Frankfurt Street Food Festival

It’s summer, I’m hot, and this foodie is ready to ride up to the Frankfurt Street Food Festival.

Germany’s food truck scene was virtually non-existent until a short time ago. Basically all I could find was a brat and bun truck, a French crepe and Nutella truck, or the occasional vendor selling roasted chestnuts during the holidays. Jeez, what the truck!

I’m not sure why, but food trucks hadn’t quite hit the Germany scene except in large progressive cities like Berlin. The rest of the country’s food truck scene was basically sitting on the Autobahn in a Stau–it just wasn’t moving like in other countries like the U.S. and Thailand.

This weekend it’s a different story in Frankfurt, Germany the multi-cultural economic capital of Europe. The engines are revved up in Frankfurt as over 30 vendors will be rolling out their favorite foods as the city celebrates the first Frankfurt Street Food Festival.

Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festival
Street food market during the Yasothon Rocket Festival. Wiki photo by Takeaway.

Head to the Hauptwache, the baroque building that was a former guard-house and the Zell or just follow your nose. The food trucks are lined up, have their coals burning, and are ready to tantalize your taste buds with some mind-blowing unique foods.

To capture the real essence of street food you have to go beyond the norm and offer the people something different and you’ll find it at the Frankfurt Street Food Festival.

Considering this is Frankfurt’s first street food festival, there’s quite a good assortment of trucks offering some savory mouth-watering treats. Black Calamari sandwiches, 24-hour cider marinated beef steak, Surf & Turf burger to name a few. Fancy an Arepa? Maria Maria Arepas makes delicious gluten-free flat bread pocket is filled with naturally raised meat or veggies.

For a global array of food and beverages from artisans head to the Frankfurt Street Food Festival. It runs Friday, July 31 (12:00 – 22:00), Saturday, August 1 (12:00 – 22:00), and Sunday, August 2 (9:00 – 20:00).

Bon appétit my foodie friends!




French Epiphany Cake Recipe (Galette des rois)

French Epiphany Cake Recipe

Today is January 6th Epiphany, marking the visit of the Magi to the Christ child. People all over the world people are celebrating Epiphany by baking cakes and celebrating the holiday with friends and family members. In thousands of lucky homes a delicious warm French Epiphany Cake or galette des rois (kings’s tart) will be served.

While living in New Orleans, to celebrate Epiphany or the beginning of the Carnival, I traditionally bought or baked a Mardi Gras King Cake, but today I decided to bake a galette des rois.

I should be taking down the Christmas decorations but baking is so much more fun 🙂

French Epiphany Cake
French Epiphany Cake

The French Epiphany cake galette des rois is a light dessert made of puff-pastry filled with a creamy frangipane (almond paste). The cake is relatively easy to make requiring about one hour of time from start to finish.

Epiphany Cake Traditions

The Epiphany Cake is served to celebrate the feast of Epiphany or Twelfth night marking the end of Christmas when the Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ Child Jesus. There is a tradition dating back to the middle ages that after the cake is served, the last piece (“piece for poor” or “piece for the virgin”) is reserved for the first needy person knocking at your door. It’s not likely to happen, so I follow the second tradition.

In every French Epiphany or Mardi Gras cake there’s a little surprise hidden inside. In France it’s a fava bean (fève) or trinket (santon). In New Orleans a baby Jesus figurine is hidden in the colorful cake to symbolize rebirth or renewal. The person who gets the piece with the trinket is declared king or queen, gets to wear the crown, and should buy the next cake.

Mardi Gras King Cake trinket, Wiki photo by Nono64
Mardi Gras King Cake trinket, Wiki photo by Nono64

I wore the crown last year, so this year I’m baking a French Epiphany cake to see who will become king or queen in my home today.

French Epiphany Cake Recipe (Galette des rois)

Ingredients

  • 500 grams (1 lb 2 ounces) ready-made puff pastry
  • 100 grams (4 ounces) finely ground almonds
  • 75 grams (3 ounces) sugar
  • 50 grams (2 ounces) softened butter
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 teaspoon French Cognac (optional)
  • 1 bean (fève), almond, or santon (figurine)

Directions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 210 Celsius (410 Fahrenheit).
  2. Divide the pasty in two parts. Roll out each to a circle about 23 cm (9 inches) wide or size of your pie pan.
  3. By hand or using a stand mixer, mix the almonds, sugar, butter, one egg, and Cognac until a smooth paste is formed.
  4. Place the first circle on the non-stick pie dish and spread the paste evenly across but not too close to the edges.
  5. Place a fève or figurine on top of the paste near the outer edge.
  6. Carefully place the second disk on top and seal the two edges with a fork.
  7. Brush the top with the egg yolk and decorate by making a swirl pattern using a knife.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden.

Before serving a warm slice of French Epiphany Cake Recipe (Galette des rois), warn your guests of the trinket to avoid an unnecessary visit to the dentist.

Bon appetit!




Christmas Markets Close to Frankfurt

Living in Germany has its perks. We have social insurance. We have the Autobahn. But mainly, during this time of the year, we have festive Christmas Markets close to Frankfurt, Germany and lots of them.

What? Huh? Frankfurt? Yes, Frankfurt because if you’re visiting Germany  you’ll most likely be flying into the Frankfurt airport. If not, re-book because we’ve got a lot of awesome German Christmas markets in the area so let’s get started. Yippee! Yahoo!

Frankfurt (City center near Roemerberg and Paulsplatz)

First stop, Frankfurt of course. Located on the Main River, Frankfurt is called Mainhattan for its impressive skyline. Soak up the festive atmosphere in the city center near Roemerberg and Paulsplatz. You’re in apple country so when you’re not enjoying a Gluhwein (mulled wine) sample Frankfurter sausages, cinnamon stars, and hot apple wine served at traditional bars around Sachsenhausen.

Local gifts include Frankfurt-style Christmas tree ornaments, apple wine soap, Frankfurt slippers and the ever popular Gluhwein mug for 2014.

Michelstadt (1 hour drive from Frankfurt)

Located a little more than one hour by car from Frankfut, Michelstadt is an adorable small town with big charm located in the heart of the Odenwald. Built in 1484, it’s also known for its lovely cobblestone streets and array of half-timbered houses. At the annual Michelstadt Christmas Market you’ll find over 100 wooden market stalls set in a fairy book setting. This is a superb Weihnachtsmarkt to find handcrafted items as many of the tradespeople still apply traditional techniques used in past generations.

Check out the cute toy museum, castle’s wine tasting hall, sculptors, wood turners, ivory carvers and carpenters as they demonstrate their techniques.

Heidelberg (50 minutes by train from Frankfurt)

Imagine, in just one hour driving the Autobahn from Frankfurt, you’re transported to the cobble stoned streets of Heidelberg. The old town of the magical city lights up during the Heidelberg Weihnachtsmarkt and so does the imposing Heidelberg Castle. There are over 140 stalls to choose from when searching for really nice handmade items and this is one of many gorgeous Christmas markets close to Frankfurt.

Take the funicular up to the Heidelberg Castle and stroll around the Castle Garden where the illuminated residence and lit pagodas ooze “I love Christmas” holiday feeling.

Heidelberg Christmas MarketMannheim (15 minute train ride from Heidelberg)

By now you may be tipsy from all of that Gluhwein you’ve been enjoying, so from Heidelberg, hop on the street car and before you can recite The 12 Days of Christmas, you’ll be at Mannheim’s Christmas markets. By the way, all markets serve a non-alcoholic version called Kinderpunsch.

Centered around the impressive colorfully lit water tower, there are many stands to find the perfect gift or enjoy another beverage. My favorite is the Moroccan tea stand where they serve the most amazing mint tea and Moroccan sweet treats.

As Mannheim undergoes a city center transformation on their well-known shopping area Planken, so has their Christmas market. There are actually several markets spread throughout the city aside from the one around the Mannheim Water Tower. There’s a quiet one where burning wood warms up shoppers, one for children near Paradaplatz, and yet another group of stands behind Engelhorn (Mannheim’s version of Neiman Marcus).

Bad Wimpfen (50 minute drive from Frankfurt)

The Bad Wimpfen Altdeutsche Weihnachtsmarkt (Old German Christmas Market) dates back to 1487 when Emperor Friedrich III granted Bad Wimpfen the privilege of being allowed to hold a market before Christmas.

Just a 50 minute drive from Frankfurt, you’ll notice something special as you approach the city. The skyline of Bad Wimpfen is lit producing a magical atmosphere. The Blaue and Rote Tuerme (Blue and Red Towers) form the striking backdrop of the medieval town. Once you reach the city center you are surrounded by an array of half-timbered houses brilliantly illuminated with hundreds of lights.

Because the Bad Wimpfen German Christmas market is so authentic, it’s equally popular too. This market is only open on three weekends and can get really busy. You’ll need to park outside of the city center and take the bus or walk to the festivities. If you’re still in the mood for the sound of trumpets blowing and the town’s band playing carols, this is the market for you.

After visiting one or all of the Christmas Markets close to Frankfurt you’ll know why I love Christmas in Germany. So, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.




An Autumn Day in Germany

It seems as if autumn has passed me by this year. It’s early November and the leaves from the plantain tree in front of my balcony are softly falling to the ground like a light spring rain—low, mellow, and uncoordinated. The leaves quickly pile up meaning I should sweep and dispose of them on a daily basis, but I don’t. I postponed the chore because yesterday was the perfect late Autumn day in Germany. So I blew off housework to capture autumn along the Deutsche Weinstrasse. The drive from our home to Deidesheim, a quaint wine town, is only 30 minutes away, but as soon as I enter the beginning of the Deutsche Weinstrasse (German Wine Route) the distance feels as if I’m miles away from our city-village.

I notice a group of laborers harvesting radishes which appear like bouquets of red flowers surrounded by leafy green petals. The field workers carefully pull them from the moist and fertile soil. They had better hurry though, radishes mature quickly. I had better hurry too as my hunger pains are also maturing and the hours of sunshine this time of year are reduced.

The roads leading towards the Deutsche Weinstrasse soon appear well-paved and the trees spaced evenly apart are orderly and well manicured. It’s very clean and pristine, but not pretentious compared to other wine towns and regions I’ve visited. Judging by the amount of vineyards, villas, and plastic surgery clinics, there’s money in this wine-producing region, but the atmosphere is low-key and so is the mood.

As we approach the Deidesheim city limits the vineyards appear like gold-colored match sticks lined up horizontally and diagonally. The tiny grapes have been harvested except for the Beerenauslese (selected harvest of berries) made from overripe grapes often affected by noble rot.

The day was meant to meander throughout the vineyards and get a good workout, but it’s after 12 noon. That means many of the restaurant kitchens will take a break before the supper crowd, so I frantically pick up the pace passing antique shops and closed shops rushing to find a good restaurant that’s still open.

The local Gaststätte looks homey and is full of patrons enjoying a late lunch, so we decide to eat there. The day’s regional specials include kidneys in a Dijon mustard sauce served with fried potatoes and a side salad. Good old German cooking, perfect for an autumn day in Germany.

I should order the Saumagen (pig casing stuffed with potatoes, carrots, pork, spiced with onions and seasonings), but due to the chilled air, opt for something even heartier.

Now onto the vineyards to work off the calories from the Tiramisu I ordered—not exactly German food, but nonetheless delicious.

Here, Mother Earth is sympathetic to the vineyards located in the Palatinate region so blesses the fertile soil with grapes, fig, lemon and almond trees. It’s so refreshing walking amongst the vineyards which connect one little village to the next. This time of year the golden hues amongst the backdrop of the blue sky are simply amazing as the sun shines through the leafy vines.

It’s just another typical autumn day in Germany, but every time as I embark on to the vineyards, the oxygen fills my lungs and my spirit. This day was an amazing “feel good” moment to remember.




Aeolus, Zeus, Poseidon, and Ouzo

Day 4 in Greece is not as I had envisioned it. I had imagined waking up on the island of Poros to sunshine, not wind, rain and cloudy skies. I imagined at least getting my feet wet in the gorgeous clear waters of the Saronic Gulf island, but Aeolus, Zeus, and Poseidon, Greek gods of weather had masterminded something else—a trip to an Ouzeri to drink Ouzo. We finished our tea on the balcony overlooking Askeli Bay. Despite the unforgiving weather, the views of the bay and surrounding mountains were outstanding. Especially today since several yachts were lining up for a regatta.

Askeli Bay, Poros, GreeceI put on the lightweight down coat I had purchased the previous day in Athens since I hadn’t properly prepped for travel. What a lifesaver considering the cold weather. My oh my, what activity could save us in these chilly temperatures? How about viewing the parade to mark the Greek national holiday—a celebration of the beginning of World War II? Still trying to figure that out!

The walk into Poros (a Greek island only a 45-minute ferry ride from Athens) is mainly downhill. The curves can be a bit daunting as the occasional car or motor bike drivers hug the road causing us walking-folk slight anxiety as we approached them head on. I felt safer as the seemingly orphaned dogs walked along our side running and barking after the drivers.

Athens dog adoption
Dog in Galatas waiting for Greek mezedes

After 15 minutes we reached the center of Poros to view the festivities—classic pomp and circumstance between the city officials and military representatives, ending with the parade of school children marching down the dockside street to cheers from proud parents, locals, and visitors. It’s simple and uncomplicated, just like Poros.

The best view of the parade was from the Porto Café, directly across where the ferries land. It’s the perfect place to chill watching life slowly pass by as you wait for a cup of coffee or a glass of Greek wine while. We’re not ready for Greek wine just yet, we’re off to an Ouzeri.

In Greece, locals drink Ouzo with their mezedes (Greek appetizers) at an Ouzeri or taverna and boy do they drink a lot of it thanks to a heavenly activity. Around the 14th century monks living in a monastery on Mount Athos started distilling Ouzo. The national drink increasing became more popular and in 2006 the Greek government gained exclusive rights to the name. Therefore, if it’s not made in Greece, it can’t be called Ouzo.

Ouzo, Greece's national drink
Drinking Ouzo in a Greek Ouzerui

As the sound of the ferry boat intensified, so did the stench of its diesel fumes. The boat wobbles to the dock and the captain graciously held out his calloused hands to help the passengers onto stable land.

As the boat continuously rocked back and forth, so did my nerves. Poros to Galatas is just a five-minute ferry ride but the thought of a small fishing boat taking me across waters to the Ouzeri, made me a bit squeamish. You see, I’m not an alcohol drinker, but the thought of visiting an Ouzeri sounded intriguing.

Before boarding, I looked disappointingly up at the dramatic grey skies and the ferry boat driver says “Tomorrow the sun will shine.” I answer, “Today I will drink Ouzo.” He replies, “Then today the sun will shine.”

Poros, Greece
View of Poros, Greece

On this national holiday, Galatas’ waterfront restaurants and cafes were pretty dead, but we continued to walk through town until we reached the Ouzeri. I figured we were close because the seemingly uninhabited town became alive with laughter, hooting, and hollering. Could those sounds be due to a Greek soccer match playing on television? Perhaps the emotions from Ouzo consumption were coming out of the local town folk? It was in fact both.

We placed our order and in no time a small bottle of clear liquid arrives along with a bowl of ice cubes, glasses, and water. I felt cheated receiving a tiny bottle, but became alarmed as the neighbor table of eight adults consumed one tiny bottle amongst them. Oh no, I think we’re in for trouble.

Could there be a science to drinking Ouzo aside from taking your time and consuming lots of mezedes? Well yes, because when mixing Ouzo with water it turns opaque and whitish. That’s because the anise oil dissolves and becomes invisible when mixed with a conventional alcohol content, but as soon as the alcohol content is reduced, the essential oils transform into white crystals, which you can’t see through. Bet you didn’t learn that is science class.

Ouzo and Greek Mezedes
Ouzo and Greek mezedes

Seated amongst the locals, we slowly sipped Greece’s national drink which is made from a precise combination of pressed grapes and herbs and berries including aniseed, licorice, mint, wintergreen, fennel and hazelnut. Ouzo tastes medicinal and familiar. I think my mom gave me cough medicine that tasted like Ouzo. Wait, maybe it was Ouzo!

As the milky-colored drink tantalized our taste buds, so did the array of mezedes we ordered. Yummy anchovy fritters (Gavrokeftedes), pickled octopus (Htapodi xidato), fried squid (Kalamaria tiganita), oregano fries, and my all-time favorite fried cheese (Saganaki) surronded our tiny bottle of Ouzo.

With a 45% alcohol content Ouzo is powerful but not as powerful as the views of Poros from Galatas. Your eyes are drawn to the towering historic clock, the colorful blend of neo-classical homes, tavernas, and yachts. As my eyes drifted and the skies brightened, I think saw Aeolus, Zeus, and Poseidon or was the Ouzo speaking to me?

Today I drank Ouzo, and indeed the sun did shine.