November 4, 2013

A-Z for Beaune’s Legacy of Wine and Charity

A-Z for Beaune’s Legacy of Wine and Charity

The Gallo-Romans should be thanked for introducing grapevines to Burgundy, now part of France. Religious orders of monks dedicated years of effort to clear heavily forested land and rid rocky soil of stones. A reputation of fine wine production was established by the 14C and continues… (more…)

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August 12, 2013

El Camino de Santiago Then and Now

El Camino de Santiago Then and Now

Why would anyone subject themselves to a seemingly endless march through unfamiliar territory and with no creature comforts? Penance?   Belief?  Reflection? Challenge? Escapism? Adventure? What do you think?   (more…)

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July 29, 2013

Camino de Santiago ABCs

Camino de Santiago ABCs

You have watched “The Way” the 2011 movie staring Martin Sheen, written and directed by his son Emilio Estevez.  OR You have a friend who has walked the Camino and now you are thinking of walking to Santiago de Compenstela. Where to start? What to carry? What footwear? Which route? It is confusing. The following is not a checklist but rather a few things every potential pilgrim should know about the long route to the renowned cathedral. Given the nature of this trek there are a few extra letters (C,P and S) in this ABC list. (more…)

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April 15, 2013

Touring the World with Untours Travel

Touring the World with Untours Travel

Gathered together under the green, leaf umbrella of a colossal Provençal plane tree participants were enjoying the “fruits” of their efforts; the food they had all created in Nito Carpita’s professional kitchen at Mas de Cornud. Ginger and Nutmeg were still dressed in their white chefs aprons as the table conversation scrolled through a host of topics. In the group, were two girlfriends from far-flung cities who had decided to meet in Provence. They had booked accommodation via Untours. Well, that certainly peaked Nutmeg’s curiosity, as she had never heard of Untours and they are in thirteen countries! She got in touch with General Manager, Brian Taussig-Lux at the company to ask a few questions. (more…)

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March 19, 2012

Laundry And The Euro Zone

Laundry And The Euro Zone

Nutmeg could have saved the European policy wonks and financial wizards a lot of time and energy. The Euro began trading on currency markets, ten years ago on January 1, 1999. It was not until 2002, that hard currency, reached the hands of the inhabitants, and started circulating in the cafés, restaurants and stores. Now, the “man on the street” felt the impact of this strange new currency as they reluctantly handed over their Francs, Marks, Schillings and Lira. (more…)

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October 25, 2010

French Visa Means Administration Time

French Visa Means Administration Time

As we pointed out in an earlier blog entry the French love administration.  So the fact that you have a visa stamp in your passport is only step number one.  Once you enter the country officially, you have to fill out another form, take photocopies of the proper pages in your passport and then send it all off to the correct bureau for review.  Once received they review the paperwork and schedule a meeting at their convenience (you are on holiday after all).  After all of that, you get another stamp/sticker for your passport to make you officially “welcome” in the country  ;-0.   So Nutmeg and Ginger are awaiting the results of this last step in the approval process…we will be back home soon if we do not pass the test. (more…)

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May 22, 2010

UNESCO Sites and Fancy Dining in Helsinki

UNESCO Sites and Fancy Dining in Helsinki

Hot Sauce a Chili were recently in Estonia (Officially the Republic of Estonia).  Estonia is divided into 15 counties and operates as a democratic parliamentary republic, if you are interested to find out more check out the Wikipedia related information.  With a population of only 1.34 million, Estonia is one of the least-populous members of the European Union.  The country is blessed with a temperate season climate.  Estonia’s language is very close to Finnish. The capital and largest city is Tallinn, with a beautifully preserved old city.  One of UNESCOs World Heritage Sites, is Bergen’s Old Quay.  From Hot Sauce directly, “I have never seen so many church spires!” Nutmeg was curious, what exactly is UNESCO and how many sites are there?  UNESCO is the acronym for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.  This is a web site that you could spend days reviewing.  There are currently 890 Properties world wide (689 Cultural, 176 Natural and 25 mixed).  Canada boasts an impressive 15 sites and Alberta has 5 of those.  The process to have a site nominated is not surprisingly very lengthy, there are 10 base criteria and 53 page document describing the process for submission of nominations.  Clearly this is the purview of career diplomats.  There is a very cool interactive map (for big and little kids) that can be found on the UNESCO web site.   Try it out, you can “travel” around the globe and learn all about the very interesting sites. So here is the concern,  Nutmeg thinks that Hot Sauce and Chili are traveling a bit blind.  They are fully equipped with GPS, iPhones, laptops and iPads, yet they seem never to have heard of Zagat or Michelin food rating guides.  One afternoon in Helsinki, they stumble across a restaurant called Ravintola Nokka, here is the story from Chili: “We park and walk there to find one of those places that Saffron surely has in her book, and if she does not, she will the next time she visits Helsinki.  First, even though there is but one other patron in the place, the maitre’d is only too delighted to provide us with a table and, shortly, a chef and two sous-chefs appear in the ultra modern kitchen which is glass enclosed from the seating area.  We are provided with menus and starched napkins the size of small blankets.  It turns out that we have arrived at The Place that specializes in the best of Finn cuisine.  Only deals with farmers that live up to it’s norm of organic and ecologic standards, which Nutmeg would think of highly, and gives them a royal stamp of approval.  Anyway, in for a penny in for a pound, we decide to order the five course special menu de degustation.  Hot Sauce has nettle soup, I have something strange that I thought was going to be prawns but looked like a tiny bit of mush with a tiny bit of arugula on top.  Lamb for the main course was fine, but Hot Sauce, having asked for hers to be cooked medium well, resulted in both dishes being pretty much dry.  Then, this was followed by a cheese course and a dessert combination.  The good thing was that I ordered some Chardonnay and a glass of Torres’s ‘Celeste’, both quite outstanding.  The whole thing cost more than our stay at the hotel but, as they say, it was an experience and we laughed a lot.” So the morale of the story no matter where your travels take you, make sure to check the following: Are there UNESCO World Heritage sites nearby? Are there restaurants that are listed on Zagat or Michelin? Buyer beware… Happy travels! [tfb username=’GingerandNutmeg’ count=’true’ lang=’en’ theme=’light’]

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May 6, 2010

What is a Smorgasbord

What is a Smorgasbord

As you know Hot Sauce and Chili are cruising around Scandinavia in their new car.  This week on a ferry they were able to sail and eat from the on-board smörgåsbord. Hot Sauce is still sorting out how to text from her phone so let me just say that her reporting was a bit lacking.  So, Nutmeg thought it would be good to do a bit of research, as it sure sounds better than “buffet”. Have you every wondered what is a smörgåsbord?  It is a type of Scandinavian meal served buffet-style with multiple dishes of various foods on a table, originating in Sweden. In Norway it is called koldtbord and in Denmark it is called kolde bord. Smörgåsbord became internationally known as smörgåsbord at the 1939 New York World’s Fair when it was offered at the Swedish Pavilion Restaurant.  Members of the Swedish merchant and upper class in fourteenth-century Sweden and Finland served schnapps table (brännvinsbord), a small buffet presented on a side table offering a variety of hors d’oeuvres served prior to a meal before sitting at the dinner table.  Eventually,  in the mid-seventeenth century, the food moved from the side table to the main table and service began containing both warm and cold dishes. Smörgåsbord was also served as an appetizer in hotels and later at railway stations, before the dining cars time for the guests. So there you have it a bit of triva for today. Maybe when Hot Sauce can sort out how to type and eat, we will get some details on their experience. [tfb username=’GingerandNutmeg’ count=’true’ lang=’en’ theme=’light’]

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May 2, 2010

European Road Trip 2010

European Road Trip 2010

Nutmeg’s parents (Hot Sauce and Chili) love to travel.  Last year, they put a mere 6000 nautical miles on their boat doing the Great Loop Miss Bim’s Adventures.  This year they have decide to take on Europe in 7 weeks and do a driving road trip.  They start the adventure in Gothenburg (Sweden), at the Volvo factory, with a tour and a new car.  They will have a GPS and are fully equipped with the latest technology to get from point to point.  However, Nutmeg is concerned they may not have done all their research, on the food and drink options that await them in the next few weeks.  So, the following is an overview of the trip and Nutmeg’s food guide to help them narrow down the endless possibilities: City Country Food Possibilities Copenhagen Denmark Frikadeller (meatballs), with cabbage and beets Kristiansand Norway Smoked Salmon, Gravlax, Open faced sandwiches, Meats served with juniper berries and lingonberry jam.  One interesting  thing is that Norway is the world’s leading coffee consumer. Stavanger Burgen Oslo Stockholm Sweden Smilar to Norwary but add pickled herring, Swedish meatballs and akevitt (deadly white liquor) Helsinki Finland Cabbage rolls, game, hernekeitto (pea soup) and Karelian pies Estonia Riga Latvia Dinner with cold borscht, pot cooked cabbage, a cotlette, a gherkin, sour milk (kefir) and some kvass (beer). Warsaw Poland Pierogis, sauerkraut, kielbasa, cabbage rolls, bigos (meat stews), rye bread and lots of great deserts. Dresden Prague Cesky Krumlov Budapest Hungary Hot Fish Soup (Halaszle), Goulash (meat soup), Nokedli (small dumplings), stuffed peppers, salami.  This is a place that Paprika is used liberally.  A classic desert is Dobos torta (sponge cake layered with chocolate paste and glazed with caramel and nuts). Salzburg Austria Wiener Schnitzel and boiled beef.  Sacher Torte, Linzer Torte and Apple strudel.  Check Nutmeg’s blog on Vienna food scene. Kitzbuhel Oberammergau Germany Sausage, sauerkraut, potato dumplings, pretzels and beer. Fribourg Switzerland Cheese fondue, raclette and mediocre wine Grindelwald Chamonix France Truffle is cooking! London England Fish and chips, beer, ploughman’s lunch, beer, Cornish pasties, beer…. Enjoy!  We look forward to some guest blog reviews from Hot Sauce and Chili. [tfb username=’GingerandNutmeg’ count=’true’ lang=’en’ theme=’light’]

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March 7, 2010

European Capitals Dining options in Paris, Vienna and Brussels

European Capitals Dining options in Paris, Vienna and Brussels

If there is one thing that Nutmeg and Ginger love to try it is food.  The truth is you are not going to starve in any of these great cities; the array of options can be overwhelming.  In all three cities Paris, Vienna and Brussels there is no end of options for international cuisine.  Each city offers fresh farmers markets, local produce retailers and many ethnic specialty areas.  In turn, each city has a large inventory of what Nutmeg likes to call the dreaded “overpriced and underwhelming tourist traps”. With the internet it is easy enough to search for good to great restaurant options in any city. Zagat is a reliable resource and a bit more established in Europe than Open Table. The other strategy is “roll of the dice”; this means taking some time to look at the menu (price and limited variety), the décor (lighting levels and table settings) and the number of diners (never try an empty restaurant).  Here are some recommendations based on this strategy: In Vienna: Nutmeg and Ginger tried Indochine 21 night the food is influenced by South East Asia and the décor by Thailand and Vietnam.  This place scored highly on Nutmeg’s list as the lighting levels were appropriate and the smoke levels low – oh and the food was very good. A funky place to check out is Urania was built according to the plans of Art Nouveau architect Max Fabiani (a student of Otto Wagner) at the mouth of the Wien River and was opened in 1910 by Franz Joseph I of Austria as an educational center with a public observatory. It was named after the Muse Urania who represents Astronomy. The bar/restaurant is perched right above the water.  The menu is not extensive but the food is decent and the service prompt.  If you are not hungry just go for a drink Urania is a great people-watching scene. In Brussels: A great find was Toscana 21.  This tiny restaurant has been open about three years it is located just of the Place du Petit Sablon. The menu is limited in size with a focus on Tuscan specialties.  Momma is the chef, her son Lorenzo and his wife (training opera singer) run the show out front.  We had an antipasto selection with great pecorino cheeses and a selection of specialty cured meats.  The main course pastas (all home made from scratch) were fantastic.  Ginger had a goat cheese and honey stuffed tortellini in a cheese, pear and poppy seed sauce.  Nutmeg had “nude gnocchi”; spinach and ricotta dumplings without the outer shell – they were like little cloud puffs.  The food was fantastic and Nutmeg will not be trying these at home.  She will be booking another trip to Tuscany though! So the bottom line is you are never hard pressed to find good and great food in these European cities.  Use whatever methodology you like (internet, word of mouth, roll of the dice) but Go and Explore! [tfb username=’GingerandNutmeg’ count=’true’ lang=’en’ theme=’light’]

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