The Burger Bar

The Burger Bar is not your usual hamburger joint, far from it. Located in the attractive Donald Ross Village Plaza in Palm Beach Gardens, the Burger Bar is pure Florida fun…sophisticated yet funky, gourmet but casual.

The Burger Bar, Not Your Usual Hamburger Joint

The Burger Bar, Not Your Usual Hamburger Joint

Red And Black Interior Of The Burger Bar

The Striking Black And Red Interior Of The Burger Bar…Sophisticated Yet Funky

With its striking black and red interior, a wall of meat grinders used as a room divider, wood topped tables with industrial looking metal chairs, a huge retro picture of a man and woman riding an antique motorcycle leaning against one of the restaurant’s walls and lots of large screen TVs mounted above the bar, you know you are in for a good time.

Meat Grinders Make A Clever Room Divider

Meat Grinders Create A Clever Room Divider

A Large Retro Picture Of A Man And Woman On An Antique Motorcycle Leans Against One Wall Of The Burger Bar

A Large Retro Picture Of A Man And Woman On An Antique Motorcycle Leans Against One Wall Of The Burger Bar

Sitting inside would have been nice, but after recently escaping New England’s cold and snow for the warmth of Florida, my husband and I decided to have lunch outside on their pretty courtyard. I’d call it outdoor dining at its best with tables surrounding a large gurgling fountain and tropical palms. Again the decor reflects the black and red theme. You can’t help but notice the chandeliers made from wine bottles that hang over the large bar that must be a favorite place for locals to enjoy a cocktail and watch sports on four large screen TVs on a pleasant afternoon or an evening under the stars.

The Outdoor Courtyard And Bar Of The Burger Bar

The Outdoor Courtyard And Bar Of The Burger Bar

Service was prompt and friendly. We ordered drinks while we looked over the large and varied “gastropub” menu. Of course, handcrafted burgers are the main feature…you will find beef, buffalo, lamb, turkey, chicken, tuna and mahi mahi listed. Vegetarians are not left out either with choices such as black bean, Portobello and even a caesar salad burger. If you are not in the mood for a burger, don’t worry, as there is a nice choice of salads, wraps, and wings.  There is also an array of small dishes under the heading quick picks such as beer battered corn dog bites, lobster mac-n-cheese, and panko crusted pickle spears with mustard aioli which we couldn’t wait to try as the Burger Bar makes their own pickles…they were crispy and flavorful.

Panko Crusted Fried Pickle Spears

Panko Crusted Fried Pickle Spears With Mustard Aioli

For our burgers, my husband ordered the Beach Burger with applewood smoked bacon, swiss cheese, pickles and a “beach sauce” made with mustard and mayo on a pretzel bun. I enjoy spicy food and ordered the Hot Mess Burger with applewood smoked bacon, cheddar and swiss cheese, jalapeño peppers and their “blasting sauce”, which tasted of citrus and chipotle peppers on a challah bun. Both burgers were served with lettuce, tomato, red onion and pickle chips. Once assembled, they were a huge mouthful of beefy goodness. The hamburgers both came with a side of fries. We tried their house cut white truffle oil and parmesan fries and the sweet potato fries which were served in a cute miniature deep fry basket…hot, crispy and good.

Gourmet Burgers And Fries At The Burger Bar

Gourmet Burgers And Fries At The Burger Bar

After our meal, executive chef Matt Miller, who is originally from our part of the world down in Weymouth, Mass., stopped by our table to see how we enjoyed our meal. He told us that he has been at the restaurant since its inception and approved of what we ordered, saying that the burgers were two of his favorites.

What can I say about the Burger Bar…it certainly isn’t like any hamburger joint in my rural area of New England. With prices ranging from $9.50 for their Great Burger to $19 for their “top shelf” Prime Steak Burger, I would say prices are about what you would expect for a gourmet burger that was so big, I couldn’t finish it.  Certainly more than you would pay for a frozen beef patty that has been cooked, served on a plain bun, wrapped in paper and passed to you from a drive through window but well worth it. This was a filling meal made with quality ingredients, served on dishes and presented in a cleaver way at a fun restaurant in beautiful surroundings.

 

 

 

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What A Winter

What A Winterfour snowstorms in less than a month! Thank goodness, that my husband and I could get away for a couple of weeks. Each February, weary of the winter cold and snow, we head south to celebrate our anniversary in the warmth of the Florida sunshine instead of the bitter cold and snow of New Hampshire. After a blizzard dumped three feet of snow on the ground at the end of January, we were very happy to be able make our annual escape to Florida.

Click on any photo to enlarge and see a slide show.

Looking at the photos above, where would you like to be in February.

As usual, we had a lovely anniversary. We also got to spend time with our children and grandchildren in south Florida before heading up the coast to check on the progress of our new home being built in Vero Beach. After two weeks of warm weather and delicious food, it was time to pack our bags and fly back home.

When traveling in the winter, we always keep track of the weather up north. Just before checking out of our hotel in Vero Beach and heading to the airport in West Palm Beach on Valentine’s day, I decided to check with our airline and it is a good thing I did. The fourth snowstorm in less than a month was heading toward New England. Snow and the threat of dangerously high winds caused the airlines to cancel hundreds of flights in and out of Logan Airport, the Boston Transit Authority shut down all their trains and buses, and people were advised to stay off the snowy roads because of the impending blizzard. Our hotel in Vero could only extend our stay for one night. Luckily, we were able to get a room at one of the airport hotels in West Palm Beach for an additional three days until we could fly home. Needless to say, we didn’t get home for a romantic Valentine’s dinner but we did get to enjoy warm weather for an extra four days.

I’m sure that most of my readers have seen what Boston looks like on your local or world news. Unfortunately, it is the same here in New Hampshire. All I can say is, if every winter was like what we are having this year, all New Englanders might just call it quits and move south. After you see my photos, I think you might see why we will be doing exactly that, later this year.

Our Long Drive With High Piled Snow

Our Long Drive Lined With High Piles Of Snow

We are lucky to have wonderful friends who look after our home when we travel. After each punishing snowstorm that occurred while we were gone, our drive was plowed and our walk shoveled. Our porch roof had to be shoveled off for a second time in less than a month as snow piled so high, it entirely covered the front windows on the second floor of our home. Good friends are priceless and we are thankful for their help when needed.

Our New Hampshire Home After Four Snowstorms In Less Than One Month

Our New Hampshire Home After Four Snowstorms In Less Than One Month

The Porch Roof Has Been Shoveled Twice This Month Because The Second Story Windows Were Totally Covered

The Porch Roof Has Been Shoveled Twice This Month Because The Second Story Windows Were Totally Covered

Our Truck And Plow Waiting For The Next Snowstorm

Our Truck And Plow Waiting For The Next Snowstorm

Pretty High Snow Piles…Snow Boots, Pants, And Coat, Where Is My Shovel

Pretty High Snow Piles…Snow Boots, Pants, Coat, And Gloves, Now Where Is My Shovel

One thing that none of us knew was that while we were gone, one of our home’s thermostats stopping working because of a bad battery. The result caused a pipe in my potting shed to freeze. Wednesday, as the weather warmed above freezing, the frozen pipe melted. We were greeted by the sound of water flowing down into the basement when we arrived home. Thank goodness, we only had about an inch of water in part of our basement. The water in the basement has now been cleaned up, fans are blowing to dry everything up and life can return to normal.

Frost Obscures The Light And View Outdoors  But The Patterns Are Beautiful

Frost Obscures The Light And View Outdoors But The Patterns Are Beautiful

By normal, I mean another day of bone chilling temperatures, staring out the window at a black and white world as snow continues to fall (95 inches have already fallen this winter), plowing and shoveling snow. We are quickly running out of places to put the snow and this is only the middle of February…what a winter.

We thought of ourselves as hardy souls when we decided to leave Florida twenty years ago and move to New Hampshire. Most people who live here are but after this winter, we are so happy that we have decided to move back south. Perhaps in future years, we will come back to New Hampshire but I can guarantee it won’t be in the winter.

 

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Warm Lentil Salad With Merguez…A French Bistro Meal

A Warm Lentil Salad, an item found on many French bistro menus, is a simple but flavorful dish when topped with spicy lamb Merguez sausages. Old fashioned French comfort food at its best, it’s perfect for either lunch or your evening meal. If you don’t care for sausages, you could top the warm lentil salad with confit duck legs, pan seared salmon or even a runny poached egg. Enjoyed with a crisp baguette and a glass of red wine, this dish will transport you to one of the cozy, unpretentious French bistros hidden along the back streets of Paris.

Warm Lentil Salad Topped With Merguez Sausage…A French Bistro Meal

Warm Lentil Salad Topped With Lamb Merguez Sausage…A French Bistro Meal

I used dark green Lentils de Puy for my salad. These delicious little legumes, known for their exceptional flavor and texture, are from the Auvergne region of France but are also grown in Italy and North America. They cost more than other lentils and may be hard to find in some areas, but I think they are worth searching out as they hold their shape well and have a nice nutty flavor. If you can’t find the green lentils, you can substitute brown lentils but the texture and taste of the salad will be very different. If you use brown lentils, simmer very gently and don’t overcook them or you will have a mushy dish.

 Warm Lentil Salad With Merguez Sausage

Serves two, adjust the recipe accordingly

Vinaigrette

  • 2  Tbsp. of either sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • a good pinch of sea salt (about 1/8 tsp.)
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. finely minced shallot
  • 2 tsp. of a good Dijon mustard (whole grain mustard can be substituted)
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, prepare the vinaigrette by mixing the vinegar, salt, pepper and the minced shallots. Let sit for about 5 minutes so that the shallots soften a little. Stir in the mustard and then whisk in the oil in a slow, steady stream. Taste and adjust the vinaigrette, if needed. If it’s too sharp, add some more oil. If it seems too bland, add more vinegar, mustard or salt to your own taste.

Salad

  • 2 spicy lamb Merguez sausages (Saucisse de Toulouse, Chorizo or other well seasoned  sausages of your choice can be substituted)
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • 1/2 small bulb of fennel, diced (optional)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3/4 c. green Lentils de Puy, checked for small stones and rinsed well
  • 1 c. chicken or vegetable broth
  • water
  • a few sprigs of fresh parsley and thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 potato (I used Yukon Gold), peeled and diced*
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced*
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • fresh chopped thyme or parsley for garnish (optional)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the sausages and cook until done and a little crispy. Remove from the pan and keep warm. In the same saucepan, add the onions, celery and fennel, sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute. Add the lentils, broth, and water to cover by about 2 to 3 inches. Add the parsley and thyme sprigs, bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium high, bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Partially cover the pan with a lid and simmer the lentils until they are just tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, cover the diced potatoes and carrots with cold, salted water. Cook over moderately high heat until the potatoes and carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain well and place in a large bowl, toss with a little of the vinaigrette. *To save time, you can simmer the potatoes and carrots along with the lentils but their color will be a little dark.

When the lentils are done, drain well, place in the bowl with the cooked potatoes and carrots. Discard the bay leaf, parsley and thyme sprigs. Add the rest of the vinaigrette and toss well. Let sit for a few minutes until the vinaigrette is absorbed, taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. If the lentils seem dry, you can drizzle with a little olive oil. To serve, transfer the lentils to individual plates or bowls and top with the sausages.

The important thing to remember when making this recipe is to add the vinaigrette while the lentils and vegetables are hot so that they can absorb all the flavors.

****

This classic French bistro meal is quick to prepare and very flavorful. The lentils are delicious warm but are equally good cold. They would make a nice accompaniment to a simple roast chicken packed into a picnic basket along with a baguette, some cheese, fresh fruit and a lovely bottle of wine. All that is needed is a park bench close to the Eiffel tower and you would have a memorable French inspired picnic.   Bon appétit!

A Park Bench Close To The Eiffel Tower Would Be A Great Place For A Picnic

A Park Bench Close To The Eiffel Tower Would Be A Great Place For A Picnic

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A Life Well Lived

A Life Well Lived eases the sorrow of sawing “goodbye”.  My mother has passed away and while our family will miss her, we are grateful that she had a long and happy life.

My Lovely Mother, We Will Miss You

My Lovely Mother, We Will Miss You

My mother, Juanita Hughes, passed away peacefully in her sleep this weekend. She was born in Kansas almost 95 years ago, and schooled in Oklahoma. She spent the majority of her life living in Texas after she and my father were married. She was a mother to my brother and I, I called her momma, a grandmother and a great-grandmother. I believe her happiest role in life was as the wife to my father, Larry Hughes.

My mother never seemed to question my father’s ideas over the years, even when he decided to retire in his forties, move to the country and become a rancher. While growing up a city girl, she and my father started a new life on a small ranch outside of Houston, Texas.

We lived in a small four room wooden house with slopping floors, one board thick walls and a “pot belly” stove for heat until a new home could be built for us. She led a quiet life on the ranch, being a “stay at home mom” until I was in high school, when she decided to go to work to help with our family’s finances.

Even though she did not enjoy cooking, she always made a home cooked meal for our family each day when returning home from work. My favorite was her terrific fried chicken with cream gravy, it was delicious. I remember her happily picking wild grapes that lined our road with my father and I to make homemade jelly.

While being a reserved person, my mother had a fun side. When we first moved to the ranch, I remember her wearing shorts and cowboy boots to go to the local grocery store, going for moonlight horseback rides with my family and friends, and attending the famous rodeo each year in Houston.

She had a life well lived…long, happy and healthy but missed my father terribly when he passed away. It will be hard to say my last “goodbye” to her but it will be made easier knowing that two people who loved each other so much are now united once more.

May you rest in peace mother, you will be missed by your family.

 

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A Change In Latitudes

Seeking an escape from the harsh winters of New England, my husband and I decided it was time for A Change In Latitudes and a new adventure in our lives somewhere it is warm. A more southerly place with a laid back lifestyle but still offering good restaurants and cultural events nearby.

Temperature Upon Waking This Week

Temperature Upon Waking This Week

When we sold our sweet little cottage on the lake in Naples, Maine, our intention was to spend summers at our home in New Hampshire tending our apple orchard and to find a second home to spend winters somewhere in Florida. As much as we enjoyed our years living in Key Largo and Miami, we felt south Florida had become too congested for the lifestyle we are looking forward to. With that in mind, we spent time this past summer visiting the towns of Naples, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach and Vero Beach.

We decided on Vero Beach with its small town feel, beautiful beaches and parks, cultural activities and of course the mild weather. On a visit three years ago, I wrote “This small oceanfront community has all the sophistication of the Hampton’s or Nantucket without the crowds. It is laid back enough that a pair of chinos, a polo shirt and boat shoes will get you into most restaurants”.

The White Sand And Turquoise Water At Vero Beach, Florida

The White Sand Beach And Turquoise Waters Of The Atlantic Ocean In Vero Beach, Florida

We originally thought we would buy an existing home but after looking at what was available, we decided that having a house remodeled while living more than a thousand miles away would be too daunting even for experienced renovators like ourselves.

Our other option was to find a new house that was for sale but nothing was quite right. We saw houses by a builder that we liked but they were located in the western suburbs of Vero Beach. The area was nice but we felt it was more appropriate for young couples wanting to raise a family. By chance, we found an available lot in a gated community just five minutes from the beach and downtown Vero Beach and decided to have a new house built by the builder we liked. Less than half the size of our home in New Hampshire but twice the size of the cottage in Maine, the “easy keeper” will be perfect for just the two of us…even the small yard will be maintained by the community association.

My husband and I have often said we would never live in Florida again but the past couple of winters have made us change our minds. This week, temperatures have been below zero and in the teens, our long driveway is covered in ice and snow covers the ground. We have recently decided to live full time in the home we are having built in Vero Beach and list our New Hampshire home for sale in the next couple of months.

While it will be hard to leave our beautiful home in New England and the friends we have made here over the years, we are looking forward to what lies ahead and feel it is the right thing to do at this time in our life. We will only be a couple of hours away from our children and grandchildren who all live in south Florida and that will be nice.

Yes, we will be called “snowbirds” but it will be nice each winter to enjoy the warmth of the sun instead of looking out the window as snowdrifts cover a freshly plowed driveway and icicles form across the entire house. There will no longer be a need for a heavy duty pickup truck with a snowplow, a large tractor with a bucket, a garden tractor mounted with a snowblower and shovels to get rid of the many feet of snow that accumulates over the course of the harsh New England winters and that will be really nice.

The idea of being able to lock up our home and spend time traveling wherever we want any time of the year is something we are looking forward to. With the change in latitude, maybe there will be a change in attitude when anyone mentions winter to us in the future.

 

 

 

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Good Luck In The New Year

The wish Good Luck In The New Year will be spoken in many different languages by millions of people around the world as we ring in the New Year. Part of this annual celebration may include eating certain foods that people believe will bring them luck, good health, happiness and prosperity.

There are a variety of foods that are symbolic of coins or money such lentils, peas, beans, kale, collard greens, cabbage and sauerkraut. Fish is regarded as a symbol of moving forward and abundance since they swim in large groups. Pork is symbolic of progress as pigs push forward when eating and their fat represents wealth and prosperity. In many of the Spanish speaking countries, people eat 12 grapes at midnight, one for each month of the year, with a special wish for good luck.

I thought I would give you some ideas of what you might want to prepare for either New Year’s eve or day to try and bring yourself some “good luck in the New Year“. No matter whether you will be celebrating with just one special person or are planning a party for some of your friends, you will find the linked recipes to be easy to prepare and delicious.

If you want to follow the tradition of eating twelve grapes at midnight, you might want to serve Roasted Grapes With Warm Brie Crostini. It is a sweet and savory appetizer that takes mere minutes to put together. They are perfect finger food to enjoy with your glass of chilled Champagne as the clock strikes midnight and you make your special wish.

Roasted Grapes And Warm Brie Bruschetta

Roasted Grapes And Warm Brie Crostini

If you want to serve a main course of fish for abundance in the New Year, Sautéed Flounder Topped With A Shrimp Cream Sauce is a wonderful dish. The light shrimp cream sauce compliments the delicate flavor and texture of the flounder without overwhelming it. Diced tomato and basil added at the last minute makes for a pretty presentation.

Sautéed Flounder Topped With A Shrimp Cream Sauce

Sautéed Flounder Topped With A Shrimp Cream Sauce

If you are thinking of a pork dish as the main course for wealth and prosperity in the New Year, Pork Tenderloin With Gorgonzola Sauce and Chopped Walnuts will certainly be special enough for the celebration. Serve the pork with Polenta Cakes Fried In Brown Butter And Sage.

Pork Tenderloin With Gorgonzola Sauce

Pork Tenderloin With Gorgonzola Sauce

For a more casual affair you might consider a traditional German New Year’s meal of Smoked Pork Chops With Sauerkraut served with buttered mashed potatoes.

Pork Chops And Sauerkraut

Pork Chops And Sauerkraut

Or if you leaning more towards a Latin influenced meal, Cuban Pork With Black Beans And Rice is easy to prepare ahead of time for a large group of friends.

My Version Of Cuban Pork With Black Beans And Rice

My Version Of Cuban Pork With Black Beans And Rice

If you live in the southern part of the States and eat black-eyed peas for good luck, you might be making Hoppin’ John or Texas Caviar. I’ve got another suggestion, Black- eyed Pea Risotto for a little bit of an Italian influence.

Black-eyed Pea Risotto

Black-eyed Pea Risotto

If you would enjoy more exotic flavors to start the New Year, then you might like to try my vegetarian version of Harira, A Moroccan Chickpea And Lentil Soup. It is a deliciously spiced and fragrant soup you will love. You can add lamb Merguez sausages on the side for the meat eaters you might be serving.

Harira, A Moroccan Chickpea And Lentil Soup With Spicy Merguez Sausage

Harira, A Moroccan Chickpea And Lentil Soup With Spicy Merguez Sausage

I’ve shared some of my favorite dishes with you that incorporate food ingredients that many people believe will bring them luck, good health, happiness and prosperity. I hope you will get a chance to try some of them.

I will end with my own wish of “Good Luck In The New Year”, may 2015 be everything you hope it will be. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to spend time with me at Back Road Journalit is always a pleasure having you stop by for a visit.

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Christmas Time Is Here Once More

How quickly time passes, Christmas Time Is Here Once More.

The trees are all trimmed, the stockings are hung, and the cakes and cookies are baked. Come in out of the cold and join me in our country kitchen for a cup of holiday cheer.

Come In From The Cold

Come In From The Cold

We can sit in front of the fire in the old hearth and reminisce about our favorite holiday experiences.

Our Cosy Keeping Room

Our Cosy Country Kitchen

Do you want to know my favorite Christmas moment? My husband put a beautiful ring in a small wooden box and stuffed it into my Christmas stocking along with small cooking utensils. I thought it was going to be a Champagne stopper…boy did I guess wrong. I’d love to know what is your most memorable holiday experience?

I love the Christmas season and each year I put up several Christmas trees, actually six trees…one in each of our downstairs rooms. There is something about a tree decorated with twinkling lights, shiny balls and beautiful ribbons that is so very festive. I also like to gather holly, spruce, and pine branches and pine cones from our property to fill urns outside our front door and for small centerpieces that I place throughout our home to add to the joy of the season.

You might remember how I’ve decorated our home in the past. Each year, I try to make things a little different for the guests that attend our annual Christmas open house.

This year the tree in the kitchen is trimmed in burgundy, blue and gold. I know that the tree is perfectly decorated when I have a hard time finding room for another ornament.

This Year's Christmas Tree Is Trimmed In Burgundy, Blue And Gold

This Year’s Christmas Tree Is Trimmed In Burgundy, Blue And Gold

How quickly this year has passed. It is time to say once again “Merry Christmas To You” and to thank you for stopping by during this hectic season. I also wish to thank Greg West for letting me share the photographs he took for Country Woman magazine.

Wishing You A Merry Christmas

Wishing You A Merry Christmas

From our home to yours, I wish you all the best during this joyous season. No matter what holiday you celebrate, may it be filled with joy and happiness not only now but into the New Year.

 

 

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Celebrating Christmas In Germany And Austria

While Christmas at our beautiful home in New Hampshire is wonderful,  lately I been remembering Christmases past in Europe. My husband and I have found that there is no lovelier tradition than Celebrating Christmas In Germany and Austria…the Germanic regions of Europe where many of our own holiday traditions originated many hundreds of years ago and are still enjoyed there today.

I was too late in making plans to visit Europe this year but I thought I would share memories of our Christmas holidays spent in Germany and Austria. Bundling up for a sleigh ride, visiting the Christmas markets, listening to carols sung by a boy’s choir in a winter wonderland is like a dream come true.

Oh What Fun To Ride In An Open Sleigh Full Of Presents

Oh What Fun To Ride In An Open Sleigh Full Of Presents

The Christmas season starts on the Friday before Advent, which is four Sundays before Christmas Eve. Whether you visit the main square of a big city or one in a tiny village in either Germany or Austria during Advent, the town will probably have its own unique Christmas market known as a Christkindlmarkt or Weihnachtsmarkt. Small markets in rural villages are held only on the weekends but in the large cities they customarily go throughout the entire week.

Usually our holiday trips begin in Munich, Germany. With lots of different Christmas markets throughout the city, Munich feels like the Bavarian version of a movie set from “White Christmas“. Christmas trees everywhere, people wrapped up in their winter coats and scarves, holiday music, food and mulled wine…you begin to wonder if Munich might have been the place where Christmas was invented.

Munich's Christkindlmarkt At The Marienplatz

Munich’s Christkindlmarkt At The Marienplatz

We always stay at the Vier Jahreszeiten Munich, a five minute walk from the former residence of the kings of Bavaria. The beautifully decorated lobby is a popular meeting place for locals and Müncheners refer to it as the living room of Munich. After a cold day wandering the cobbled streets admiring the Christmas sights and sounds, it is a nice place to warm up with a cappuccino or hot chocolate and watch as guests come through the doors loaded with shopping bags full of presents from the beautiful shops nearby.

Warming Up With A Cappuccino In The Vier Jahreszeiten Beautifully Decorated Lobby

Warming Up With A Cappuccino In The Vier Jahreszeiten’s Beautifully Decorated Lobby

From the hotel, a leisurely 10 minute walk takes you to the Christkindlmarkt held at the Marienplatz, Munich’s most famous square, in the old center of town. You know you have reached the market when you see a glittering 100 foot tree in front of the New Town Hall and its famous Glockenspiel. Large crowds mingle in front of hundreds of small wooden stands, many elaborately decorated with fir branches and lights, where wooden toys and hand carved nativity sets, beautiful glass ornaments, candles and holiday novelties are sold. The aroma of sizzling sausages under piles of sautéed onions will lead you to stands selling crispy potato pancakes, gingerbread, stollen, roasted candied almonds, chestnuts, and large pretzels.

Click on any of the photos to enlarge and see a slide show.

When the cold and snow has made your fingers and toes go numb, it is time to head to one of the stalls that sells hot glühwein, a heavily spiced and mulled red wine. Here you are likely to see men dressed in traditional loden coats adorned with horn buttons and hats decorated with boar bristles sipping hot glühwein with their wives and friends.

Small children walk hand in hand with their parents across the Marienplatz to see the large window displays at one of the department stores. Their eyes grow big and they start to giggle as they look at hundreds of toys and stuffed animals in animated holiday scenes.

Stuffed Animals In Animated Holiday Scenes

Stuffed Animals In Animated Holiday Scenes

Not far from Marienplatz is the famous food market, the Viktualienmarkt, an excellent place for foodies to visit. Besides cheeses, meats, exotic mushrooms, vegetables, fruits and honey, a variety of stalls sell freshly cooked Bavarian specialties such as the plump white veal sausages known as weisswurst that are served with sweet mustard along with Bavarian beers and local wines. Besides selling food, venders also sell Christmas trees, seasonal flower arrangements and straw ornaments.

Viktualienmarkt, Munich's Famous Outdoor Food Market

Viktualienmarkt, Munich’s Famous Outdoor Food Market

Knowing the foodie that I am, our Christmas trip to Munich wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Dallmayr, a luxury food store that dates back to the 17th century. After visiting the delicatessen with its cheeses from everywhere in Europe, meats, sea food, special teas from around the world, breads and seasonal pastries, we usually have lunch or at least pastry in the store’s very good restaurant upstairs.

We pass the famous Hofbräuhaus on the way back to our hotel. Open even on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, the famous brewery should definitely be visited at least once. You might get lucky and see their beer wagon sitting outside just waiting to be pulled off by the Clydesdale team with their harnesses covered in jingle bells.

Hofbräuhaus Clydesdale Team With Harnesses Covered In Jingle Bells

Hofbräuhaus’ Clydesdale Horse Team With Harnesses Covered In Jingle Bells

Of course, Munich is more than just the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas. On each trip, we try to visit at least one of the city’s museum which are some of Europe’s finest. A full day can be spent touring the historic Munich Residenz or the modern BMW museum, either of which are a wonderful place to visit when you can’t take the cold anymore.

For the next stop on our Christmas trip, we head to city of Salzburg. On most visits, we stay on the outskirts at one of the well known spa hotels and take day trips into the city. Salzburg’s Christkindlmarkt, one of Europe’s oldest markets, is small compared to the ones in Munich. It has a lovely atmosphere with the huge medieval Hohensalzburg fortress perched high above the Cathedral of Salzburg. The square is decorated with garland and white lights hung from above and has stalls surrounding the large fountain covered in glass for the winter. The stalls sell some of the prettiest Christmas ornaments I’ve seen, wooden toys, hand knitted scarves and traditional clothing. Of course there is hot mulled wine to keep you warm along with sausages, roasted apples, chestnuts, candied almonds and spicy gingerbread.

Upon leaving the Salzburg area, we drive south to the Tyrol region and stay one day in Kitzbühel, known as one of the world’s best ski areas. While my husband and I don’t ski, we do enjoy the historic medieval center and its small Christmas market.  The town is especially pretty at night but it was snowing too hard to get photos of all the Christmas lights that makes it look like an old fashioned Christmas card when lit in the evening.

Shopping Street In Kitzbuhl

Shopping Street In Kitzbühel

We spend Christmas at one of our favorite hotels in the Tyrol, the Jagdhof Spa and Hotel, just twenty minutes outside of Innsbruck in Neustift. This area is stunning as it is surrounded by the spectacular peaks of the Stubai mountains. It feels like coming home when we walk into the beautifully decorated Tyrollean hotel and are greeted with a heartfelt hug from Christina Pfurtscheller, one member of the lovely family that owns and oversees this wonderful spa hotel.

Christmas Eve seems to be more important than Christmas day in Europe. During the day we stop by the parish church of Saint George, the second largest village church in the Tyrol region. From the outside it appears very plain but once inside you are surprised by its rococo design and magnificent frescos.

While Plain On the Outside, This Tyrollean Church Is Magnificent

While Plain On the Outside, The Tyrollean Church Of St. George Is Magnificent Inside

Back at the hotel, the evening starts with an outdoor gathering of all the families to hear the story of Christmas, then Santa arrives in a horse drawn sleigh to distribute packages to all the children. We then like to enjoy having a glass of Champagne in the bar before going into one of the lovely dining rooms.

After enjoying a gala multi course meal and perhaps an after dinner drink in the bar with newly met friends, we snuggle into our comfy feather bed for the night. The next morning, we awake to the sound of church bells announcing the arrival of Christmas.

Snow Covered Mountains

Snow Covered Mountains

Looking out the hotel window at the freshly fallen snow that covers everything in sight, you can’t help but admire the glory of nature and its winter wonderland. I dream of celebrating another white Christmas spent in Europe…perhaps next year.

 

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Veal Marsala

Veal Marsala, a meal many of us only consider having at an Italian restaurant, is easy to prepare at home. This tasty, one pan dish of tender veal topped with a light mushroom Marsala wine sauce and placed on top of buttered fettuccine is a quick and elegant dinner to serve when entertaining throughout the year.

Veal Marsala On A Bed Of Fettucini

Veal Marsala On A Bed Of Fettuccini

Since this recipe only requires a few ingredients, I try to use the best that I can find. For this special dinner, I cross the New Hampshire border and head down to a gourmet grocery store 25 miles away in Massachusetts. There I can find beautiful veal scaloppini, sliced thinly from the leg, veal demi glace and Marsala wine. Veal demi glace, if you can find it, is an ingredient that adds a depth of flavor to the sauce but beef stock can be used in its place. I suggest using a nice Marsala wine because if it isn’t good enough to drink, you don’t want to use it in this special dinner. My husband prefers a semi sweet Marsala wine for the sauce but dry, which I prefer, is what I used in this recipe. This fortified wine from Sicily will add a rich caramelized and savory flavor to the veal. If Marsala is hard to find where you live, you could substitute another fortified wine such as Madeira or sherry which would give you a similar but slightly different taste. A less expensive alternative to veal Marsala but equally delicious, would be chicken Marsala prepared the same way.

Veal Marsala

Serves two, adjust the recipe according

  • 4 thin slices of veal scallopini (about 3 oz. each), chicken may be substituted
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • flour for dusting (I use Wondra)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter plus an additional 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced (I used Baby Bella)
  • 3/4 c. Marsala wine
  • 7 oz. container of veal demi glace (I used D’Artgnan) or 1 c. beef stock
  • 1/8 tsp. truffle oil (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley

If the scallopini are large, cut them in half. Pat the veal dry with paper towel, season each side with salt and pepper then dust lightly with flour, shaking off any excess. In a large sauté pan, heat 1 Tbsp. butter with 1 Tbsp. oil over medium high heat. Add half of the veal and sauté briefly 1 to 1 1/2 minutes per side just until it turns a light golden brown, being careful not to overcook. Remove the veal from the pan and set aside. Repeat with another Tbsp. butter, olive oil and the remaining veal. When cooked, remove from the pan and set aside with the other veal.

Using the same pan, add 1 Tbsp. of butter, the shallots and garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add an additional Tbsp. of butter, the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until the mushrooms are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add the Marsala and cook over medium high heat, stirring often, until the wine is reduced by half. Add the demi glace or beef broth, whichever you are using. Simmer until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Stir the remaining Tbsp. of butter into the sauce, taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Add the truffle oil, if using, and the chopped parsley. Return the veal to the pan along with any accumulated juices. Turn to coat and simmer the veal no more than a minute to heat through as the veal will dry out if even slightly overcooked.

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I served the tender veal and its savory mushroom wine sauce over a bed of fettuccine that had been tossed with a simple mixture of olive oil, butter and finely chopped fresh parsley. If you do the same, have your pasta ready and kept warm before adding your veal to the sauce. A mixed green salad, some crusty bread and a good bottle of red wine make a great accompaniment to this delicious meal. Buon Appetito!

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Tart With Shortbread Crust…As Easy As Pie

With Thanksgiving just days ahead and Christmas next month, if a pumpkin, pecan or apple pie is one of the desserts you will be serving during the holidays, then your pie making is probably in full swing by now.

Apple Tart With Lattice Crust

Apple Tart With A Lattice Crust

On the other hand, does the thought of making a pie crust have you questioning the old saying, “easy as pie“. If you are one of those people who think a golden, flaky crust like the one pictured above is unobtainable, then you should try preparing a fruit tart with a shortbread crust that my husband enjoys making.

Caramelized Apple Tart With Shortbread Crust

Caramelized Apple Tart With Shortbread Crust

You don’t have to worry about the dough sticking to the rolling pin or to your counter. Actually, you can forget about having to roll the dough at all. There is also no worrying about if the dough will hold together or crack when you transfer it to the pan as this crust is simply pressed into a tart pan. The dough itself is sweeter, softer and less flaky than a dough you would roll. I would describe the dough as being a cross between a pie crust and a sugar cookie with its crumbly, light and tender texture. The dough is very similar to pâte sucrée which is the base for many of the sweet tarts made throughout the world. This quick and easy  shortbread crust will definitely make your holiday pie and tart baking much easier if you have had problems with rolling dough in the past.

While my husband often makes double crust and lattice top pies with apples or pears from our orchard, a pear tart with a shortbread crust is one of my favorites. I can give you his exact recipe for the crust because baking requires some precision. Unfortunately, he doesn’t usually measure when it comes to the filling, instead letting his creative side rule. Each time he makes one, it looks and tastes a little different but it is always delicious.

Pear And Ginger Tart With Shortbread Crust

Pear And Ginger Tart With Shortbread Crust

Sweet Shortbread Crust

This recipe makes enough dough for a single crust that will fit an 11 inch tart pan, adjust the recipe accordingly.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

  • 1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. confectioner sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks cold butter (3/4 c.) cubed
  • a pinch of salt

Combine the flour, confectioner sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl and mix until combined. Add in the butter and using your hands, work the cubes into the flour and sugar until you end up with a fine, crumbly mixture. Continue working the mixture between your fingers until it clumps together and forms a soft dough. Form the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes to rest and firm up.

Lightly spray an 11-inch tart pan (with a removable bottom) with cooking spray and dust lightly with flour. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and take a little bit of the dough at a time and using your fingertips, pat it into the bottom of the tart pan and evenly up the sides about an 1/8 inch thick. Let the dough extend about a 1/4 inch over the rim, trimming if necessary, to make it even. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes. This will help keep the crust from shrinking once it is in the oven. After 15 minutes, remove from the freezer and prick the bottom of the dough all over with a fork. Bake the crust in a preheated 375 degree oven  for 15 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool. Add your favorite fruit filling and bake for about 30 minutes or until the juices start to bubble. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack before cutting.

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When my husband was a young boy, he used to like to sit on a stool at the edge of the kitchen counter and watch his grandmother cook. He constantly reminisces about all the wonderful food she made without having to check a cookbook for exact amounts or temperatures…it was just part of her daily cooking routine. By watching his grandmother, he developed an appreciation of good food and enjoys cooking as much as I do. I would share more of his dishes but I just can’t get him to measure. Instead, when he prepares a dish he goes by instinct much as his grandmother did.

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