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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Just Another Fab Day in Metz

the Moselle, or Mosel flows through Metz

The Cathedral

Just another wonderful serendipity in Metz

I don’t get to Metz, France that often, no more than six times a year.  You think that’s a lot?  Have you lost your senses AND your joie de vie?  Every time I go, the town is as fresh and exciting as that first glimpse of the woman of your dreams.  Never thought of Metz, the Capitol of Lorraine, as a woman?  Well, she is.  Beautiful, alluring, charming, delicious.  A mysterious past, with a wink and a nod toward the modern.  A beckoning smile.

So, what is it I find that beguiles me?  Saint-Étienne, the St Steven cathedral, with it’s soaring columns and jewel-like stained glass? 

Or, the Marche Couvert, the wonderful covered market that before the French Revolution (1789) was designed to be the Bishop’s Palace?  Maybe it’s the strangely wandering cobblestone streets, with their stoic stone buildings? 

Or those delightful French institutions, the open-air bistros?  All of it.  Every bit.  And more. Don’t forget the Shopping!!  Last time I went I ended up with two patés, bread, cheese, sausage, tomatoes, and a new pair of shoes.

I find it strange that even people who live within an hour and a half’s drive haven’t been. What stops them?  Lack of a firm foundation in the French language?  Piffle.  The thing to remember is, the first word out of your mouth when you speak to someone in France, whether it’s a policeman, or shopkeeper, or any person on the street, is Bonjour!  But pronounce it correctly:  Bo-njou’re! Google: French to English and practice before you go.  After the mandatory greeting of bonjour, you can say anything you damn well please, in any language, and you’ll get a polite response.  And, shopkeepers are superb readers of waving hands, pointing fingers and bright smiles.

Still uneasy? In the square right next to the Cathedral there’s a huge tourist information center to guide you to the most popular places and even the unpopular ones.  Hey, I’ve already given you a list of enchanting excitement within a two-block radius of the cathedral.  Don’t know which bistro to choose?  Try the Tous Les Jours, number 27 in the open square of the Place St. Jacques.  Try the tempting quiche, after all you’re in Lorraine.

So, now I’m going to leave you an array of photographs to whet your appetite for your first exciting trip to Metz.  But, believe me, one trip to visit this lady with the almost sinfully radiant smile won’t be enough.  Is it ever?

What better place to dine on Quiche Lorraine?

Oh, those bistros!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Lunch in the Great Outdoors: A Culinary Walk

Like to eat delectables, walk a few miles (or kilometers) breathing fresh, country air, and sloshing down some smooth-as-silk local wines?  Not talking about your backyard BBQ, or the shady park down the street.  I’m talking out in the fields where the buffalo roam…or at least a herd or two of cows, under a blue sky, with temps in the 80s Fahrenheit or the high 20s Celsius.

On such a beautiful day, it’s time to stroll and concentrate on: Good wine. Good food. Good company.

Germans are some of the most social people you’ll ever find.  And to prove it, they organize weekend walks that take you up and down hills, through fields and small towns, over bridges, even in the rain and not so rain, always with an over abundance of Food, Wine, and Beer!  On this particular afternoon, there were stops every half-mile or so, to take a breather from hiking, slack the thirst and gnaw some solid fixin’s.  Like what?  Grandmother’s pancakes slathered with vanilla-cream sauce. 
Grandmother's Pancakes

Barbecue pork that would made this southerner weep with joy.  Blackened chicken sandwiches with ancho mayo, better than anything I’ve tasted in New Orleans.
Blackened Chicken

 Succulent, planked salmon, with dilled sauce. Big chunks of grilled steak on a stick. And, oh my goodness the libations!  White, Rosé, Red, Sparkling, mixed.  Prost!

All of this cast against the splendor of endless, emerald green, rolling fields, bright blue skies, puffy white clouds, and the blessing of golden sunshine.  On this day, there were eight stops, each offering wine from different vintners and mouthwatering foods from culinary artists.  Like your wine dry?  No problem.  Sweet?  Ditto.  Maybe you prefer a wine watered down with fruit and soda, or a fresh mint concoction called a Hugo.

Make your own Hugo:  Muddle a few fresh mint leaves in a glass, add sparkling wine and elderberry syrup to taste.  Fill 'er up with ice and garnish with a slice of lime. 


Add to that, the serendipity of meeting friends, and spontaneous conversations with strangers who rapidly become new friends.  Met so many people!  Interesting conversation with the owner of Big Boys of Germany barbecue company.

“You must try some of my pulled pork.”
“Sure, but I warn you, I’ve had barbecue from all over the south.”
“Come with me and look at this.”  He leads me to the rear of the stand, where his grill (the size of a small tanker truck) must have had five or six hundred pounds of steaming pork.  He lifted the side and I marveled at the rotating shelves of foil wrapped roasts.  

Only one of the two huge chambers
Then he explained, “I wood-smoke my meat for six hours, then I wrap it and steam it for another fourteen hours.”
“What kind of wood?”

Naturally, I can’t back away from the challenge.  Oh my goodness!  As tender and succulent as your first girl friend!  Well, maybe I over stated it a bit, but nevertheless…  I told him it was the best pork barbecue I’d ever tasted.  Full flavor of pork and seasoning, the meat falling apart, without a touch of dryness.  This was pulled pork exactly as it should be.

The glory of these wanderings is something that makes Germany a wonderful place to live. These Volksmarches, or Wanderungs, are a German institution. From early spring to late fall, there are a few every weekend, and no matter where you live in Germany, you’ll find one nearby.  This one was a Kulinarische Wanderung, or Culinary Walk, but even if Culinary is not in the name, there will be plenty of wonderful delights to eat and drink.

It’s no secret, as a group, Germans like to get out and wander the forests and fields. The weather doesn’t matter much.  No matter where you live, if there are forests, there are walking and biking trails. I’ve seen elderly Germans, pushing walkers as they trek through snowy drifts.  As the saying goes, wherever you find two or more Germans with similar interests, you’ll find a club.  On the organized walks, when you add food and drink, the club goes public and gets ebulliently large.

Ah, these are the splendid days that make you wish the day would never end, but when it does, the sparkling memory makes you look forward to tomorrow!