Archive | December, 2010

“Fatties in the snow”- our glorious food tour of Paris, Copenhagen, Berlin and Prague

19 Dec

 A high school science teacher once told us that people require more calories in the cold in order to heat our bodies.  Lately, I have translated this to- “It’s snowing! Quick, eat everything!!” (granted, the number of bratwursts consumed over the past month are probably enough to provide heating for a small family, but that’s a minor detail)

Anyway, Elisa, Steph and I did a little European adventure recently, and since it has been mighty cold, we thought it would be a perfect chance to warm up by, well, eating everything in sight. Here are some highlights:

 … Paris

  I was with my mum and brother for this leg, and we happily decided to consume as many croissants, crepes and hot chocolates as we could stomach in 2 days. Yummy things we had included:

    -Breakfast croissant and hot chocolate from a “boulangerie” (that’s the snazzy french word for “patisserie”)

    -ham and cheese crepe from a street stand for lunch

   – Traditional French dinner at “Comme a Savonnieres” restaurant  in St Germain (mains included delicious veal, duck, steak with blue cheese sauce and fish stew, with snails for entree)

 ..ANd of course, the main attraction,  Angelina’s tea room on Rue da Rivoli. Decked out in marble and fine furnishings, this place is absolutely GORGEOUS inside, and has been frequented by the likes of Coco Chanel, Proust, and Parisian aristocrats over the past century.

 More importantly, it is widely toted as having THE Best hot chocolates in Paris. The famous “L’Africain”, served on a silver platter with a jug of rich cream on the side, is the richest, thickest and most delicious thing you will ever taste. Top that off with a slice of the delicious mille feuille (a scrumptiousvanilla slice with layers of custard cream and crispy thin  pastry), and the signature “Mont Blanc” dessert (a meringue, creamy thing topped with noodles of sweet chestnut paste), and you are on your way to sweet, sugary heaven.

The amazing hot chocolate

Mont blanc

desserts 🙂

 
 

more desserts...

 

….Copenhagen

 Compared to Paris, Copenhagen was a little disappointing on the food front, largely because eating out will cost you an arm and a leg. Seriously, I’m talking 8 Aussie dollars for a small cup of hot chocolate! (It was cold. I was desperate). In any case we did manage to score some yummy carnival eats at the Tivoli gardens- this amazing Christmas themed amusement park/ winter wonderland full of rides, illuminated trees and castles and chinese pergodas (as well as delicious churros and hot dog stands)  

Churros with ice cream

Tivoli gardens at night

…  Berlin   

One of the best things for a foodie to do in Germany is a visit to the Christmas markets, and luckily for us, Berlin is the capital of German Christmas markets. Our market tour took us to the main one at Alexanderplatz, as well as the slightly swankier (and in my opinion, better) christmas market Gendarmenmarkt. (You have to pay 1 euro entry, but you more than make up for it with all the amazing free samples) Delicious things we sampled included:  

  • Bratwurst and currywurst (many times over)
  • Delicious Melted cheese scooped out of a warmed cheese wheel and spread across fresh slices of bread
  • Langos  (deep fried dough topped with tomatoes, sour cream and cheese. Also known as a heart attack on a plate)
  • Berlin chocolates   
  • Candied nuts  
  • Juicy Pork sandwiches 
  • And of course, Gluhwein!!! (mulled wine)

 

pork sandwiches

 

langos

Berlin chocolates (and free sample plate)

The other great thing about Berlin? Cheap, good asian food. In fact, cheap everything. Elisa, Steph and I were all shocked and ecstatic to find decent sushi for under 5 euro (impossible to find in Amsterdam!)

On the recommendation of some friends, we also ate ate a fantastic and reasonably pricedVietnamese-fusion restaurant – Monsieur Vuong, – where we feasted on delicious spring rolls, vermicelli/chicken noodles and pho. Supposedly the best Vietnamese in Berlin!

Delicious shrimp spring rolls at Monsieur Vuong

…Prague

Prague is an absolutely stunning- especially in the snow. Quaint colourful houses, cobble stoned streets, snow capped rooves… the whole city looks like it’s straight out of a fairy tale. The Christmas markets at Old Town square are equally lovely. I am too lazy to describe just how lovely, but here are some pics:

hams on a spit (or the biggest shish kebab you've ever seen)

more hot dogs in prague

  All in all, a very fun trip! And ,as planned, I think we’ve all successfully managed to put on an extra layer of fat to insulate us through the cold European winter!

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Other handy travel tips

  • For the best macaroons in Paris, I am told that Pierre Herme  in St Germain cannot be beat (Although La Duree on the Champs Elysee is meant to be up there as well!). My friend Kristen brought back some to Amsterdam when she was visiting (in flavours like creme brulee, grean tea and passionfruit/dark chocolate), and they were ridiculously amazing.  
  • If you cannot afford a walking tour, but are  keen to learn a bit about Czech culture, a good tip is to hang around important looking buildings and eavesdrop whenever an English speaking tour group walks by. You can do this by pretending to take photos of nearby things. Chances are they’ll never spot you!
  • A word of warning- J walking is illegal in Berlin, and enforced. Quite bizarrely, in Berlin, one can urinate, fornicate, or run around naked in public, but walking across the street when the little red man is flashing could land you with an 80 euro fine!
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Cheungs visit Amsterdam: sexmuseum, windmills and the best apple pies in town

12 Dec

So, my mum and brother (and my friend from Paris, Kristen) were in town the other weekend, and as I now consider myself somewhat of a semi-local, I put it on myself to provide a fully fledged food/ sightseeing tour of Amsterdam for the occasion.

 As many exchange kids will know, having parents visit is a fantastic thing- not only because you love them and miss them dearly, but because of the happy certainty that for a few glorious days, you will be able to eat to your hearts content without  having to worry about whether you can afford next month’s rent. It’s also a fantastic excuse to do all those embarrassing touristy things you never got around to doing in your first week- eg the windmills/ clog making factory in Zaanse Schans, or the Amsterdam Sex museum. 

 ( Incidently, taking your mother to the Sexmuseum is not as mortifying an experience as one might think. In fact, it can be rather entertaining, like the moment when your mum turns to you, while observing a collection of 1800s black and white pornographic photographs, and says in hushed Chinese: “Jen, these girls aren’t very pretty at all are they?” )

 Our visit to Zaanse Schans was equally entertaining, because it just so happened that the day we went, the town had been transformed into a sort of “black pete” wonderland in the lead up to Dutch Christmas. Upon entering, we saw about fifty dutch people in full black pete attire,  my favourite being one particularly fetching fellow who had fashioned himself as “Elvis Black pete”, complete with black quiff, sunnies, and a red silky ruffle top.

 

            (Black Petes hand out peppernoten to the children, and the hungry Australians)

 Elvis Black Pete

As it turns out, the local kids were graduating from “Pieten academy” that day after completing their “Pieten” training. Here is a picture of Kristen with the “Pieten diploma” she received from SintaKlaas (actually I think it belonged to a little boy called Sven Van de Heugel or something who had carelessly left it behind, but same same)

 

Anyway, back to food. In my opinion, a food tour of Amsterdam really isn’t complete without the holy trifecta– stroopwafels, Mannekin pis French fries, and apple pies from Winkel.

 Winkel is a café located at Noodermarket which, I have it on firm authority, has THE best apple pies in Amsterdam. I have been there several times, none of which have disappointed. Here are some pics:

mum and apple pie

 These pies are just, in a word, awesome- big fresh chunks of juicy apple (none of that artificial syrupy filler nonsense), encased in a warm, crumbly, cinammony-sweet crust, and served with a generous dollop of whipped cream.  

 In fact, so good are these pies, that if you come on a market day (Saturday or Monday), this is all they serve. The place is essentially transformed into a pie making factory, with one guy popping whole pie after pie out of the oven, another lining about ten of them up on the counter factory line style, a third taking orders and making coffees. Word of warning, on market days, the place is kind of pandemonium. The place is usually packed and you could find yourself waiting a good twenty minutes for a seat.  But believe me, it’s worth it!

To date, the only real challenge for the spot of “Best dutch Apple pie”  is from my friend Evelein, who claims that her home-baked ones are better than Winkel. Big claim my friend, to which I say that the only resolution is a good old fashioned Iron Chef style cook-off.  I for one, am more than happy to taste and judge!

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Winkel

Noordermarkt 43, 1015NA Amsterdam
Tel: 0206230223   |   Web: http://www.winkel43.nl