Sunday, October 30, 2016

Whisky/Whiskey: our first tasting at The Auld Rogue!

Several weeks ago, Bill and I went on an AAFES run and decided to stop at The Auld Rogue, a popular Irish pub in Vaihingen.  After we'd had our lunches, the ever present Nick, who is always running things whenever we stop by, asked us if we'd be interested in attending the next whiskey tasting.  Although Bill and I very much enjoy whisky (and whiskey) and are keen to taste as many as we can, we had never been to a tasting at The Auld Rogue.  Bill had been wanting to go to a beer or whiskey tasting at the much beloved Irish pub for as long as we've been back in the Stuttgart area.

The Auld Rogue always inspires good memories.  The last time we lived here, The Auld Rogue was first a Greek restaurant and then a dance club (which we didn't try).  When it was still Taverna Faros back in 2007, I ate my very first dorade at the place that is now called The Auld Rogue.  It's kind of a special venue for Bill and me for that reason, although I also love The Auld Rogue for its good food, excellent music, and friendly service in English.  Even though we knew yesterday would involve a lot of drinking potent spirits that might bring on temporary amnesia, we figured we could make even more good memories.

So Bill told Nick we'd be happy to attend his tasting, a special one that pitted Irish whiskeys against Scottish whiskys.  The official title of yesterday's tasting was Uisce or Uisge-- Battle of the Giants!  It promised a selection of interesting spirits from Ireland and Scotland to taste.  The price was 55 euros a person-- 110 in total for us-- and included food.  Bill paid Nick; he gave us our tickets; and we waited for the big day to arrive.

Meanwhile, our beagle Zane had some urgent veterinary issues.  Friday morning, he had a little minor surgery to flush out one of his ears and remove a cyst that kept troubling him (and me).  I was worried that maybe we wouldn't make it to the tasting because I wasn't sure what kind of shape Zane would be in on Saturday.  I see now on The Auld Rogue's Facebook page that, had we needed to cancel, we could have transferred our tasting tickets to a future tasting.  That's good to know, although I didn't know that before Zane went under the knife.  He's doing fine, though and was no worse for wear when we got home last night.

Nick advised us to arrive at the restaurant by 1:30pm to ensure that we'd get a table.  Since we knew there would be lots of booze at the tasting, Bill and I opted to take the train from Herrenberg to Vaihingen.  Fortunately, we had decent weather yesterday for the walk to the restaurant.  

Once we got to the Auld Rogue, we took a table at the back of the room.  If we do another tasting (and we probably will), we'll try to get a table closer to the bar.  That makes it much easier to get to the bathroom!  I must have let out a frustrated sigh after a noticed the tight obstacle course to get to the toilet.

Then Bill took a look at me and noticed I was also getting a little hangry.  He said, "You're hungry, aren't you?"  He can always tell!  I nodded and asked him if there was going to be food; I remembered that the initial announcement said there would be, but didn't remember what it included.  The other guys sitting with us also wanted to know.  The information about snacks was not in the handout Nick gave us when we first arrived, so people were a little confused.

I noticed other people ordering lunches.  They didn't know that there would be pub food offered at the tasting.  One guy had ordered food before the tasting started and ended up sitting alone after the first round.  The couple who had been sharing the table with him left early.  He was totally inundated with snacks he couldn't eat!  Although I was tempted to get a sandwich, we just ordered some Guinness as we waited for the tasting to start.  Unless you have a huge appetite, I would recommend the same.  

Yesterday's tasting was very well attended and we were packed in.  Bill and I shared our table with four young men working in Stuttgart temporarily.  They turned out to be great company, even if they did make me feel old!

Here's a first shot of the first whiskey samples we tried.  This was the Hyde No. 2, 10 year old Caribbean Dark Rum Irish Single Malt.  I was in the back of the room and it was a bit too crowded to easily come closer for inspection.  I opted to make use of the zoom lens on my digital camera instead.

Nick passed out the samples and asked us not to start drinking yet.  He told us to hang on to the glasses and rinse them with the water he'd placed on our tables for diluting the spirits.  Also, he explained that if he had to wash the glasses in the dishwasher, they'd come back to us hot and that would evaporate the alcohol.  We certainly didn't want that!  Nick then showed us three different ways to get the most out of the tasting.  One method involved using your hands, which I opted not to do.  

Next, Nick explained the basics of whiskey/whisky, which starts out as beer before it turns into liquor.  He told us that "whisky" is the Scottish spelling, while "whiskey" is how the Irish spell it.  Then he went into rather lengthy, yet entertaining speech about the differences between the way Irish whiskeys are made as opposed to Scotch whiskys.  Irish whiskeys tend to be smoother because they are triple distilled in copper pots.  Scotch whiskys, by comparison, are usually a bit less refined because they are double distilled in wood, stainless steel, or copper pots.  Bill and I learned a lot about the process of making whisky/whiskey last spring, when we went on a whisky themed cruise in Scotland and visited quite a few distilleries.  I thought Nick's explanation was especially useful for those who haven't visited half a dozen distilleries within a week of travel!

It wasn't quite full at this point.  By 2:00pm, we were cozy!

The list of boozes...  The last one had to be replaced with a different whisky because the supplier sent the wrong one.  The replacement whisky was supposedly similar-- it was simply aged in both oloroso sherry casks and Pedro Ximenez casks instead of just Pedro Ximenez casks. 

Full house!

After the first tasting of whisky, Nick paused and we were given our first round of snacks.  I was actually very pleased with what they offered us.  This is great bar food, especially if you're feeling hangry!

Onion rings, chicken wings, cheese sticks, carrot sticks, and celery sticks, served with an interesting dip that tasted kind of like chili without the beans.  I was less hangry after we shared this with our young companions.

After we tasted the first scotch whisky, a lovely fourteen year old Balvenie Scottish single malt aged in a Caribbean cask, we took a vote to see which one was more popular.  On the first round, I was partial to the Scottish offering, though Bill preferred the Irish whiskey.  

More food was brought out...  We had to explain to our young friends what was being served.  Basically, it was a round of tiny "gemischte" hamburger patties (pork and beef) and pieces of Fleischkaese (pork meatloaf) with tortilla chips, hummus, and a spicy red chili sauce. 

The next two selections were the eleven year old Teeling White Burgundy Single Cask from Ireland and a twelve year old Glenmorangie Nectar D'Or Sauternes Cask from Scotland.  That time, I preferred the Irish offering.  I would have liked to have purchased a bottle to bring home with us, but Nick said he didn't have many to sell.  It was also priced at 86 euros, which was the most expensive bottle we tried.  I'll check to see if they have it in stock (ETA: They don't. :( ).

We lost one of the guys sitting at our table because he needed to get to the movies.  He missed the last two selections, the Connemara (sherry) Distillers Edition of an Irish Single Malt versus the BenRaich (Sherry) Scottish Single Malt.  Again, the last Scottish whisky we tried was a substitute for what had been planned.  Although I enjoyed it very much, Nick was a bit put out that he'd gotten the wrong whisky and said he was going to kick his supplier's ass!

The final round of food.  A nice bowl of chips.  I wish we'd had plates or ramekins so I could have used the ketchup!

This video was taken toward the end of the tasting.  Nick tells a good story.

The tasting was finally over after almost four hours.  Bill purchased a bottle of the Connemara whiskey, which gave me a thrill since prior to yesterday, all I knew about Connemara was that it's the source of some wonderful ponies.  Now I know there's also fine whiskey made there.  Maybe we'll visit when we go to Ireland in a couple of weeks!

Anyway, now that we've done our first Auld Rogue tasting, I will offer a few tips to those who want to try one in the future.  

1.  Get there early to score a seat.  

2.  Dress in layers.  I wore a sweater and was a bit too warm because the place filled up with people.  I might have preferred something lighter or maybe even a t-shirt!

3.  Consider your seating location's proximity to the restroom.

4.  Plan on spending several hours.  We noticed a number of people hadn't expected the event would last as long as it did.  They ended up leaving early.  

5.  Because of the amount of alcohol you'll be tasting, consider how you will be getting to and leaving the event.  We took the train, just to be on the safe side.

6.  Note ahead of time whether or not there will be food offered (and I'm sure most of these events include food).  If there will be food, you might not want to order food before the event starts.  Portions at The Auld Rogue can be very large and filling!  You might even want to show up hungry for the snacks.

7.  This may not be the best time to bring anyone with you who might be offended by off color language.  Nick dropped the f bomb a few times.  I was, of course, delighted by that, but other people might not be.  But then again, it IS an Irish pub.  Use your best judgment!

8.  If you need to cancel your reservation, let Nick know.  It's possible to transfer the ticket to a future tasting.

We really enjoyed our first tasting at The Auld Rogue.  I'm pretty sure we'll do it again.  The next one is a beer tasting that, I believe, is already sold out.  As it will occur on November 12th, we wouldn't be able to attend anyway.  We will be in Ireland celebrating our 14th wedding anniversary!  Stay tuned for posts about that trip!


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Barging through France!

I have written a couple of times about my desire to try barging; that is, taking a small barge through canals.  Bill and I have been on several cruises, but they've all involved sailing on large bodies of water.  A barge cruise is different.  It's slow paced and the focus is more personal.  

I've been interested in barging for years, but I think this month's trip to Burgundy kind of sealed the deal for Bill and me.  I feel pretty certain we're going to book a barge cruise soon.  I've looked at two companies that offer barging.  One is European Waterways, a British company that offers barging in several countries throughout Europe.  The other is French Country Waterways, which is an American owned company that only offers barging in France.

I have received a lot of literature from both companies.  At this point, I think I'm leaning toward booking with French Country Waterways, mainly because of their emphasis on food and wine.  Bill is a big cheese lover and French Country Waterways provides them in abundance.  However, I must admit that European Waterways has tempted me with its stunning videos and broader range of places to go.  Also, I think European Waterways is a bit less expensive.

Although I have been wooing Bill with videos and talk about barging, I think what might have sold him is the brochure we got from French Country Waterways last week.  He sent me an email to tell me it had arrived and I told him to have a look at it.  Naturally, he was very impressed by it... kind of the same way my mom was impressed when I had a brochure from Hebridean Island Cruises sent to her.  She had originally meant to book a cruise for a week and ended up doing two weeks on the Royal Crown river cruise.  I've actually been wanting to try river cruising too, even though they tend to cater to people a lot older than Bill and I are.

So it's a choice between European Waterways, which goes to France, Ireland, Scotland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, and England...

Or French Country Waterways, which does Champagne, Burgundy, Loire, Alsace, and Lorraine...

The choice is going to be difficult.  Even if we choose French Country Waterways, which goes to fewer places, I am so tempted by each of the itineraries.  What a wonderful problem to have!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Schlachtfest! And lunch in Nagold at Luz Bistro Bar...

A flyer about our local Schachtfest.  It was held at Willy-Dieterle Halle, here in Jettingen.

Here in Jettingen, we get a weekly newspaper that tells us what's going on.  I have only recently started paying attention to it.  I noticed a few days ago that the local evangelical church was having a Schlachtfest today after church services.  I was curious about it, but when I mentioned the prospect of going to the festival to Bill, he was a bit skeptical.  Bill has had a rather distressing history with organized religion and was worried about being proselytized.

I asked my local German friend, Susanne, what I could expect if we went to the Schlachtfest.  She posted a link to a newspaper article about last year's fest.  She said it was strictly to raise money and there wouldn't be any pressure to get religious.  She said the cakes would be made by the Landfrauenverein (country women's club) and would probably be amazing.

A Schlachtfest, for those who don't know, is basically a festival dedicated to meat.  Historically, it involves the ceremonial slaughter of a pig.  The meat from the pig is then used to make schnitzel, sausages, and other meaty dishes.  At the one hosted in our town, there was a two hour lunch followed by coffee and cake and a concert put on by the local music club.

I pressured Bill about going to the fest, but we were a little slow on the draw.  We didn't get to the Schlachtfest until it was well underway.  The parking lot was very full and things were in heavy swing.  I took a few photos, but was a little overwhelmed by the crowds.

Check out those cakes!  They looked awesome!  I probably should have gotten a piece to go.  We noticed they had a waffle station, too.

Most of the seats were taken.  There were a couple of tables with religious literature on them, but other than that, it looked like a regular fest, complete with wine and beer and a couple of crosses on the stage.  No one tried to help us find Jesus.

The menu on the wall.  It looked like you'd pay, get a ticket, and then present the ticket to the ladies who were dishing out the food.  It smelled really good in there and I was tempted to partake, but it was after 1:00pm and the scene was a bit chaotic.  There were hundreds of people there having a good lunch.  I felt a little like I was in a school cafeteria.  So I told Bill I wanted to go to Nagold.

The parking lot was loaded.  Next time, we'll come earlier.  They had games for kids in the lobby as well as a big coat rack.  I love how civilized things are in Germany.

We went to Nagold and had lunch at Luz Bistro Bar/Alte Post.  We've eaten at this restaurant a few times and have never been disappointed.  Today's lunch was especially lovely.

Bill checks out the flyer on the table about Christmas and New Year's Eve celebrations, as well as wine dinners regularly hosted in Alte Post's classy upstairs dining room.

We split a nice bottle of Barbera from the Piedmont region of Italy.

I had the Metzgerspiesse-- basically pieces of pork on a skewer with barbecue sauce, lots of bacon, and sauteed onions.  A potato with sour cream completed the dish.

Bill had Schweinebackchen-- basically braised pork with pureed potatoes and corn served in a copper pot.  I really liked my dish, but Bill's was even better.  That pork was so tender and flavorful!  Bill was hesitant to order it at first, but he really enjoyed it.  Next time, I'll probably go for this dish myself if they still have it!

We finished with a round of espresso.

And I had to take note of the unisex bathroom.  Don't worry.  There are two rooms with stalls, but everyone washes their hands in the same place.  

Our bill for today's sumptuous lunch was almost 80 euros.  It was well worth the price.  We definitely need to get to the Alte Post for a formal dinner.  I've enjoyed every meal I've had there and the service is always welcoming and professional.  If you are ever in Nagold, I highly recommend stopping in for a meal.

A nice shot of a Nagold church...

On the way back to the car, we passed Osteria da Gino's, which is probably our favorite Nagold restaurant.  We always end up getting the degustation menu, so we never know what he has or the prices.  I took a picture of the menu posted outside (we are usually there after dark).  We haven't been to see Gino since my birthday in June and are long overdue for a visit.

All in all, we had a nice afternoon.  Now we're enjoying quiet time with another nice red.  Hope your Sunday is just as peaceful.  On another note, isn't Schlachtfest a great word?  It ranks right up there with Stau and Schmutz in descriptiveness!  

Reposted review of Mousetrapped: A Year and a Bit in Orlando, Florida-- Irish lass works near Disney

Here's a reposted book review from my Epinions days about an Irish woman who traveled to Orlando, Florida to work at the Swan and Dolphin resort.  I'm reposting it to keep it from being lost to the Internet hinterlands.  Since this book is somewhat about travel, I'm posting it here instead of on my main blog.

  • Irish girl meets life in Orlando, Florida...

    Review by knotheadusc
     in Books, Music, Hotels & Travel 
      October, 23 2011
Pros: Basically entertaining and interesting.  I like Howard's writing style.
    • Cons: Somewhat misleading title.  Long-winded beginning.
      God bless the Kindle.  It's introduced me to all sorts of new writers, including one Catherine Ryan Howard, an Irish lass who decided to ditch her homeland for a year in sunny Orlando, Florida and then chronicle her time in an e-book called Mousetrapped: A Year and a Bit in Orlando, Florida.  Howard published her book in January of 2011 and I read it over the course of a very pleasant Sunday spent in bed.

      The premise 

      Catherine Ryan Howard writes that she had always fancied herself a famous virologist, in part, owing to the books and movies that came out about biological terrorism in the 1990s.  Alas, she lacked the grades and the tenacity to pursue her dreams of scientific glory.  As a young woman in Ireland, she was attempting to launch into adulthood in fits and starts that included a very brief stint in university and some time in the Netherlands.  When she realized she wasn't getting anywhere in her quest for independence, Howard did what so many others before her have done.  She went to Disney World.

      Okay... so actually, Howard did not go to Disney World.  She went to the Swan and Dolphin resort in Orlando, which is supposedly very close to Mickey Mouse's fabled empire.  Curiously, Howard refers to the resort as the Duck and Tuna, which I'm guessing she does to avoid litigation.  In any case, Mousetrapped is somewhat misleadingly titled, since Howard doesn't actually work for Disney on her J-1 visa.  Since I don't care that much about Disney, I wasn't too upset about the slightly misnamed book.  I got caught up in her story, anyway.  I could sort of relate to it on several levels.

      Life in the USA

      In witty prose, Catherine Ryan Howard explains how she turned up at her new place of employment, hoping to meet the very eager recruiter who had been corresponding with her about her new job.  In true American corporate style, Howard's recruiter turned out to be far less enthusiastic than she seemed to be in writing.  Howard describes how she is given a free hotel room for the first few days while she finds a new place to live, applies for a Social Security card, and figures out the logistics of living without benefit of a car.

      Howard takes an overpriced apartment at a complex within walking distance of her place of employment.  She writes of having to do two hour walking commutes to her job in Florida heat until she finally makes friends with a German who has a car.  Howard also writes of temporarily sharing her apartment with other women from Kazakhstan and the Philippines with varying levels of success.  Before too long, it becomes clear that Howard needs to get a car.  A car would allow her to run errands, take cheaper housing, and hang out with a different crowd.  But first, she has to learn how to drive.  Coming from Ireland, where public transportation is apparently plentiful, the author has never needed to drive before.  So readers get to learn how an Irish woman learns how to drive, buys a car, and gets an American driver's license... not necessarily in that order.

      And then there's work.  Curiously, Howard doesn't write a lot of funny stories about the guests she meets or cross-cultural miscommunications.  In fact, she doesn't have that much at all to say about her actual job, except that she manages to be "promoted" to a job in laundry.  Howard implies that the promotion, which came with a minimal pay raise, was actually intended to get her out of some manager's hair.  She doesn't have much to say about working in laundry, except to share a rather gross vomit story and tell her readers that she's not cut out to work in a laundry.

      My thoughts

      For the most part, I enjoyed this book.  Catherine Ryan Howard seems very likeable and is often funny and witty.  I identified with her story, since when I was in my 20s, I went to Armenia to be a Peace Corps Volunteer.  It's not quite the same.  The Peace Corps gave me a place to live and a job to do and I wasn't allowed to drive.  On the other hand, as time went on, I found myself having to arrange things to my liking.  That included finding other things to do, making friends, and yes, finding better housing.  And those were things I had to do on my own in a foreign country.  I could relate to Howard's plight, trying to make things work somewhere new.  In fact, knowing how dismal many American public transportation systems are, especially when compared to Europe's, I kind of empathized with her.  I can't imagine trying to get by without a car in so many places in the United States.

      My only quibbles about this book have to do with its beginning.  Howard is a bit long-winded in her description of how she ended up in Florida.  The back story really needs to be edited a bit.  When an author writes "bear with me" on more than one occasion, that's a sign that a story is too long.  I also wasn't all that interested in Howard's anecdotes about visiting the Kennedy Space Center.  In my opinion, one story about satisfying her interest in the U.S. space program would have sufficed.  But that's just me.


      This book is not really that much about Disney, though Howard did visit there a couple of times (and paid full admission because she was not an employee).  Don't be misled into thinking you'll get any cute Disney stories.  What this book is really about is a young woman trying to launch and getting to know a new place.  If you like that kind of story, this book might be worth your while.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Farm fresh!

A lot of folks like to live close to the big city, where restaurants, shopping, and night life are plentiful.  Bill and I are big fans of country living.  We like wide open spaces, peace and quiet, and beautiful views.  Another benefit to living outside of the city is the availability of excellent local produce.  We have the good fortune of living near several farms, many of which sell fresh milk, eggs, and vegetables.  Today, we decided to stop by a couple of farms to see how self serve shopping at farms works.

I almost wish I liked carving jack o' lanterns.

If you've spent any time in Germany, you have no doubt seen the self service fields where you can cut your own flowers or buy a pumpkin.  The self serve farms are no different.  Our first stop was at a farm where eggs, onions, and potatoes are consistently offered.  Right now, they're also selling lots of pumpkins and other gourds!


I couldn't resist taking a photo of the pretty landscape.  Our house is within walking distance, though we brought the car.

I was surprised by how many people pulled up while we were checking out the goods.  This particular farm just had a little room with stuff on the shelves.  You're on your honor to pay the self serve cash box (Kasse).

We bought eggs, an onion, and a big bag of potatoes.  The eggs, by the way, have not been subjected to the egg wash that American eggs get.  Therefore, there is no need to refrigerate them as we would in the USA.  They are shelf stable until mid November.

Grand total-- five euros and forty cents.

Potatoes!  We'll be set for awhile.

They always have eggs, potatoes, and onions, as well as other items when they are in season.  I noticed they had carrots, garlic, and a big leek on offer today. 

It helps to bring your own bag.

This farm also has a flower field where you can score sunflowers or other flowers. 

Next, we went to another farm where one can purchase fresh, ice cold, raw milk 24/7.  We had a glass bottle from another trip to the machine in town (where the milk is pasteurized).  Bill ran our bottle through the dishwasher so it would be nice and sterile.

Truth in advertising.  No need to ever go without milk because you can get it 24/7 here.  

But if we had needed to, we could have purchased a bottle at the farm.  A liter of raw milk costs a euro.  We will boil it before we drink it.

Bill buys raw milk and lentils from vending machines.  Edited to add: a German friend says we should take care to make sure the lentils are free of stones before we eat them.

This farm was also selling lots of pumpkins and squash. 

We decided to go into town to see what was being sold at the vending machine on the main drag.  This machine sells pasteurized milk, noodles, lentils, apple juice, and potatoes.  

We decided to get some lentils.  On the way home, I spotted another vending machine that Bill had never noticed.  We didn't check it out,because it looked like it might be low on products.

Our haul today.  We spent 11,40 euros.

I will admit that we don't do farm shopping nearly as often as we should.  I think now that we've done it today, we will do it a lot more often.  I feel good about supporting the local economy and I know we're getting excellent products.  Better yet, now I know vending machines aren't just for candy and soda anymore.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

For those of you reading this blog because of SeaDream Yacht Club...

Have a look at this video!

I haven't been on a SeaDream cruise since May 2013, but I'm hoping to be back sometime... if they ever get SeaDream I up and running again after a recent engine fire.  Before we do another SeaDream cruise, though, I think we will try barging, either with European Waterways or French Country Waterways.

One thing I notice in this video is that they say SeaDream costs 15,000 GBP.  I have not found that to be true, except for when they go to places like the Amazon or Norway.  If it cost that much, there's no way Bill and I could have done it three times.  The cruises are expensive, though, and for us, require a lot of planning. 

I do miss SeaDream.  I have to admit it's been too long since we were last onboard.  And I have yet to try the identical SeaDream II and its legendary staff.  I guess Bill and I better stay in Europe awhile.  

Friday, October 14, 2016

Good beef! Seven places to get good steaks in and around Stuttgart!

Now that we've finally been to a Block House location, it's time to write about my favorite steak joints in and around Stuttgart.  I've been wanting to write this post for a long time.  Bill and I are fans of good beef, even though we'd probably be better off avoiding it!  Unfortunately, good beef is not something Germany is well known for having in abundance.  When we lived here the first time, from 07-09, we pretty much gave up on beef.  This time, we've sought out good steaks, mainly because our town happens to have a really good, and very reasonably priced, steakhouse.  

Here's my list of favorites.  I will link to my first review of each place, but this post will also include a quick and dirty rundown of my overall impressions.  I know there are probably more places to get good steak in Stuttgart and its environs, but in the interest of keeping the length of this post reasonable, I'm starting with this list of seven.

Abacco Steakhouse

Abacco Steakhouse is an interesting restaurant located in downtown Stuttgart.  The concept basically involves having customers cook their own steaks.  They bring out the steak cooked to rare on a hot stone.  Then you continue to cook it to your desired level of doneness.  We had a good experience at this restaurant, although I'm not too hot on the idea of having to cook for myself when I've gone out to eat.  They do bring out several sauces to go with the steak, which I like.  Service was also good and the concept is unique.

Steak at Abacco Steakhouse.  


A very cool gin bar that specializes in steak.  We enjoyed a nice meal there in July of this year.  My only complaint about Ampulle is that people smoke cigars in their bar area and it can get rather smokey for non smokers.  Also, keep in mind that first courses at Ampulle are very ample!  If you want more than one course, I recommend pacing yourself.  I also recommend taking the train and walking to the restaurant because parking could be a challenge.

Ampulle is a great place for those who like beef and gin.


Very reasonably priced chain restaurant with two locations in Stuttgart.  Has a little something for everyone, as well as surprisingly good steaks.  Besides having something for everyone, this restaurant runs all day.  It's a good bet for when you don't want to spend a whole lot of money.

Bill and I were able to enjoy a nice lunch at Maredo for about 44 euros.

Block House

Another chain restaurant with two locations in Stuttgart.  The Block House specializes in beef and, unlike Maredo, seems to focus only on meat dishes.  It was a bit more expensive than Maredo, but the food quality and service were very good.  I think it would appeal a lot to Americans, too.  It kind of has that American vibe to it!  There's a wide variety of cuts to choose from and you get salad and sides included.  Fair warning to mushroom haters like me.  The salad that comes with the steaks has them included.  Next time, I'm telling them "Ohne Pilze!"

Steak at Block House.


[M]eatery is another popular steak place in downtown Stuttgart.  It's a little more upscale than the restaurants I've listed so far, although it, too, is a chain location.  You can drop a lot of cash at [M]eatery and, frankly, I was a little puzzled by the service we got there.  The food quality is good, though, and I hear their burgers are fantastic.  Be prepared to pay for everything pretty much a la carte, although I see that I did really enjoy the sides (that we paid extra for).

[M]eatery's rib eye.


I debated whether or not to make Christophorus number one on this list.  I think this restaurant at the Porsche museum in Zuffenhausen probably offers the best steak in the area.  However, I put it in second place because reservations are a must and you will spend a whole lot of money there.  If you have a need to impress someone or want to celebrate, Christophorus is a very good bet for outstanding beef.  All meat at Christophorus is USDA prime-- that is, from the United States.  The service is impeccable, too.  But bring lots of cash and be prepared to book well ahead.  We spent well over 200 euros for our dinner for two.  Fortunately, the steak was well worth it.  Other options are available for those who don't want steak.

Fantastic steak at Christophorus.  Excellent service, too.

Tommi's Bistro

So far, my favorite steak joint in the Stuttgart area is Tommi's Bistro.  It's located in my town of Unterjettingen, which makes it inconvenient for a lot of people.  I still like it because the food is very good and extremely reasonably priced.  An added bonus to Tommi's Bistro, besides the fact that we can walk to it, is that they offer a lot of live music events.  On the second Thursday of every month, they host a live jam featuring a band from Calw and anyone who wants to join them.  I have been known to jam with them myself a few times.  We went to Tommi's last night for the jam.  I didn't join them on stage, but we did have a couple of great steaks and enjoyed some fabulous music.  And... for all of that fun, we got out of Tommi's for a mere 50 euros (including a generous tip, which really excited our waitress)!

The one drawback to Tommi's is that the restaurant is pretty much only open on the weekends now and sometimes closes for private events.  If you do plan a visit to Jettingen to try Tommi's Bistro, be sure to consult the official Web site to make sure it's open.  As of right now, the restaurant is closed Monday through Wednesday, but that sometimes changes.  It's also only open for dinner-- lunch is not served there.  Some Saturday nights, they host concerts that cost extra.  If you choose to come out for one of the shows, I recommend making a reservation.

My rib eye last night.  Looks like Tommi has changed up his style a bit.  Side dishes cost extra, but they are also reasonably priced.  Service is good and they give you a house shot of sherry, too.

Bill had a rump steak.  You can get either Irish or Argentinian beef.  One mark against Tommi's is that they don't offer a whole lot of choices that don't involve beef.  Also, there are no burgers at Tommi's.  But if you like a good steak at a reasonable price, it's a good bet.  They also have a children's menu.

A photo of the jammers...

And a sample of last night's music.  Good stuff!  This, by the way, is a free event, though tipping is encouraged.  Reservations are also a good idea if you're coming to one of the musical events.

So there you have it.  These are my picks so far for great steaks in and around Stuttgart.  May your next steak dinner in or around Stuttgart be stellar!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Wine bar! And our very first visit to the Block House...

Yesterday, Bill and I visited the dentist in downtown Stuttgart for our biannual cleanings.  As is our habit, after we visited the dentist, we hung around downtown for dinner.  I was unusually stressed yesterday, but the truth is, for months I'd been wanting to try a certain wine bar near the Markthalle.  Die Weinhandlung Kreis is a small wine shop, but you can also go there to taste wines and enjoy snacks.  We'd passed by the place so many times and I wanted to go in to see what it was about, but every time I paused by the door, Bill convinced me to move onward.  Yesterday, I was determined to finally try the place.  And frankly, after my dental cleaning and the huge Stau that preceded it, I was in need of a soothing red for my jangled nerves!

Die Weinhandlung Kreis near the Schillerplatz in downtown Stuttgart is a very small place, but they have wines and local spirits.  Yesterday, I noticed they were selling Chartreuse and Monkey 47 Gin, which is a gin made here in Baden Württemberg.  We discovered Monkey 47 Gin when we visited Hamburg in January 2015 and since then, we've enjoyed it ourselves.  My German sucks, but I can see from Die Weinhandlung Kreis's Web site that this little wine bar is just one address affiliated with Die Weinhandlung Kreis.  They have a main shop in Stuttgart South, as well as an online store.  They even have a vineyard.  I can tell that Bill and I are going to have to get to know this business better.

Anyway, the lady who was running the shop yesterday wasn't super friendly, but she was quick to get Bill and me a couple of large glasses of vino.  I tried a lovely Gigondas that was very nice in the late afternoon.  Bill had a Spanish red that had almost a menthol tinge to it.  It was very interesting.  They were playing cool jazzy music on vinyl in the cozy tasting room.  Had we not had plans to visit the Block House afterward, we might have tried a snack to go with the wine.  They had quite a few reds and whites available, as well as at least one sparkling wine.  We will definitely be back.

Ahh... red wine in the afternoon.  You can get a small or large glass.  I went with a large.

Bill sporting his new sporty goatee as he enjoys a red.  On the wall, you can see a list of what was available yesterday.  

Tiny bar.  Sorry this picture is a bit blurry.  I was trying not to be conspicuous.  Behind the turntable is a blurry list of snacks.  We ended up buying a bottle each of the reds we tried.  It's worth mentioning that this wine bar takes credit cards-- even the ones from America! 

I felt a bit more relaxed after the wine and my stomach told me it was time for dinner.  I had been wanting to try the Block House chain restaurant in Stuttgart for some time.  Now that I have, I can write a review.  Later, I will write a post detailing all of our local steakhouse experiences.   

I saw this on the way to the Block House and thought it was nifty.  It was in front of a shoe store.  

I also noticed this coffee shop right next to the Block House location on Eberhardstraße.  They sell cups of coffee, but they also sell beans.  We may have to pay them a visit, so maybe I won't need to spend 40 euros in duty taxes plus $40 in shipping for Peet's again!

The first thing to know about the Block House is that there it's a chain restaurant.  There are 47 Block House restaurants, 38 of which are in Germany.  Two of those 38 locations are in Stuttgart.  In that way, Block House is not unlike Maredo, another German steakhouse chain that has two locations in Stuttgart.  Curiously, the two Stuttgart area Maredo locations are practically within sight of each other.  

The next thing to know about the Block House is that it runs all day.  There is no pause between lunch and dinner.  This is a very fine thing.  We were able to visit the restaurant yesterday before it got super busy.  Indeed, it was somewhat chill when we arrived at 5:00pm and was pretty full by the time we left a couple of hours later.

Bill anticipates a good hunk of meat.  He said the restaurant reminds him of an American place.  I agreed.  In fact, they were even playing early 80s pop music, which I kind of dug.

Block House is a very casual place.  We were invited to sit where we wanted.  When we sat down and the waiter realized we weren't German, he asked if we needed menus in English.  Of course we said no!  Bill likes to show off his mad skills... which unfortunately, I am still trying to develop.

We started with a very nice bottle of Malbec, along with San Pellegrino.  I ordered the Hereford Rib Eye, while Bill went with a Filet.  Both dishes came with salads and Block House bread, as well as a potato or pommes.

As we were sitting there soaking up the atmosphere, Bill got a strange look on his face.  I asked him what was the matter, and then it became obvious.  The waiter put my salad in front of me and it was loaded with huge sliced mushrooms.  I took in a quick gasp of surprise and horror because I have a phobia of mushrooms.  Fortunately, Bill was kind enough to take them out of my salad.

Next time, I'll know to tell them to hold the fungus!

The steaks were very good.  I was able to ask them to hold the sour cream and got butter instead.  I could have also had garlic butter.  My rib eye was about 250 grams and cooked to a perfect medium temperature.  The bread appeared to be a bun sliced, buttered, topped with garlic salt, and toasted.  It was pretty good, if not a bit generic.

Bill's filet and sour cream covered potato.

We decided to have dessert.  It turned out to be a treat.  Those of you who love lava cakes will be happy to know you can get one at Block House.  I have an aversion to lava cakes, so I went with the New York Cheesecake, which came with a lovely warm blueberry sauce.

This was pretty damn delicious!  I am a sucker for cheesecake, even if I don't eat cold, stinky cheese!

Bill had the Eis und Heiß, vanilla ice cream with a warm berry sauce.  He enjoyed it very much.

The bill came to about 82 euros before the tip.  While it wasn't the best steak I've had in Stuttgart, I will say that we did enjoy our visit to Block House and would go again.  And now that I've finally tried the Block House, perhaps it's time to write a comparison of all the steaks we've had here so far.  Stay tuned!

The outside of one of Stuttgart's two Block House locations.

This is the end of my restaurant review.  Stop reading if you have delicate sensibilities about sex.

On the way back to the car, we passed Dr. Mueller's Sex Shop.  I have never actually been inside the place, but this particular chain store has the distinction of being one of my most vivid memories of my first visit to Germany in 1997.  I came here on the way home from Yerevan, Armenia and two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  The Frankfurt Airport, at that time, had a couple of Dr. Mueller's locations within it.  I remember being shocked as I passed it.  So, in honor of that memory, I decided to snap a few photos of the location in downtown Stuttgart.  Maybe someday, we'll venture inside. 

Looks pretty tasteful to me.

Tune in next time for whatever crap I discover next.