Sunday, June 26, 2016

Lunch at Wirtshaus Hotel und Garbe...

Last week, after fruitlessly trying to get the pet smells out of our cheap AAFES rugs, I told Bill that I wanted to go to Robinson Barracks to see if we could find new ones to replace them.  We were unsuccessful on our trip to RB.  Since it was after 2:00pm and we were hungry, we needed to find a place for lunch with a kitchen that was open all day.  Bill told me about Wirthaus Garbe, a biergarten very close to Kelley Barracks where he and his colleagues have had lunch.

We parked in a private lot near at a business college near the hotel/restaurant.  I'm not sure if we were technically allowed to park there, but we had no issues.  The sun was trying to peek through the clouds, though it was a bit chilly.  It's hard to believe I was running our air conditioner yesterday.  

The Wirtshaus Garbe has a very nice biergarten with large tables, benches, and plenty of trees.  They offer beer on tap and typical local delights like Schweinebraten, Wiener Schnitzel, Flammkuchen (which are huge), and plenty of salads.  I was definitely ready for something hearty. 

Bill checks out the menu.  You order your food from a server and get your drinks from a stand.

Bill got me a mas krug of the Kaiser keller beer.  He had a half liter of Paulaner Dunkelweiss.  You pay for your drinks when you order them and pay the wait staff separately for food.

The proprietors of the biergarten had brought out a large TV so people could watch football over beer and food.  I had my back to the TV, but could hear the game between Ireland and France.  Bill and I decided to split a Wiener Schnitzel and a Schweinebraten.  Both dishes came with cold potato salad and were priced at 12,90 euros.

Bill heads back to our table from the loo.

A picture of the food, which was very good!  We ended up splitting these dishes, so I can say with authority that both were just what I needed after our disappointing shopping excursion.  The menu is simple and includes items for children, too.  

The biergarten even has a fountain.  It's a nice place to enjoy a beer or two or a good lunch.  

A picture of the front.  Indoor dining is also available, most likely when the weather is bad or during regular lunch and dinner hours.

Bill says this establishment is popular on weekends, though there were plenty of tables open this afternoon.  It made for a good stop on our way to Panzer, where we did end up buying three new rugs from the Turkish guy outside of the PX.  I think we may have been his only sale in days, so he was pretty happy after we left.  And I finally got to remove the stinky cheap rugs from the house.  Hopefully, my dogs will be gentle with our new rugs.

My German friend Susanne says this restaurant is near a park as well as a museum (free entry).

Spotted at the Real...

Bill and I basically hung around at home yesterday because it looked like it was going to rain.  We did go to the Real (Germany's answer to WalMart) for some food, though.  While we were there, I spotted some interesting stuff that I decided to photograph and share.

Pizzaburgers?  Hmm... Interesting concept that ranks right up there with the disgusting Cheetos fried mac and cheese sticks that are now being sold at American Burger Kings.  Since I have yet to have a really good burger in Germany, I think I might pass on this. 

Interesting frozen pizza.  I have yet to find asparagus and bacon pizzas in the States, although it might be pretty good. I haven't tried German frozen pizza, but it's also been years since I last ate an American frozen pizza.

Our Real has a small section of Russian foods...

I took a picture of this because I immediately recognized them as sunflower seeds (Cemuchka).  When I lived in Armenia, you could buy little paper cones of them on the street.  They make a good snack.  Until yesterday, I didn't know that our Real had Russian sunflower seeds.

More Russian edibles, including sprats.  Sprats are a canned fish.  They remind me a bit of sardines.  Yes, I did eat them on occasion when I lived in Armenia...  When I was hungry, that is.

Our Real also has Chinese, Turkish, and Italian sections.  Actually, their Turkish section is pretty impressive.  That makes sense, since there are many Turks who live in this part of Germany.

I got a kick out of the "American Style Cookies", which are basically chocolate chip.  Last year, I was shopping in another grocery store and got a kick out of the American Sauce being sold there... as well as McDonald's brand ketchup.

And finally, we have a large bottle of Jim Beam on display.  But the label is upside down.  I wonder if that's significant in any way...  I am not a Jim Beam fan.  I had a really bad experience with it when I was in college and haven't touched it since.

I probably could have found more interesting goodies at the Real, but for some reason, whenever we go there, I leave feeling exhausted.  I feel the same way when I go to WalMart, which is why I haven't set foot in one since 2002.  We went home and I camped out on the futon, where I proceeded to watch more episodes of Desperate Housewives.  Maybe today, we'll manage to do something fun.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Talblick Gourmetrestaurant-- A lovely date night possibility in Wildberg...

I don't remember who suggested it to me, but last year, somehow I got wind of the presence of a really great restaurant in Wildberg.  Bill and I happen to live about 7 kilometers from Wildberg and we love good food.  I went searching and finally found it, surprised to find out Talblick Gourmetrestaurant is part of a gasthof.  On further exploration, I discovered that besides being a small hotel, Talblick has two restaurants.  There is a traditional restaurant offering typical local cuisine and a "gourmetrestaurant", where diners get a very special tasting menu.  Naturally, Bill and I were interested in the gourmet menu.  So, sometime last fall, I asked him to get reservations.  I thought it would be an easy task.

"Sorry, no can do." they said.  It was October, and party season was cranking up for the holidays. Both restaurants were booked solid.

Bill tried again in November and got the same answer.  And again in December, they were booked and advised Bill to try again in January, because apparently, they book out two or three months in advance.  Finally, June comes around and it's time for my birthday.  Bill tried again and was told they were booked on my birthday (Monday of this week).  However, they did have room in the gourmet restaurant last night.  Bill took the reservation and we finally got to try Talblick's Gourmetrestaurant.  Now I get to dish!

It's such a pretty drive from Jettingen to Wildberg.  I was reminded that we really need to get up that way more often.  In fact, the town of Wildberg itself is really cute and begs to be explored.  Gasthof Talblick is situated at the top of a rather steep hill that overlooks the picturesque surroundings.  Any of my local readers who have ever driven their dogs to the Hunde Hotel Haase might understand when I write that I was reminded of the town where that doggie hotel is located, although Wildberg is a less rural area.

Bill pulled into a parking lot that looked like it was part of an apartment complex.  He was afraid he couldn't park there legally, so he dropped me off and parked at the bottom of the hill in a spot designated for hotel guests.  He didn't have to do that.  We saw other patrons parking near the apartment building with no problem.  It was no big deal, though, because we had a pleasant stroll back down the hill after dinner.  

Here's a shot of the hotel and restaurant from the parking lot across the street.  They also have some parking on the property itself and we also saw a few folks drive to the top of the hill and park.

The view of the hill going down.

It was rather warm last night.  Bill and I had dressed nicely.  I noticed quite a few other patrons who had dressed up, though many people were wearing casual clothes.  I wondered what we were in for as we walked into the hotel.  We were greeted by a friendly and quirky looking waitress with ink.  She was very pleasant, but busy!  When we told her who we were, she led us to a beautiful dining room.  A very large table was set up, clearly for a family or maybe a business dinner (though I did see a couple of kid seats).  We were seated at a table intended for six people.  I noticed our table was the only one that had been fully prepared with menus and wine glasses.  I wondered if we were destined to be the only guests in the gourmet restaurant.  It soon became clear that we were.

Bill looks at the wine list.  We would both be having the same menu... 7 courses of bliss!

I was seated right next to a very impressive dry bar full of exotic libations.

When dinner started, it was 7:00 and the sun was still shining bright.  The dining room was a bit warm, but I was excited about what we were about to experience.  I also looked nervously at the menu, hoping I wouldn't run into something that I couldn't eat.  I tend to be a lot less adventurous when it comes to really exotic stuff, though Bill loves to try everything put before him.  Must be those many years of Army life at work!

Seven courses!  The tasting menu is priced at 85 euros a person and everybody gets the same thing.  We paired it with two splits of wine and two bottles of mineral water with gas, which added to the bill.  The splits of wine were great because we got a red and a white which complemented the courses beautifully.  We were under the impression that the tasting menu changes monthly.  Be sure to mention any allergies or extreme food aversions before dinner gets started.

Bill started with a non-alcoholic fruit cocktail aperitif.  It tasted very strongly of tangerines to me, though it was probably something else.  It was very good and beautifully presented.

I had sekt.

The waitress brought out bread and we had the luxury of slathering it with plain butter, olive oil, or a flavored butter.  The bread was outstanding.  I ate two pieces, which I later regretted.  Let's just say, I may look like I can eat seven courses in one sitting, but it was a challenge last night.

Our waitress did not speak English at all.  Fortunately, Bill is somewhat proficient in German (for an American, anyway).  I have gotten to the point at which I understand a lot of what is said to me and can sometimes respond, especially if I'm in a restaurant "speaking food".  Anyway, our waitress brought out the amuse... and how amusing it was!

This was not on the menu.  It was our amuse, and it was absolutely delicious!  It was quail with lentils, foam, a small fried quail egg, beautifully presented, and what tasted like a really interesting pepper flavor that made my tastebuds explode.  The little dots on either side of the bowl are red and green beets turned into a gel.  They were a little like candy!

Next came the very artistically presented first course.  Cobia fish with fruits of the sea-- a scallop, langostine, shrimp, and a nest of phyllo with wasabi creme and algae salad.  Again, so creatively conceived and presented!  I really enjoyed this course.

I was nervous about the second course.  The menu mentioned "Pfifferlingvariation", which I thought might mean there were mushrooms in it.  I was once unpleasantly surprised back in 2008 when I ordered something at a restaurant in Tuebingen that included Pfifferlingen (a type of mushroom).  Fortunately, the next course was devoid of fungus.     

Pfifferlingvariation mit Allerei von der Ente...  Basically, this was a duck and asparagus treat.  There was asparagus foam in a little cone shaped glass on a metal platform, a piece of breaded and fried white asparagus, a small glass of heavenly asparagus cream soup, and very creamy cheese that reminded me of butter.  The rest was duck in different forms, including a very fresh duck inspired ravioli.  Again, a very enjoyable course.

I have to admit, by the time we got to the third course, I was starting to slow down.  However, I am always up for fish and we enjoyed Seesaibling (Arctic char) with more asparagus, Hollandaise sauce, and beautifully cut mango, snap peas, and carrots.  The little breaded thing on top of the fish is an egg yolk.  When I broke into it with my fork, a small geyser of yolk spurted up, making me gasp in surprise.  Thankfully, I didn't get any on me!  

The waitress was concerned that I only managed half of the fish course.  I assured her it was only because I was getting full and wanted to make sure I could try everything.  Next came the sorbet palate cleanser, which I figured would be somewhat light.  I was expecting a simple scoop of sorbet.  I should have known it was going to be a lot fancier than that! 

The sorbet course consisted of a small cone shaped glass of aloe vera juice, a scoop of cactus flavored sorbet (don't worry, no thorns), and little tequila flavored gum drops.  The spoon was full of what those of us who came along in the 70s know as Pop Rocks.  ;-)  This was a refreshing course and I did manage to finish it...

And then it was time for the meat course.  I will admit, I wasn't that excited about it because it was lamb and I am not a lamb fan.  Also, there was the issue of less room in my stomach!

But I will admit that this course was very good.  The lamb was beautifully prepared, set atop fava beans, cooked to perfection, and tasted very clean.  There was no gamey flavor to it, which is what usually turns me off when I try to eat lamb.  As you can see, this course came on two plates.  I ate maybe a third of it and they wrapped up the rest for us.  Bill will enjoy his lunch today!  

Some baby corn and what tasted like a garlic inspired fritter...

Finally, after over two hours of dining, it was time for dessert.  You might have expected just one dessert after such a fine meal, but at Talblick, you get two (three if you count the sorbet).  I did manage to make room for most of these two sweet delights...

The first dessert was strawberry inspired, with a scoop of strawberry sorbet, sliced strawberries, strawberry mousse, a piece of strawberry candy, and what tasted like two creams surrounded by strawberry gelatin.  It was a very tasty and refreshing course.  I really enjoyed it.

And then, we had the last course, inspired by lemon and bergamot.  The candle looking thing on the wooden plank tasted like a citrus juice.  Next to it is a cone of chocolate creme topped with a milk and white chocolate twig.  The lollipop was basically straight chocolate ganache formed into a succulent ball.  Then we had a dish of refreshing sorbets and another type of mousse that I couldn't identify but enjoyed.  

It was about 10:30 when we finally finished eating and were presented the bill for 228 euros.  Bill paid by using his brand new USAA Visa card.  We're happy to report that it worked perfectly.  ;-)

We really enjoyed our meal at Talblick's Gourmetrestaurant.  The service was impeccable, except that we were left hanging for a bit while the two hard working servers tended to the many people in the regular restaurant.  If there had been others in the gourmet dining room, I doubt that would have been as much of an issue because they might have had another server working.  Because this was such a large, sumptuous meal, we didn't mind the wait too much, though I can see why we were finally able to snag a table in June.  It gets warm in the dining room in the summer.  

The Talblick restaurant does not have air conditioning.  I watched the butter for the bread soften throughout the evening.  At about halfway through dinner, they opened a window and raised the shades, which gave us some much appreciated air.  I would imagine that the dining room gets very uncomfortable in July and August, though we did see some folks really enjoying the biergarten just outside.  I'm not sure if it's possible for gourmet patrons to eat outside, though it's probably worth asking.    

Each course was universally perfect in its presentation and every item served was absolutely delicious.  In terms of the food, I think the meal we had last night was one of the best I've ever eaten.  It's hard to believe a little gasthaus has such incredible food.  Just be warned that dinner in the gourmet restaurant is a leisurely experience.  Don't go there expecting to get in and out in two hours.  It takes time to enjoy such a grand experience.  We were there for three and a half hours.  Also, make sure you're hungry when you get there and don't load up on the fantastic bread!

We were impressed by how laid back yet professional the service was.  Even though she had to tolerate our halting German skills, the waitress was very friendly, kind, and accommodating.  As Bill and I left, she and her colleague bid us a cheery farewell and I got the sense they appreciated our visit.  On the way home, I realized that it hadn't taken long for us to get to and from the restaurant, which means that if we ever manage to get another reservation there, we'll likely be back again!  I definitely want to go and try their regular menu.  

Overall, I can highly recommend Talblick's exquisite Gourmetrestaurant.  Reservations are a must and you should dress accordingly if you plan to dine inside during the summer months.  The gourmet restaurant is probably not kid friendly (unless your kid is unusually patient and adventurous), though the main restaurant likely is fit for youngsters.  Credit cards are accepted and there's plenty of free parking.  Come on out to Wildberg for a wonderful gourmet meal!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A four hour birthday meal and new friends at Osteria da Gino in Nagold...

Yesterday was my birthday.  As is our custom on my birthday, Bill and I went out to eat.  Originally, we planned to dine in Stuttgart because I had to go to the dental lab.  I'm in the process of getting a dental implant and we're now in the end stages.  We went to the dental lab so they could determine what color the new tooth should be and get photos of my mouth.  I thought maybe when we were done, we could find a place in Stuttgart to celebrate birthday #44.

I took a photo of the female form on display at the dental lab...  I guess they don't just do teeth there.  ;-)

Bill decided against the Stuttgart plan and booked us a table at Osteria da Gino in Nagold.  I have written about this restaurant several times and continue to write about it because every time we go, we have a great experience.  Gino is a wonderful host who is very friendly and engaging.  He serves fantastic food.  Bill knew he wouldn't disappoint me on my birthday.  Besides that, the restaurant is very close to where we live and getting to and from there lacks the logistical hassles that can come from dining in Stuttgart.

One of my favorite beers, Prairie Bomb!  This is an American craft beer from Oklahoma that I ordered from Saveur Biere.  I enjoyed this before we went to Nagold for dinner. 

So off we went last night, arriving just in time for our 7:00pm reservation.  We were warmly greeted by Gino, who was sporting a conspicuous bandage on his right hand and thumb.  He somehow managed to cut it.  I was relieved to see that he still had all his digits!  Last night, Gino was offering seating inside and outside.  It was the first time we'd ever been to his restaurant and had a choice of venues.  We ate inside because it looked like it was going to rain.  He and his wife showed us to our table, a six top that we knew we'd end up sharing.

A blurry obligatory shot of Bill.  I must have taken this in a hurry!

The concept of table sharing at a restaurant can be strange for Americans.  We're used to having our own space.  Here in Europe, where space can be a premium, it can be awkward to share a table with strangers.  Fortunately, last night, we were seated with people who ended up making my birthday more special and memorable.  

A few minutes after we sat down, another couple were seated at our table.  I was confused at first, since they started speaking German with Gino, then switched to French.  Then, once they realized we were Americans, they spoke English.  It turned out the husband was French and the wife was German and hails from the Black Forest.  She and her husband had come from Paris to visit her family and were staying in Nagold.  Last night was their first visit to Gino's after having found it favorably reviewed on Trip Advisor.  I think after last night's meal, they'll be back.

Birthday bubbly!

After bringing us a round of prosecco, Gino brought out the usual antipasti, which immediately impressed our new friends from France.  We got to talking after Gino scolded me for not knowing any languages except English.  I corrected him by telling him I speak Armenian (which isn't so useful outside of the country or areas where Armenians are concentrated).  I also speak some Spanish, though lately when I try to speak it, it comes out Armenian.  It turned out the male half of the couple dining with us had been to Armenia and we were talking about how well the French and Armenians get along.  That segued into an evening of stimulating conversation!

Huge antipasti... Grilled vegetables, cheese, salami, orange and fennel salad, olives... and bread, of course!

I had to take a special photo of the tuna carpaccio...  This stuff is absolutely sinful.

We explained to the other couple that we'd been to Gino's restaurant several times.  He's never once brought us a menu, although I have seen one posted on the wall outside and in the dining room itself.  We are always content to let Gino bring us whatever's available.  Although you can order as many or few courses as you want, we always end up eating four courses when we visit Gino because it's that good!  Don't go there looking for pizza.  Gino doesn't make pizza, but he does have a small deli where you can purchase food to go or a bottle of wine. 

Bill enjoyed truffles and angel hair pasta...  He loved it, though I lead a truffle free lifestyle.

I had spaghetti.  This was delicious!  The sauce was so fresh and perfectly seasoned that it almost defies description.  

This is the second time Bill and I have gone to Gino's and wound up making new friends.  Because his indoor dining room has limited seating, it's very common to have to share a table if you're dining inside.  The last time we were there, we ended up dining with fellow Americans who had read my blog and decided to try Gino's hospitality.  Last night, Gino had many French people in attendance.  Another large group of French speakers joined us about an hour after we sat down.  Gino handled it all with his usual aplomb.  I really don't know if he speaks French, but he was charming everyone equally.  In fact, because he was so friendly and charming, there was a very long pause between the pasta course and the second course.

Our new friends skipped the pasta.  I enjoyed watching them enjoy the second course.  He had osso bucco and she had the fish, John Dory filet.  It was really fun to see them reacting the same way our American friends Sarah and Mike did when they ate with us at Gino's back in December.  It was a good thing that we were getting along so well with the other couple at our table.  The conversation made waiting for the main course a lot more enjoyable.  We talked about everything from travel in Africa to American politics.  Amazing, considering we had only known each other a couple of hours!

Bill and I both had the fish last night, served with very fresh white asparagus and a shrimp.

It was getting close to 11:00pm when Bill and I finally shared dessert...

A panoply of Italian sweets!  Strawberries, panna cotta, chocolate cake, and ice cream!  The total damage for four courses for two was about 179 euros.  Gino will take credit cards, though we paid in cash.

It was finally time to call it a night and we exchanged cards with our newfound friends.  If we ever make it to Versailles, they have promised to show us the sights!  I love living in Europe.  You never know what will happen or who you'll meet.  That being said, I have a tendency to get carried away sometimes.  I hope our new friends didn't think I was too much of a chatterbox!

On Thursday of this week, Bill and I will venture to Talblick, a hotel and restaurant in Wildberg.  We have been trying to get reservations at their gourmet restaurant for months, so I am excited to finally get to try it out.  Stay tuned for a review!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Visiting the Naturparkmarkt in Nagold...

A couple of weeks ago, someone in the local Facebook group posted about the Naturparkmarkt, a market that has been going to different towns in the Black Forest region.  A couple of weeks ago, it was in a town about 20 kilometers from Jettingen.  I was tempted to go, but it was raining that day.  Then I noticed that on June 19th, the market would be coming to Nagold, a cute little town about four kilometers from Jettingen.  Bill and I made plans to go and just got home from the small but mighty market.  Despite some clouds, we spent some euros and brought home quite a haul of fresh food and cosmetics made from honey.

The lovely thing about Nagold on Sundays is that parking is free.

I love going to markets.  They're always very festive and the food is so fresh and colorful.  Today's market was pretty small and there weren't very many people there, which kind of made it better.  Many of the vendors were allowing people to taste their products before purchasing.  Bill and I ended up with mustards, jams, bread, sausages, wine, strawberries, cherries, and cheeses.  Feast your eyes!

Our first stop was at a little stand where a dirndl clad lady was selling cheeses, sausages, and many interesting mustards.  We ended up buying five exotic flavored mustards featuring everything from dill to whiskey.  Here's an obligatory shot of Bill helping himself.

It wasn't very crowded...

Another stand featured some delicious jams, jellies, and marmalades.

A tour is going on at 3:00pm.

We ended up going to the river, where a band from a music school was playing.  It sounded like they were playing "Superstar" from Jesus Christ Superstar.  Just as we approached, they broke for lunch.  Too bad.

Nagold is such a cute town.  There are flowers everywhere, as well as many entertaining water fowl.

The band.

Cute little kiosks selling lunch.

After we strolled back across the bridge to the market, we stopped at a stand where a very friendly guy was selling products made from honey.  He didn't realize we were English speakers and was rattling off all sorts of information about the lotions, salves, and creams he was selling.  When Bill explained that we only speak a little German, he called his wife over.  But then she and another guy at the next stand said we didn't need translation!  They were really interested in knowing what we were doing in Nagold.   I still don't speak a lot of German, but I am finding that I understand a lot more than I used to.  Bill is fairly conversant. 

The honey guy.

I got a kick out of the Queen Elizabeth and Albert Einstein waving dolls.  They reminded of me of my Margaret Thatcher nutcracker.  ;-)

This stand selling sausages was extremely popular.  I didn't have to pressure Bill too hard to pick up some deer and wild pork sausages.

One very kind lady was selling wines.  We stopped to talk to her and tried three of the several wines she offered.  She told us if we liked her wines, we could just send her an email and she'd bring us orders when she visits her mother in Nagold.  I love that about living here.  You can strike up a conversation with local farmers or vendors and they can hook you up with some great locally made products.

Just last week I got an email from a small vintner in France.  Last time we lived in Germany, we happened to purchase some wine from them at a market in Tuebingen.  We got on their mailing list and used to buy wine from them at the Ludwigsburg market.  For the next five years, while we were back in the States, I'd get emails from them telling us where they were selling their wines.  I'd sigh wistfully and miss being in Germany.  The emails eventually ceased until I got one out of the blue last week.  We're picking up an order in Ludwigsburg during the first weekend in July.

It's a pleasure to live near so many cute towns.  If you like farm fresh products, I recommend looking out for the Naturparkmarkt.  The one in Nagold ends at 5:00 today, but there will be other markets in towns around the Black Forest all summer.