Friday, December 30, 2011

MCCAFÉ! SACRE BLEU!


When you are spoiled from living in a city such as Calgary, where top quality coffee is virtually available at every corner, France is somewhat of a letdown in that department.  Though readily available everywhere, 99% of the Espresso drinks we ordered so far are worse than what we got used to at Java Jamboree in Cochrane, P&S, Artigiano or any of the other fantastic places back home.

Especially when you are on the road, finding a good, tasty jolt of Espresso is a hard thing.
So, much to my surprise, I am telling you, despite my preconceived notion, coupled with a coffee attitude, McCafe was a very very nice surprise.
Having heard much about their desire to give Starbucks a run for the milk money, yesterday in Orleans was the first time I ever contemplated visiting one.

Right from the very first visual impression to the last bite of a flaky, buttery Pain au Chocolat I was impressed.
Yes, the Barrista is not as well trained as those world champions at Transcend in Edmonton AND probably has to flip Burgers at lunch rush, but she was extremely friendly and provided table service with a smile.  A BIG smile I 'd like to add.
The Espresso con Panna was pulled very short, probably to leave space for the whipped cream and it hit the right button with me. Excellent flavor.
The pastry selection, right down to an excellent Macaron is very very good compared to those oily muffins we get in Canada. 

In terms of pricing, well, they are McDonald's, so they are in a league of their own over here. 1.20 for my Espresso. 
.90 for my pastry, not too shabby.

The one major let down is that as most other french cafes, they use UHT milk which makes any milk drink a gamble of flavors. Victoria ordered a Caramel Latte, which was just not good. But other than that, I give it high notes all around
Well then. When in France, stick to Espresso.




VISUALLY VERY APPEALING


WELL DESIGNED ON A VERY SMALL FOOT PRINT

EXCELLENT PASTRY SELECTION

GUESS WHO ORDERED THE MACARON

UHT MILK MAKES FOR CRAPPY MILK DRINKS

A CIMBALI MACHINE

SLICK ADVERTISING

AT THE CREPERIE



After a somewhat long drive back from Austria, our final stop before arriving at the Gite, was a small Creperie in Niort for gluten free pancakes. 
Made with buckwheat flour, they are a great vehicle to deliver a variety of delicious fillings, mostly savory though. No matter where we order a Galette sucre, you get a look and comments such as, "But they are salty", never the less, even with Nutella they are a perfect gluten free treat here in France.

My order was a more inventive filling compared to the standard ones ordered by the girls. Celery puree, Apple compote and Black Pudding sausage. Excellent really. So. For all you travellers that are planning to visit France, look for Crepes made with Farina Sarrasin, or Ble noir.



DOWNTOWN NIORT


SPECIAL OF THE DAY, BLOOD SAUSAGE


DOG IS WELCOME


CELERY PUREE, APPLE COMPOTE WITH BLOOD SAUSAGE


HAM, RACLETTE CHEESE, POTATOES AND CREME FRAICHE


HAM, CHEESE AND LOADS OF MUSHROOMS

Monday, December 26, 2011

VEAL KIDNEY ROAST


Not an appealing name is it? Offal is not the most common part in North American cooking, in Europe however, it's as common as T-Bone steak.
One of my favorite roasts is (mother) milk fed veal with it's kidneys tucked inside. Naturally a request for Christmas, we picked up a nice roast at the village butcher, which we then made in a Roemertopf, a clay pot which thanks to it's porous nature works somewhat similar to a steamer while roasting the meat.

As you can see in the picture, my mother's pot has some mileage which just adds to it's quality. 
While the Austrian branch of my family was schmatzing away at this excellent roast, the Canadian part of my family was busy finding ways to hide the kidney they just could not stomach to eat. 
No surprise really, it's not for everybody. Once Isabella found out what is on her plate, game over. She did not even finish the rice. She claimed cross contamination. 

If you travel to Europe and see "Kalbsnierenbraten" on the menu, order it. You may like it.


ANATOMICAL VIEW



HOW YOU BUY IT AT THE BUTCHER

CLAY POT RETAINS MOISTURE

THE BEST

Thursday, December 22, 2011

PERFECT HOLIDAY RENTAL - 540.00 EUROS/WEEK



I keep forgetting to mention that the place we are staying at, is actually for rent. After my sister and myself moved out, my parents converted our apartments into holiday rentals, a popular way to gain some extra income while maintaining a large house in resort villages across Europe.

This holiday rental we are in, measures a generous 800 square foot and is set up perfectly for 4. Sometimes families of six rent it, but then it's a bit tight. Their call I say. 
Well equipped kitchen (no dishwasher) with a cozy nook, bright living room and two bedrooms make this condo a perfect place to reside while skiing in the winter, or hiking in the summer. If you enjoy cross country skiing, the tracks run right by the house. In summer, you can Kayak right out the front door, the River Steyr runs by the house as well.

Hinterstoder itself is an amazingly picturesque alpine village with around a thousand friendly permanent residents.Not nearly as much action as St. Anton, Kitzbuehl or Saalbach, it is much more laid back here, with a handful of great restaurants and shops. 
The skiing is world class, not that I would know first hand ( Stopped long time ago), but last year Hinterstoder hosted a couple very successful World Cup Races.

If you want full details, please email to: edlinger1(at)utanet.at or call ++43 7564 -5424


THE HOUSE

THE VIEW

THE VILLAGE

LIVING ROOM

 KITCHEN NOOK

KITCHEN

BEDROOM 1

BEDROOM 2

800 SQFT

Sunday, December 18, 2011

AT THE CHRISTMAS MARKET IN SALZBURG



We made our trek from the Charente to Austria in record time yesterday. The hurricane in our back made us drive faster I think. We left early morning when the winds were still strong, but it was manageable I thought. No trees across the streets, no accidents and maybe thanks to the warnings on TV, traffic was very light and we arrived in Stuttgart, our overnight stop, at 8pm,  a reasonable time.

Saturday morning we set out to stop in Salzburg to visit the Christmas market. Set around the cathedral, it's a fantastic setting. If that does not put you into the Christmas mood, nothing will. 
Some mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, a tchotchke or two for the tree. Christmas music and the weather definitely turned towards snow that day.  

Over a million people visit the market every year and I think they we all came yesterday. The Getreidegasse was packed as I have only seen it in the summer. Locals and tourists from all over the world, window shopping, having a great time. 
A perfect way to start our Christmas holiday.






ISABELLA, WITH THE CASTLE IN THE BACKGROUND

GETREIDEGASSE, WHERE MOZART WAS BORN

WE SHOULD HAVE TAKEN A SLEIGH RIDE

MOZART NOW WORKS FOR TIPS

FESTIVE DECORATIONS EVERYWHERE

CAFE TOMASELLI

MOST SCENIC SETTING FOR A MARKET

CHRISTMAS DECOR

SWEETS OF ALL KIND

THOSE SLIPPERS COULD COME HANDY WHILE WE ARE IN AUSTRIA....

SCHNAPS KEEPS YOU WARM TOO

CATHEDRAL IN THE BACK

CRAZY CROWDS EVERYWHERE

THEY ALL LIKE  HOT DOGS

GLISTENING DECOR

HANDMADE NATIVITY SCENES

 MUSIC TO PUT YOU IN THE MOOD

ZOTTER SCHOKOLADE. MY FAVORITE STAND AT THE MARKET

MAKE YOUR OWN CHRISTMAS CAKE

A LOT OF PEOPLE WERE KISSING AT THAT STAND

THEY PUT A PRICE ON JESUS???

FUNKY CUPCAKES




Thursday, December 15, 2011

CHRISTMAS ROAD TRIP



Long before we planned to head to France, I was planning Christmas 2011 at my parents in Austria.
So, instead of flying in from Canada, we are going to drive from France to Hinterstoder. The GPS tells me it's 1543km, or about 950 Miles. A hop and a jump really.

Lauren is flying in from Toronto and then is driving back with us to France. It will be a great holiday for all of us and my parents.
 Oma has organized a horse drawn sleigh ride on Christmas Eve and if I can stay awake, the plan is to take Isabella to a midnight mass at the little village church. 
It would be a first for Isabella and the rest of my girls.

There is a Hurricane warning in effect for this area until tomorrow morning, 6am. Hopefully nothing major happens and we can get out of here on time. I plan to drive until about Baden Baden or Stuttgart on Friday and then leisurely head into the Alps on Saturday. Be there by supper time and have some good Austrian food.


MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE



1500 CLICKS TO HINTERSTODER




HINTERSTODER. YOUR TYPICAL ALPINE VILLAGE


CLOSE TO MY PARENTS' HOUSE



WHERE WE WILL GO FOR MIDNIGHT MASS ON CHRISTMAS