I’m a little bit bitter about this post. I worked up a draft the other night and saved it in WordPress but it has somehow managed to disappear completely. Grrrr. And of course I didn’t think to save a version in Word, so I’m starting from scratch. Maybe it will be better the second time around. One can hope….
We left Frankfurt on Sunday morning and drove down to Strasbourg, France. Pops speaks fairly fluent and quite flawless French so its always entertaining when I try to say a French word and he invariably corrects me (usually with a sigh of disbelief that my 3 1/2 years of high school French have served me so poorly). On the drive down I was quite entertained by the many times he had to correct my butchered pronunciations of French car companies.
When we arrived in Strasbourg I was somewhat surprised to learn that Strasbourg is home to the European Parliament. Mostly I was surprised because with all the Economist reading I’ve done over the last 6 years this is a piece of information I feel I should have already acquired. Regardless, I immediately fell in love with the town and began plotting an eventual career transition that will allow me to work for some member of the European Parliament. I think the key element of this plan will be obtaining British citizenship (which actually, due to my ancestry, I think I’m entitled to).
Upon arriving in town we checked into our hotel and immediately set out for the center of town. We were waylaid on our way there by my inability to ever feel satiated on this trip (i.e. I needed lunch). We found a little kebab place that looked good and decided to give it a try. I thought I’d win over the guy at the counter if I attempted to order my meal in French. Ha! He was not impressed and I think it is safe to say that he did not like me at all. Unsurprisingly, I ordered wrong and was confused/disappointed when I ended up with only a sandwich and no fries. Thankfully Pops smoothed things over and seemed to make some sort of peace with Mr. Surly. I never did get an order of fries, but Hill and Pops were gracious enough to share (Hill, quite wisely, let Pops do the ordering for her). Regardless, the sandwich was delicious and I’ll admit that I’m pretty easily appeased when you put some tasty food in front of me.
To make our initial introduction to Strasbourg even better we then found a patisserie nearby. Hillary and I stuck with the tried and true – an eclair for me and a cream puff for her. Pops, who (again) speaks the language, ordered something that looked good without asking the sales lady what it was and was subsequently disappointed. (In case you haven’t yet come to this realization it seems only fair to note that today’s post is overly focused on the food we ate in Strasbourg, as for me, that was the highlight of our time there.)
We did eventually make our way to the Cathedral which was a truly beautiful and impressive site.
We decided to take a river cruise following our visit to the cathedral as we figured it would be a nice way to experience the town. Walking along the river before the cruise Pops, in the interest of making sure I was fully informed, asked, “Schpan, do you know this is a river?” Uh, yeah, thanks Pops. In his defense (and I promised to include the following explanation if I mentioned this on the blog), he initially thought it was a canal that the French had built to connect the center of town to the Rhine, but in fact is a river all its own. The river cruise was delightful, especially the nice 30 minute nap I took towards the end. Have I mentioned that Pops and I occasionally (read: always) fall asleep at inopportune moments? Yeah, this was another one of those. I’m chalking it up to jet lag. I think that’s fair when you’ve traveled between 4 time zones in just over a week. Unsurprisingly Pops also fell asleep on the cruise which had Hill rolling her eyes at both of us. However, we both managed to stay awake long enough to experience the boat’s trip through the locks, which I think might just be the highlight of Pops’ entire vacation.
For dinner we found a little restaurant not far from the center of town that was truly fantastic. Highlights of the meal included Hill’s first bowl of French Onion Soup (I also ordered a bowl) and a super thin crust pizza we all shared that I’ve been calling a Flaming Tart because that is what the French looks like to me (Tarte Flammbe). Hill’s entree was one of the more entertaining aspects of the meal. Basically she ended up with a big bowl of sour cream (actually quark cheese) and pan-fried potatoes. Its apparently a regional specialty, and she loved it, but it wasn’t quite what any of us were expecting. As for me, I was overwhelmingly happy with my big bowl of mussels in a spicy tomato broth. Delightful. The other highly entertaining aspect of our meal was the woman who sat across from us and had a reserved table for herself and her dog. But you know, it just wouldn’t feel like we had visited France if we didn’t have at least one experience involving a French person’s devotion to their dog. And really, I can’t mock because if I realize my current career ambition to secure eventual employment at the European Parliament that might one day be me.
Monday morning we woke up early (at least for us, which really, isn’t very early at all) and did a little more exploring. Hillary was determined to find a Christmas store we saw advertised during the boat ride and I was hoping to locate a little gingerbread store recommended in our tour book (gingerbread being another regional specialty). Success was ours as we found both shops in addition to a sable (French butter cookie) shop and a bakery where I was able to buy a pain au chocolat for breakfast and a baguette for the road. The baguette incited a somewhat heated argument between Pops and I over whether to buy salted (him) or unsalted (me) butter to go with the bread. My position was that in France, you should always buy unsalted butter for your baguette. Really, he has more experience in this realm than I do, but as I was the one with the Euros, I bought the unsalted variety and was very, very happy with my choice. After breakfast Hillary and I burned a few calories climbing to the top of the Cathedral to admire the view, and we then hit the road for Munich.
Surprisingly, I do actually have a recipe for you today. Its even somewhat French. Amazing, I know. This has been one of my favorite recipes for about a year and a half now and has been making a regular appearance on my family’s table at holiday meals. Its incredibly easy and super delicious. It comes from my favorite food blogger, Molly, over at Orangette. If you try this recipe I think you’ll see why I love her blog. Her recipes generally focus on simple, fresh ingredients with incredible results.
Broiled Asparagus with Vinaigrette
1 bunch of asparagus
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. white wine or champagne vinegar
1 T. Dijon mustard
½ t. fine sea salt
5 T. extra-virgin olive oil
scant 1/8 t. pressed garlic (I like using a garlic-flavored olive oil instead of fresh garlic in this recipe)
1 hard-boiled egg, finely chopped
Zest of half a lemon
Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Spread asparagus out on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil (again, I like the garlic-flavored oil here), and toss to coat. Roast for 10-12 minutes and then transfer asparagus to a serving platter.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, and salt. Add the oil, and whisk well to emulsify. Taste, and if necessary add a bit more oil. Add the garlic and whisk to combine.
To serve, drizzle the vinaigrette over the asparagus and top with the hard-boiled egg and lemon zest.