Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Things That Come in the Mail - Bavarian Alpine Cheese

Aside from monthly bills and the odd newsletter to my local wine store, I love love love getting things in the mail. Postcards, letters, packages, things I've ordered online - it's always a surprise when I come home after a day at work. I've come to value the merits of certain couriers over others. Hermes allows me to send anything back, DHL is the standard of the German Post and DPD - well, it's DPD. The friendly man from DHL came by today with the box of cheese I ordered last week. What did I order? Clockwise from top:

Emmentaler - what is normally referred to as Swiss cheese in North America. This one is old.

Emmentaler - this is a milder version. I need to compare the 2.

Bergkäse - it's Alpine cheese. Literally means "mountain cheese" the milk is from cows who are happy frolicking in the Bavarian alps.

Weisslacker - I don't know what this is but it's small, creamy and the smell could peel the paint off of walls. Kind of like a roquefort but sweet.

Bärlauchkäse - a cheese with wild leeks. This makes me happy.

Camembert - it's not a true Camembert because that must come from France. This is a Mountain Guard Camembert. It'll do just fine.

In the center: Eisenberger - a hard cheese and it looks like Swiss cheese but with smaller holes and the taste is not as nutty.

The place I ordered it from has very amusing video on cheesemaking, complete with Alpenhorn music. It's like being in a Ricola ad. See it here. I visited this cheese place on my way home from Neuschwanstein - the Cinderella castle - a year ago. I saw a cheese place that was open & I insisted that we stop.

Photo taken with new camera phone that has since broken

sign on the side of some barn at the cheese place -
translates to "our milk makes Bavaria strong!"

Dinner for a few nights is saved: nice weather, crusty bread I can get on the way home, cheese and a bottle of wine. I love living in Europe.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Eating Out - McDonald's Deutschland Cupcakes

After years of trying to explain to Germans that there is life beyond muffins and its name be cupcakes, McDonald's has introduced cupcakes to its McCafé lineup. There are 4 flavours, all named after New York City areas - Chelsea Chocolate, SoHo Vanilla, Central Park Strawberry and East Village Cappuccino. I was slightly intrigued by this addition to the McCafé menu when I read heard about it last month, but not so much that I felt the need to consume the extra calories. Then I read a post on Serious Eats about this very topic. For my fellow food bloggers at home, I sampled 2 of the new cupcakes.

I ruled out the strawberry and cappuccino cupcakes right away, and settled on the Chelsea Chocolate and SoHo Vanilla. I'm not too sure why they are named after these neighbourhoods, but that's secondary. The cupcakes themselves: unspectacular. Decent cake; fatty, sugary frosting. The cupcakes were placed in a box with care by the lady behind the counter but I'm not sure that anything could have made a dent in the frosting. The cupcakes are in a cooled area and the frosting is harder than a Sara Lee cake. And not as good. It'd be better if it was from Duncan Hines. Still, the chocolate frosting is better than the vanilla.

The cake itself was decent but McDonald's has been selling chocolate muffins for a few years now, and frankly, I think they used the same batter. Not bad, but not worth the calories.

Price: €1.79 per cupcake (approx. $2.40 US), or have all 4 for €5.99.

Note: Germany has good cakes. Coffee cakes, creamy blackforest cakes, fruit flans - many bakeries have cafes where you can sit and have a coffee and piece of cake. If you're travelling here, you might want to consider that option.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Friendly Fish with Caramelized Garlic

As a diver, I love to see fish underwater. As a gourmand, I love to see fish on ice or a plate. It's not that hard to reconcile the 2 desires if you're responsible about it. Overfishing is an environmental and economic issue - if there are no fish, the environment suffers, as do the fishermen. Also, we suffer as we are no longer able to eat the fish we want. I've noticed that divers love to eat seafood when they are above water. Many of them don't realize that the meager amount of fish they saw underwater are not sufficient to sustain the restaurant industry on land. I've been to diving spots in the Mediterranean where all the restaurant fish has been imported from Asia. This makes me think that something is wrong.

Of course, it'd be difficult to give up eating fish all together. If you're not aware of it, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) examines the source of fish, how it is caught, and in the case of farmed fish, how it is farmed. If it is harvested in a sustainable manner, they give their seal of approval, which makes buying fish much easier. I found MSC hake in the local supermarket, frozen in individual filets. Hake is an ocean whitefish that has a firm texture. Perfect for pan frying with garlic. This recipe is simple, quick and perfect for 1 person. Serve with a salad.

Hake with Caramelized Garlic
1 clove of garlic
1 Tbsp good olive oil
1 hake fillet
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 slice lemon
salt & pepper to taste

Slice garlic thinly. Warm olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, it should not cook right away. Allow the garlic to brown for 60-90 seconds, stirring if necessary. Remove garlic from the pan, leaving the oil. Drain garlic on paper towels. Add hake to pan, cooking for 2 minutes on each side. Place cooked hake on a plate, top with garlic and parsley. Add salt & pepper to taste, and serve with lemon.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Low-Fat, Choco-Coco-Fruity Muffins

I had this stomach virus-thing recently. Neither I nor you, dear reader, want me to go into detail. All I will state is that my diet was limited. As I was unable to eat sweets and eat fruit, all I wanted was sweets and fruits.

It's Easter today. I want chocolate & cake & everything that's bad for me. This morning, I made something that satisfied the elements of my desires, yet still adhered to the elements of my diet: Choco-coco-fruity muffins.

Choco-Coco-Fruity Muffins
2 Tbsp ground flax seed
3 Tbps shredded coconut
3 Tbps butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cup flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup milk
1 cup fresh fruit (blueberries & chopped stawberries)

Mix flax seed, coconut, butter & sugar. Blend together. Beat in egg. Mix flour and baking powder. In a separate bowl, mix together cocoa powder, hot water and milk. Add flour and cocoa mixture, slowly & one by one to the butter-egg mix. Add fresh fruit. Divide among 10 muffin forms. Bake at 180° for 12-15 minutes.

The flax and coconut add extra fiber, and the coconut adds extra fat so the butter can be reduced. The sugar is reduced by adding fresh fruit and yet the muffins are still moist because they have the very wet cocoa mixture in them. If they're not sweet enough, cover them in frosting. I have a jar of frosting in my office and I wish I had brought it home this weekend. But even without the frosting, the muffins are a nice, light snack. Enjoy!
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