Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas Season: A Special Time

Although Christmas weekend is past, the Christmas season is still ongoing.  In the week prior to Chrismas Day, we made the rounds of our special Gasthäuser, those places where we are on personal terms with the Wirt and Wirtin and their family. At most of them, we've been "Stammgäste" for many years. The following are some of those Gasthäuser we visited during the last week before Christmas.

The Linde in Wallburg 
I go to the Linde for chicken nearly every week and have done so for years.  I have written about the Linde and their chicken several times.  Waltraud and her staff know exactly what I want and just say, "Wie immer, Janet?"  And I always do have the same:  deep fried chicken that is the best anywhere, pommes frites and her wonderful salad.  On special occasions, Hans goes with me as he did this time.  Waltraud and her husband Albrecht also host one of the best Oktoberfests in the area, one that is becoming more and more popular every year.
Above, the chicken I had that night and the little "Weihnachtmann" and angel violinist on the bar. 
We've been going to the Deutscher Hof in Biederbach for more than 20 years.  We had gotten to know Herr and Frau Burger very well during that time, as well as their daughter, Ruth Moser, who now runs the Gasthaus.  On Mondays, a group of us meet at the Stammtisch--the locals' table--where the conversation is never dull. 

Ruth is behind the bar in the above picture (and below); our group is around the Stammtisch--with Hans sitting just behind the lamp.
The church, shown on a snowy day, is across the road from the Deutscher Hof.
The Ferienwohnungen at the Deutscher Hof are wonderful, small modern apartments with all necessities and more:  one to two bedrooms; a kitchen fully outfitted with dishwasher, toaster, dishes and even an electric mixer; one to two bathrooms with showers and a living room with cable or satellite TV and a built-in china cabinet filled with wine glasses.  We have recommended their Gasthaus to many over the years and several of our Canadian friends have stayed there several times. 

Below, some pictures from our afternoon at the Bruckerhof
The first time I went to the Bruckerhof, just outside Reichenbach, was with friends in 1981, shortly after I arrived in Lahr to work at the Canadian Forces hospital.  On that evening I wondered where in earth we were going!  We drove along a narrow road and then through a farmer's yard.  The road was (and is still) wide enough for only one car with a few places where one could pull in so another could go by. 

Hans has known it from the early 1970s when he was posted to Lahr the first time.  (He was posted there again in 1980 and has been here since.)  He meets at the Bruckerhof weekly with a group of Canadian and German men, all of them either retired Canadian military or Germans who had worked for the Canadians. (The remains of the  " X OB's  Legion Germania," a group formed in the 1980s.)  We women are invited to join them a couple of times a year.  This was one of those times.  Bruckerhof means "Brucker farm."
Herr and Frau Brucker--the Wirt and Wirtin-- with their young son.  Herr Brucker took the Gasthaus over from his mother and father who live there still.  Senior Wirtin, Frau Brucker, also is still involved with the running of the Gasthaus. 

One of the most beautiful Gasthäuser we know is the Bauhöfer's Braustüb'l.  It is near Renchen in the small village of Ulm, about 40 minutes north of us.  It belongs to the Ulmer Brauerei.  Whenever we are in that area, we go to the Gasthaus and occasionally we make a special trip there, which was the case this time.  It is worth a visit if only to see the inside.  Their food is excellent as is their beer, of course.  So two more good reasons to visit it.  In summer they have a wonderful beer garden under the trees.  Usually I have their Buletten and potato salad as both are favourites of mine.  On this particular day, we didn't eat as we had other plans.  Hans did have a Pretzel, though, as they are also very good there.
Some views of the Gasthaus decorated for the Christmas season. 
 Two of many of their stained glass windows with Christmas decorations:

Those other plans I mentioned meant the Kleiner Meierhof in Ettenheimweiler. We've been frequenting this family Gasthaus for many years. Their children were very young--about 6 and 8 years old--at the beginning. The two would come to our table and wish us a "Guten Appetit!" Now both are in their 20s.
Erich works full time during the day and pours the beer and serves guests in the Gasthaus during the evening. Sylvia trained as a cook, so she is in the kitchen until everyone has been served, after which she'll often sit down with us to talk--as will Erich. In fact, they spend a lot of personal time with their guests at the Gasthaus.  Her green and mixed salads and her Wurstsalat are about the best in the area. They hold several special nights throughout the year, including wild boar, venison, a winter grill evening and a summer Bavarian night, the latter held outside and with a band.
Erich at the Stammtisch with guests

The last Gasthaus we visited before Christmas was the Engel in Dörlinbach on December 23rd.  That is over the mountain from us so we were very glad that the night and the roads were clear.  Martin Grimm runs the Gasthaus along with his wife Monika and brother, Ulrich.  Martin is a trained cook, but he says that he learned a lot beside his mother who helped in the kitchen until she became ill at age 80.  She and Martin's father ran the Gasthaus for many years, after which Martin took it over.  His grandparents and great grandparents ran it before that.  Monika helps prepare the food and does some cooking as well.  Uli runs the bar and does the serving.  He loves hockey and attends all the games in Freiburg--usually on a Friday night.  We go on the nights we know he will be there as we enjoy his sense of humour and, more importantly, Hans says he pours the best "Pils" in the area.
Martin is a great cook.  Everything served is of the best quality and full of flavour.  On this occasion we each had Rumpsteak.  It was perfectly cooked and superb.  We had along with it a Feldsalat (my favourite salad), onions and herb butter as well as Kroketten--as we always do--which they make from scratch and are different than any you will find elsewhere.  They are so good that I think I sometimes go there because I am craving them! 
Hans and Martin. 
Our steaks that night at right.  We took half home!  Uli and his freshly poured Pils for Hans.  A view to the second dining area with their electric icicle decorations above the open area. 


We put up our tree on the morning of December 23rd.  Hans had gotten it at our usual tree farm in the hills a couple of days before.  This was also 4th Advent Sunday and the day we lit the fourth candle.  All was now in readiness for the two big days to come as we also prepared a few things for our special meals on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Hans and I at the Bauhöfer's Braustüb'l at the Ulm Brauerei
We wish you all the best of the season and for 2013! 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Advent and the Christmas Season

Christmas has arrived but today I am writing about the period leading up to that magical time.


The month of Advent is a busy time for everyone, us included.  We make the rounds of several of our local Gasthäuser, celebrate with friends over a special meal at a restaurant or party, entertain at our own annual Christmas party, browse at some of the Christmas markets and, as always, drive into the country for our Christmas tree.  Along with some baking and shopping, the days are filled.  Family is missing--the only down side--but we enjoy immensely this time of year regardless.  It is a special part of our life here.

Here are a few of the things we've enjoyed and places we've been this December during Advent, starting with our pre-Christmas party on 1 December:

Two pictures showcasing our guests around the coffee table

For the first time, we held our party in the afternoon.  It was 1st Advent weekend. That worked best for many, including us.  A lot of our friends no longer enjoy driving at night, especially in the winter, as one never knows whether there will be snow or perhaps fog.  We live at the top of a fairly steep hill, so that can be a worry.  For us, it was somewhat hectic on that day itself, but overall it worked out well.  Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves (as did we), and our feet were up by seven in the evening.  As it happened, there was no snow or fog.  It was a bright, sunny day.

As usual (this is a tradition), Hans welcomed everyone with a glass of "moose milk," better known as eggnog. This goes back to military days.  He makes this from scratch each year.  He has, though, occasionally served Glühwein instead.  The buffet is simple:  a huge pot of chili and lots of garlic French bread.

Dessert is also traditional:  trifle.  I swear every year that I'll make something else, but thus far it has always been the same, including this year. 
The trifle being displayed by Bill Fairley.  On the right, the wonderful red wine cake made by Sylvi Schlager.
Of course, lots of wine, beer on tap (Hans has a beer fridge which holds a 15-liter keg of beer) and mineral water are offered.  We don't offer hard liquor during the party, although
occasionally a Schnaps after eating materializes.
Hans and I at the Christmas party held in a Gasthaus near Freiburg. 
The following weekend, also on a Saturday afternoon, we attended the annual Christmas party that our German veteran friends put on, all now in their 80s.  Hans and I have been included in this for many years.  This is a sit-down dinner in a small town outside Freiburg.  A gentleman entertained us musically on an accordian throughout the afternoon.  A few years ago, a lady pianist did the same.  Some wonderful Christmas music and always, "Alte Kamaraden," in memory of old comrades. 

That same weekend on 2nd Advent Sunday, in late afternoon, we wandered through the Christmas market in Münchweier.  It was filled with atmosphere: old houses, the church and stalls that lined the hilly street on both sides.  There, we each had a mug of Glühwein.  It not only warmed our stomachs but also our hands, as it was a cold and frosty day.

The Gasthaus and Metzgerei Rebstock traditionally open their shop on this weekend with complimentary glasses of Sekt (Champagne-like wine) for those who go inside.  These are two views from outside through the glass.  Some booths and scenes along the street follow.



St. Nicolas on the left and a wine booth on the right

Crepes being made while we watched.



A hot mug of Glühwein to warm the hands.
In the picture below, Whitey, a recent stray, is enjoying the comfort of a warm house on 3rd Advent.

On that Sunday, we picked up two lady friends:  Anita and Lina.  I have written about them on my blog before.  Anita is 88 (I had thought she was "just" 86, but "No," she told me, "I am 88!"); Lina is now 96 and always game for dinner at a good restaurant.  Age is catching up but they are still able to get out.  This time we enjoyed a lovely meal in the historic Gasthof Krone, a hotel-restaurant in Kirchhofen, a small town south of Freiburg in the Markgräferland. That is a large wine area and known especially for their Gutedel wine. They also are known for their special Markgräfler cut wine glasses (see at left).  The Krone dates back to 1747 and has been in the same family for over 200 years.  It is warm and cosy inside with wood paneling, soft lighting, good food and good service.

Below, a view of the dining room before other guests arrived.  The other, the corner where we sat, shows a crucifix (typical in many Gasthäuser in our part of Germany as it is predominanly a Roman Catholic area) and old family pictures on the wall. 


Hans had pork medaillons with mushrooms (left); I had pork medaillons with a pepper cream sauce.

In the last week or two of Advent we visited the farm market "Kasperhof" outside Schuttertal and Dörlinbach. We bought a large piece of Schinken (German-style smoked ham).  Schwarzwald Schinken is world famous and is a protected product.  We also bought two thick rumpsteaks and some jelly. This is a typical German farm although not all farms have their own store. Most of their products are produced right there.



Farm bread below and Schinken and sausages hanging beside the blackboard with specials noted.

Christmas cookies and other sweets
I also did some baking, most of which I have given away as small gifts.  I made my Scotch cake, whipped shortbread and gingersnaps again this year.  The latter were from a recipe of my mother's, one she had been given by my father's aunt.  Last year's gingersnaps were from a recipe my mother was given by her aunt--thus both were my great aunts whom I remember well.

The last week to ten days before Christmas we visited all our local Gasthäuser with many dinners out.  For Christmas itself, though, we were at home.  My next blog within a day or so will tell you about that special part of our Christmas celebration.

Fourth Advent Sunday, the day before Christmas Eve with Christmas Day soon to arrive.