.


Both dishes came with salads dressed with a mild yogurt dressing.  I appreciated that they also brought us ketchup and mayo for the potatoes.

I managed to finish the ribs, but still had lots of potatoes left.  Bill ate about half of his schnitzel and neither of us got more than half of our salads down.  We were able to take the leftovers to go, though I doubt they gave me the garlic sauce.  That was the best part of the meal!

We decided to have one more round...  and the place got even busier!

Sign outside the restaurant.

The front facade.

As the sun went down, more people crowded in.  I started to watch the football game and  I'll be damned if it wasn't exciting.  It was a match between Stuttgart and Schalke.  I don't usually follow sports, but I caught myself enjoying the camaraderie in the restaurant.  The place was mostly full of Germans who cheered loudly for each exciting and impressive play, even when the guy on the Schalke team did a cartwheel after scoring a goal.  I think I wouldn't mind watching soccer over American football.  For those who want to chastise me for that, realize that I don't follow team sports at all!  Neither does Bill.

When things were really rocking in the restaurant, we decided it was time to pay up and go.  Just as Bill asked for the check, a tall German guy asked if he and his family could share our table.  Bill made his evening by telling him we were leaving sofort.   The guy brightened up and thanked Bill as he and his family swooped in and snagged our table.  Bill paid our 38 euro check and we split... sofort.

We really enjoyed our visit to Wirtshaus Drive.  Though we didn't get a chance to see this establishment before they fixed it up, we were impressed by how nice it looks inside after the obviously extensive renovations.  It's clear the owners invested a lot of money into upgrading the restaurant.  We also peeked at the biergarten and determined that when the weather is better, we will have to visit so we can try it out.  

The food at the restaurant is fairly good.  I've had better and I've had much worse.  Next time, I may opt for a pasta dish.  We liked the bar because it's comfortable and offers a different vibe than The Auld Rogue does.  While we'd probably go to The Auld Rogue for its fine whiskys, Irish beers, good food, great music, and American clientele, Wirtshaus Drive offers a refreshing change of pace in a very pleasant environment.  If you want to visit on a game day and sit near the bar, I recommend getting there early.  I'm sure we'll be back.

P.S. On the way home, we passed the Haslacher Hof and noticed that they, too, were watching the same game on huge TVs.  I could see it from the road as we drove by the restaurant.  Maybe it's time we resubscribed to German cable.  I think I could get into football and maybe it would help me learn German. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Lunch at Triple B's... Great burgers in Zuffenhausen...

Today's review is brought to you by one of my favorite Stuttgart Venters, Rick, who suggested Triple B Burgers in Zuffenhausen as a potential lunch spot a couple of weeks ago.  Rick said Triple B's burgers (Triple B stands for Beef Burger Brothers) were among the best in the area.  I have come to appreciate Rick's taste, since he recommended Christophorus at the Porsche Museum to me a few months ago and Bill and I had a great meal there.  After that, I figured the man knows his food, and Bill and I are always looking for good places to eat.  

We needed to go to Ludwigsburg to drop off empty bottles at Heinrich's, so I suggested that we stop in Zuffenhausen for lunch.   Bill was game, despite the crappy weather today.  We loaded up the ol' SUV and headed north, arriving in Zuffenhausen at about 2:30pm.  As we passed Triple B's, I could see there were many people in there.  Generally speaking, if a place is booming, especially when it's not during prime meal hours, the food is going to be good.  On the other hand, I'm not really a big fan of crowds.  I glanced nervously at the busy looking restaurant as Bill circled around looking for parking.  There are spaces available on the street near the restaurant, but it was kind of tricky to find one.  We finally lucked into a spot right across from the U-Bahn, which is located just steps away from the restaurant.  If you are coming just for the burgers at Triple B's, I would recommend taking the U-Bahn rather than trying to park.

When we entered Triple B's, it was positively bustling with business.  There were no tables to be had.  I told Bill that maybe we should get our order to go and eat in the car.  He agreed, but while he was in line, a table near the Coke cooler opened up.  I grabbed the spot while Bill waited for his turn.  He ordered me a 200 gram cheeseburger and himself a 200 gram chiliburger and a portion of fries to share.  If 200 grams is too much food, you can order 100 gram burgers.  They also have veggie burgers.  

We also got two bottled Cokes.  Besides Coke, Triple B's offers Sprite, Fanta, beer, and a variety of other non alcoholic drinks. 

We waited about twenty minutes or so for our sandwiches, watching in awe as more and more people came in.  I noticed there was a nice mix of Americans and Germans in the restaurant.  Bill tried to order in German, but the guy behind the counter immediately switched to English as soon as he heard Bill's accent.  A friendly waitress brought us our order packed up in styrofoam containers and stacked into a plastic bag.  Since we had a table, Bill told her we would eat in house.  She kindly brought us a couple of paper lined trays.

Obligatory shot of Bill.

My cheeseburger came with tomatoes, lettuce, red onions, cheddar cheese, ketchup, mayonnaise, and German pickles (more like cucumber slices).  This burger was juicy and delicious, but it was a bit of a challenge to eat it at the tiny bistro table.  I was awkwardly balanced on a stool and people were kind of standing over our table as they waited in line.  It made me feel self-conscious because other diners were clearly checking out my burger.   Maybe it's a girl thing, but I don't like feeling like people are watching me stuff my face.   

These pommes were like steak fries, which I really like.  I also liked that the table had ketchup and mayo (pommes sauce) on it.  It's such a treat to have ketchup with fries in Germany.  One portion was enough for both of us and we had leftovers.

I tried this to see if it tasted different than mayo.  It didn't to me.  I still prefer ketchup.

Bill's very messy chiliburger.  Just so you know, the chiliburger doesn't have chili on it (and I can't imagine German chili would be that exciting).  This burger has jalapeno peppers and chili sauce.  It also had onions, tomatoes, German pickles, ketchup, and romaine lettuce.  The buns on both burgers were housemade.  The chiliburger is available with or without cheese.  Bill liked it very much, even though he went through several napkins.

You can also get a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream.

The crowd at 2:30pm.

I managed to get this shot for the couple of minutes those stools were open.

Big line.

As we were finishing up, the crowd began to disperse.  By the time we were ready to leave, there were a couple of tables open.  I think if we'd gotten there at 3:00pm or later, we would have had a more relaxed experience.  In the dining room, there are a few larger tables that don't require sitting on a stool.  I noticed there were several reservation signs on the wall for this evening.  That tells me that if you want to go for dinner, you should probably book ahead.  Either that, or get your burgers to go.

A shot of the front of the restaurant.

Triple B's menu.

Triple B's has excellent burgers for a reasonable price.  Our order came to about 25 euros and we left feeling very satisfied.  We genuinely liked the food there and, when it's not really crowded, it's probably a great place to have lunch.  The huge crowds and lack of seating was a bit of a turn off for me.  However, I will admit that the place has a great reputation for good reason.  The burgers are delicious and probably as close as you'll get to an American style burger in this area unless you make one at home.  I almost felt like I'd stumbled into the Krusty Krab with the way people were enjoying their patties.

After lunch, Bill and I went to Heinrich's and loaded up on more beer.  I have already blogged plenty about Heinrich's, but wanted to mention that they've reorganized the store.  And for the first time in over a year of shopping there, Bill and I ran across this mixed crate of beers.  I'm sure they've been doing it all along, but I was glad to find it today.  I love trying new suds as opposed to getting crates of 20 of the same kind of beer.  Aside from that, it takes forever to scan individual beers.  I know other Heinrich's customers hate being behind us in the check out line because it takes us forever.  I like the way Heinrich's has been reorganized.  I think it looks great and it's much easier to find stuff without being overwhelmed.  

Mixed beers!  Weee!

A shot of the sign.  The weather was too crappy to roll down the window.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Valentine's dinner at Im Gärtle in Entringen...

Ever since we moved back to the Stuttgart area in 2014 after a five year absence, I have often remarked to Bill that it feels like we never left.  And yet, this time around, we are doing a lot more things locally than we did the first time we lived here.  During our first tour, we lived in a little town called Pfäffingen, which is about 10 kilometers from Herrenberg and maybe 7 from Tübingen.  Because we were living between two decent sized towns, we spent a lot of our time in those two towns.  

This time, we live in Jettingen, which is also about 10 kilometers from Herrenberg in a different direction.  We spend time in different places now, but still like to go to our old stomping grounds.  Entringen is a little hamlet in Ammerbuch, maybe two or three kilometers from Pfäffingen.  We had to drive through it any time we went to one of the four American military installations near Stuttgart. Now, we go to Entringen by choice when we want to see our old friend we nicknamed "The Mad Scientist" or are headed to Tübingen.  We don't even have to go that way if we don't want to.  We can access that area via a different route that doesn't take us through Herrenberg.

Somehow, the first time we lived here, I never heard of Im Gärtle.  It's in Entringen, kind of on the outskirts in an area of the town we had never before explored.  While Bill was in Africa last week, I was tasked with finding us a nice place for dinner on Valentine's Day.  When I noticed Im Gärtle on OpenTable, I was intrigued.  At first, I thought it was in Tübingen.  When I saw that it was actually in Entringen, I was very curious.  Then I saw that it got really good reviews on OpenTable and Trip Advisor.  I also noticed that all the reviews were in German.

I am a firm believer that locals are the best judges of local cuisine.  Most everyone had good things to say about Im Gärtle.  Both the food and the ambiance got good marks.  So I decided to make the reservation for 7:00 tonight.  We arrived right on time.   

A photo of the sign.  It was dark out... 

To get to the restaurant, you drive down B28 to the little town of Entringen, then turn onto a narrow residential street.  Hang a couple of more turns on equally narrow residential streets and head up a hillside.  The restaurant is at the top and offers a nice view... or, at least I think it would be very nice during the daytime.  I can see by the photos taken during the spring and summer that those are the best times to visit.  Then you can sit in the garden.  Parking for the restaurant is free and fairly plentiful.

The lady who greeted us didn't speak any English at all.  That was okay.  One of the waiters did, though he wasn't obvious about it.  Bill and I probably got more practice speaking German tonight than we have in a long time.  The dining room was full and we were, of course, the only Americans there.

Obligatory shot of Bill.  Right after I shot this, he ordered a Bordeaux and some sparkling water.

They brought out some delightful fresh bread, which was served with excellent butter.  There were two slices each. 

Next came an amuse.  Sweet slivers of peppers, zucchini, and eggplant drizzled with a little balsamic vinegar...  They were a nice way to start the meal.  

We each got green salads.  My dish did not come with a salad, so this is a photo of an a la carte salad. Bill's dish came with salad and his was smaller than mine was, but just as good.  Underneath the towering greens and endive was a small pile of potato salad and a mound of carrots.  The salads were topped with peanuts, cashews, and sunflower seeds.  This salad was too much for me to eat in one sitting, but it was delicious.  The dressing was like a smokey mustard vinaigrette.  I stopped after eating maybe half.  I knew the rest of dinner would be huge.

I had a porkloin with a side of colorful vegetables and spatzle.  I'm pretty sure the gravy was made with mushrooms (it had an earthy flavor), but I was able to avoid it easily enough.  The top of my pork is a garlic crust.

Family sized spatzle.  We took most of this home with us.

Bill had vension with spatzle, sauteed mushrooms, a roasted pear with cranberry sauce, and potato croquettes.  There was also a side of cream and venison meant to drench over the meal.  Most of that venison and cream came home with us.  Bill loved this dish... but he loves game anyway. 

For dessert, I had hot love...  that is, vanilla ice cream with hot raspberries, whipped cream, and a white chocolate/chocolate garnish.  The raspberries weren't actually that hot, but that was okay.  They tasted very fresh.  This restaurant prides itself on farm to table dining and that was evident with every dish, including dessert.

Bill had a Grand Marnier parfait.  It came with plums on the side.  The parfait was a little melted.  Bill enjoyed it anyway.

And we had espresso... and that came with cookies and sweets.

Service was leisurely, friendly, and very professional.  I could tell there were a lot of return visitors.  One couple had brought their well behaved dog with them, while another had a little boy who was honored with the task of bringing out the check.  This is definitely a family run establishment; everyone working there seemed invested in its success.  The two wait staff members were very nice and welcoming and the food was excellent.  And, at 119 euros, it didn't break the bank.  We were also allowed to pay with a credit card.

Another shot of the sign.

Not such a good shot of the beautiful wrought iron gate and steps leading to the restaurant.  Be advised if it's icy, you have mobility problems, or are walking in heels for the first time in awhile, like I was.  

Im Gärtle is a very charming restaurant.  The interior is a little 60s, with sort of a Brady Bunch vibe.  The music on the sound system was also straight from the 60s and 70s.  We heard "The Entertainer" and "Behind Closed Doors" by Charlie Rich on the sound system, at least until most everyone had left.  Then they turned off the music in the dining room and played some alternative tunes in the kitchen.  Bill got a kick out of that.

On the walls, there are many works of art.  Indeed, the restaurant even has an art museum, which is open for limited hours on the weekends.  Edited to add, my German friend Susanne says that 85 year old Manfred Lutz founded the restaurant over fifty years ago.  The artwork in the restaurant and museum was all done by him.  His grandsons are now in charge of the restaurant.  I think I saw Manfred Lutz at the restaurant last night.

I recommend making reservations.  It's very easy to do that using Open Table.

Tonight was our first visit to this restaurant, but I doubt it'll be our last.  We really had a good time and I want to see what it looks like when the weather is nice and the view is easier to see.  Highly recommended!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Big Valentine's Day plans...

Last year for President's Day weekend, we went to Regensburg.  It was bitter cold.  On Valentine's Day, all the restaurants were packed.  We went to a crappy Thai takeout place.   The food ended up having mushrooms in it. And then, Bill went back to our hotel room and threw up his dinner.  We had a good time in Regensburg, but Valentine's Day 2015 pretty much sucked.

This year, we're staying local.  Bill had to go out of town and I have been sick all week anyway.  I decided we'd have a decent Valentine's Day dinner and booked us at a restaurant in Entringen that doesn't belong to The Mad Scientist.

We have not been to Im Gärtle before, but it's located very close to where we used to live when we were here the first time.  Since Bill has been traveling all week, I decided I wanted to keep Valentine's Day somewhat low key.

It looks like a nice place.  Doesn't have a lot of reviews on TripAdvisor and they are all in German, but what I've read indicates that the restaurant is pleasant enough.  And it looks like it's in a nice area, although it will be dark when we get there.  I look forward to posting a new review and getting out of the house.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sidelined by sickness... and German dialects

My husband has left town again on business.  Yesterday, I was hoping we'd get out and try a restaurant.  Unfortunately, Bill gave me whatever disease he picked up when he visited Burkina Faso a couple of weeks ago.  We only managed to visit the local Real.  For those who don't know, Real is kind of like Germany's version of Wal-Mart.  The one in our town is kind of dumpy looking, but it has a lot of stuff.  When I'm in the States, I avoid Wal-Mart at all costs.  Here in Germany, I have somewhat less of a problem with their version of a box store, even though it lacks charm the same way its American counterparts do.

The front of our local Real.

I was really out of it during our outing, though I did manage to put on some makeup.  I hadn't realized how icky I was feeling until I started walking around the store, trying to shop for food for the upcoming week.  When I was single, I used to cook decent meals for myself.  Now that I'm married, I can't be bothered as much.  I don't enjoy cooking for just myself.

I get a kick out of the stuff one can find in German grocery stores.  It seems that Germans enjoy convenience foods as much as Americans do, though their offerings are somewhat more upscale.  They kind of remind me of stuff I might find in a Whole Foods.

Check out the beans wrapped in bacon...  I bet that looks just as appetizing just out of the box.

I would have taken a few more pictures, but the Real was crowded yesterday and I didn't want to look too weird taking pictures of German frozen foods.  Besides, I'm sure I looked weird enough with the dazed look on my face.  Whatever virus I have made my brain even foggier than usual.  By the time we got to the check out area, I was exhausted.

I did manage to get a photo of these frozen confections.  I was particularly attracted to the one that resembles an American flag.  Too bad we don't have much freezer space or I might have gotten one of these to cheer myself up.

When we got home yesterday, I found a very cool video made by an attractive German lady.  She demonstrates how different the German dialects sound around the country.

Very interesting... of course, it doesn't matter to me which dialect she uses.  I still don't understand.

I think I may need to go back to bed now.  Hopefully next week, I will not be so krank.