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A few days ago, my ever considerate husband, Bill, asked me if I minded if he brewed beer Sunday.  I shrugged and said it was fine.  Beer brewing is one of Bill’s hobbies.  He’s gotten really good at it.  I’m the one who started him on the path of great brewing when, years ago, I bought him a Mr. Beer kit for Christmas.  Mr. Beer is a very primitive kit for very beginner beer brewers, but it does teach the basics of how the process is supposed to go.

When we moved to Georgia in 2009, we happened to live in a town that had a great store for beer brewers called Just Brew It!.  The guy who ran that store was very knowledgable, and gave Bill even more instruction.  We also toured Jailhouse Brewing Company in Hampton, Georgia, and got to know the founder of that company, who also learned the basics of the trade at Just Brew It!.  We loved Jailhouse beers, but then we had to move to North Carolina in 2011.  I see Jailhouse has really taken off in the ten years of its existence and I’m still following their success on Facebook.  In the years before we moved back to Germany, we made a point of picking up some of their beers whenever we were in Georgia or trading them with people who lived there.  I do miss the beer exchanges we used to be able to do when we were in the States.

Bill had asked me if I “minded” if he brewed because we usually try to do fun things together on Sundays.  But yesterday, it was a bit chilly and wet, and I knew he was itching to start a new project.  Besides, it’s important to both of us that he has this hobby, since having interests outside of providing for his family was something that his ex wife denied him.  And… I won’t lie.  I do enjoy drinking his brews.

Anyway… after Bill was finished brewing in the afternoon, he asked me what I wanted to do for dinner.  We had leftovers that could be heated up, or we could have soup.  Finally, I suggested using OpenTable to find us dinner.  It turned out Villa Im Tal, a beautiful restaurant we had tried for the first time in February, had plenty of open slots last night.  Remembering how good our February Sunday lunch had been, I booked us a table for 6:00pm.

Once again, a lovely sight to behold!  This restaurant is on the outskirts of Wiesbaden, in a forested area.  It’s also near a riding stable, which always gives me pangs of nostalgia.  

 

We arrived about ten minutes early for dinner.  A smiling young man named Dennis greeted us warmly in German.  He offered to take my jacket, which was actually part of my outfit; then he quickly discerned that we’re English speakers and spoke to us in fluent English as he led us to a very nice two top near the restaurants soaring windows.  He asked us where we are from.  Naturally, I said “America”, which made him laugh.  He wanted to know where in America.  I’m from Virginia and Bill is from Texas (sort of– it’s where he’s spent the most time).  Dennis offered us aperitifs.  I had the “house” drink, which is basically made with sparkling wine and juice… he didn’t really tell me.  Bill had alcohol free Sekt, which looked like pale ginger ale and tasted a little like Sprite.

I really enjoyed the house aperitif.  Bill went with an alcohol free Sekt because he wanted wine with dinner and would be driving.

Then Dennis poured water on the towels, which magically expanded so we could “wash” our hands.

 

Requisite Bill photo, taken after I said something to make him laugh.

 

The bread… three varieties served with a carrot curry butter and a garlicky herbal spread that seemed to be based on Frankfurter “green sauce“, which is in season right now.  Bill just learned how to make it, since this isn’t a “thing” in the Stuttgart area.

The last time we ate at Villa Im Tal, we stuck with land specialties.  I had duck and Bill had pork.  This time, we decided to have specialties from the sea.  We both had shrimp starters and I had sea bass (branzino) and Bill had red snapper.

But not before we enjoyed the “amuse”– a delectable red beet soup in a shot glass.  I don’t usually like beets much, but this was very comforting.  It had only a delicate essence of the earthy bitter flavors I usually detect in beets.  I liked it, and it sure looked festive on a spring evening.

 

Bill’s started was homemade raviolis stuffed with wild Brazilian prawns.  I have to admit, if I had noticed this on the menu, I probably would have chosen it myself.  I tasted it, and it was very good!

But then, so was my salad, which was three wild Brazilian prawns served with green apples, avocados, asparagus, and sun dried tomatoes, then doused with foam.  Although it was a bit pricey at about 19 euros, it was delicious and beautifully presented.  I think the foam on my salad and Bill’s pasta was the same.  Basically mild and complimentary to the shrimp.  The pop of color from the purple chips were a nice touch.

 

My sea bass.  Sea bass isn’t the same here as it is in the States.  The sea bass I’ve had in the States has been Black Sea Bass, which is rich, buttery, and fleshy.  The sea bass in Europe is branzino, a fish that is usually found in the Mediterranean or off the coast of North Africa.  I’ve come to enjoy it here, although I kind of miss U.S. style sea bass.  This one was served with cous cous, parsnip puree, mangoes, and pureed carrots, then garnished with figs.

Bill’s red snapper was also excellent.  It was served with barley risotto, spring vegetables, and curry froth.  I liked his dish as much as I did mine.

 

As we were making our way through dinner, more diners showed up.  Soon, the dining room was full of people enjoying a lovely Sunday supper in a stunning natural setting.  It was such a pleasure to be able to see the garden blooming with flowers outside, canopied by tall trees.  I’m sure, when the weather warms up, it’ll be even nicer to enjoy dining outdoors.

One thing Villa Im Tal does that I don’t like that much is that they pour your wine for you.  This is supposed to be a hallmark of good service, but the reality is that the wait staff gets busy and the wine ends up being held hostage.  Also, since Bill doesn’t want to drink a lot when he has to drive, it’s better if we can control our own wine pours.  But I can see why they prefer to do the wine pouring, too, since wine service takes up valuable space on the table.

We decided to be simple with dessert.  I had a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of sour cream mint ice cream.  The sour cream mint had an enchanting herbal flavor that reminded me of the smell of my grandmother’s house in Natural Bridge, Virginia.  There are two mountain creeks that run on the property and they give off a distinctively intoxicating aroma.  The only other place I’ve smelled it is in Scotland at the Benmore Botanical Gardens.  Well, the mint ice cream reminded me of that familiar smell from home.  The chocolate was kind of run of the mill, although it did have a few chips in it.  

Bill had a scoop of blackberry sorbet and a scoop of pineapple coriander sorbet.  He was considering the green apple sorbet, but Dennis told him the pineapple coriander was the best he’d ever had.  I think Bill enjoyed it very much.  Of course he liked the blackberry sorbet, mainly because he loves blackberries.

We were finished with dinner at about 8:30pm.  The total bill was just over 200 euros.  Bill paid with a card and slipped Dennis a little cash for a tip.

I think I liked our first meal at Villa Im Tal more than last night’s, although last night’s was also very good.  I think I’m just missing the ocean fish that I grew up on.  Around these parts, you tend to get fish that come from rivers or creeks or the Mediterranean Sea.  I do love most seafood, but I’m missing the seafood I know from home, if that makes any sense.  But in a few months, we’ll be in Scotland again, and I’ll be up to my ass in oysters and crawfish.

Pretty gardens on the way out.  The scenery is an added bonus to dining at Villa Im Tal.  It really is gorgeous.  Parking is also free and easy!  Dress is casual, although you won’t be out of place if you dress up for the occasion.  We saw as many people in jeans as we did people who wore suits and dresses.

On the way home, Bill and I were marveling at how lovely dinner was.  It’s a pleasure to be able to enjoy these places while we’re living in Germany.  We try not to take it for granted, which is why I always write about our experiences.  There was a time not so long ago that casually enjoying a meal like last night’s would have been out of the question.  We are very fortunate that we can do this, at least for now.  Needless to say, Villa Im Tal still gets my vote as a great place to eat near Wiesbaden.

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