Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Taste of Germany

Before going on our German vacation I was a little nervous that I would starve.  I knew little about the foods of the country, except for knowing that bratwurst and sauerkraut are a country favorite.  I like a bratwurst every-so-often, but it isn’t one of my favorite foods.  Sauerkraut, on the other hand, I really dislike.  Needless to say I was anticipating I would be making a few stops at McDonald’s after dinner every night.
I won’t say that I loved all German food, or that I will be cooking up bratwurst and sauerkraut once a week now that we are home, but I definitely did not starve.  We had some absolutely delicious meals during our trip, and also had some other meals (especially soups) that I didn’t favor.
Here’s the foodie highlights from our trip:
We couldn’t go to Germany without having a bratwurst from a food cart vendor.  The brat was actually very good, and pretty similar in taste to what we make on the grill in the States.  The size of the brat was a little longer than what we normally see, and the bun used for the meat was much smaller.  It was a miniature size, harder hotdog bun.  I chose mustard for my brat, which turned out to be more of a brown mustard, not your standard yellow mustard sold in the grocery stores.  One of the biggest surprises for me with the brat food cart vendor was the price.  For one brat it cost 1,60 Euro.  Of course the Euro is worth more than the U.S. dollar, so we actually spent more than that, but compared to other meals it was the cheapest we had on our vacation.
Our first bratwurst of the vacation!
It seemed on almost every corner in the bigger cities we visited there was a bakery with rows of pretzels on display for sale.  The pretzels were similar to what you might get at a baseball game.  We split a pretzel one afternoon after exploring a beautiful Cathedral.  The pretzels were also fairly cheap compared to other lunch items.  Pretzels are also used as appetizers, similar to how rolls are used at different restaurants in the U.S.  Restaurants will bring customers a basket of bread and rolls along with a few pretzels hanging off of a little wooden bar.  Pretzels are also never eaten with melted cheese in Germany, but always mustard.
Enjoying a pretzel from a bakery in Cologne.
Asparagus was in season while we were in Germany which meant we got the pleasure of trying “Spargel,” or bleached asparagus.  Apparently green asparagus is harder to find in Germany, so most Germans will eat Spargel over the type of asparagus we are used to.  Spargel tasted the same as the asparagus I eat at home, but was a different color, white.  The spargel we had was drowned in butter and was extremely thick.  I liked spargel, but after 3 huge stalks of it I couldn’t force myself to eat the last few pieces on my plate.
Looks funky, but tastes pretty good!
Nuremburg sausage was one of our “local flavors” we had included in our vacation package.  Once we stopped in Nuremburg we all traveled to a local restaurant to try the Nuremburg sausage.  Our travel guide kept telling us that even though it looks like the breakfast sausages we were used to it was actually much different.  I’m not sure how it was different.  To me, it didn’t taste different, look different or smell different; however it was served differently.  Instead of eating the sausage plain as I’m used to doing, three sausages were served on a hard bun.  We ate the sausages like a sandwich, with, for those who could and wanted to partake, beer.

This restaurant cooks up 600 Nuremburg sausages at a time!  They are extremely popular in Nuremburg. 
Munich is also known for a certain bratwurst called Weisswuerste.  This brat is made from veal and is white in color.  Our tour guide told us to eat the bratwurst you need to pull off the skin or coating before eating the insides.  Just the unnatural color of this sausage, and the manner in which you have to prepare it before consuming I knew I would not be trying this local treat.  JC, however, did try the bratwurst and said with the special mustard that you were supposed to put on it, it was actually really good.  I’ll take his word for it.  Watching him eat it did nothing to boost my confidence in the taste factor.
JC's sausage plate with a sampling of Weisswuerste.
Every night when dinner was provided as part of the vacation package we were served a three course meal.  Most meals started with some sort of soup (which I was rarely a fan of) and then ended with dessert which usually ended up being Apple strudel.  Our Apple strudel adventure started at dinner on our own one night at an authentic German restaurant.  We had been on the trip for about three days at that point and decided we wanted to try the Apple strudel for dessert for the first time.  It was delicious!  The next night for our group dinner we had Apple strudel, and it seemed every night after we ended up having Apple strudel.  We had the dessert so many times that I can’t even remember which place had the best dessert.  What I can remember is that all of the desserts, except for one were delicious!
Another local flavor that we got to try was Black Forest Cake while we were in the Black Forest.  Black Forest Cake is made with several layers of chocolate cake, with whipped cream and cherries in between the layers.  It is often made with a small portion of alcohol, normally Schnapps.  I don’t especially love chocolate or desserts made with whipped cream, so this dessert wasn’t one of my favorites.  I preferred the numerous samplings of Apple Strudel.
While stopping in the quaint little town of Rothenburg our tour guide told us the must-try dessert of the town were Snowballs.  Walking through the cobblestone streets we could see just about every bakery had row upon row of different kinds of Snowballs.  The traditional snowball is dusted with powder sugar, but JC and I took the advice of one of the shop workers and tried a snowball filled with Nugget filling.  I found the dessert to be okay, but not something that I will be trying to make at home or ordering online to be shipped over.  Most people on the trip tried the Snowballs, and very few of them enjoyed the taste.
Germany is known for Christmas and many of the holiday’s traditions, so it may not be surprising to know that Gingerbread cookies are extremely popular in Nuremburg.  Our tour guide told us locals only eat the cookies at Christmas time.  The cookies were apparently very expensive and a treat to get once a year during the holiday.  Now only tourists buy the cookies year-round.  Being a tourist, we had to buy the cookies.  They were very good and a definite must for anyone to try who is visiting Nuremburg.
In my opinion, the biggest difference between German and American beverages was the water.  In Germany water is served with carbon or gas.  When you go into a restaurant and ask for water the waiter is going to bring you carbonated water.  I had this happen to me a couple times and each time produced in me making a terrible face.  It just doesn’t taste good!  To get the normal water that Americans are used to we would have to say “water with no gas” or “Sparkling/mineral water.”  The water from the faucet was safe, so I kept a water bottle and filled it up each morning.  The cost of buying beverages in a convenience store in Germany was much more expensive than what it is in the states.  The country is trying to push recycling more, so they have added a deposit to all glass bottles.  If you wanted the cheapest beverage on the shelf though, it wasn’t water or pop.  It was beer!  Beer was usually at least a dollar cheaper than other beverages in all places.  This didn’t help my budget out any since I am not able to drink due to Baby Fultz happily growing in my belly.
Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of the German cuisine, I definitely enjoyed a few of the German flavors.  If I wasn’t in the mood for a sausage or pretzel at lunch I knew I would be able to find an Italian pizzeria.  They were everywhere and had the best bruschetta I’ve ever tasted in my life!
Loved the Italian pizza and bruschetta in Germany!  Makes me want to go to Italy.
More on the Germany trip to come..

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