Monday, December 15, 2014

Christkindlmarkt - Nürnberg's Christmas Market

I've heard oh so many times that the best Christmas Market to visit is the one in Nürnberg.
Since my family lives there (and I have done it too for a period of time during my childhood), I have visited the city on various occasions, but unfortunately never during pre-Christmas time.
So it was high time I did that this year, and on the eve of the opening of the market, I arrived in Nürnberg.

The old city market is filled with little stands, so take a lot of time with you (and also money, because there is a lot of variety to spend it on). Wherever there is a "traffic jam" between the stands, you will know that you have reached the next "pit stop" for mulled wine. Walk up to the stage in front of the church to check the daily events and then walk around the colourful stands who have so much to offer - handmade toys, clothes, furniture, specific Christmas decoration, candy, gingerbread, jewelry - there is even a Playmobil stand there. If you walk from this main location with stands you will discover also the international stands, with products from all over the world. I even discovered a Romanian one with oh so jolly people in front of it - they were tasting our national Schnaps and forgetting about the cold while warming their hearts...

Another walk away from the main market takes you to the "Kinderweihnacht", a smaller version of the Christmas market, but dedicated to children. Your little ones can start being creative there: from decorating their own ginger bread to creating Christmas tree decorations or colouring their own holiday candles... it's a beautiful site to see all these children actively doing something for their loved ones and being so proud of their achievements. All in all, that's the best gift one can give you: offering you time and attention. And that is what children can do at the Kinderweihnacht while having a lot of fun.

If you find yourself wandering through Nürnberg's old city, don't miss out on the occasion to go to the most famous Christmas Market and to check the following activities:
- drink mulled wine (Glühwein) or Feuerzangenbowle, another, typical warm alcoholic drink. Wherever you see many people, there's the stand you are looking for
- eat the local Wurst, the small Nürnberger - served 3 in a bun (3 im Weckla)
- eat the original Nürnberger gingerbread, the Elisen-Lebkuchen - they are a bit pricey but something you must check off your list because the most famous recipe for "Lebkuchen" comes from this city
- grab or make a souvenir for a loved one who, unfortunately, could not join you
- make a lot of pictures
- have fun! - because, if you can't feel Christmas then and there, I don't know where you will!!!

Monday, December 8, 2014

zChocolat - Taste of Memories and Joy

One of the perfect gifts for me would be to freeze time...and then be transported to another dimension - be it a memory from the past which I enjoy a great deal, or another time I have not met. Just like when you take a bite from your grandmother's cooking and you are directly teleported to your childhood - just like that!

So here I am - Sunday afternoon, winter outside, I am tucked in a warm blanket in bed, my favourite tea waiting for me on my bedside table and in front of me - the new Holiday Sapphire box from zChocolat.

This warm-toned polished box adorned by a golden inlaid pine-tree pattern atop the lid contains a traditional assortment of zChocolat's most popular recipes (see here), but because I had already had the pleasure to taste those chocolates (read on my blog here and here) and because with zChocolat you can customize your boxes in every way that you like, I received mine filled with Orangettes, a typical Christmas delicay.

I pick one up, bite it through the middle, close my eyes and enjoy the bitterness combined with sweetness: orange peels covered in 70% dark chocolate - what a bliss! Suddenly, I am being transported to the South of France, around a Christmas market and many more aromas tickle my nose and palate. This is due to the fact that, when I open my eyes, my hands have already gone in search for 3 more boxes which I took with me in bed (don't tell my mother ;) ). These 3 boxes are filled with assortments new to zChocolat - and they do not  contain chocolate.

Let me introduce to you pates de fruits, nougats and calisson d'aix assortments!

The Pates de Fruits Assortment contains fruit jellies, just like I remember them from my childhood. But these are not made from the fruits from the area I grew up with, but with the essence of the ripest fruits (cherry, lemon, apple, orange, strawberry, raspberry and apricots) from Provence. Only one jelly is enough and you can smell and see the orchards or the fields in front of your eyes. Only one piece is sufficient to satisfy your desire and hunger for sweetness...but I wonder - could you stop at just one? Because I wanted to taste each and every one of them, I wanted to have the complete experience of the fruits in Provence...

The Nougats Assortment is another wonderful taste-of-Provence-experience. The 15 small pieces should not be underestimated - their taste is amazing. The assortment is prepared with whole crisp Provence almonds (the nougat pieces are filled with them!!!) which have been cooked in local lavender honey using ancestral traditions. Believe me - it doesn't just sound like a dream - it tastes like one!

Keeping it on an almondy note - I present to you the Calissons d'Aix Assortment. This Aix-en-Provence specialty is made from an almond paste (Germans call it Marzipan), orange zest and candied cantaloupe, with a sugar-icing top coat - a bit of this and I am reminded of my time spent in the South of France, of the old and picturesque villages I loved to spend my weekends exploring and of the colourful Sunday markets there.

Having all these delicacies to eat in front of me, sitting so comfortable as I am at the moment and drinking my favourite tea, I couldn't be more happier. It's like I've become child again and there is nothing in this world which can steal my happiness. Even without chocolate, zChocolat has again done a wonderful job of offering the best taste with the best ingredients. And if you might doubt what I am saying, I urge you to try them for yourself. Who knows what dimension you will travel to...
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