Friday, May 28, 2010

Food Stories

Lately I have been really busy. And finally, last Saturday I found the time to go swimming, as if I would have know what was expecting me. Looking at the next pictures, and reading the blog, you probably have the same impression as I have: my "life and luxury" tend to shrink down to one of mankind's most amazing occupation: gastronomy.

After approximately eight or so years I met on Friday a friend from Hamburg, who used to be the former neighbour of my current landlady. We decided to try Corean food for the first time. One little problem: I can't tolerate spicy food well, due to some biological reactions of my body to it. So what to do? I had been waiting for this moment for a few months. My fascination for Corean culture has grown lately a lot and I was so convinced that I would like the food, so much so that I was ready to support the consequences. I picked two dishes (my curiosity was bigger than my stomach - the restaurant owner, who was also the cook, was surprised!) which were supposed to be prepared in a mild was hot-hot-hot, but still ok enough to tell the other flavours apart.

I don't remember the name of the first dish, unfortunatrly, but there were rice noodles and beef (prepared in a special yummy way), vegetables, all in a sauce which contained a lot of garlic and was also spicy. They also served rice with it.

The second dish, which I found more interesting, and closer to "very traditional Corean cuisine" was a so-called Bibim bap or Bibimbab (or other variations of the name). The restaurant owner, who was a really nice person, explained me that it means: mixing everything together. Indeed, I received a huge bowl in which I had approximately 8 vegetables, rice, a fried egg, sliced beef (very spicy) and kimchi, another very traditional and probably the most well-known Corean food. It was something like pickled cabbage, extremly spicy, but I absolutely adored it! So I had that bowl, and next to it there were two, smaller bowls. One with a red sauce, and the other one with a vegetable soup. I had to mix the sauce with all the content of the big bowl, and then eat the soup simoultaneously with the mixture. The soup was to make the food "less dry", as compared to the first dish which I had ordered, it had no sauce inside. So I tasted the red paste-like sauce: it was a flavour of flowers, then it went into fruity-ness, and then it just burned, all of a sudden, your mouth. I was not able to mix it in the Bibim bap. Nor was I able to eat the soup with it. It tasted very "fishy". It was a watery, clear liquid with few fine sliced vegetables in it, but once you tasted it, you had the impression of swallowing first sea water, and then a fish. It was worth a try, but it really didn't satisfy my taste buds. Nevertheless, the rest in the big bowl was amazing. Most of all I loved the kimchi.

As, unlike my habit, I was too amazed by the food when it arrived, I forgot to take pictures, so I'm using one I found on the internet, just as descriptive purpose:

Pentecost followed on Sunday and Monday, and my landlady and I were invited to lunch, at around 15.00 (normal for a Sunday lunch, haha). What we didn't know was that it would be enough also for dinner! The invitation was mainly for eating lamb, but what we found there when we arrived, was a gastronomic delight in a four-courses-menu, for which we needed two hours to eat (with no breaks between the courses).

First on the list was a light salad with fried mushrooms (came on top after I had already taken these pictures) and a great sauce of at least 10 ingredients, for which I still have to get the recipe soon. Very soon!

As it is asparagus season, this so wonderful ingredient could not be absent from the menu. Here it was served on spaghettis, with pepper and parmesan on top. Mmmmm!!!

Finally, a big pot was open and the lamb cooked in vegetables amazed us with the luring scent. We were all really full by the time the lamb arrived, but it was so good, that we all ate an entire portion of it.

Finally the last course was extremly refreshing: vanilla ice cream with strawberries on a rhubarb sauce.

I have to tell you, it was a lunch I will not forget so soon.

Arrived home and played a bit with my looks, while preparing for other gastronomic encounter on Tuesday. This was when Jella and I decided to go out in Hamburg, in the "Schanze" neighbourhood. The initial plan was for sushi, so we went to a Japanese restaurant. Since I hadn't had a warm meal that day, I decided to get as hors d'oeuvre a chicken-teriyaki in a Japanese sauce which was sweet-ish, and I got two teriyaki sticks on vegetable and with rice served. Actually, this could have been enough for the evening. But the sushi had already been ordered.
Following the picture of my teriyaki is a chicken-? (forgot the name, but it was delicious) in a peanut-sauce - one word: amazing!

After the starter, I received my six makis and four nigiris (4 makis were left which I took home in a doggy-bag), all fresh and nice.

With filled stomachs and happy faces we walked once again in the neighbourhood and sat down in a pub (?) for a drink and a conversation. When I got back home I was smiling, feeling that I had just had one of the best times lately on that evening.
And today? It's back to swimming, to get fit for who knows what new gastronomic delights will come my way.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Luxury and Arts

A German saying goes like this "Papier ist geduldig", which means something like "paper is patient", as you can do a lot with it, write a lot on it (without it having to be necessarily true) etc.

Paper can also be transformed into art, and folding paper to create different forms (flowers, animals, objects) is an art of form called Origami. The classical origami uses mainly a square-cut paper without the addition of cuts or glueing. Before paper was known or spread, people used to fold material in various forms, then, as paper was scarce, it was used only for certain ceremonies for folding.

Nowadays you can find it in all types of colours and patterns, as well as sizes. So, in order to pay a tribute to their wonderful patterns on their silk scarves, Hermes presented the in a hand-stiched black saddle leather envelope a set with several origami papers featuring various patterns of their scarves. Presented in a black lacquer box, this final product is priced at around 600 €. I wonder how it will be sold in Japan.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Gastronomic Pleasure

It is time for a new blog entry on my favourite topic ever: food! I must admit, I have started eating a lot lately, but maybe it is work-related: consuming a lot of energy during the day with a lot of work. Or maybe the cold weather rises the desire to eat?! I know in the evening I eat well and tasty, as during the day the canteen can't offer me this all the time. During the day, eating is more a filling function rather than pleasure, so that's why, when I come home, I am waiting for great tasting food. I want to feel the pleasure in that. I am extremly lucky to have a wonderful lady as my landlady, who is someone enjoying good way of life: a nice drink every evening, great food, good tea, nice music...etc.

Every now and then I also get to cooking (usually I come home from work after the first part of preparations have been done). Yesterday I had planned a thrilling dinner. It seemed that we were so filled after the main course, that we didn't even get to eat the desert.

So this is what I did yesterday: I filled half of a chicken breast with a self-made basil-garlic-pine nuts-pesto and fried it a bit, together with some spring onions and red pepper. I then took an oven form and put the vegetable in first, then the cicken, and covered it with freshly grated parmesan. On top I put some of the remaining pesto. After a while, the fork spaghettis were boiled and put them next to the chickn in the oven, covering them again with parmesan. We were so satisfied by this lunch,...and the desert will have to wait till this evening. For that I took one orange, an apple and a pear, cut them to small cubes, added some butter in a frying pan, added the fruits, added sugar, cinnamon and a bit of red wine: DONE! can be eaten warm, warm on ice cream or cold,which we will do today evening.

Excuse me, I have to run now, as the ice-man is again ringing his bell, and for the first time since I'm at this company, I am going to taste it finally now, as the weather is OK for ice, and so is my health.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Nürnberg trip

This weekend (a 4-day weekend) I had enough time to travel down to Nürnberg and see part of my family from my father's side. It was a weekend when a lot of things happened, a lot of smiles were shared and little sleep we got. But it was just great and I felt a bit sad to go back. The best feeling was of being in the middle of a family, which was MY family. Another very rewarding thing was that so many generations from so many backgrounds get back together and become ONE!

I also went a bit back in time during this trip. For those who don't know it, I lived 1993 in Nürnberg. Scarce memories still remained, such as moments from this building, which I called home for a while.

Going back in time was also due to the visit of this Zeppelinfeld and Zeppelintribüne which are part of the Former Nazi Party Rally Ground in Nürnberg. This was one of the places from where The Führer used to hold his speaches. Now it was just a rainy afternoon, and the ground which we saw from upstairs was filled with trucks containing animal food and toys, for a fair for animals held nearby.

After the Nazi grounds we went to the city old center, which is filled with old churches, a bit of a strong contrast to what we had seen earlier. But the rain was still there. So my cousin and I decided to get warm and have something to drink.

First we passed over a bridge which was somehow still in my memories, I had to take a picture.

Then we passed by a wishing well. You have to turn the golden ring and make a wish, they say. And so I did!

Then we entered finally this place: it looked very touristic at the beginning, but then we saw that there are many locals who were regular guests there. We talked with a few, as you were seated with other people at the tablee. Weird, I thought the first moment, but then I considered it to be fun. Fun, fun, fun!

The food was amazing! With full stomach we went then to the cinema close by and we saw a really good German movie called Vincent will Meer.

The next day, on Saturday, we went to buy dresses for both cousins, as we had planned to go to a dance ball later in the evening. Also some business clothes were bought, as my dear Monika would go this week to a political reunion in Berlin. We loved to try different outfits.
Back home we enjoyed a nice grill (was missing that) and then went upstairs to try the dresses.
The evening came and we went to the ball, but some of us went back home really fast, changed clothes and shoes and then joined happy crouds in the center of Nürnberg.

The little one was in the meantime already sleeping, so I enjoyed also the full presence of my aunt! It was a nice night.

The city was lit blue, as it was The Blue Night of Museums. People were singing "Country roads" around the fire and everybody was having a good time.

The Blue night didn't make us blue at all, we were very happy, and all a bit sad that the moment was so short. The next morning I left back for the North. But I hope to see these people again soon.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Most Expensive iPad

Just a short blog entry today, but again about a "most expensive" item. I stumbled upon the most expensive Ipad today. I was not sure if this would be a useful, at least I did not see much sense in it, especially after I saw it at one of my work colleagues. But it's the I-craze, so one has to take things as they are and consider such gadgets useful. One of them costs on the German market a bit under 800 €. The front is a touch screen, not much one could do about it, but turn it around and you find a back side which one, for example the goldsmith Katherine Hughes, thinks you could transform. She used gold, a lot of it! The material which is now the back case of the most expensive iPad is made out of 2,1kgs of 22 ct gold. The apple logo is also bling-bling-ish, with 53 diamonds of totally 25,5 carats. So now, after all this gold-smith-creation has been done, you get an average new gadget with basic functions for a stunning price of more than 152.000€.

If you ask me, here is an example where an iPad has been integrated into a kitchen, lost therefore its portability, but is definitely more useful than the one presented above. What do you think???

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Special Omelette

Today we are going to direct our attention to this little creature: the black-headed sea-gull.


This 35-40something cm tall creature makes some very special eggs which are the main ingredients for the world's most expensive (so they say) omelette, served in a central London restaurant, Boisdale. They charge 90 pounds for the dish, but it is a really rare, seasonal treat.


The oldest restaurant in London, Rules, who has served meals to famous people over the time, such as Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, H.G. Wells and Charles Dickens, also boasts with these eggs on their menu. Hard-boiled eggs are served, for example, with celery.

So what is it, that makes them so special? First of all, they are seasonal: 3-4 weeks a year (April to May). Second, they are limited by law: only around 40.000 eggs are sold each year, so really scarce! And to collect them, you need a special licence, which is also difficult to get (given, for example, by DEFRA - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from the UK Government). Finally, the taste seems to be amazing and surprisingly un-oceanic, the flavour is subtle and the omelette made of these eggs is very light and fluffy.

I have missed this year's season, but will surely have my gull's omelette next year in London with someone special.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Harbour Anniversary in Hamburg

Cold weather and warm people, probably a typical atmosphere for a harbour in autumn, but NO, it was this weekend as well.

Foggy and windy and rainy. But there were over 1 million people who during 3 days of crazyness kept each-other warm - unwillingly - because you were really trapped in a mass of moving bodies. Hamburg alone has 1,8 million inhabitants, now imagine that Saturday, when I went there, there were approximately 650.000!!! Just the people. Count the stands with food which also block the roads and the crazy bands and you can imagine the wacky atmophere.

It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience,... because it was nice but I will probably not be tempted to join such masses soon. At least not in Hamburg.

821 years were they celebrating, and I went there to actually see the tug-boat ballet (which I ended up seeing only on TV as I did not get from one dock to the other on time).

I arrived earlier and took a look around. Managed to see the BMW regatta.

In order to take a picture I had to ask for permission for people to move a bit out of my lense. It was incredible!!!

There were a lot of stands there, offering from sweets, drinks, to the traditional Fischbrötchen, fish sandwiches, or the Backfisch (a way of fried fish served either in a bun or with potato salad. I had mine with salad).

Here was a very funny stand, where the Backfish would be cooked upstairs and then arrive through a slide downstairs to be served to visitors and tourists.

It looked amazing but also terrifying: rescue simulations with helicopter from the sea:

This what you see here is a Catamaran, functioning with solar energy. The biggest boat using solar energy until now.

Nevertheless, the highlight of the show was this beauty: Queen Mary II. On sea since 2004, this wonder of human ability is breathtaking. It is 345,03m long and from 41,15 to 45m wide, has a height of 71,94m (plus some extra 9,75m under water) and comes with a crew of 1.253 people to cater to approximately 2500 passengers. The floating city which costed around 870 Million € has 17 decks, of which 13 are open for passengers.

I tried to take a picture in which one would realise how big this floating city is, but it was without any luck, I think. The pictures cannot give back the sensation of being next to such a huge vessel!
So here is a comparison for you, taken from wikipedia:

And to end this blog entry: here's a picture taken for me by some organisers: just me, surrounded by floating luxury.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Food for the soul and for the stomach: a wonderful weekend!

My weekend was wonderful!

Woke up, as always, around 9.30-10.00 and had a nice and long breakfast. On a 1st of May in Romania I would have went out in the park, to the seaside or to have the traditional grill. But I had been told and had also seen on TV that people here avoid going out this day as some,...or better said many, violent protestants are on the streets throwing with things, putting cars on fire, destroying the city. I wonder why! Another "tradition" from here is to dance into the May. But the news which followed on Sunday did not mention any dance, but rather just violence. This didn't stop me from having a good time.

On Friday I had gone to a shopping mall in the search for a special something to buy. Unfortunately it was sold out, so I had to eat my frustration into some other goods (gosh,...consumerism is mean sometimes to your bank account). I came back home with two types of cake, a DVD containing a Gregory Peck movie ("The Million Pound Note"), a book for learning a language (not going into more detail as I have not started the DIY-course yet), a 12 CD collection about all a person should know ("Bildung. Alles was man wissen muss") and some ingredients which I used on Saturday for some cooking.
As I have mentioned, Saturday started really nice and quiet. After breakfast I talked to a friend I hadn't seen in a while. Then I opened my collection of CDs and explored it like a treasure which I had just found. They really cover everything. Or better said, everything important. So I took out the first CD and started hearing to happenings from the past. The Greek. It's funny, I thought for a moment, how they have influenced the world and Europe, and how they do it even now, but unfortunately it's on a financial level now rather than an intellectual one. But this blog is not on politics. It was around 14.00 o'clock when we decided "to have coffee". Of course, this means we are engaging in a ritual from here, serving cakes and cookies with coffee. I still sticked to my tea, you cannot bring me to drink the other liquid! While having the most amazing chocolate cake I have found here, we watched the DVD and traveled through time. I always have to say, when I see movies like this one, that "they don't make men like that nowadays". No offence! There is a certain way of the gentleman which is getting lost in the high-speed era of multiple gadgets. There is an attemp to a prank in the movie concerning someone's honesty, but when the tailor threatens to take the suits away, the one making the joke thinks he has gone too far. Imagine how important a tailor and the place you bought your clothes must have been at that time. Now it's a bit different, even if brands's another way of counting!

Later in the afternoon I started making some puff pastry filled with goat cheese. The first time ever I tried this, and I must say, I did it well! Great job it was, it was tasty and no filling had dropped, no pastry had cracked, nothing got burnt. I was missing this kind of snack from home, here I haven't found it, unfortunately. Only thing you might find is tasting sweet, such as croissants.

The evening came and, as usual on weekends, we ate snack-like dinners. This doesn't mean that we reduce the pleasure of our taste buds, on the contrary, we indulge in more tastes in small bites. For example here you can see a ciabatta on the left with a shrimp-garlic salad, further on the right a ciabatta with river crab salad and so on... . I also prepared a fresh salad for myself with a sour cream dressing.

Sunday I woke up to the usual brunch. But we did not have the English bacon and eggs but had a special treat: scrambled eggs with smoked eel. A combination I first tasted here, in Hamburg, but which is so delicious due to the eel which simply melts once you eat it.

I took then my backpack and embarked into a journey I will probably remember all my life. A journey which made Horward Carter one of the most famous people of his time. He was the one who, after a search of more than five years revealed the lost tomb of Tutankamun (Tutanchamun, Tutankhamun or other variations...).

It was located in the Valley of the Kings under the tomb of Ramses as seen below. When he first opened the tomb he took a small candle to look inside the opening he had made and what he saw inside he described as "a lot of beautiful things".

Number 10 from this representation of the tomb is where the mummy of Tutankamun was found.

The exhibition showed some movies in which the genealogy of Tutankamun was presented as well as his short life history. Then we (the visitors) were asked to go to the next room where the treasures which were found in his tomb would be revealed to us, exactly in the same way as Carter and his team got to see them when they made the discovery. Of course, the pieces in the exhibition were not the real ones, but extremly well done replicas. Carter had made drawings of their positions and pictures also documented the treasure, so that it was possible for this project of reconstruction to be created. 2002 was the year when the recreation began, and now, 2010, the exhibition is in Hamburg.

The following 2 pictures are of two chambers. Burglars had also been in this tomb, but they took very little. Unfortunately they creatd mess and distruction.

In this picture, the middle sarcophagus of the pharao is being shown.

The minute someone becomes pharao, he starts gathering things and preparations start to be done for the after-life. In the case on Tutankamun, the time was too short, as he died when he was around 18ish. This is why his two outer sarcophagi were wooden and not solid gold as the inner one. Nevertheless, they were gold-plated, as we can see on the bigger one, or plated with gold and coloured glass (a real treasure at that time).

The inner sarcophagus contained the jewelry decorated mummy. Being made of solid gold, this sarcophagus only weighs around 115kgs.

One of the pieces which remains symbolic and is of great beauty is the mask of the pharao.

One of the most valuable findings in Tutankamun's tomb was this collection of Gods. From any other pharao there hadn't been a full collection found like this one. Each God had a purpose for the pharao's transition to after-life. Nevertheless, he had to pass a test. His heart would be weighed by a God and if the good deeds would weigh more than the bad ones, then he would be accepted. Apparently Tutankamun passed the test.

One of the treasures also found was the collection of his inner organs. Only one was missing, as it would have been thrown away by the priests: the brain. Apparently, for them there was no function more than just the filling of the skull for the brain. It was picked through the nose and thrown away. The heart was for them the center of both feelings and thoughts.

Another amazing finding was this one which you can see in the picture below. It represents "the people who answered to questions", as translated from their Egyptian name, better known as workers. Normal people could affor 2-3 of those in their tombs, Tutankamun on the other hand had more than 400. 365 for each day of the year, plus 12 superiors, one for each month, plus some others. This also described his wealth and power.

This is what he used to wear! These sandals are so amazingly fashionable nowadays...I wish i could have taken them home ...

Then there was a throne which captured my eyes. The small chair for the pharao's feet had drawings of asians and other enemies. He would so symbolically step on them.

After such a long and interesting travel through the luxury of the past, I returned home and smile at the wonderful pink flowered tree in fron of our balcony. It was getting dark and I wanted to go again, slowly in my mind, over all the impressions I had gathered this weekend.

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