Monday, February 27, 2012

Who are You Wearing?

It must be Oscar Night!

Another reason why Billy Crystal is the best:

"Nothing can take the sting out of the world economic problems better than millionaires handing out gold statues to each other."

Call me uncritical.  Call me sentimental, but I really liked the Oscars this year.  It was tightly-produced and scripted, but Crystal was masterful, and everyone was wonderful.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

San Diego

Our final destination was San Diego.  This time, I simply asked nicely for a room with a view, and the pleasant Californian behind the desk kept her word.  We had a great view of the harbor and could also see Coronado Island -- and the ocean if we stretched a bit.  This was my first trip to San Diego but certainly not my last.  Although this was a business trip for me, Blogger Boy Junior and I managed to have a great sushi meal on Fifth Avenue one night.  We ate Mexican food two nights in a row.  The best meal, however, was the breakfast buffet at the hotel, where we stocked up on all the comfort foods that we know and love:  french toast and waffles with fresh berries, all covered with maple syrup, huevos rancheros, bacon, breakfast sausages, naturally sweet orange juice, and all the coffe you can drink.  I tacked on an extra day before we flew home so that we could do some shopping at a nearby mall and then meet friends for lunch.  My friend, a colleague from my first job in my prior life, now lives in Irvine with his family.  He and his wife drove down for lunch and showed us around.  We drove out to Coronado Island and had lunch there.  After that we drove back around San Diego to Point Loma, getting to the park, with its great view of the ocean and San Diego, just before it closed.  We then took a quick drive past the zoo and a couple of other points of interest before we were dropped off at our hotel.  It was a real whirlwind tour for which we were grateful.  

Room with a View -- USS Midway/Harbor from our Hotel Room

San Diego Skyline from Coronado Island

The Pacific Ocean near Cabrillo Monument

Cabrillo Monument at Point Loma

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Real Vegas

Few know that The Las Vegas Strip, a portion of Las Vegas Boulevard famous for its casinos, is not really located in Las Vegas.  Downtown Las Vegas has its own casinos and traditions.  I met friends down there for drinks one evening and was happy to get a different view of the Las Vegas experience.  The Strip has grown very expensive and upscale these past years.  (The cup of coffee from the water boiler in my room on the Strip cost USD 11.00!)  We spent way too much money on breakfast and dinner on the Strip.  Downtown Vegas is less expensive, not as classy as the Strip, but more authentic in many ways.  If you are nostalgic for lots of flashing lights, take a cab downtown to compare Fremont Street with your digs on the Strip.  You'll not regret it.

Fremont Street w/ Fremont Hotel & Casino on the Right

Room with a View

I slipped the man at the desk $ 20 to get a good view.  It paid off.  I fell asleep two nights in a row in the little lounge chair next to the window.  Bloggerboy Junior was along for the trip.  Too young to gamble (in Vegas) and too young to drink (in Vegas), he concentrated on the food and shopping and made plans for after he turns 21.

Paris to the left; Bellagio to the Right -- it must be Vegas.

Eis am Main

February 12 was a cold, clear day, so I decided to take a walk along the Main to see how far the winter freeze had progressed.  I've been in Frankfurt since 1989 and cannot remember ice on the river.  It ain't much, but I was impressed.  I wonder how many more weeks of sub-zero temperatures it would have taken to permit ice skating.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Seen at the Subway Station

Taken with my New Nikon Coolpix
I'm travelin' light now.

Crispy News

After stumbling across Pierre Zimmermann and his blog, Crispy News, yesterday while posting about a local bakery, I spent some time reading about Monsieur Zimmermann at his blog.  Here is an intersting article in English that gives you a quick introduction to the man and his project in Chicago.  Of particular interest to me is the fact that Zimmermann is from Alsace and that he got his start as a trainee at the famous Pattisier / Traiteur Naegel in Strasbourg.  This completes the circle back to my haunting grounds.  I've been there.  Who knows, I may even have eaten pastries baked by M. Zimmermann.   Now I have to try Alsatian Beer Bread.

"I am a Baguette"  P. Zimmermann

Saturday, February 11, 2012

My New Breakfast Place

Un Croissant

Late last year we went to a film at the Berger Kino in Bornheim.  Afterwards, we looked for a place to sit for drinks.  We noticed a new French bakery and café next to Café Wacker, but it was getting ready to close and was not a bar, so we went a couple of doors down for drinks and made a note to come back.  This week I had an early appointment in Bornheim and attended it without having had time for breakfast.  After the appointment, I remembered the little bakery and decided to give it a try.  I brought home a croissant and a pain au chocolat.  Only in the past five years or so has it been possible to easily obtain true French croissants and other baked goods in Frankfurt that rival the quality that one finds in France.  (Don't get me wrong, there are bad baked goods in France, too.) The classic German croissant often looks tantalizingly similar to its French cousin, but the first bite ends in disappointment:  different flour; not enough butter.  In the past couple of years the quality of French-style baked goods has risen dramatically, but there are often large quality differences within the selection at any given baker.  Even our local bakery, Mayer, bumped up the quality of its croissants dramatically these past months after starting a cooperation with a local chain of French-style bakeries, La Maison du Pain a few years ago. 

I'm happy to report that Baguette Jeanette sells some of the best French-style baked goods that I have tasted in Frankfurt.  What do I mean with "French-style"!  These are French baked goods.  A blind tasting would not reveal that they came from outside France.  I found a write-up about the café at a French expat site entitled  From that site I learned that the friendly proprietress who served me is named Jeanne Prêcheur and that she obtained her recipes from "Pierre Zimmermann, maître boulanger et vainqueur en 1996 de la Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie" who, apparently, now lives in Chicago and teaches at The French Pastry School.  It is not clear exactly what le petit journal meant by "a fait appel à Pierre Zimmermann ... pour l’élaboration de ses recettes", but I suspect some sort of consulting fee was paid, not that Mme Jeanne was begging or pleading or compromising her virtue to obtain the info.  Oh boy, whatever she did, it was worth it.  If you read French, you can check out Monsieur Zimmermann's blog, Crispy News as well.  I remember seeing a documentary recently about the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie and distinctly recall seeing Zimmermann.  This is globalization at its best:  a master baker from France goes to the US and spreads his knowledge to Chicago and then back to Frankfurt.  What really strikes me as ironic is the fact that french-style bakeries caught on a long time ago in the US.  We were able to find high-quality baked goods back in the Eighties.  Granted, German baked goods are quite good in their own right, so in that respect they were way ahead of us, but for those of us longing for a good croissant or baguette in Germany, well, it was a long wiat.  Of course, I can hop in my car and be in Strasbourg in two hours, so don't feel too sorry for me.  Furthermore, many of the darker breads that form a staple of German baking have been making their way to France where they are quite trendy, so cross-pollination takes place constantly.  It is no coincidence that some of the most creative cooking goes on in the border region between France and Germany.  Cooks and craftsmen from Alsace and Baden are to be found in some of the best restaurants and shops around the world.

This morning I dragged Frau Bloggerboy back to Baguette Jeanette for breakfast.  Germans, at least the urban variety that I know, traditionally are late starters on the weekend.  The French and the Americans get out earlier on a Saturday morning.  Baguette Jeanette opens at seven on Saturdays and eight on Sundays, sinfully early by German standards.  Poor Jeanne Pêcheur initially opened at six every morning, but I think she got lonely and moved her opening times back.  We arrived for breakfast at 8:30 and were the first guests seated, although the take-out business obviously had been functioning.  We went upstairs and were greeted by one of the most inviting café atmospheres in Frankfurt.  Lots of loving detail went into decorating the upstairs.  There are several sofas along both walls and in the middle of the room, each with different upholstery.  The photos and commercial art on the wall add a distinctly feminine touch, which might be borderline kitchy for some tastes, but it works for me by softening the more masculine furniture.  There is even a chess board qua table in one corner.  The room invites one to sit and stay.  In addition to a local paper, there was a free Le Monde Weekend for francophone guests.  I had a large café au lait, a croissant and a pain au chocolat.  Frau Bloggerboy had coffee and half a mini-baguette with a chees plate.  She ordered butter and marmalade extra.  My baked goods were fine as usual, with just a bit of chill left from the presumably fresh delivery from the remote bakery a couple of hours before.  The cheeses served were of a high quality, but Madame Prêcheur appears to have made an attempt to accommodate local tastes by serving the harder cheeses that many Germans prefer.  There were small squares of a cow's milk Bergkäse, a ripe cheddar, and a spreadable bleu.  Frau Bloggerboy, a true francophile, would have preferred a slice of Camembert and Chèvre over the harder cheeses.  That gave me a chance to sample each of the cheeses that she left on her plate.

By the time we left, there were about nine other guests upstairs and downstairs, not enough to generate a profit but encouraging, but the bakery was doing a brisk business as well, in spite of the fact that the street market blocked the entrance .  I'm going to spread the news.  I will be a regular guest there from now on whenever I am up and out early on a Saturday or Sunday.  If you're looking for a nice place to sit before or after visit the Berger Strasse street market on Saturday morning, this is the place for you.  Here is a short TV report (in German) on the café that I found on the web.  We took some baked goods home for the kiddies and two mini-baguettes for dinner.  I had a nice glass of Merlot this evening with the baguette slices coverd with cheese and hummus.  The baguette has a nice, crisp crust that held until the evening.  The dough is not as fluffy as the typical grocery store baguette, clearly "artisanale".  Update:  after a few minutes in the oven at 80 degrees Celsius this morning, the baguette was perfect for a Sunday breakfast as well.  This is the real thing!

I meant to bring my new Coolpix along and forgot.  I'll supplement this post later with a few pics.  [March 4, 2012.  Here are a couple of pics of the upstairs:]