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Our first visit to Landhaus Diedert… I give it an A+!

Yesterday, as I was considering where we might visit in Italy later this month, I realized that it had been awhile since our last nice meal. I asked Bill what he thought about going to one of our favorite restaurants, Villa Im Tal. He was up for it, but Villa Im Tal was closed this weekend. Then Bill noticed Landhaus Diedert, a restaurant and hotel located in the Kloster Klarenthal, which dates back to the 13th century. While I was searching for places to stay during our upcoming trip, Bill was reading up about this restaurant, which is family run and has a mention in the Michelin Guide. After today’s lunch, I can see why. We had an absolutely FANTASTIC experience.

The restaurant is located on the outskirts of Wiesbaden, in an area not far from nature. There’s free parking, and in the warm months, they offer a very nice outdoor area, complete with a little playhouse for the kids. But the food here is anything but kid stuff. It was more what I would call a mix of comfort food and haute cuisine.

The mask requirements in Hesse were dropped yesterday, and our vaccine statuses weren’t checked, but I noticed everyone wore masks in the lovely dining room at Landhaus Diedert. I don’t know if that was required; they didn’t have a sign up. I suspect people are just used to masking, and as time passes, more people will relax. The staff all wore masks, and there were two hand sanitizing stations in the restaurant, which is very beautiful. I do know that the health minister wants people to keep masking. Personally, I look forward to being done with the fucking things… but I did wear a mask today, since everyone else was doing it.

When we first arrived, we were taken for Germans. That always pleases me. One waiter delivered the specials in German. I understood most of what he said, but when he was finished he heard me say in English, “It’s asparagus season.” And indeed, they did have a number of asparagus specials available. He was kind enough to give us the specials in English, and brought us menus in English, too. I was grateful for the English menus, although they weren’t necessary. We enjoyed a round of Sekt and some fresh breads with hummus and butter, then perused the extensive wine menu. Bill chose a lovely Shiraz from South Africa.

To start, I had a delicious wild garlic soup with a won ton filled with smoked trout, and served with a side of wasabi mayonnaise. Bill had a cannelloni filled with goat cheese and served with greens and a walnut dressing. I tried the walnut dressing, though I’m not a goat cheese fan. Bill liked his starter very much, but I LOVED the wild garlic soup. It made my tastebuds sing from the first taste. Although it was a bit rich, I had to finish the whole thing. I exclaimed how good it was as one of the servers cleared the first course. I have a feeling it’s a popular offering.

For our main courses, Bill had a perfectly tender U.S. flank steak with prosciutto wrapped asparagus and pureed sweet potatoes, topped with chimchuree. I had a braised beef short rib with smoked roasted and mashed potatoes, leeks, roasted corn, and a sweet gravy with blueberries. It was very rich, but absolutely delicious and comforting. We had to take our time with the main courses, because they were substantial. I did end up bringing home some of the mashed potatoes.

Then, for dessert we decided to go with something different. Bill decided to have a flambeed pineapple slices, with ice cream. This was prepared at the table for us, and the gentleman who served us was kind enough to let me take a video, which I have posted at the bottom of this post. I had a rhubarb crumble with vanilla ice cream that was very extreme. I mean, I’ve had vanilla ice cream, but this was something very special.

Service was kind, competent, and expedient. The pacing of the meal was perfect, and we noticed that everyone seemed very jovial. It must have been the food and the friendly service. I wouldn’t say this restaurant is particularly kid friendly, but I did see some children there, and they seemed happy to be there. And, again, in the summer, they can play while the adults enjoy the food, which is really something to behold. Total bill was about 185 euros, before the tip, and we paid with a credit card.

Landhaus Diedert makes a great place to celebrate a special occasion, or just celebrate great, seasonal food. We really enjoyed ourselves today. This is one place I’m glad we didn’t miss.

I’m sure we will be back again… Below are some photos from today’s fabulous lunch!

Bill’s dessert. The waiter was kind enough to let me video. I’m sure I’m not the first.

And just to close out this post. I want to add a couple more photos… things I noticed on the drive to and from the restaurant.

What a great Sunday! I hope we can do this a lot more often now.

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Back to Bad Soden!

Bill and I never managed to venture out yesterday, because I was waiting for a package from Amazon. I decided I wanted to get an ultrasonic cleaner for my jewelry, glasses, and dentures… Actually, I only have one implant, rather than dentures. But if I had false teeth, the ultrasonic cleaner could clean them for me. The package didn’t arrive until 2:00pm and by then, Bill was already firing up the grill for lunch. So we stayed home, listened to music, and drank beer.

Today, however, we were determined to get out for lunch. Bill made a 1:30 OpenTable reservation for lunch at Rocco’s Italian Grill & Bar in Bad Soden, a spa town near Frankfurt. We have been there before. Once, we ate inside, near their fabulous bar. The other time, Bill got takeout. Today, we sat outside, although the sky was overcast and it was a little chilly.

Before we went to the restaurant, we took a short stroll around the park, where a natural spring provides mineral water to all comers. Here are some photos from our stroll.

The water runs! Bring a bottle.

At about 1:30pm, we showed up at Rocco’s and were invited to take a seat by the servers, most of whom speak English. We decided to sit outside, despite the clouds and occasional raindrops. Sitting outside was not a bad decision on our part. Most people were sitting outside, since the temperature was agreeable. Bill and I both decided to have beef, which we’ve always gotten at Rocco’s. Pizzas, pastas, fish, and Italian specialties like burrata and vitello am tonnato are available, as are salads. But they seem to specialize in beef and barbecue, so that’s what we’ve always had so far. We did see someone with a pizza that looked excellent. Maybe next time.

Total damage for lunch was 133 euros. Bill paid with a card, including the “Trinkgeld” tip. It was a really nice, relaxing, leisurely lunch, with no fuss, no muss, and no stress. Bad Soden is a nice town anyway. I’d like to spend more time there, now that things are opening up more. We’ll see how long it lasts. COVID-19 infections are slightly higher this week at five infections per 100,000 as opposed to 4.9 infections per 100,000 a week ago. Since people are starting to travel, they may go up again.

I still need a vacation, though, so I’m looking for where we might go… Looks like this year, it could be Croatia, at long last. But we’ll see… it all depends. I’m definitely chomping at the bit to get out of here and enjoy a change of scenery for a week or so. For now, I’m glad we have spa towns like Bad Soden to visit, and nice restaurants that serve different food than what we usually eat at home.

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Things aren’t bad in Baden-Baden… Part four

On Saturday, we decided to find a cheaper place to eat breakfast in Baden-Baden.  This was not a problem, since the town is loaded with cute little cafes that serve breakfast.  We opted to eat a Cafe Koenig, which looked like a very quaint little cafe, but is actually part of a chain.  Bill says they have a location in Tokyo, although I never would have guessed it by its very cute decor.

Signage…

Bill decides on how he likes his eggs.

 

He settled on scrambled.

 

I had fried…  Both eggs came with ham and bread.  We had cups of coffee, but I decided I needed hot chocolate, too…

 

And I’m happy to report that they do it right at Cafe Koenig, which is more than I can say for a certain five star hotel in Switzerland…  This was also about half what we spent at the hotel.

 

As we were enjoying breakfast, we talked about what we wanted to do.  Both Bill and I wanted to try the spa at Brenners Park, although we neglected to pre-book services before our arrival.  In retrospect, that was a bad idea.  It turns out the although the hotel was underfull, the spa was going great guns.  We also wanted to visit the two mineral baths.  Then, it occurred to me that we forgot to bring our spa towels, which we would definitely need at Caracalla.  So, after breakfast, we went searching for towels, since we didn’t want to pay 21 euros each to rent one at the spa (6 euros rent and fifteen euros deposit).

We tried the Wagener store with no luck.

There was a little mall at the end of this drag and didn’t find anything there, either.

 

But then we found a store that was selling “beachwear”, and they did have towels.  Ironically, we spent more buying towels there than we would have if we’d rented them.  But at least they’re our towels.  In fact, they are “sauna towels” and are extra long.  

Bill did manage to get us spa appointments, however he was not able to get us booked at the same time.  He had his deep tissue massage at 11:30am and I had my “massage menu” at 3:15pm.  Those appointments pretty much ate up the day, since by the time Bill was finished with his appointment, it was only about a couple of hours or so before it was time for mine.  We both had the same massage therapist.  I wasn’t in attendance for Bill’s appointment, so I’ll just write about mine.

When I arrived at the spa at about 3:00pm, I checked in and a lady with heavily accented English showed me to the sauna room, where a very friendly male receptionist invited me to change into my robe.  I had brought my own with me, since I know it fits.  The robes at Brenners appeared to be pretty generous, but I have gone to places with robes that are too small and that was a problem I didn’t want to have.

After I changed into my robe, I was shown into a reception area and invited to have tea.  Everyone else in the reception area was fully clothed, which made me feel a little awkward.  Little did I know that any shred of modesty I had on Saturday would completely be stripped of me on Sunday.  More on that in the next post.

I had just taken a few sips of my “detox” tea when the massage therapist invited me into her parlor.  She was very young, quite giggly, and friendly.  I wasn’t surprised when she had me answer a questionnaire and handed me a pair of “spa panties”.  Bill told me he’d worn a pair and they hadn’t really covered anything.  I tried to put them on and did manage to get them to my hips, but found them to be very uncomfortable and basically useless.  When the therapist came back into the room, I told her they didn’t fit and just wore my regular underwear.

To be honest, I don’t know why they don’t have patrons do that as a matter of course, since my underwear were pretty much pulled halfway down my ass the whole time, anyway.  I guess the spa panties are used so you don’t get massage oil on your unmentionables, but my unmentionables get exposed to all kinds of stuff anyway.  What’s the difference between oil and all the other stuff?

I forgot to take the spa panties out of the pocket of my robe and they got washed.  I’m surprised they survived the wash.  They were made of cotton, though, which is a step above the paper ones I wore in Budapest.

 

The therapist, whose name was Angela, was very strong and professional, although since I’d asked for a “massage menu” and that was supposed to entail several techniques based on my specific problems, I expected her to ask me where she should focus her efforts.  She didn’t do that, although Bill said she zeroed in on some stiff areas on his shoulders.  I will admit that when Angela was finished with me, I felt pretty damned great.  I need to invest in more massages.

I got a choice of orange, lavender, or vanilla oils.  I went with lavender, while Bill chose orange.  When we were finished with our hourlong session, I tipped Angela 20 euros in cash.  Bill did the same after his session.  That’s one thing I did notice about Brenners.  Tips are definitely warmly appreciated with no awkwardness whatsoever.  On the other hand, I never got the impression that they were expected, either, which is also very nice.

Since I didn’t manage to finish my tea, Angela offered to make me more.  But I decided I wanted to get back to Bill.  I got confused and went the wrong way, ending up at the spa again.  Fortunately, the kind staff was able to point me in the right direction to get back to the room.  Bill and I had decided to have dinner at a steak joint called Porter House Grill.

We were in the mood for meat.

 

Obligatory shot of Bill.

Bill had an Argentinian entrecote with steakhouse fries.  They also had USDA beef that was priced at a premium.  I almost ordered that, but decided I’d rather have ribs and roasted potatoes.

 

These ribs arrived “unsauced”.  They weren’t bad, but they didn’t satisfy my craving for southern style ribs.  This isn’t a dish I have very often, though, so I was determined to enjoy it.  You can see the small ramekin of sauce on the left.  It wasn’t bad barbecue sauce, but it didn’t taste quite like what we have in the United States.

We had a lovely Spanish rioja.  Our first choice, an Argentinian Malbec, was not available.  The waitress said they’d been waiting for weeks for the order to come in.

 

The inside of the restaurant was very nice.  I loved the ceiling.

 

For dessert, I had cheesecake creme brulee with berries and chili chocolate ice cream.  The ice cream was, indeed, “hot”.  Bill loved it.  

I liked his chocolate cake with Bailey’s Irish cream sauce.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped to watch some ice skating.  It wasn’t very cold outside, but lots of people were enjoying the ice.  I would have liked to have tried it myself, although it’s been about 39 years since I was last on ice skates!  I took lessons as a child, but that was many years ago.

We spent some time in the lounge, listened to music, and watched a French couple skip out on their check.  Bill said he saw them last night, though, so I guess they did end up paying.  I’m glad to hear that, since I used to wait tables and know the pain of people walking out on their checks.  I think it was just an oversight, although the waiter seemed a little stressed.

Another day done!

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Paul Simon or bust… Our Dublin getaway! Part nine

We decided to clean up for our afternoon tea.  I put on a dress, some jewelry, makeup, and a silk shawl.  Below is a reversed photo of my face, which didn’t look as good as the unreversed picture looked.

Someday, I’ll retire my black modal dress from Novica.  Not anytime soon, though.

 

Initially, we went to the Garden Room, which is not where tea is served.  Art Tea at the Merrion Hotel is served in the Drawing Rooms.

This was how our table looked when we sat down.

Bill checks out the literature.

Forks turned into stands showing the art pieces the pastries are modeled after.  These pieces are on display in the hotel.

 We opted for Champagne at fourteen euros a glass.  Champagne is totally optional and I noticed the server’s eyes danced when we ordered a second round.  Yes, sometimes we get carried away…  

Four kinds of sandwiches: Shanagarry Smoked Salmon with Lemon Glenilen Butter on Brown Bread, O’Donovan’s loin of Ham with Tarragon and Dalkey Mustard on White Bread, Cornfed Chicken with Truffle Mayonnaise on Sunflower Bread, Organic Cucumber, Smoked Paprika, Mint with Glenilen Yogurt on White bread, Duck Egg Mayonnaise in a Brioche Bun.  We skipped the truffle mayonnaise because I don’t eat truffles.  We also had plain and fruit scones, lemon bread, Portercake, Battenberg Cake, modeled after paintings in the hotel, and lemon curd, clotted cream, and raspberry jam.

Teas!  I had Irish Malt and Moroccan Mint.  You’re allowed to try as many as you want.  Bill had Pu Erh and Red Chilli Chai.

Very civilized!

These pastries are modeled after the paintings depicted on the cards below.

My favorite part!  We did have another glass of Champagne each, which bumped up the bill a bit.  All told, this set us back 170 euros, but we didn’t have dinner on Friday night, so we figured it evened out.  

You don’t have to dress up for tea, but I felt it was appropriate given how nice the drawing rooms are.

 

We figured we’d be really full after tea, and we did feel pretty full at first.  We even had leftover scones, which our server kindly packed up for us.  However, I did get a little hungry later, probably because a lot of what we had at tea was liquid.  So we went searching for dinner.  On my main blog, I wrote about an incident that occurred before we found dinner at F.X. Buckley’s.

F.X. Buckley is apparently a chain restaurant.  We stopped in because they were offering a Sunday roast, although we both ended up having steaks.  We didn’t have reservations, but they were able to accommodate us.

Interesting sign from days past.

Bill had a ten ounce sirloin with pepper sauce and fries.

I had a fourteen ounce rib eye with bearnaise and a side of mashed potatoes with spring onions.  We paired it with a dry red from Portugal.  I needed Bill’s help with the steak.  My eyes were bigger than my stomach, which seems pretty hard to believe…  

It was a great dinner!  I’d go back!

 

And… just so I could say I’d done it, I suggested a trip to Bar No. 23 at the Merrion Hotel for a nightcap.  It’s a beautiful bar.

The Chocolate Martini is an expensive winner…  

Bill had a Japanese whiskey.

 

And for me, he ordered a Chocolate Martini, which was as delicious as it looks.

 

Lots of nice art on the walls.

This bird was hanging out in the garden.  I think we caught her sleeping.

We turned in fairly early for our trip back to Germany on Monday.  I was sorry to be leaving Dublin, though I was looking forward to seeing our dogs.  And now I have reasons to come back, since there are still things we haven’t done or seen.  I would count our trip to Dublin as one of our best!

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I was expecting better from Pier 51…

Every once in awhile, I run across a restaurant in the Stuttgart area that gets talked about a lot.  I had heard a lot about Pier 51, a restaurant that is part of the same group that owns Cube, an expensive and highly regarded restaurant downtown.  Bill and I dined at Cube in January and had a good experience.  I kept hearing how great Pier 51 is.  Yesterday, I decided to book it, thinking we were going to have a fancy night out.

Well… tonight was definitely memorable.  We didn’t have a horrible experience, but it definitely could have been better than it was.  Some of what happened was beyond the staff’s control, but I found the service to be a bit off tonight.  I was also feeling a bit tired and out of sorts, which didn’t help matters.

We arrived at the restaurant at about 6:00pm, which is when we made our reservation using Pier 51’s online system.  There are several parking spots behind the restaurant as well as a garage.  We got there early enough that there were plenty of spots in the lot behind the restaurant.  For those who prefer public transportation, there’s a U-Bahn stop right across the street.  So kudos to Pier 51 for that.

Willkommen…

Pier 51 is convenient to the U-bahn.

We walked into the restaurant and I immediately smelled truffles.  Bill was excited because he was looking forward to trying their truffle fries.  I avoid all things fungal, so I wasn’t as excited.  I noticed all the signs in English and they reminded me a lot of 80s era “Please wait to be seated” signs I might see in a Shoney’s.  The hostess/manager first tried to seat us at a two top next to a large party when there were several two tops open that weren’t near a crowd of people.  I think she caught the look on my face and offered us what appeared to be a good table by a window.  A family of four was seated near us– a couple and their two young, adorable kids, a girl of about four and her little brother, who appeared to be about two.

A waitress came over to take our drink order after dropping off a menu.  Bill ordered mineral water with gas.  She left before we ordered wine.  Her male colleague dealt with us for most of the rest of the evening, but it took him awhile to get to us.  Consequently, we had time to observe the family sitting near us… actually, we had time to listen to their kids shriek.  Apologies to all of the parents of very young kids who might be reading this review.  Bear in mind that I’m almost 45 and don’t have kids, so I’m not used to hearing them do a lot of yelling.  I like kids fine and I understand that they are not really in control of their behavior when they are as young as these two were.  But you know, very young kids have shrill voices that can cut right to your heart and jangle the nerves.  These kids were doing a lot of squealing throughout our meal and their high pitched vocals were anything but adding to the ambiance.

Anyway, the waiter finally came over and we put in our order.  Bill got a Caesar salad.  I got salmon tartar.  We also got surf and turf for two.  We also ordered bearnaise and pepper sauce and sides of truffle fries and macaroni and cheese, all of which cost extra.  The surf and turf is charged based on weight.  We got the smallest portions available.  That proved to be a good plan, since the portion sizes weren’t too huge.

Obligatory shot of Bill before my temper got too short.

 

The waiter brought out fresh bread and raw vegetables.  There was butter for the bread and two kinds of dip for the veggies.  One of the dips tasted like a sweet pepper relish of some kind.  The other was a very tasty basil garlic cream creation.

I didn’t want to load up too much on the bread and veggies, though…

The table with the little kids must have arrived just before we did because they got their food just before we did.  The food sort of kept the tykes quiet, although the little boy (who probably should have been in a highchair) kept standing on his chair.  I cringed as I watched him reach for one of the plates the waiter was delivering.  I used to wait tables myself and one thing you NEVER want to do is try to reach for something the server is balancing.  Fortunately, a disaster was averted and the food was delivered without incident.  However, neither mom nor dad did anything to correct the boy.

Meanwhile, our wine was delivered.  After pouring some for us, the waiter took the bottle and set it on the bar, probably because we were at a small table.  At finer restaurants, it’s customary for the wait staff to pour the wine.  I don’t necessarily mind this practice as long as the wait staff is attentive.  Otherwise, the wine ends up being held hostage… and boy, did I need wine to get through our meal and dull the squawks from the little kids sitting near us.  Bless their hearts.  It was probably way past their bedtimes.

As we sipped wine, I noticed that the window I was sitting right next to offered a view of the outdoor ashtray.  Several people loitered outside finishing their cigarettes and checking their iPhones.  I might not have noticed this if I wasn’t already in a bit of a mood.  Our server came back and brought us the appropriate silverware for the rest of our meal.

My salmon tartar.  This was citrus cured salmon topped with a thick layer of creme fraiche, avocado, and roe with bits of endive.  The green pearls were avocado creme.  This was a pricy starter, but pleasant enough.  

 

Bill had a standard issue Caesar salad.

 

The manager cleared our dishes after we assured her the food tasted good.  We just didn’t want to get overloaded with food before our main course arrived.

A close up of the surf and turf.  We got a petit filet and split a lobster, which came with drawn butter.  The bearnaise sauce was extra.

I had a side of macaroni and cheese, which tasted like it was made of Gruyere cheese.  It wasn’t bad, although I like my mac and cheese made with slightly more pedestrian cheese.  I finished about half.

Bill’s dish looked the same, except for the truffle fries topped with Parmesan cheese.

 

While we were eating, the tykes at the table near us got up and started running around the restaurant.  Their mother half-heartedly tried to corral them at the table.  Dad, who had a rather prodigious gut with a correspondingly flat posterior that didn’t hold up his jeans, stepped outside for a smoke.  He stood in front of the window next to our table and hitched up his pants after rearranging some “stuff”.  Bill laughed at the faces I made, since it was unavoidable for me not to see what he was doing.  His ass was basically flush with the window.  If we ever dine at Pier 51 again, I think I will ask for a table further away from the front windows and not take the one right next to the front door.

Dad came back into the restaurant.  I noticed his wife was dressed in a pretty red dress and heels.  He was dressed much more casually.  Actually, although Bill and I looked nicer than usual, Pier 51 appeared to be a fairly casual place.  Dad’s wardrobe was fine.  Mom was looking like she was hoping for a date.  Dad was looking like he just wanted to satisfy his hunger.  I watched as two parties got up to leave.  Both had kids as young as the ones sitting near us, although the other kids never made a peep.  As the adults with the young kids passed, I noticed as they gave the family a disapproving side eye.  I don’t think we were the only ones who were weary of all of the screeching.

Around this time, our wine glasses were empty.  Our waiter had fallen into the dreaded weeds and kind of forgot about us.  After awhile listening to more shrieks from the kids, I was really wanting wine.  It took some time before anyone noticed we were finished eating and wanting more vino.  Another waiter cleared our plates and asked us if we wanted another drink.  I said we had some wine.  He thought we wanted to order more wine and I had to point out our half full wine bottle sitting on the bar.  I had briefly considered getting up and rescuing it from the hostage situation it was in.

Finally, the manager clued in and came over with the bottle and poured the wine for us.  Then, for some reason, she took the last bit of it and set it back on the bar.  I noticed her go over and say something to our waiter, who eventually came over and apologized.

The family with the kids finally paid and left.  Our waiter offered us espresso on the house, which we gratefully accepted.  The espresso came with little brownies, which was enough dessert for me.  When the waiter asked if we wanted dessert, I said I just wanted to finish the wine.  Then, I watched in amazement as the waiter walked right past the bottle to another part of the restaurant.  He eventually came back and found our bottle for us.  He poured the last bit and we finished it.

Then we sat several more minutes before we could get the waiter’s attention and ask for the bill.  When he brought us the bill, Bill checked it over, noting that it was under 100 euros.  We sure weren’t expecting a check that low, so we flagged the waiter down again.  Sure enough, he’d brought us the wrong bill.  Our dinners came to just over 200 euros.  Bill paid with a credit card and slipped our waiter a tip in cash.

Look… I know parents with young kids want to go out to eat, too.  And kids should go out to eat because that’s how they learn how to behave in public.  These kids might have been tired and I give the parents props for at least showing up at the restaurant fairly early.  However, when you’re paying several hundred euros for a meal, it kind of sucks to listen to high pitched banshee sounds.  We were only in the restaurant for two hours, but it seemed like we were there a lot longer.  I was definitely ready to go.

That all being said… the food was good.  I wasn’t totally blown away by the surf and turf, but the food was attractively presented and tasted fine.  It was rather expensive for what it was, although it’s not so easy to find lobster in these parts.  About a year ago, Bill and I enjoyed a lovely dinner at the now defunct Ocean’s First in Holzgerlingen and I had a whole lobster there that was better than what we had tonight.  But it’s not easy to get a lobster fix in these parts.  I noticed that Pier 51 had lots of attractive looking steaks available, as well as a few other choices for non meat eaters and a couple of fish dishes.  They also have a cheeseburger that was tempting, though it’s hard to justify spending 23 euros on a burger, especially in Germany.

I visited the ladies room before we left and was perplexed to see this portrait in the stall…  

 

Anyway, I’d probably give Pier 51 another chance, although I think I’d go a little later in the evening. And I would definitely ask for a table away from the bar area, even though the bar was attractive.  I did enjoy the 70s era soul music they were playing, especially after the little tykes were no longer screeching along.  They also get points for having show jumping on the TV monitors.

My curiosity is now satisfied.

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Beer tasting in Gärtringen… and steak at the Buffalo Grill and Bar!

After yesterday’s wine filled afternoon, I was wondering if maybe today would be a good day to go to Stuttgart and check out a museum.  But Bill was kind of tired and not in the mood to drive a long way, plus I knew there was going to be a beer tasting in Gärtringen.  The beer tasting was hosted by none other than Martin Damlach, a popular and familiar name in the Stuttgart Beer Club Facebook group.

Over the past few years, I had seen and heard Martin’s name come up repeatedly among beer lovers.  He runs a beer store in Gärtringen called Sueffisant which carries exotic beers from around the world.  Bill and I had been wanting to visit him, but never found the right time to stop by his place, which doesn’t have extensive opening hours.

Today, we decided to meet Martin at the tasting.  When I introduced myself, he immediately recognized my name and, after we tried our first beer, took Bill and me to his place where we proceeded to choose and taste more beers.  We ended up leaving with about fifteen beers, many of which we have never tried before.

Bill tries an IPA from Freiburg.

Martin had some grains available to check out…

This was a good find.

Besides beer, there were also people selling food and accessories.  I saw one woman demonstrating some kind of kitchen gadget.  It’s probably a good thing we didn’t get too close.  My kitchen doesn’t have room for another gadget.

In Martin’s beer store.  He has an impressive array of beers you might not find at your local Real or Rewe.

One of the beers we tried.  Martin speaks perfect English and was happy to tell us about the history of the beers he offers.  

Bill is happy as a clam in high water.

Martin’s door is easy to spot.

 

After we spent some time perusing Martin’s collection, we had to go back to the beer tasting area.  Martin’s wife was handling the crowd and isn’t as much of a beer fan as he is.  Consequently, he needed to get back to answer questions.  While we were there, we tried another beer… one made with sea salt and coriander.

Bill was enjoying it a lot, as was I! 

And if we’d wanted to, we could have had maultaschen and cake.

 

Martin shared his box of wild hops with us.  

 

After about an hour at the beer tasting, we decided to go back to Buffalo Grill and Bar and try their steaks (ETA: This restaurant is now closed).  I also wanted to try their combi-platter of appetizers.  I have a feeling I will be sending Bill there to pick up some of them to go at certain times of the month.

Here’s a shot of the inside dining room.  We ate outside again.

The combi platter was a hit.  It had chicken wings, jalapeno poppers with cream cheese, mozzarella sticks, chicken tenders, and onion rings.  The finger food came with a honey mustard dip and a garlic herb dip.  

 

Buffalo Grill and Bar offers several kinds of steaks in different sizes.  I had wanted a rib eye, but they were out of them today.  So I went with an Australian rump steak instead.  Bill had a German rump steak.

My Australian rump steak was a ladies cut– 200grams.  It came with slaw and mixed vegetables– peppers, zucchini, onions, and bleccch… mushrooms!  Mushrooms happen to be my least favorite food ever.  Bill graciously took them off my hands.  Next time, I will ask them to leave out the ‘shrooms.

Bill’s German steak, also a ladies cut at 200 grams.  I tried his steak and liked mine better, mainly because the flavor was less gamy.  Germany is not known for its beef.  

 

If I’m honest, I was not as impressed by Buffalo Grill and Bar’s steaks as I was their burgers.  Besides the fact that they included mushrooms– which I know many people love, but I hate– the meat could have been better trimmed.  I still prefer Tommi’s steaks in Jettingen to what I had at Buffalo Grill and Bar today.  But… that’s just me… and I would definitely go back to Buffalo Grill and Bar for the burgers and the appetizers.

All in all, we had a really fun day.  And pretty soon, I will get to try some cool new beers, thanks to Martin!

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Good beef! Seven places to get good steaks in and around Stuttgart!

Now that we’ve finally been to a Block House location, it’s time to write about my favorite steak joints in and around Stuttgart.  I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time.  Bill and I are fans of good beef, even though we’d probably be better off avoiding it!  Unfortunately, good beef is not something Germany is well known for having in abundance.  When we lived here the first time, from 07-09, we pretty much gave up on beef.  This time, we’ve sought out good steaks, mainly because our town happens to have a really good, and very reasonably priced, steakhouse.

Here’s my list of favorites, so far.  This post will also include a quick and dirty rundown of my overall impressions.  I know there are probably more places to get good steak in Stuttgart and its environs, but in the interest of keeping the length of this post reasonable, I’m starting with this list of seven.

Abacco Steakhouse

Abacco Steakhouse is an interesting restaurant located in downtown Stuttgart.  The concept basically involves having customers cook their own steaks.  They bring out the steak cooked to rare on a hot stone.  Then you continue to cook it to your desired level of doneness.  We had a good experience at this restaurant, although I’m not too hot on the idea of having to cook for myself when I’ve gone out to eat.  They do bring out several sauces to go with the steak, which I like.  Service was also good and the concept is unique.

Steak at Abacco Steakhouse.  

 

Ampulle

A very cool gin bar that specializes in steak.  We enjoyed a nice meal there in July of this year.  My only complaint about Ampulle is that people smoke cigars in their bar area and it can get rather smokey for non smokers.  Also, keep in mind that first courses at Ampulle are very ample!  If you want more than one course, I recommend pacing yourself.  I also recommend taking the train and walking to the restaurant because parking could be a challenge.

Ampulle is a great place for those who like beef and gin.

Maredo

Very reasonably priced chain restaurant with two locations in Stuttgart.  Has a little something for everyone, as well as surprisingly good steaks.  Besides having something for everyone, this restaurant runs all day.  It’s a good bet for when you don’t want to spend a whole lot of money.

Bill and I were able to enjoy a nice lunch at Maredo for about 44 euros.

Block House

Another chain restaurant with two locations in Stuttgart.  The Block House specializes in beef and, unlike Maredo, seems to focus only on meat dishes.  It was a bit more expensive than Maredo, but the food quality and service were very good.  I think it would appeal a lot to Americans, too.  It kind of has that American vibe to it!  There’s a wide variety of cuts to choose from and you get salad and sides included.  Fair warning to mushroom haters like me.  The salad that comes with the steaks has them included.  Next time, I’m telling them “Ohne Pilze!”

Steak at Block House.

[M]eatery

[M]eatery is another popular steak place in downtown Stuttgart.  It’s a little more upscale than the restaurants I’ve listed so far, although it, too, is a chain location.  You can drop a lot of cash at [M]eatery and, frankly, I was a little puzzled by the service we got there.  The food quality is good, though, and I hear their burgers are fantastic.  Be prepared to pay for everything pretty much a la carte, although I see that I did really enjoy the sides (that we paid extra for).

[M]eatery’s rib eye.

Christophorus

I debated whether or not to make Christophorus number one on this list.  I think this restaurant at the Porsche museum in Zuffenhausen probably offers the best steak in the area.  However, I put it in second place because reservations are a must and you will spend a whole lot of money there.  If you have a need to impress someone or want to celebrate, Christophorus is a very good bet for outstanding beef.  All meat at Christophorus is USDA prime– that is, from the United States.  The service is impeccable, too.  But bring lots of cash and be prepared to book well ahead.  We spent well over 200 euros for our dinner for two.  Fortunately, the steak was well worth it.  Other options are available for those who don’t want steak.

Fantastic steak at Christophorus.  Excellent service, too.

Tommi’s Bistro (now closed, but the owner has opened a new place in Nagold called Bahnhof 1872)

So far, my favorite steak joint in the Stuttgart area is Tommi’s Bistro.  It’s located in my town of Unterjettingen, which makes it inconvenient for a lot of people.  I still like it because the food is very good and extremely reasonably priced.  An added bonus to Tommi’s Bistro, besides the fact that we can walk to it, is that they offer a lot of live music events.  On the second Thursday of every month, they host a live jam featuring a band from Calw and anyone who wants to join them.  I have been known to jam with them myself a few times.  We went to Tommi’s last night for the jam.  I didn’t join them on stage, but we did have a couple of great steaks and enjoyed some fabulous music.  And… for all of that fun, we got out of Tommi’s for a mere 50 euros (including a generous tip, which really excited our waitress)!

The one drawback to Tommi’s is that the restaurant is pretty much only open on the weekends now and sometimes closes for private events.  If you do plan a visit to Jettingen to try Tommi’s Bistro, be sure to consult the official Web site to make sure it’s open.  As of right now, the restaurant is closed Monday through Wednesday, but that sometimes changes.  It’s also only open for dinner– lunch is not served there.  Some Saturday nights, they host concerts that cost extra.  If you choose to come out for one of the shows, I recommend making a reservation.

My rib eye last night.  Looks like Tommi has changed up his style a bit.  Side dishes cost extra, but they are also reasonably priced.  Service is good and they give you a house shot of sherry, too.

Bill had a rump steak.  You can get either Irish or Argentinian beef.  One mark against Tommi’s is that they don’t offer a whole lot of choices that don’t involve beef.  Also, there are no burgers at Tommi’s.  But if you like a good steak at a reasonable price, it’s a good bet.  They also have a children’s menu.

A photo of the jammers…

And a sample of last night’s music.  Good stuff!  This, by the way, is a free event, though tipping is encouraged.  Reservations are also a good idea if you’re coming to one of the musical events.

 

So there you have it.  These are my picks so far for great steaks in and around Stuttgart.  May your next steak dinner in or around Stuttgart be stellar!

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Wine bar! And our very first visit to the Block House…

Yesterday, Bill and I visited the dentist in downtown Stuttgart for our biannual cleanings.  As is our habit, after we visited the dentist, we hung around downtown for dinner.  I was unusually stressed yesterday, but the truth is, for months I’d been wanting to try a certain wine bar near the Markthalle.  Die Weinhandlung Kreis is a small wine shop, but you can also go there to taste wines and enjoy snacks.  We’d passed by the place so many times and I wanted to go in to see what it was about, but every time I paused by the door, Bill convinced me to move onward.  Yesterday, I was determined to finally try the place.  And frankly, after my dental cleaning and the huge Stau that preceded it, I was in need of a soothing red for my jangled nerves!

Die Weinhandlung Kreis near the Schillerplatz in downtown Stuttgart is a very small place, but they have wines and local spirits.  Yesterday, I noticed they were selling Chartreuse and Monkey 47 Gin, which is a gin made here in Baden Württemberg.  We discovered Monkey 47 Gin when we visited Hamburg in January 2015 and since then, we’ve enjoyed it ourselves.  My German sucks, but I can see from Die Weinhandlung Kreis’s Web site that this little wine bar is just one address affiliated with Die Weinhandlung Kreis.  They have a main shop in Stuttgart South, as well as an online store.  They even have a vineyard.  I can tell that Bill and I are going to have to get to know this business better.

Anyway, the lady who was running the shop yesterday wasn’t super friendly, but she was quick to get Bill and me a couple of large glasses of vino.  I tried a lovely Gigondas that was very nice in the late afternoon.  Bill had a Spanish red that had almost a menthol tinge to it.  It was very interesting.  They were playing cool jazzy music on vinyl in the cozy tasting room.  Had we not had plans to visit the Block House afterward, we might have tried a snack to go with the wine.  They had quite a few reds and whites available, as well as at least one sparkling wine.  We will definitely be back.

Ahh… red wine in the afternoon.  You can get a small or large glass.  I went with a large.

Bill sporting his new sporty goatee as he enjoys a red.  On the wall, you can see a list of what was available yesterday.  

Tiny bar.  Sorry this picture is a bit blurry.  I was trying not to be conspicuous.  Behind the turntable is a blurry list of snacks.  We ended up buying a bottle each of the reds we tried.  It’s worth mentioning that this wine bar takes credit cards– even the ones from America! 

 

I felt a bit more relaxed after the wine and my stomach told me it was time for dinner.  I had been wanting to try the Block House chain restaurant in Stuttgart for some time.  Now that I have, I can write a review.  Later, I will write a post detailing all of our local steakhouse experiences.

I saw this on the way to the Block House and thought it was nifty.  It was in front of a shoe store.  

I also noticed this coffee shop right next to the Block House location on Eberhardstraße.  They sell cups of coffee, but they also sell beans.  We may have to pay them a visit, so maybe I won’t need to spend 40 euros in duty taxes plus $40 in shipping for Peet’s again!

The first thing to know about the Block House is that there it’s a chain restaurant.  There are 47 Block House restaurants, 38 of which are in Germany.  Two of those 38 locations are in Stuttgart.  In that way, Block House is not unlike Maredo, another German steakhouse chain that has two locations in Stuttgart.  Curiously, the two Stuttgart area Maredo locations are practically within sight of each other.

The next thing to know about the Block House is that it runs all day.  There is no pause between lunch and dinner.  This is a very fine thing.  We were able to visit the restaurant yesterday before it got super busy.  Indeed, it was somewhat chill when we arrived at 5:00pm and was pretty full by the time we left a couple of hours later.

Bill anticipates a good hunk of meat.  He said the restaurant reminds him of an American place.  I agreed.  In fact, they were even playing early 80s pop music, which I kind of dug.

 

Block House is a very casual place.  We were invited to sit where we wanted.  When we sat down and the waiter realized we weren’t German, he asked if we needed menus in English.  Of course we said no!  Bill likes to show off his mad skills… which unfortunately, I am still trying to develop.

We started with a very nice bottle of Malbec, along with San Pellegrino.  I ordered the Hereford Rib Eye, while Bill went with a Filet.  Both dishes came with salads and Block House bread, as well as a potato or pommes.

 

As we were sitting there soaking up the atmosphere, Bill got a strange look on his face.  I asked him what was the matter, and then it became obvious.  The waiter put my salad in front of me and it was loaded with huge sliced mushrooms.  I took in a quick gasp of surprise and horror because I have a phobia of mushrooms.  Fortunately, Bill was kind enough to take them out of my salad.

 

Next time, I’ll know to tell them to hold the fungus!

The steaks were very good.  I was able to ask them to hold the sour cream and got butter instead.  I could have also had garlic butter.  My rib eye was about 250 grams and cooked to a perfect medium temperature.  The bread appeared to be a bun sliced, buttered, topped with garlic salt, and toasted.  It was pretty good, if not a bit generic.

Bill’s filet and sour cream covered potato.

 

We decided to have dessert.  It turned out to be a treat.  Those of you who love lava cakes will be happy to know you can get one at Block House.  I have an aversion to lava cakes, so I went with the New York Cheesecake, which came with a lovely warm blueberry sauce.

This was pretty damn delicious!  I am a sucker for cheesecake, even if I don’t eat cold, stinky cheese!

Bill had the Eis und Heiß, vanilla ice cream with a warm berry sauce.  He enjoyed it very much.

 

The bill came to about 82 euros before the tip.  While it wasn’t the best steak I’ve had in Stuttgart, I will say that we did enjoy our visit to Block House and would go again.  And now that I’ve finally tried the Block House, perhaps it’s time to write a comparison of all the steaks we’ve had here so far.  Stay tuned!

The outside of one of Stuttgart’s two Block House locations.

 

This is the end of my restaurant review.  Stop reading if you have delicate sensibilities about sex.

On the way back to the car, we passed Dr. Mueller’s Sex Shop.  I have never actually been inside the place, but this particular chain store has the distinction of being one of my most vivid memories of my first visit to Germany in 1997.  I came here on the way home from Yerevan, Armenia and two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  The Frankfurt Airport, at that time, had a couple of Dr. Mueller’s locations within it.  I remember being shocked as I passed it.  So, in honor of that memory, I decided to snap a few photos of the location in downtown Stuttgart.  Maybe someday, we’ll venture inside.

Looks pretty tasteful to me.

 

Tune in next time for whatever crap I discover next.

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Being beefy at Ampulle Dry Gin and Beef Club in Stuttgart…

I don’t remember who it was that suggested Ampulle Dry Gin and Beef Club, but I do know that I made a note and added the link to my bookmarks.  In my quest to find great food in the Stuttgart area, I am always looking for places where others have had good experiences.  Bill and I both enjoy good beef and Bill is a gin fanatic (and I like it okay myself).

Marketing…

Our chance to try Ampulle was realized last night, after we checked in to Stuttgart’s fabulous Waldhotel.  You may be wondering why, if I live close to Stuttgart, I am staying in a hotel.  Originally, the reason was because yesterday, I was supposed to have a final check of my new dental implant with Dr. Blair and tonight, we’re going to the Schlossplatz to see Van Morrison in concert.  Because Stuttgart is a bit of a haul from Jettingen and I have been itching to get away, we decided to have a two night “staycation”.  We put Zane and Arran up at Dog Holiday and I made big dinner plans.

But then, there was a crisis in Africa and Bill had a meeting to attend that made it necessary to reschedule the appointment with Dr. Blair.  So much for that.  But we did at least get a good night’s sleep at the Waldhotel and a good dinner at Ampulle.

I booked our 7:30pm reservation on Ampulle’s Web site.  They have a restaurant reservation app there; it’s not OpenTable, but an easy to use application that made booking our table simple.  Normally, I might have picked an earlier time than 7:30, but that was pretty much the earliest I could arrange it.  It turned out reservations weren’t even necessary because the restaurant wasn’t that busy last night.

The outside of Ampulle.

Ampulle is located very close to the Feuersee S-Bahn stop, so we took public transportation to the restaurant from the Waldhotel.  I would highly recommend using the train to get to Ampulle, because parking near the restaurant can be challenging.  If you do choose to drive, be advised that if you have too much to drink, a staff member can drive you home in your car for the cost of taxi fare back to the restaurant.  Since we live in Jettingen, that would be quite a fare!

Obligatory shot of Bill perusing the menu.  He just got a spiffy new haircut.  I bet it wasn’t the infamous blonde at Panzer who did it.

Anyway, we were right on time for the reservation.  They were expecting us and led us to one of the three little dining rooms in the cozy restaurant.  The first thing I noticed was the smell of tobacco.  A man was sitting by the bar smoking a cigar.  Fortunately, there is a glass door that separates the smoking area from the dining area.  It was closed for much of the evening, though there were a few times it was left open.  The guy smoking cigars was there the whole time we were, about 2.5 hours.  He was smoking the entire time, which I found annoying.  If we go back to Ampulle, I will request a table further away from the bar area.

I was seated next to the window, which offered a great view of the restaurant’s catering van.

The bartender, who spoke excellent English, handed us menus and offered us a drink.  We ordered a bottle of sparkling water and then Bill ordered a Gin Martini for himself and a Gin Basil Smash for me.  Ampulle has many different gins available, though we didn’t request a special one.  Curiously, they did not give us a menu with a list of gins and suggested cocktails.  I think they were pouring Bombay Sapphire, though, which is just fine.  Be advised that if you want to try different gins, you might want to spend some time in the bar so you can see what’s available.

Fancy leather menu!

After we ordered the drinks, a waiter brought us fresh bread with butter and olive oil.  I noticed the oil was in a little corked container that resembled an old time medicine bottle.  That was by design, as the building Ampulle was in was evidently once a drugstore.  Looking around the restaurant, I could see lots of old German ads for pharmaceuticals and old fashioned drug containers.  It was pretty cool.

Gin cocktails.  They were refreshing!

And good fresh bread.  I was hungry when we walked in and probably ate more than I should have.

Last night’s lovely Italian red.  Ampulle’s wine list isn’t overwhelming and they offer some good choices.

Finally, it was time to order the food.  Bill went with a Caesar salad for 10,50 euros.  I had a lobster based soup; I’m pretty sure it was a bisque, though that’s not how it was advertised in the menu.  That went for 11 euros.  In retrospect, a salad may have been a better choice, since it was a bit warm and humid last night.  Bill and I like to order different things when we go out so we can try each other’s dishes.  We also ordered a lovely red wine from the Piedmont region of Italy to go with our beefy meal.

For the main course, I ordered the 300 gram dry aged rib-eye for 36 euros.  Bill had a 250 gram strip.  We both had spinach as a side dish.  Ampulle offers a number of different cuts of beef, some of which are intended for two.  We saw one couple order an 850 gram t-bone, which was brought to the table on a cart and carved for them.  We didn’t order any sauces to go with our steaks; they have several that cost a few euros extra, everything from Béarnaise to BBQ sauce.

The first courses were very impressive and quite large.  Bill’s salad was loaded with three strips of bacon and plenty of creamy dressing.  It was a meal in itself.  My soup seemed a little smaller, but was a bit too rich to finish.  I ate about half before I stopped because I wanted to save room.  I did love the soup, though, and if it were winter, I think it would be the perfect comfort food.

Bill’s monster Caesar salad.  He really enjoyed it and ate the whole thing.  Bacon makes everything better, doesn’t it?


And my lobster soup.  This was very tasty, but rich and probably too heavy for a summer evening.  My fault for ordering it, I know.  In the winter, this soup would be fabulous.

The soup came with an accessory.  It was like a crispy rolled up crepe with egg in it.  It tasted okay, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was meant for.  I just dipped it in the soup. 

I catch Bill admiring the cart of beef that was rolled in for a couple in the next room.

The cart after the waiter served the couple.

Because the first courses were a bit more than we were expecting, we had a brief intermission between courses.  When our steaks were brought out, they looked wonderful.  The chef had garnished them with fresh rosemary.  Unfortunately, because of our intermission, the steaks were not sizzling hot.  My steak was kind of irregularly cut.  Most of it was cooked the requested medium temperature, but there were a few spots that were medium well and a few that turned out medium rare.  My steak had a bit of gristle in it, too.  The beef tasted good, though.  I think Bill’s strip was better than my ribeye was.

My ribeye, garnished with rosemary.  I’m not really a fan of rosemary.  I kind of feel about it the same way I do about lava cakes.  It’s overrated.  But, I will admit that it looked nice on the beef.  The spinach side was interesting.  It was creamed and served with raisins, bacon, and pine nuts.  The raisins and bacon gave the spinach an appealing salty sweet quality.  I didn’t eat a lot of the spinach, though it tasted good.  It was a bit rich.

Bill’s strip.  He really enjoyed it and the spinach.

I noticed that Ampulle offers a few lighter and less expensive dishes for those who aren’t looking for a steak experience.  I even saw one vegetarian option, though I don’t remember seeing anything for kids.  Actually, I would say Ampulle is a very adult kind of place and probably not suited for children.  The heavy smoking in the bar and focus on booze makes it seem less appropriate for little ones.  I also noticed the sexy mood music that seemed like it was lifted from a fashion show.

I usually get dessert when Bill and I have our dinner adventures, but last night I was getting a bit antsy.  Our waiter gave us plenty of time… perhaps a little too much.  As it got close to 10:00, I was getting tired and thinking I really just wanted to get back to the hotel, take a shower, and climb into bed.  If I had wanted dessert, I noticed they had several options available.  I probably would have gone for the chocolate soufflé, which would have really kept us up past our bedtimes.  We asked for the check and it was less than I was expecting at 159 euros.

The bill.

All in all, we had a good evening at Ampulle and would visit again.  Next time, we will request a table further away from the bar area to avoid stogie smokers.  Also, I will try a different cut of beef.  They had an Australian roast beef dish that looked very inviting.

And a pretty photo of the cathedral as the sun was sinking

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