When: Annually, 16 days before and including the first Sunday of October
1 Maß beer = 8.80€
1/2 Bradhendl = 7.80€
1 Kaiserschmarrn = 12.10€
Oktoberfest brings together three of the most important aspects (at least in the eyes of foreigners) of Germany: beer, dirndls and lederhosen, and wurst (and other grilled and roasted forms of meat). The Wiesn is one of the biggest festivals in the world, and starts 16 days before the first Sunday of October.
There are all sorts of types of food – mostly carnivorous – to try: Schweinebraten or Scheinehaxe (roast pork or roast pork knuckle), a variety of würstl (I like Käsekrainer, a cheese-stuffed sausage stuffed in a bun), Kasspatzn (Käsespatzle, see Kookie’s post here), Reiberdatschi (shredded potato pancakes), and Weißwurst (white veal sausage usually only eaten before noon for breakfast, also see here).
I think Joanna’s favourite was Leberkäs (corned beef and pork), while mine was definitely the Brathendl (roasted chicken). These come in half-chicken portion right off the spit, and are still crispy-skinned on the outside, fatty and juicy on the inside, and really, REALLY hot. The only real way to eat them is to just pull it apart with your hands – the stalls provide moist towelettes to clean your hands off after it’s all gone.
More than 700 million liters of beer are drunken each year at Oktoberfest. For the occasion, the Munich breweries that participate in the festival – Paulaner, Löwenbräu, Hofbräu München, Hacker-Pschorr, and local favourite Augustiner – brew a special type of beer called Märzen. This beer has a slightly higher alcohol content than most beers, a property that helped the beer keep for longer in the old days when there was no refrigeration and people weren’t allowed to brew beer in the summer (because of the risk of fire).
And of course, there isn’t only meat and beer served at the Wiesn. For those that have a sweet tooth, there are also plenty of choices available. Crepes, chocolate or sugar-coated fruit kebabs, gingerbread hearts (more for decoration than eating), and roasted candied nuts can be found every few feet. Our friends also recommended that we try the Kaiserschmarrn at the Schützenzelt (literally, the Shooters Tent, one of Löwenbräu’s tents), which they said was the best Kaiserschmarrn at the festival. An Austrian dessert, Kaiserschmarrn is fried pancake bits, usually served with some kind of sauce. Ours came in a hot pan with caramelised raisins and toasted almond slivers and a dish of pflaumen sauce (plum sauce) in the middle. Excellent when it’s just hot out of the oven and it’s just starting to get a little cold outside.
So, after an excellent Oktoberfest this year…who wants to come next year? 😉
Falling snowflakes always make me smile, but now, at the top of February, even I’ll admit that the snow on the roads is starting to get a bit annoying. Somehow, snow before Christmas always seems like a pleasant surprise, and snow after the New Year just seems to be a hindrance. Yes, I wish it was still December, too.
Last December, Joanne and I went on a bit of a mini-tour of Europe, stopping by several Christmas markets on the way (9 in total). Christmas markets (deu: Weihnachtsmarkt or Christkindlmarkt) are very traditional for Germany and usually coincide with the beginning of Advent. Dating back to the Middle Ages, there’s one in almost every German town (or so I’ve been told). Some were small and quaint and some were massive, taking hours to navigate. Some cities – Prague, Berlin, Vienna – had several. So which one was the best? Find out below…
My Christmas market experience started this year, as it did the year before, in my current place of residence, Saarbrücken. One of the most unique aspects of the market here is that, twice an evening at 17:00 and 19:00, Santa Claus flies across the market in a sleigh running along a wire. Now, I can imagine this would cause a whole slew of legal problems in North America – what happens if the sleigh falls, or something drops on someone from that height, who do we sue – but the Europeans, I find, have a much more lax sense of safety and a greater sense of adventure. He is accompanied by David’s favourite Christmas song (Wi-Wa-Weihnachtsman, komm mit deinem Schlitten an…). There are typical Saarlandisch specialties, a mix of French and German cuisine, including Joanne’s favourite Christmas market snack that year – Schwenker. And of course, there’s always the wonderfulness of standing around drinking Glühwein with a large group of friends =)
The self-titled ‘Capitale de Noël’, in the Alsace region just across the border from where I am, has a number of Christmas markets. The nicest ones are at Place de la Cathédrale and the one at place Broglie (Christkindelsmärik). The one in front of the cathedral is especially breathtaking at night – the glow from the stalls, the smell of tarte flambée (deu: Flammkuchen), ‘Glüe Wein’, four-cheese baguettes, spiced apple cider, and freshly made crêpes.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
My friend Florian once said to me, “Rothenburg ob der Tauber? Yes, I know where that is. But why would you want to go there?! There’s nothing!” Well, Flo, perhaps you don’t understand their magic appeal on tourists like me 😉 Rothenburg fulfils every image I ever had of a quaint medieval Christmas – it’s that good. The market itself is a bit small, since there’s only so much space, but the setting makes it feel very traditional. Be sure to also stop by Käthe Wohlfahrt (Herrngasse 1) for Christmas, any time of the year. And stay away from Schneeballen – you’ve been warned.
The most dominant feature of the Nürnburger Christkindlmarkt is the shear abundance of Lebkuchen, the most famous of which comes from Lebkuchen Schmidt (Plobenhofstrasse 6, am Hauptmarkt). Lebkuchen is a soft, gingerbready cross between cake and a cookie, with honey, nuts, and spices, but without those horrible green and red “fruit” pieces as in fruitcake. Nürnburger Lebkuchen is a Protected Designation of Origin, and is one of the first things that I buy during the Christmas season (I could polish off a 10-pack in two days).
The heart of Bavaria features a sprawling Christkindlmarkt that runs down Neuhauserstrasse and Kaufingerstrasse to Marienplatz, the heart of the city. There, the market lies in front of the Rathaus, lively and filled with Glühwein and grill stands. I found that the Münchener market also had an unusual number of roasted nut stands…not that I’m complaining. There were toasted almonds of all sorts – normal sugar, Nutella, dark chocolate, cinnamon, even a special Christmas blend – and it served as my late-night snack on the overnight train to Rome.
I experienced my first Germanic Christmas market here in 2007 with Candy, and I will never forget the taste of fresh Apfelkrapfen from the Weihnachtsmarkt in front of the Rathaus. I had the unfortunate experience of eating an ice cream cone filled with meringue dipped in chocolate (I can’t remember what it was called, but I didn’t know what it was at the time)…I wouldn’t recommend these. I WOULD recommend, however, you pick up a Käsekrainer at one of the many stands – it’s a delicious cheese sausage in a warm bun jacket filled with ketchup and mustard.
The Christmas market in Salzburg has possibly the most fantastic natural setting of any of the Christmas markets I’ve ever been to. The smell of freshly baked Bretzeln and intricately painted egg ornaments (you break, you buy) are set against the stunning backdrop of the Austrian Alps. Drop by a café anytime for some crisp apple strudel – even better with warm vanilla sauce – “these are a few of my favourite things…”
I absolutely LOVE Prague – it’s one of my favourite cities in Europe – largely due to the hearty Czech cuisine. Trdelnik, Morovian smoked ham on the spit, Goulash with soft bread dumplings to soak up the sauce – all good stuff. The Prague Christmas market sells my number one favourite snack of all the snacks in any Christmas market I’ve ever been to – langosh. This is a Hungarian snack, fried dough topped with garlic oil, cheese, and ketchup. Sure, you may not think that sounds delicious now, but when it’s freshly deep-fried and served straight away, you might not be so sure anymore…
The Berliners sure do love their currywurst, so of course they sell it at the Christmas markets, too. In fact, they even have a machine that chops up the wurst into even pieces in about 2 seconds. They also have an outdoor skating rink at the one by Alexanderplatz. The Christmas market at the Gendarmenmarkt is really pretty, with a huge Christmas tree and all the tents topped with stars, but it’s 1€ admission.
For some weeks now, I’ve been obsessed with the film Julie and Julia. For those unfamiliar with the film, it’s about blogger Julie Powell’s attempt to cook all 524 recipies of Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in 365 days. A wonderful romantic comedy exploring the struggles of the titular characters, this movie was also the best “foodie film” i’ve seen in a while.
When I knew my friends Oui and Chinggay were coming to Heidelberg for Christmas, I made sure to plan a party with memorable food. Of course, being far from home, I immediately thought that some Filipino food would help with the holiday homesickness (thus the Christmas dinner Oui posted about). For our Christmas day lunch, however, I wanted something a bit more extravagant since my other friends from Heidelberg would also come over. Still not over my “Julie and Julia” phase, I took my inspiration from it and prepared dishes featured prominently in the film along with some other ones that had a Christmas feel.
So here’s our Christmas lunch menu! Recipies will be featured in succeeding posts.
Modified Waldorf Salad
Since we did last-minute shopping for this dish, the supermarkets all ran out of walnuts! I decided to substitute hazelnuts and it still turned out fine. I used three kinds of apples for this one: Red Gala, Pink Lady, Granny Smith.
Poultry and Stuffing
Oven-roasted whole chicken and turkey legs (flavored with herbs and cream) Served with a creamy gravy and cranberry sauce
I originally wanted to roast a whole duck or goose, but since I wouldn’t have room in my fridge to thaw the thing two days before Christmas, I opted for a smaller chicken and two giant turkey legs. The poultry was massaged with herbed butter (with thyme, oregano, garlic, and nutmeg) and baked. Towards the latter part of the baking, it was basted with thick cream about three times. The cream-basting was inspired by a recipe from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. The creamy drippings was then used to make the gravy.
Sausage, Apple, and Sour Cherry Stuffing
I bought sour cherries in syrup from the supermarket and I wanted to use them in a stuffing for the roast poultry. I then searched for a recipe online and that led me to something that used pears, croutons, and sour cherries. I wanted a savory component to the dish, so I just made up my own recipe on the fly, adding onions and fresh bratwurst. I was crossing my fingers the whole time I was cooking it and was just basing everything on my knowledge of the individual ingredients’ flavors. In the end, it turned out a success and was the dish that got the best reviews!
Oui’s Chicken Afritada
Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourgignon
Served with steamed rice or spätzle (egg noodles)
In a cold country, nothing says Christmas more than a warm, hearty stew. For this, Oui volunteered her Afritada. On top of this, I knew there was only one other stew fit for the occasion, and that was Boeuf Bourgignon. Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourgignon.
We followed every step as much as possible, except that we couldn’t find any good Pinot Noir from the Bourgogne region, so we just followed Julia’s suggestion and used a nice Chianti. Also, I added about two tablespoons of sugar to balance the acidity of the wine. Since I had vegitarians in the crowd, I also made one sans beef but with extra mushrooms.
The preparation for the bourgignon was intense, but in the end it was all worth it. When we opened the lid after simmering then slow-cooking in the oven for two and a half hours, the scent was intoxicating. Even before seasoning the stews, we were already impressed with the depth of flavor in there. It was umami like we had never tasted before. The first bite into the melt-in-your-mouth beef was pure bliss. (I’m salivating now just thinking about it again. I think I’ll thaw out some leftovers now…) I’m so glad I tried out this recipe and added it to my repertoire.
Note: We cooked this the day before and just reheated it in the oven in time for the party. It tasted even better!
Reine de Saba (French Chocolate Almond Cake) and Elisen Lebkuchen
This cake was also featured in “Julie and Julia” in a montage of cooking sessions. The characters looked like they enjoyed the cake so much that it inspired me to try it out. The cake was very easy to make (thanks to my Christmas gift to myself: a Tefal Prepline Stabmix/whip set). I deviated from the recipe and added a tablespoon of Amaretto to the choco-butter icing. We also enjoyed shots of the liqueur while eating the cake. It was like biting into a rich giant fudge brownie. Yum!
Also, a German Christmas wouldn’t be complete without some Lebkuchen, so I got a roll of the genuine glazed Nürnberger Elisen Lebkuchen (ie. the expensive one) which we all enjoyed.
It wasn’t the easiest of Christmas lunches, but with the help of friends, I was able to make it happen. I had a blast cooking with and for them and I’d definitely do it again next year. Now to plan the menu for that…
Frohe Weihnachten und einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr! Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon!
After surviving an en route train change at Köln which left me bewildered and a little bit lost, I found myself safe and sound in David’s town—Heidelberg, Germany—for the initial part of the ADMU Chem-Europe Christmas reunion.
That evening, we went out and did the first slew of groceries in the nearby Kaufland for the Christmas Eve dinner (Noche Buena) and Christmas lunch.
The subsequent grocery raids happened the next day (24th), which left David’s pantry literally overflowing with ingredients.
The afternoon of the 24th found us back at David’s residence, cooking (I’m proud to say that it has been a privilege to be his sous chef, because I learned a LOT). Not just for the Noche Buena, but also for the Christmas lunch (see David’s post)—bouef bourgignon and mushroom bourgignon (for the lunch party), and creamy chicken sopas and David’s version of German fiesta ham.
On to the food!
The creamy chicken sopas.Sopas is a colloquial Filipino term (derived from Spanish) for a noodle soup dish. In this case, the generous amount of milk used in this dish and the slow simmering brought out the full flavor of this comfort food. We were delighted to taste its sweetness despite the obvious lack of added sugar. Amazing.
1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
25g bacon, chopped
half a carrot, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
chicken pieces (2 wings, 2 legs)
chicken giblets (liver, gizzard, neck)
1 cup of chicken stock
spiral macaroni noodles, approx 1 1/2 cups
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Sweat bacon. Add olive oil, garlic and onions. Let onions caramelize. Saute chicken pieces.
Add diced veggies. Add chicken stock and milk. Bring to a boil and simmer at low heat for at least 30 minutes. Add macaroni.
Once the macaroni is cooked, remove pot from heat. Keep warm or serve immediately.
Glazed (German) Fiesta ham. No, David did not make fiesta ham from scratch—he bought a 2-EUR bone-in ham from a Kaufland and a can of pineapple slices in light syrup. Preparation was pretty much straightforward: line aluminum pan with pineapple slices, place ham on top, stick in oven until the ham is nicely browned. The glaze was prepared from the canned fruit’s light syrup with a bit of sugar.
Assessment Those two simple dishes, served with baguette rolls and Boursin (really good cheese…must grab some when I’m back in Leuven after the holidays), brought what we really missed that Christmas Eve—the memory of Christmas at home with family. Coupled with bantering, jokes and good conversation, our first Heidelberg Christmas still had a Filipino heart.
It’s 7 PM Christmas day and all the activities for the holidays have died down. This is my first Christmas home since I left for Germany in April 2007 so I try to take in as much of the season as possible. By take in, I mean I pretty much inhale whatever food is offered to me. I will probably regret this come weighing time in January.
Last night, we had two dinners for Noche Buena.
The first one was at my house at about 7:30 PM. I know it’s too early. But my dad, who’s a month away from retirement can’t stay up til midnight so we decided to have our family dinner early. Oooh boy did we have a dinner.
We had paella. Obviously a remnant of 333 years of Spanish colonization.
Pancit Malabon, an orange-colored stir fried noodles that originated from the city of Malabon. It’s topped with shrimps, pork cracklings, slices of hardboiled eggs and vegetables.
It’s not the Cebu Lechon that topped Anthony Bourdain’s hierarchy of pork, but it was still good. I must confess that I took majority of the crunchy skin pieces. And if anybody complained, I would have just said we didn’t have it in Germany.
There were several choices for dessert, including leche flan, ube halaya (purple yam), buko pandan, but I only manage to take a photo of the suman, a sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves.
The boyfriend kept calling it tamales, which I fervently protested because suman is sweet. I didn’t eat suman for dessert but opted to eat it for breakfast on Christmas morning. I mean it was too much for last night 🙂
Come 11 PM, we left my dad home and went to my cousin’s house which is just a walking distance away from ours. Then it was Noche Buena Part 2.
There what awaited us was lasagne.
With a some garlic bread on the side.
There was a small salad corner.
And we downed everything with some Mompo. You read that right. Mompo, as in the mass wine.
Our other option was The Bar flavored vodka and gin which in my opinion taste like cough syrup.
We went home at about 2:30 AM, full from all of the eating we did.
But you know what’s great about having all these dinners? LEFTOVERS!