Saturday, April 30, 2016

Last week I sampled vegan food...

Last night, we went to Tommi's Bistro for dinner.  After eating vegan delights at Reiskorn last week, I guess we decided it was time for red meat.  Because I also had lunch with a friend yesterday and used up some cash, we also had to stop by the ATM.  While we were there, I noticed a big sign on the wall...


Check out that guy's teeth!

The teeth were the first thing I noticed when I saw that sign.  There was a TV monitor that was flashing announcements and I saw another photo of a different guy with jacked up teeth.  Now, I know it's not uncommon for people to have crooked teeth and maybe Germans aren't as into orthodontia as Americans are.  I just thought it was funny this guy's photo was left au naturale.  In the United States, I'm sure Photoshop would be used to fix those choppers.

We basically had our usual Tommi's repast last night, except Bill decided to order the 300 gram Irish dry-aged Hereford beef they were selling last night.   


A very nice entrecote steak.  Irish beef is a little different than Argentinian beef.  They even gave Bill ketchup for his pommes last night.  That was a first.


My ordinary 200 gram entrecote.   I had my usual wild potatoes that I couldn't finish...  And we had lots of red wine.


A party brought in their adorable little dog, who was peeking out from behind her owner's jacket.  I couldn't resist taking a photo.  I wish my dogs were as well behaved in public places.

We had a nice time.  Today, we're going to a BBQ hosted by our fellow Americans.  I may or may not have anything interesting to post about it.  But I am bringing a Guinness cake to share with my friends.  It should be fun.


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Pushing beyond my comfort zone at Reiskorn in Stuttgart!

Calling all vegans, vegetarians, gluten free and Asian fusion lovers!  Are you finding it hard to find good restaurants in the Stuttgart area?  Well, this review is especially for you... although meat eaters may also appreciate it.  Today's restaurant review is of Reiskorn, a restaurant Bill and I tried for the first time last night after I booked it on OpenTable.de.  I discovered Reiskorn a couple of weeks ago, while looking at the list of OpenTable restaurants in the Stuttgart area.

OpenTable is an online restaurant reservation service.  I started using it in 2002, months before Bill and I got married.  He wanted me to find a place for us to celebrate my 30th birthday in Washington, DC.  I ended up picking Kinkead's, a famous but now defunct seafood restaurant downtown.  I've been using OpenTable ever since then.  I even used it when we lived in Germany the first time, though back then, Stuttgart only had two or three restaurants using the service.  I'm happy to say that there are now hundreds of OpenTable restaurants in Stuttgart, which makes getting reservations very easy.  Of course, it also leads to me finding new places to have dinner!  So far this week, we've used OpenTable three times to make dinner reservations.    

I will admit that I chose Reiskorn in part because of reviews on OpenTable, as well as the photos of the food and their "Sommergarten" which, as far as I could tell, wasn't open last night.  The place was described as serving "Asian fusion" food, as well as vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free dishes.  I was so intrigued by the beautiful photos that I showed them to Bill, who was definitely up for trying the place.  I made a reservation for 8:00pm last night, but somehow got the time wrong and we showed up at 7:00pm instead.


Reiskorn is located in downtown Stuttgart, very close to The Block House, another place we need to try.

The first thing to know about Reiskorn is that it's a small restaurant.  The dining room consists of a single room with low tables and chairs.  There are several large tables that serve multiple parties and only a couple of tables for two.  When we arrived last night, the service was in full swing and it was pretty crowded, as well as very loud.  But a very cute and petite German lady with long brown hair very kindly found us a spot at a long table for four facing the street outside.  We shared it with two other ladies, who paid no attention to us.

Reiskorn specializes in Asian inspired cuisine, but Asia is a big continent and they put their own spin on their food.  So it's not a Thai or Vietnamese restaurant per se, though you might find Thai or Vietnamese inspired dishes on the menu.  Likewise, you might find hummus or falafel, also foods from Asian countries.

When we sat down, our waitress asked us whether we wanted German or English menus.  We said we could read German, but she gave us English menus anyway.  Actually, I was okay with that, since there are a few foods that I really don't like.  Mushrooms, which are often found in Asian foods, are at the top of that list!  Fortunately, we didn't have any fungal surprises last night.

I also noticed that the restaurant's drink menu was inspired by sustainable and "bio" friendly sources.  They had some very creative cocktails as well as non-alcoholic fruit and mint waters and juices.  Bill and I both drank natural hefeweizens made by Franziskaner, but I was tempted by some of the more unique choices.  I saw a lot of people drinking water with crushed oranges and mint.  I kind of wish I'd tried that last night.


We started off with this fabulous Thai inspired appetizer for two.  There were coconut chicken strips, chicken satay, shrimp rolls, vegetable rolls, and seafood "sacks" (tasted like shrimp).  The appetizer came with three housemade dips, including some killer peanut sauce.  

I loved our appetizer so much.  I was especially impressed by the chicken, which was very tender, juicy, and flavorful.  I could have ordered just this and been very happy.  Bill was reluctant to order it because he worried it was too big, but it turned out to be the perfect size for us.  But then, we came into the restaurant hungry.  


A profile shot of Bill.  This was pretty much the only way I could do it because we were kind of cramped in our corner.

It was awhile before our main courses came.  I have read that service is rather leisurely at Reiskorn, though it was crowded enough last night that I didn't get the sense the servers were slacking off.  In any case, I recommend relaxing and enjoying the vibe.  We also took the opportunity to use the restrooms, which are as tiny as the rest of the restaurant is.  I ended up having to wait for two ladies ahead of me, which killed some time.  


I took a photo of the view from where we were sitting.  It was actually an interesting place to sit because you can easily watch life unfolding for passersby.  At one point, an ambulance showed up to help some elderly guy and we saw plenty of folks from every walk of life getting on with their day, some of whom stopped to check out the restaurant or gawk at us while we ate.  It was also fun watching groups of people enjoy the outside tables at the bar next door.  


My main course was a vegan, gluten free, low carb dish: falafel with a tomato coconut mango sauce.  It came with a seasonal salad that had a very tasty dressing.  I was almost able to finish the main course, though I only manage a little of the salad.  I've had a lot of falafel that I didn't like much because it was too dry.  This falafel was excellent, especially with the delightful sauce and bits of mango.  It's not often that I really enjoy something supposedly so good for me.  I'd like to try vegan food more often.


Bill had chicken strips in red curry with colorful seasonal vegetables, rice, and lemon grass.  His dish had some kick to it, though Bill described it as tangy and somewhat mild.  The dish was very "Thai" inspired, with coconut milk and lime juice.  I preferred my falafel and I think Bill did too.  He said next time, he'd order that, although he liked the chicken as well.  

As the sun set and it got dark outside, I was suddenly glad we got to the restaurant an hour early.  It was almost nine o'clock when we ordered dessert... yet another vegan creation...


Bill and I split this fabulous vegan, gluten free, and lactose free lemon pie.   The crust was made of chickpeas, but I never would have guessed it.  The pie was lemon and coconut creme, topped with a caramel creme.  I actually would not have guessed it was topped with caramel, but regardless, it was delicious.  And we didn't feel stuffed when were finished.

Total bill for last night's meal was about 56 euros.  Aside from being the most interesting of the three meals we ate this week, it was also by far the least expensive.  

Bill and I really enjoyed the food at Reiskorn.  We also liked the funky decor, which looked like it was outfitted by Novica, one of my favorite cash drains.  One thing I didn't like as much was the noise and the rather crowded dining room.  On the other hand, the fact that Reiskorn is so popular is a sign that it's a good place.  I can see why people like Reiskorn and if we lived closer to Stuttgart, we'd probably end up being regulars, despite the crowds.  

I think Reiskorn has something for everyone, but I would especially recommend it to people who have special dietary needs.  There are plenty of meat free, gluten free, and milk free options for those who require it.  And we thought the prices were very reasonable.  Needless to say, Reiskorn gets my vote!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Swabian delights at Zum Reussenstein in Böblingen

I promised some friends on Facebook that this week there would be a deluge of restaurant reviews.  Last night, Bill and I went to the second of three restaurants we have booked this week.  When I booked the family owned Zum Reussenstein restaurant and hotel in Böblingen, I had no idea that the place had any notoriety.  I just noticed that reservations on OpenTable.de were kind of hard to come by.   I had to book our Thursday night table several days in advance.  Weekend reservations demanded even more notice.  I figured that must mean the food is very good.  What I didn't know is that Zum Reussenstein is owned by TV chef Timo Böckle, which may be one major reason why reservations are a must.

I used to work at The Trellis, a restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia that, for years, was owned by TV chef and cookbook author Marcel Desaulniers.  The Trellis has since been sold and Marcel now owns Mad About Chocolate, a cafe in Williamsburg where he sells light lunches and desserts. When I waited tables at Marcel's restaurant, I frequently ran into people who had traveled from far flung places simply to have lunch or dinner at The Trellis.  A lot of people bought cookbooks, which we kept stocked in the restaurant and all of which were autographed.

I don't know how famous  Timo Böckle is, but I did notice a number of what looked like gourmet items for sale.  Indeed, I see on his restaurant's very musical Web site, I see there is a gourmet shop there that appears to be open during lunch and dinner hours.

As we were getting ready to leave for our 8:00pm reservation, I got the news that world famous recording artist Prince died.  Having grown up in the 70s and 80s, I shared a love for Prince's music with many others in my age group.  As we headed toward Böblingen, I started thinking about how whenever I'm in Europe, it seems like someone legendary dies.  I was on a train between Vienna and Venice when Princess Diana died.  I lived in Germany when Michael Jackson died.  And now we've lost Prince, along with a number of other amazing celebrities.  2016 is turning out to be a terrible year to be famous and a Baby Boomer.


Bill enjoys a moment before looking at the menu.  Through the curtain dividing the room, I spotted a TV monitor on the wall that showed a fireplace with a perpetually flickering flame.  I'm not sure what the point of those things are, but I guess some people think they make a dining room seem "homey".

We arrived at the restaurant a few minutes before our reservation.  It took a little time to find street parking and we ended up having to walk about ten minutes.  That would have been fine, except I was wearing heels, which I rarely wear unless I'm dressed up.  Although I probably didn't need to get too spiffy for Zum Reussenstein, I like to look nice when we're eating at a nice place.  Zum Reussenstein has sort of a homey feel to it and it's not as fancy or expensive as Gasthof Krone is.  However, I did notice that there were quite a few locals there who seemed to be celebrating.  I was glad I wore a skirt and Bill wore his trusty sport jacket from Saks.


These little cards say "We're glad you're here." in German and English.

The restaurant was almost full last night and the ambience was definitely energetic.  Our waiter offered us menus that highlighted very traditional Swabian delights.  There was also a monthly special and a evening special.  At first, I was a little confused by what we had to choose from; I think the presence of the monthly special menu, the evening special, and the regular menu overwhelmed me.  Fortunately, our waiter spoke pretty good English.


Bill ordered us a nice local red.  This particular wine was very inky and tannic, with flavors of dark berries.  I liked it.  I must admit, during this tour in Germany, we're learning that not all German wines are sweet.  We're becoming fans of local vino.

I was torn between several appealing choices.  Zum Reussenstein offers a schnitzel that they prepare with apple.  They also had a chicken dish that looked good, as well as several very hearty sounding entrees that included venison and wild boar (Bill usually goes for those).  In the end, I went with a bowl of Flädlessubb, which is strips of crepes seasoned with herbs and served with a clear beef broth.  Then I had last night's special, which was ham, white asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce, and boiled new potatoes.  Bill ordered a colorful house salad, pork cheeks that were slow cooked in mustard sauce, and spaetzle.


This was the amuse.  It was a very pleasant but piping hot shot of soup.  I'm not sure what it was called because the waiter never told us.  However, it tasted like it had a chicken stock base infused with peppers.  Unfortunately, I burned my tongue... but it was still really good.  I would order that soup if it was offered on a menu. 


This was my "pancake" soup-- the local speciality Flädlessubb-- which was very comforting and not too filling.  The last time I had this was in August 2014, right around the time we first moved back to Germany.  I remarked to Bill that it would be a great soup for unclogging a stuffy head.


Bill's very fresh salad was made with field greens and topped with sunflower seeds.  He really seemed to enjoy it.


My colorful ham and asparagus dish...


With a side of parsleyed potatoes...


Bill's pork cheeks...


And a big dish of spaetzle...

I opted for the ham and asparagus because this is the time of year to eat such a dish.  Asparagus is in season right now and while we didn't eat a whole lot of ham the first time we lived here, we have come to realize that spring is the time to pair ham with asparagus and Hollandaise sauce.  The version I had last night was perfectly prepared, though it was a lot of food.  The ham wasn't too much, but I couldn't finish the asparagus or potatoes.  I definitely did not go hungry last night!

Bill really enjoyed the very tender and tasty pork cheeks.  He said the spaetzle was very fresh and appealing as well.  But, like me, he had to cry uncle at some point.  We knew we wanted dessert.


Bill had vanilla ice cream with apple balsam syrup...


I had sinful chocolate mousse made with chocolate from Rittersport.  

I think dessert was my favorite part of last night's meal.  The chocolate mousse was fantastic and really satisfying.  I thought I was full, but I managed to enjoy the whole thing with no problem.  Bill also loved his dessert.  The ice cream was regular vanilla, but it was very good quality and the apple balsam syrup was a nice touch.

Vegans and vegetarians may have a somewhat tough time at Zum Reussenstein, though I did notice that there were a couple of vegetarian options and several dishes that could be made vegetarian on request.  They were marked in the menu.  ETA: A vegetarian who read this review says that if you tell the staff you are a vegetarian, they will bring a special vegetarian menu.  In the menu there was also a note explaining that smaller portions are available on request.  I thought that was a nice touch.  I did not see any children dining last night, but I imagine they are catered to.  The restaurant is nice, but definitely has a family friendly vibe.  

I also noticed that the ladies room was thoughtfully appointed with hairspray, high quality hand soap, and tastefully presented feminine supplies.  

Our bill came to about 80 euros before the tip.  It was presented to us, along with a couple of bon bons, in a wooden box that resembled a small treasure chest.  

Overall, Bill and I liked Zum Reussenstein.  Bill told me that it's a favorite of one of his U.S. based bosses and he likes to eat there whenever he's in town.  I can see why people like this local gem.  If you're into traditional Swabian food, it's definitely a good choice.  I don't mind Swabian food, though if I'm honest, it's not my favorite cuisine.  I do think Zum Reussenstein is a great place to go if you have guests who want to try something authentic to Baden-Württemberg.  Reservations are a must, though, and you may want to plan for the parking situation.  On a busy night, you may have to walk a ways, although the restaurant is very close to the Böblingen S-Bahn station.   

Now that I know the restaurant is owned by a TV chef, I kind of wish I had access to German TV...

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Ten things to do in the Stuttgart area on a Sunday...

Hey there.  Yeah, you.  Are you an American who is just getting used to living in Germany?  Are you perplexed about how to spend your Sundays, when everything seems to be closed?  Well, this post is for you.

My husband Bill and I are on our second Stuttgart tour.  We spent two years here when he was still in the Army and we're coming up on our second year post retirement.  My husband is a contractor, so we've found ourselves having to go it alone for a lot of things.  That has made us a lot braver than we were when we lived here a few years ago.

Last night, as we were enjoying a delightful meal in Waldenbuch, we talked about how we've been focusing on getting to know the Stuttgart area.  The truth is, there's a lot to do here.  But on Sundays, it can seem like everything shuts down.  You may be even tempted to hole up in your house.  That would be a tremendous mistake.  It was one we made during our first two years here; then we had to leave early, which was a real bummer!  

We left Germany with a lot of good memories in other countries, but not so many made in Stuttgart. Stuttgart and its environs have a lot to offer.  You shouldn't waste your time here.  So today, I'm going to write a post offering ideas on how to spend your Sundays.  I'm sure I will miss a lot of activities, so if anyone reading this has something to add, by all means, leave me a comment here or on Facebook.

Many of these suggestions do require access to a car, though some are accessible by train or UBahn.  


Downtown Stuttgart!

10.  Check out a museum... or perhaps the zoo?

A lot of museums are open on Sundays.  The Mercedes-Benz Museum in downtown Stuttgart and the Porsche Museum both have Sunday hours.  Not into cars?  Check out this link, which has a list of museums in the Stuttgart area, many of which are open on Sundays.  You can check out everything from art to wine culture.  When you're finished checking out Stuttgart's museums, consider a trip to Tübingen, where there are more museums and plenty of great restaurants, some of which are on the Neckar River.  Or, you could visit the Wilhelma Zoo in downtown Stuttgart, which has Sunday hours and is a crowd pleasing outing.  

9.  Visit a castle... or maybe a cave?  

The Stuttgart area is blessed with a number of castles.  On a nice day, you can climb up to Hohenzollern, a very beautiful castle in Hechingen, south of Stuttgart.  Or you can visit Lichtenstein Castle, open every Sunday except in January.  Ludwigsburg and Tübingen also have royal residences that can be visited on a Sunday.  You can also visit caves on Sundays near Stuttgart.  I can't comment too much on the caves because Bill and I haven't gone yet.  It's definitely on the list when the weather improves!  

8.  Relax at the spa.

This afternoon, Bill and I visited the Mineraltherme in Böblingen, the big steamy complex near Panzer Kaserne.  We love visiting there on Sundays, although that is probably their busiest day of the week, especially when it rains!  The Mineraltherme has a restaurant and snack bar, so you can grab a bite during your visit.  Though there is no signage in English, it won't be long before you get the hang of it.  Worried about nudity?  Never fear.  There is nudity in the sauna area on the first floor, but the second floor has lots of heated pools and a solarium.  And everybody wears a bathing suit in that area.  I wouldn't necessarily recommend the Mineraltherme for small kids, though I have seen them there on occasion.  There aren't any facilities like kiddie pools at the Mineraltherme.  There are other spas in the Stuttgart area, too, and they also have Sunday hours.

7.  Go out to eat!

If you read this blog with any regularity, you know Bill and I often go out to eat on Sundays.  The Auld Rogue is a good bet.  Today, we visited the Brauhaus in Böblingen, which runs a brunch every Sunday.  Although it's a large restaurant with plenty of parking and seating, Sundays are usually pretty crowded there.  It's a good place for German food and beer.  While a number of restaurants are closed on Sundays, quite a few are open.  You can easily make reservations on OpenTable.de, which is very convenient for finding new places to try that are open on Sundays.  Sunday is a great day to try out the local cuisine!  When the weather is good, you can find a biergarten and relax while you munch on pretzels and sip German suds.  




A few photos from today's lunch at the brauhaus.


6.  Take a walk in the woods.

The Stuttgart area offers many nature parks that are great for wandering through the woods.  We are fortunate enough to live right next to one and when the weather is good, we run into many hikers, horseback riders, dog walkers, and bikers.  Chances are good there's a park near where you live... or at least some fields where you can enjoy some fresh air.  You can even visit parks where you walk barefoot.  Best of all, you don't usually have to spend money to take a walk in the woods.

5.  Walk in the treetops.

Visit Baumwipfelpfad.  It's a very cool treetop walk that is a bit of a drive from Stuttgart, but well worth the trip.  Get to the top of the walk and slide down!  When you're finished, you can visit the spa in the neighboring town of Bad Wildbad.  It also has Sunday hours.  If you like fresh fish, you can visit the Zordel trout farm, a place that seems especially popular with kids, who are welcome to feed the fish.


The tree walk!

4.  Check out some ruins. 

There are lots of castle ruins in the towns around Stuttgart.  Last Summer, Bill and I hiked up to Hohennagold, ruins that are situated on a hill overlooking the charming town of Nagold.  Much to our delight, there was a snack bar at the top where ice cold beer in frosted mugs, coffee, and cake were being sold.  That was a nice treat after a long hot hike up to see some awesome ruins!  Herrenberg also has ruins, as well as a very cool bell museum and church that is open on Sundays.  You can also visit Hohenurach's ruins, which pairs nicely with a visit to Bad Urach's waterfall or the local spa.  Chances are good your area has ruins to visit, too.   



Bad Urach.

3.  Visit Triberg and check out the waterfall and cuckoo clocks.

Triberg is a really cute town south of Stuttgart that boasts the highest waterfall in Germany.  It's also home for many cuckoo clock stores and excellent Black Forest cake.  Because it's a tourist friendly town, a lot of places are open on Sunday.  Parking may be a challenge; it definitely was when we visited last May.  We ended up parking at the Netto, which was closed on the day of our visit.  It was not a problem and we enjoyed a great day seeing the falls.


Glorious view in Triberg.

You could also visit other nearby cities like Heidelberg, Freiberg, Heilbronn, or Ulm.  They aren't too far from here, though traffic may make you rather take a train rather than try to drive!  They're all great places to explore.  Or, if you feel more adventurous, take a day trip to France or Switzerland.  They are both within a couple of hours' drive.  But do your research before you go, because things are closed on Sundays in France and Switzerland, too.  

2.  See a show!  

From the movie theater at Patch Barracks to the stages in Stuttgart, there are plenty of entertainment options in Stuttgart.  You can catch a film, a concert, a play, or a musical.  Bill and I have so far enjoyed two great concerts in Stuttgart-- Lyle Lovett and Diana Krall.  This summer, we have plans to see Van Morrison.  Check online for showtimes.  You could also go bowling on Panzer if all else fails.  Or you could play ExitGames in Stuttgart, which I plan to goad Bill into doing someday.  

1.  Make some local friends and have a gathering.

When Bill and I lived here the first time, we didn't know very many Americans at all.  We didn't join Facebook until we'd been in Stuttgart a year already.  There was no such thing as Stuttgart Friends, let alone any of the other speciality groups that have formed since we got here.  This time, there seems to be a group for everyone!  One of my favorite groups is the Stuttgart Beer Club, which occasionally has beer tastings.  Beer isn't your thing?  Not to worry.  There's a group on Facebook for you.  If there isn't, why not form one?  Then, once you've made some buddies online, make some plans for socializing on those boring Sundays.

It's no secret that I'm in Stuttgart Vents, which is becoming famous for its BBQs.  Of course, we don't usually have them on Sundays...  instead, we recover from them on Sundays.  ;-)  One great thing about living abroad is that your fellow countrymen tend to be friendly.  I find it a lot easier to make real life friends when I live abroad... and this is my fourth time living abroad, so I have a good frame of reference.  Also, when you make friends in the Stuttgart area, you get to see where other people live.  Some folks live in very cool houses or beautiful towns you wouldn't have otherwise visited.  

I hope this post gives you a few ideas of how to spend those pesky Sundays.  Really, I've just scratched the surface of things to do around here.  Once you get used to them, Sundays in Germany can be wonderful!  


Saturday, April 16, 2016

A heavenly meal at Gasthof Krone in Waldenbuch...

For some reason, last night I got a bee in my bonnet and decided I wanted to try a bunch of fine dining restaurants in the coming week.  I went on OpenTable.de and reserved tables at three different restaurants in the Stuttgart area.  Tonight's pick was Gasthof Krone in lovely Waldenbuch.  

Although we have heard a lot about Waldenbuch and even visited there last fall when we had breakfast at the Ritter Sport Cafe, this was only our second ever visit to the town.  We never went to Waldenbuch at all when we were here the first time (07-09), though we did know a family that moved there after we'd all spent several weeks living at the Vaihinger Hof.  I remember hearing about how much they liked Waldenbuch and that definitely made me want to visit.

To be honest, I picked Gasthof Krone because it got good ratings on OpenTable and it had plenty of availability for tonight.  I did not know when I booked that the restaurant has a Michelin Star, though I did notice that the menu is a bit pricey.  Nevertheless, Bill was game, so we enjoyed the scenic drive on an unfamiliar route from Jettingen through Herrenberg to Waldenbuch.    

Parking was easy tonight.  We just parked outside a closed business.  I also noticed a bank across the street from the restaurant.  That was a significant observation.


The outside of the Gasthof Krone, close to the front door.


I actually wanted to get a shot of the unusual sculpture.  My German friend says it's called "Der Geldscheisser".  Some people may be more interested in the bank location...


Outside menu.

A very pleasant lady greeted us when we arrived at the already bustling restaurant just before our 7:00pm reservation.  I could see the place is very popular with locals.  I highly recommend reservations, which are easy to arrange through OpenTable.de.  Every table was taken tonight and, though it was an expensive meal, it was worth every euro.  Our server started speaking German to us, but graciously switched to English after asking if we preferred it.  Her English was impeccable and she patiently told us what everything was as she served each course.


Bill checks out the menu while I try not to be too conspicuous with my camera.

The same waitress who greeted us offered an aperitif.  Though they had several sparkling wines and Champagnes by the glass, I decided to have a locally made sekt that turned out to be very good.  Bill had a refreshing sparkling apple cider.  


The three kinds of bread were delicious.  It was served with a small dish of olive oil and a quark and horseradish spread that was surprisingly good, even for me.  I usually look sideways at stuff like quark.  I especially loved the bread, though.  I could tell it was going to be a good night by how good the bread was.

Bill ordered a delicious red wine from southern France, his favorite wine region.  It was the 2014 Petit Taurau.  I will have to look for it locally, because it was really lovely and would be the perfect antidote for a bad day.  It had a marvelous bouquet and bold, jammy, spicy flavors.


The amuse.  We had a small shot of a hot soup made with curry and seasonal fruits.  That was surprisingly tasty.  Then we had a sliver of salmon on a dollop of mayonnaise and topped with something pickled that reminded me a little of ginger, but wasn't.  Finally, there was a cauliflower mousse with a mild soft cheese and plum jelly...  My favorite of the three, by far, was the soup.  I could have eaten a whole bowl and walked out happy.


My starter was fabulous!  It was very fresh tuna topped with a huge phyllo wrapped shrimp.  Little bits of sashimi surrounded it with dots of avocado and mango and bright green roe, which gave the dish a festive appeal.  This was very pricey at 18 euros, but it was definitely not an insubstantial dish.


Bill's consomme, which was made with chicken stock, chicken, and bits of enoki mushrooms.  I didn't try it because I think mushrooms suck.  Bill loved it, though.  The chicken stock was served in a tea kettle and poured over the chicken and mushrooms.


My main course was monkfish with risotto, green and white asparagus, and white garlic.  It was delicious and very fresh, but quite filling.  I especially loved the asparagus, which is in season now.  The risotto was absolutely perfect.


Bill had lambchops with a carrot, dumplings, and carrot puree.  I tried his lamb, which I don't usually enjoy.  It was extremely tender and had a lovely flavor.  Not too gamey!

As we were eating, the last available table, which was right next to ours, was occupied.  I wouldn't normally mention it, but the two guys who sat next to us appeared to be deaf.  They were using sign language throughout the meal.  I noticed that the wait staff seemed to know them and spoke slowly so they could read lips.

Naturally, all the water, wine and bubbly I had made me need to use the ladies room more than once.  I mention this for those who might want to book a table at Gasthof Krone.  There is a flight of stairs to climb in order to get to the bathrooms.  The stairs appear to be very old and may present a challenge for those who have mobility issues.  Also, the ladies room had a couple of unexpected steps that could trip up someone not paying attention.  


For dessert, Bill enjoyed what I deemed the perfect sweet fix for a woman with PMS.  It was chocolate cake with salted caramel ice cream.  Curiously, the dish also included two small red beet discs.  Bill isn't a beet fan and said they didn't do anything for the dish other than add to the color.  Other than that, his dessert was a real winner.


I had cheesecake with red currant sorbet, vanilla cream, and rhubarb.  I enjoyed my dessert very much, but I must admit I liked Bill's better.  There were two other tempting desserts available, either of which I am sure I would have loved.  They also had sorbet.

Those who want to get really fancy can enjoy a tasting menu of up to six courses for 70+ euros a person.  I think that would have put me over the edge of comfort!  But we did notice several large groups enjoying a tasting menu.  There were also a couple of very young kids in the restaurant, though the menu is definitely NOT kid friendly.  They do have selections for vegetarians, though to be honest, I didn't pay much attention to the vegetarian menu.  ;-)

The service at Gasthof Krone was outstanding.  Never once did we have to pour our own wine or water and every piece of silverware was meticulously replaced with each course.  The servers worked hard, but were not stressed or rushed.  They seemed to take a lot of pride in making sure everything was just right.  I also noticed the waitress tasting wines before she served them, which is a very smart thing to do, if only because it helps avoid embarrassment and probably gets her through the more difficult evenings...


Candies that came with the bill...  On the bill, it said they only take EC debit cards or cash.  When Bill mentioned it to the waitress, she admitted they could handle credit cards, but clearly preferred not to.  Our bill was 182 euros before the tip.  Had we needed to, we probably could have found an ATM at the bank across the street.  Next time we go, we will bring plenty of cash.  And there probably WILL be a next time.  This was one very nice meal and while it was expensive, we've spent more money elsewhere in the Stuttgart area.

Gasthof Krone's chef, Patrick Giboin, is leaving on June 30th.  His post will be assumed by Erik Metzger on July 1st.  The restaurant has a terrace that is open when the weather is nice. 

All in all, we had a wonderful dinner at Gasthof Krone.  The food is sophisticated and very creatively prepared and presented.  I would recommend it for a date night or a special occasion, but be sure to make reservations and carry plenty of cash if you don't have an EC card.  You can use a credit card there, but I could see that they'd rather you didn't.  

Gasthof Krone looks like before it was a fancy eatery, there were probably many schnitzels served there.  The interior has the look of a small town gasthaus.  Though some people were wearing smart casual clothes, others were dressed in jeans.  However, the food and service are definitely many notches above what I'd expect at my neighborhood gasthaus.  It really is a first class place to have a meal.  Highly recommended!  



Another American in Jettingen!

Last night, Bill and I decided to go to Taverne bei Dimi's for our Friday night Greek fix.  It turned out to be an interesting evening, mainly because there were more English speakers than Germans there.  In fact, we noticed one German couple sitting between our table and a large table of Germans and at least one Brit.  Everyone was speaking English.

The waitress was one I hadn't seen before.  She seemed to be German and was very pleasant.  Dimi was happy to see us, too, and offered a wave as he served lots of food.

Bill and I decided to have something different and ordered a sampler platter for two...


We got two of these beautiful farmer's salads.  I was enjoying filling up on the vegetables until I got an unusually hot pepper!  I could have used some yogurt!


This was our platter.  It came with Dimi's yummy fries, bifteki, souvlaki, gyros, and pork steaks, as well as plenty of t'zatziki.  We managed less than half and brought the rest home.  This was a pretty good deal, too.  For two people, it was 27 euros.  

While we were eating, an older black gentleman and his son and daughter arrived.  I knew he was an American immediately because he wore a wedding ring on his left hand.  He sat down with the group of Germans and their British friend, but I noticed he kept looking over at us.  He eventually came over and introduced himself.  It turns out he and his family live in Oberjettingen.  His wife is German and he is a government civilian who wished to become a contractor because he's about to be rotated out of Germany.

So he and Bill talked and it turned out he was trying to score an interview with Bill's company.  Bill, being a "pay it forward" kind of guy, promised to talk to his boss.  I'm kind of a big believer in fateful encounters.  As I mentioned last week, I have a knack for running into people I used to know.  I also have a knack for doing things that end up benefitting others.  

When I was in the Peace Corps, I helped out a beautiful young Armenian woman who was hoping to go to college in the United States.  I didn't know her, but had noticed she had posted an ad in the Peace Corps office looking for people who had attended certain private east coast colleges.  She needed to be interviewed by alums in order to be accepted.  I happened to know a couple of people who had gone to the colleges she was interested in attending, so I took her number and passed it on to my friends.  They both talked to her and were very impressed.  She ended up getting a full scholarship to Bowdoin College.  She also got accepted to Hamilton College, which was the other school she wanted to attend.  

I know about this because I ended up meeting her one night while visiting another friend.  She was dating an American teenager who was the son of a professor who worked for the US Department of Agriculture.  When she found out what I'd done, she thanked me profusely.  The Peace Corps does attract a lot of graduates of small, private, liberal arts colleges, but the odds there would be two local alums available in Yerevan was pretty slim.  Fortunately, someone noticed her ad and knew two people who could help her.

I am certainly not responsible for her success.   She was a very bright and engaging young woman who impressed my friends, who were alums.  All I did was help set the conditions for her success.  I'm thinking that maybe Bill can do the same thing for the man we met last night.  I think it's a good way to foster positive karma.  I don't know how my Armenian acquaintance's story ended.  I'd like to think she enjoyed four years at a very exclusive school.  But I didn't even know her well enough to be able to Facebook stalk her.  I only remember her first name.

Anyway, this guy we met last night has very good reasons for wanting to stay in Germany.  His son is in high school and plays football.  If they have to move, it'll be to Fort Polk, Louisiana.  Granted, I haven't been to Fort Polk, but I have heard it's not exactly the greatest place to be.  And if you are a civilian, there's no telling how long the government will keep you in an assignment stateside.

So, I'm hoping things work out for our new friend.  In any case, it's nice to know we aren't totally alone out here on the edge of the Black Forest.



Monday, April 11, 2016

Steak served on hot stones! A review of Abacco's Steakhouse in Stuttgart...

Bill and I had to venture into downtown Stuttgart this afternoon.  It was time to visit Dr. Blair for our semi-annual dental cleanings.  Afterwards, we decided to find some dinner.  I was pretty hungry because I hadn't had anything to eat since about 10:00am.  Although we just had steak the other night at Tommi's Bistro, I had been curious about Abacco's Steakhouse, which is a place very close to Dr. Blair's practice.  The weather was beautiful today and they had opened up the sliding doors on one side of the restaurant; so even if you were sitting inside, you were exposed to the lovely weather.  Since I don't like sitting around people who are smoking, especially when I'm eating, we opted to eat inside.


I picked a spot right by a window, where the people watching was especially excellent.


Bill and I both ordered Paulaner hefeweizens.  Right next to the steakhouse is the Paulaner am alter Postplatz restaurant.  We enjoyed a great meal there last fall and might have been tempted today, but they were pretty packed.

Our waiter started out speaking German to us, but immediately switched to English as soon as he heard Bill and me talking to each other.  Although we were tempted by the cheeseburgers, which were part of a lunchtime deal that was to end at 5:00pm, Bill and I opted for steaks.  It was almost 5:00pm, anyway, so we figured we might as well try the specialty of the house.  

Bill tried to tell the waiter he wanted his steak cooked medium, but the waiter explained that the steaks would come out rare.  All steaks at Abacco's Steakhouse are served on hot stones, so you can control how done your meat is.    


We both ordered rib-eyes, though Bill's looked more like a strip than a rib-eye.  The steaks are about 250 grams each and they come with three different sauces.  One was like a sweet version of A-1.  One was a horseradish sauce.  The third was a basil chimchurri sauce.  We also had fries, though other sides are available and cost extra.


I had to get a shot of the steaming meat when it came out.  The second stone under the steak is kept simply warm. You move the meat to the warm stone, then cut the steak into strips.  Then you move the strips to the hot stone, and let each cook to your desired temperature.  It occurred to me that this technique probably means fewer steaks get sent back to the kitchen.  After all, you as the customer are ultimately in charge of how done your meat gets!  

I did notice that the steak tasted a little bland to me.  Bill also thought the meat was a bit bland, though otherwise enjoyable.  I don't usually salt my food much, but I needed to salt my steak at Abacco's.  It tasted like the meat might have been coated in oil instead of butter.  On the other hand, the beef was hot and juicy and, as steaks in Germany usually go, was pretty good.  According to the menu, our steaks were USDA prime beef.  I noticed they had steaks from Argentina as well as Iberico ham and pork steaks.  They also have salads for those who are more health conscious.  

After we finished eating, our waiter tempted us with dessert.  We decided to have a round of double espressos and split a brownie dessert.


I thought the double espresso could have been hotter...  It was served well before the dessert was, so I couldn't really hang onto it until the dessert came out without risking cold espresso.


The dessert was delicious!  The warm brownie was served with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate sauce.  It was the perfect size for splitting.  They also had ice cream, sorbet, apple strudel, and some sort of other dessert that I had never heard of...


I enjoyed watching people walk by.  These two ladies appeared to be identical twins who had to go a size up on their taxi.


A shot of the sign outside.  The location for this restaurant is pretty great.  It's right in the thick of things.  The restaurant itself is very large and comfortable, with a very nice looking bar.

All told, we spent about 80 euros for dinner before the tip.  We both enjoyed the food and the service, though I think I still prefer Tommi's for steak.   For us, Tommi's is also less expensive and much more convenient, since it's in our town and we can walk there.   On the other hand, Abacco's offers burgers and other items that Tommi's doesn't have.  Aside from that, it's in a convenient location downtown, which means that for many folks living in the Stuttgart area, it's in a more convenient place than Tommi's is.  

I would recommend Abacco's Steakhouse for those who are looking for a good hunk of meat.  However, given the hot stones the steaks are served on, I would recommend parents with small children be careful.  The stones are very hot and capable of burning those who are careless or overly curious.