gadgets, housekeeping tips

“Up, up, up, in my studio, studio…” with apologies to Sponjetta Parrish…

Back in 2010 or so, when Bill and I were living in Georgia, I was an avid viewer of America’s Got Talent. There was a very charming performer that year named Sponjetta, and she came up with an extremely catchy hook, with her original song, “Studio”. Years later, I still sing it. And now, after this week, I have a special reason to be singing it. I spent this week upgrading my workspace.

“I’ll be in my studio…”

If you follow me on Facebook or read my main blog, you may have already seen some photos of the work I’ve been doing. It’s been a busy week, but I made a lot of progress and, in fact, my former landlady might even be surprised. She apparently thought I was a total dirtbag. Oh well. In the end, we got the last laugh. ūüėÄ

I didn’t actually plan to upgrade my work area when I bought my new computer. I thought I’d be dumping the old one into the pile of three worn out machines that need ditching. But then I realized what a huge collection of music my old computer has, and it’s also compatible with a lot of my peripherals. Yes, I can and will update the peripherals eventually, but I just spent about $2700 on a new, souped up machine. So, I want to wait a little while before I replace things like microphone interfaces and power hubs. It probably won’t take long before I replace them, but I wanted a workaround for now.

So there I was a few days ago, finally mounting my new computer on the VESA arm that caused some drama last weekend… The old computer was sitting on the floor, and it was awkward to use it. I went looking on Amazon for a solution, and found a really excellent wooden table. I also decided to buy another HomePod Mini, so I could upgrade the sound in my office.

As the week wore on, the work continued… it culminated to today with me putting together a CD tower for the CDs I’ve bought since we’ve been back in Germany. I probably have 1000 more of these at home in storage, but for now, the CDs were taking up valuable room in the IKEA desk I stole from my first German landlord in 2009. I’m kidding… we took the desk with his blessing. It’s made to accommodate a computer tower. ūüėģ

When I bought the second HomePod, Apple did a clever suggestive sell, and I bought some really cool strip lights that I can control on my computer. It really dresses up my area and will probably jazz up my videos, next time I make one. I have a new song in mind, by the way… I’ll probably record it tomorrow or Monday. I might even play guitar, too.

Anyway, here are a few photos. I’m rather proud of myself. I am especially delighted by the new table. I feel all “Brownlee Vila” now (a joke, since my favorite late Uncle Brownlee was a genius at building stuff. He was also a great, self-taught musician. I miss him terribly.) By the way, I can set those lights to about 1500 shades or so, just with the flick of a hand. I think I paid 35 euros for the lights. Seriously, this looks way better. My hand is also looking better now. The blisters don’t hurt today. That table will probably last the rest of my life, too. It’s VERY solid. Just what I’d expect from a German vendor.

Oh… and we didn’t go our for Valentine’s Day again this year. ūüôĀ But Bill did send me a beautiful bouquet of roses. He’s the best.

And for those who are wondering… Arran is still with us and perky as ever, even if he’s a bit lumpier. Noyzi is also doing very well, even if he’s had unusual fart power this week. You can see Noyzi watching his favorite Dodo videos, while Arran is doing what he does best… begging for food and being handsome.

There are still a few things I need to fix until the space is just right. For one thing, we need to do something about the Internet going out at the drop of a hat. I did dump a lot of stuff off the old computer, but it still hangs up and cuts out too much. I’m sure there’s a simple fix that my old brain hasn’t found yet. Bill went out today and bought a brand new power drill/screwdriver, so I hope I won’t have to suffer blisters again, if I have another screwing project to do. ūüėČ At least, if I have one that doesn’t involve genital herpes.

I am hoping tomorrow, we will go out and enjoy the weekend… and maybe we’ll even get mooned again, like we did in 2019.

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Valentine’s dinner at Franks– The Culinary Soul of Wiesbaden!

Valentine’s Day snuck up on us again in 2019. ¬†Last year, we made a hasty decision to have Valentine’s dinner at Refugio, a restaurant at Hotel La Casa in¬†T√ľbingen. ¬†It was the same place we celebrated in 2017, although 2018’s dinner was not quite as good and lacked the same caliber of entertainment the restaurant had in 2017.

This year, we’ve moved to Wiesbaden, and Bill has been very busy with work. ¬†Consequently, we almost didn’t go anywhere this year. ¬†The Cajun place near us was having a special dinner, but we’re going to France today to celebrate President’s Day weekend and I thought it would be better to have lunch from there before we go.

I consulted OpenTable to see if there was any hope of having dinner on the town. ¬†Sure enough, there were ten restaurants with availability. ¬†One of them was the lovely Little Italy, but we’ve already eaten there three times– most recently this past Sunday. ¬†Another was an American style sports bar, which probably wouldn’t be very romantic. ¬†A third was a German restaurant called Ratskeller, which we tried in December. ¬†I wanted to go somewhere different, preferably with great food. ¬†I took notice of a place called Franks– The Culinary Soul of Wiesbaden.

Franks (curiously styled without an apostrophe) got really good reviews on OpenTable. ¬†I took a look at their Web site and thought it could use an upgrade, but the food appeared to be really nice on the a la carte menu. ¬†And since Franks is not open on the weekends, I figured Valentine’s Day on a Thursday night would be a good opportunity to try it. ¬†I decided to take a chance.

I believe these roses came from our local Rewe store. ¬†I finally got to use the vase I “made” in the Black Forest last year.

Bill came home at about 5:30pm and we had reservations for 7:00. ¬†He asked me if I’d seen the menu for Valentine’s Day. ¬†I did see that they were offering a four course dinner for 75 euros a person, but I didn’t notice if the a la carte menu would also be available. ¬†Also, I didn’t see what was on the menu, because it was hidden on the news section of their rather low tech Web site.

One of the courses had the dreaded Shiitake mushrooms in it. ¬†And the main course was lamb, which I don’t really like very much. ¬†After presenting me with a lovely bouquet of red roses, Bill called Franks and asked if the mushrooms could be left out of the soup that included them and if there was any way I could have something other than lamb. ¬†Fortunately, the chef was able to accommodate our request. ¬†He left out the ‘shrooms in my Miso soup and prepared a beef filet for me. ¬†Below are pictures from a really fabulous meal!

If you have an electric car and need to charge, you’re in luck! ¬†Franks also has a large parking lot with free parking, which is a huge plus in these parts. ¬†This restaurant is located in a business park in Erbenheim, not too far from where Bill is now working. ¬†It was about a 14 minute drive from our house in Breckenheim.

The menu was posted by the door.  You must climb three flights of stairs to get to the restaurant, or take the handy elevator.  I dressed casually, in a red sweater and black pants with comfortable shoes, so we took the stairs.  The staff at the restaurant had put candles and little heart decorations on the last flight leading to the restaurant.

A very friendly guy greeted us in proper German, took our coats, and led us to our table in the contemporary dining room. ¬†80s and 90s era pop music played on the sound system, but it was turned down low enough that many people wouldn’t notice it. ¬†The tables were set far away from each other, which I really liked. ¬†There was plenty of space to get in and out of the seats and ample opportunity for privacy, although I wouldn’t necessarily describe the dining room as “romantic”, per se. ¬†It looks like the kind of place where businesspeople have lunch.

Strange smirk on Bill’s face. ¬†I’m not sure why.

 

A nicely set table.

 

We had hot bread and butter, as well as sparkling water.  The water was not included in the 75 euro price.

 

We enjoyed a Bellini as Bill looked at the extensive wine list.  The Bellini was part of the menu.  It was a nice touch.  Bill found a beautiful red from southern France.

 

We’ll have to have this again. ¬†It was delightful.

 

I counted five couples attending last night’s dinner. ¬†One of the couples appeared to be regulars. ¬†I noticed an important looking man, perhaps Frank himself, came out to speak to them. ¬†It’s a shame more people weren’t enjoying Franks last night. ¬†The food was superb.

We started with this amuse– salmon mousse, salmon tartar, quail leg (although the chef didn’t know the word in English, so we’re guessing it was quail), and a cup of bell pepper soup served in the style of a cappuccino. ¬†The amuse was delicious and generous. ¬†I especially liked the quail and the soup, although the salmon was also good– very fresh and beautifully presented.

 

Next came the soup course. ¬†This included a langoustine (shrimp), snap peas, carrots, Shiitake mushrooms (omitted from mine), sprouts, and what appeared to be a soft boiled quail egg split in two. ¬†The chef brought out the soup set up, then poured the peppery miso soup over the shrimp, vegetables and egg from a teapot. ¬†The soup was amazing, even without the mushroom. ¬†I’d love to have it for the next time I need comfort food.

These are two views of the next course, two perfectly seared sea scallops with fresh pasta and decorated with dried prosciutto.  I really enjoyed this course, too.  I love scallops and I love pasta, and all of the flavors blended beautifully.

Next, we had our main courses. ¬†Mine was a beef filet, while Bill had rack of lamb. ¬†The herb encrusted meat was cooked to a perfect pinkness and served with hearty root vegetables. ¬†Honestly, this was probably my least favorite of the courses, although that isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it. ¬†It was just the one I enjoyed the least. ¬†Everything was excellent.

Then we had our dessert, a little piece of chocolate mousse cake, with a scoop of citrus flavored ice cream, fruit jellies, strawberries, and what looked like a little twig of white chocolate….

And a few chocolates before the bill was served with fortune cookies that turned out to be surprisingly appropriate… ¬†

 

We thanked the chef for making such a delicious meal for us and he said, “Well, that’s my job.” ¬†I think we’ll be back. ¬†Not only was the food really beautifully prepared, the service was also impeccable and gracious. ¬†I’m sure it helped that there weren’t many people dining last night, which is both a surprise and a shame. ¬†On the other hand, we managed to have a delightful dinner served by people who were neither stressed nor annoyed by a huge crowd of people.

Our total bill was about 185 euros and it was worth every euro cent. ¬†I don’t know how often we’ll get to enjoy Franks, since we don’t often go out to eat during the work week, but we may make a special effort for this place. ¬†I want to try their a la carte menu and “smokers bar”, now. ¬†What a wonderful Valentine’s Day meal we had!

Highly recommended!

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Valentine’s Day dinner at Refugio 2018… a big “meh”…

I did try.

Ahh, Valentine’s Day… ¬†a greeting card holiday that has caused quite the angst in many a young person. ¬†Since I haven’t been young in awhile, I’ve made it a point to try to do things on Valentine’s Day. ¬†My husband, Bill, is very obliging. ¬†Most years, he brings me chocolate, a mushy card, and/or flowers. ¬†We also usually go out to dinner. ¬†I’ll put on a relatively pretty dress and fix my hair. ¬†He’ll put on fancy clothes I bought him for Christmas. ¬†We’ll hit the town and try to be fancy.

“When in doubt, pinky out…”

Last year, our Valentine’s Day celebration took place at Refugio, a restaurant at Hotel La Casa in T√ľbingen. ¬†I remember we had originally made other plans for Valentine’s Day dinner 2017, but I was swayed by the ads I kept seeing on Facebook for Refugio’s event. ¬†They were having a concert with a virtuoso pianist and singer, plus a set dinner. ¬†Last year, we had to reserve in advance and the hotel mailed us actual tickets to the dinner. ¬†I remember having a pretty good time, even if I don’t always have the best luck with “set dinners”.

Fast forward a year. ¬†It’s Valentine’s Day again. ¬†Somehow, we let our plans get away from us. ¬†Bill was too busy to bring me flowers, chocolate, or even a mushy card. ¬†Two days ago, I visited Hotel La Casa’s Facebook page and noticed they were doing another Valentine’s Day dinner, albeit with less fanfare than last year’s celebration. ¬†I asked on Facebook if they still had reservations open. ¬†They responded that they did, so I asked Bill if he wanted to go. ¬†He said yes and emailed them a reservation request for 7:30pm.

Last night, Bill came home from work and changed from work clothes to… ¬†work clothes. ¬†I changed out of my nightgown, put on pantyhose and makeup, and curled my rapidly greying blonde hair. ¬†The dress I wore last night was a purple velvet number I bought for our latest Scottish cruise. ¬†I decided I should wear it instead of the black dress I usually wear when we go out. ¬†Bill doesn’t like it when I wear black on Valentine’s Day. ¬†I will admit it was nice to wear something different, although that dress doesn’t show off my cleavage, which might be my most alluring feature. ¬†I threw a wrap over it– a pretty red silk/cashmere one that Bill bought me on a business trip to Vicenza. ¬†The same guy was probably selling them in Stuttgart.¬† I have to admit Bill did pretty well with that purchase.

We headed to T√ľbingen, arriving on time for our reservation at Hotel La Casa. ¬†This was our third visit to the hotel’s restaurant. ¬†I keep thinking I’d like to book a weekend there, since it’s a charming boutique/spa hotel. ¬†Even though we only live about a half an hour from T√ľbingen, I know I’d find plenty to do. ¬†T√ľbingen is a great town and one that is close to our hearts, since we lived very close to there when Bill was in Germany with the Army (07-09). ¬†Before I was an annoying blahger, I was a bored housewife who had lots of fun times in T√ľbingen.

Things got off to a reasonably good start. ¬†We parked in a nearby garage and walked a couple of blocks to the hotel.¬† A friendly receptionist welcomed us and took our coats. ¬†We were directed to a four top table in the lower level of the dining room. ¬†Our table was in front of a very comfortable couch like seat. ¬†I remarked to Bill that the chairs looked like they might be new (although I see from previous reviews that they aren’t). ¬†They were very luxurious and comfortable, even though I shared the “couch” with the lady sitting at the next table. ¬†There was a cylindrical pillow dividing her space and mine. ¬†The concept reminded me of an order divider one finds on conveyer belts at grocery stores.¬† I kind of liked it, since I’m territorial.

Although the seating was very comfortable, the person who set the table kind of made things difficult for me. ¬†You see, the “couch” also had a barrier of sorts on the outside, which meant that in order to access the place set for me, I had to awkwardly scoot across the couch. ¬†Likewise, if I wanted to get up to use the ladies room, I had to scoot the other way. ¬†It wasn’t unlike trying to get out of a window seat on an airplane, although at least I didn’t have to climb over anyone to do it. ¬†Every time I slid across the couch, my dress and panty hose shifted and I just knew I’d end up with static shock.

Our table was also located right next to a very tasteful divider that blocked the way to the ladies room.¬† Had that divider not been there, it would have been easy to get to the restroom.¬† Although I was really tempted to just duck past it, I decided to be classy and walk past the small fountain in the middle of the dining room, up the stairs, past the pianist and bar, down more stairs, and then down another flight of stairs to the restroom. ¬†Fortunately, I didn’t wear heels last night, so it was no big deal.

Bill takes in the scene.  I was momentarily amused by the unicorn horn like napkins on the table.  I did refrain from putting one to my forehead, which is a good thing.  A tuxedo clad gentleman sitting behind us kept shooting us looks.  Or maybe he was just looking at the pianist.

A server brought us some bread and we ordered two glasses of champagne and some sparkling water.

We enjoyed the bubbly with the amuse, a heart shaped savory bread with a bacon wrapped date and a goat cheese spread that was hidden under the petals of the flower. ¬†The amuse wasn’t bad.

 

Service was rather leisurely. ¬†Well, for us it was, anyway. ¬†I’m sure the servers didn’t think it was leisurely at all, as four of them looked after everyone in the restaurant. ¬†I don’t think they had a full house, but the dining room was fairly busy. ¬†They probably could have used at least one more set of hands. ¬†I finished my champagne and kind of wished for a glass of white wine to go with the next couple of courses.

Meanwhile, the pianist was playing a curious selection of hits. ¬†He’d play a romantic song, then lapse into “Just a Gigolo” or a James Bond theme. ¬†I noticed the adorable elderly couple next to us were really enjoying the pianist’s musical stylings.¬† They burst into applause when the pianist stopped for a break.¬† I mostly enjoyed the pianist too, at least at first. ¬†More on that, later.

After the elderly couple applauded, they got up to leave and bid us a pleasant farewell.¬† They were so cute.¬† I hope if Bill and I make it to true elderly status, we’re still going out and enjoying dinners on the town like that couple was last night.¬† It was lovely to see, and probably my favorite part of our evening.

Our server brought out the first course, two sea scallops on vegetables with a heart shaped “frame” of smoked salmon. ¬†The scallops were “speared” with lemongrass, in the style of an arrow. ¬†I enjoyed the scallops and the horseradish themed dressing that came with them. ¬†This wasn’t too bad. ¬†I did order a glass of white wine at this point, which the server promised he’d bring for me. ¬†I finished this course before the wine came… (and have actually only now noticed that the salmon was arranged in a heart shape.)

Then came course two, a tomato soup with “trout chips”, a soggy heart shaped piece of bread, caviar of some sort, and a basil leaf. ¬†It wasn’t bad, but really didn’t blow my mind… ¬†and I also finished it before my wine came. ¬†I had to remind the waiter to bring it. ¬†And then when he brought the wine, it also didn’t thrill me. ¬†It was a very buttery, locally produced grey burgundy that was slightly effervescent and kind of mediocre. ¬†It wasn’t bad, but I like my white wines crisper.¬†

 

Before dinner started, we made sure to tell the waiter that I can’t eat mushrooms. ¬†He said he would make sure my main course didn’t have them, which led me to believe that if we hadn’t asked, I’d be presented with a plate full of fungus. ¬†I know it sounds silly, but mushrooms are the one food that make me want to run screaming from the room. ¬†They give me the creeps (long, ridiculous story that makes me look even crazier than I am).¬† Anyway, more than once, I’ve been unpleasantly surprised by fungus on my plate.¬† I didn’t want that to happen last night.¬† We made very certain to confirm and our waiter assured us it was no problem.

The main course, beef filet with vegetables and a heart shaped puff pastry garnish.

 

Bill’s dish was the same as mine, which immediately made me nervous, since the waiter had originally indicated that mushrooms had been part of the dish.¬† The beef was covered with a an unappetizing light brown sauce.¬† It made me suspicious.¬† I asked the waiter again about the ‘shrooms.¬† He said there weren’t any.¬† Bill tasted the beef and said he couldn’t taste the nasty little parasites.¬† I tried the beef, too.¬† I don’t think there were mushrooms in the sauce, but unfortunately I was so turned off by the thought of them that I couldn’t really enjoy the main course.¬† I ate maybe a third of the beef and half of the vegetables.¬† In retrospect, I should have asked the waiter to hold any sauces.¬† I’ll remember that for next time.

On the positive side, the waiter did pour us a lovely Italian primitivo, that was very nice on its own.¬† I wish I’d thought to take a picture of the bottle because that was a wine I would love to drink at home.

“The Winner Takes It All” is a beautiful song by ABBA with a melody that lends itself to piano.¬† However, it seemed an odd choice for Valentine’s Day.
 
 

And the appropriately jazzy “Moon Over Bourbon Street”, is also a little creepy…¬†¬†

While we were finishing the main course, I noticed the pianist’s song choices were getting a bit strange.¬† I can’t be sure, but I think I heard mashups of pieces that included “Moon Over Bourbon Street” by Sting and, curiously, “The Winner Takes It All” by ABBA.¬† I was especially perplexed by the ABBA song.¬† I happen to love “The Winner Takes It All”; it’s a beautiful song with a lovely melody.¬† However, although the song itself is moving, the lyrics are about divorce and the loss of love, so I wasn’t expecting to hear it on Valentine’s Day!¬† Ditto the Sting song, which is romantic and interesting, but it’s basically about a lonely vampire who is tormented by his urges to destroy the things he loves.

Dinner ended with a dessert panoply, which we shared.¬† There were two scoops of gelato– strawberry and mango, I think.¬† Two frozen chocolate mousse bars, fresh berries, a rather dry, heart-shaped chocolate brownie, and what tasted like a strawberry mousse.¬† The gelato was a little soft, like it had been sitting out a bit before it reached our table, but it could be they just had the gelato out of the freezer for easier scooping.¬† I was glad the brownie wasn’t a lava cake.¬† The whole thing was capped off by a heart shaped piece of white chocolate.

 

Around this time, I was starting to get a bit antsy and, if I’m honest, kind of annoyed about how dinner turned out.¬† I also felt a little guilty, since not enjoying Valentine’s Day is truly a first world problem.¬† For many years, I didn’t even have anyone to celebrate Valentine’s Day with.¬† Now I have a sweet husband who is willing to indulge me.¬† Yes, I know sometimes I’m an asshole.¬† We all have our moments.¬† Unfortunately, then Bill and I started talking about my hair, which is now natural and rapidly going grey.¬† Bill saved the conversation by reassuring me that he loves my hair.¬† The neurotic moment mercifully passed and we decided to call it a night.

Bill called for the check, which came to 179 euros.¬† He paid our waiter, who reminded me to take the rose in the vase, which I did.¬† After a quick visit to the restroom before our drive home, we stopped at the coat rack.¬† Normally, a staff member gets your coat for you, but I guess they were busy.¬† So Bill and I helped ourselves and, as I was struggling to put my coat on, our waiter came over to say goodbye without offering assistance.¬† That was no big deal, I guess.¬† Maybe you could say it sort of capped off my overall impressions of the evening– a big “meh”.

But at least the rose is pretty! 

And my hair does look blonde in this photo, which was taken last night…¬† so I’m going to resist the urge to break out the hair color.

I did notice a couple of patrons ordering from the regular menu.¬† Or, at least it appeared that they did.¬† I never think to ask about doing that, especially since having worked in restaurants, I know that kind of screws up things for the kitchen.¬† Sometimes it’s hard to go from server mentality to guest mentality, even if you’ve been out of the business for a long time.

I’ll be the first to admit that my attitude sometimes sucks.¬† I certainly wouldn’t say last night was a disaster.¬† In fact, having once worked as a waitress in a nice restaurant, I should have realized that if you really want to have a good time at dinner, it’s best to avoid eating out on popular holidays like Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day.¬† Those are the days restaurants have “special menus” that can lead to disappointment, since you don’t necessarily have a choice in what you’ll be eating.¬† Those days are also when people tend to go out to eat, which means service can suffer.

Since this was our third time eating at Refugio and the first two times were good, I can truthfully say last night was probably an aberration.¬† No one can bat a thousand every day.¬† As always, it was a treat to be out with Bill, who is my favorite person.¬† That, in and of itself, makes any Valentine’s Day a success.¬† At least he was home and not deployed or TDY, right?

This weekend, we are going to the Czech Republic, staying in a town very close to Plzen, which is an excellent venue for beer lovers.¬† I probably like beer even more than I do wine, so I’m expecting to have a good time.¬† We visited Chodovar, a beer wellness land/beer spa/ brewery in the Czech Republic in February 2009 and, for many reasons, had an unforgettable experience.¬† So I suspect we’ll make up for last night this weekend, if all goes according to plan.¬† I don’t know if we’ll manage to hit the beer spa (or a wine spa, for that matter), but I’m sure we’ll find great things to do.¬† And this time, I won’t forget to bring my camera, like I did last time.

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Love was in the air at Hotel La Casa in T√ľbingen

Ever since my traumatic adolescence, I’ve made a point of trying to celebrate Valentine’s Day. ¬†When I was a young, frisky thing, I was almost always ignored on cupid’s big day. ¬†At my high school in Gloucester, Virginia, every Valentine’s Day there was a dreaded list read at the end of the school day. It consisted of all the students– naturally all girls– who had received flowers and needed to pick them up in the office. ¬†My name was NEVER on that list, although I do think one year a friend took pity on me and brought me carnations at home.

Anyway, for many reasons, I’m a lucky lady now. ¬†I married a sweet guy who likes to spoil me and enjoys eating out in restaurants. ¬†We decided to go out for Valentine’s Day this year. ¬†Originally, we were going to try a new to us place in¬†Pliezhausen, but then I started seeing ads for Hotel La Casa’s Valentine’s Day event on Facebook. ¬†Bill and I dined at Hotel La Casa’s Refugio restaurant last year and we were very impressed with it. ¬†So we cancelled our reservations at the first place and booked a table at Refugio.

This was the ad that attracted me…

Normally, reserving at the hotel’s restaurant is very easy to do. ¬†Just use OpenTable.de! ¬†But because the hotel was running a special dinner complete with a musical guest, we had to call directly for tickets, which were 69 euros a piece and included everything but beverages. ¬†They mailed us the tickets, which arrived a day after we ordered them.

Last night’s program consisted of Swing and Jazz Romance hits from the “Golden Twenties”, which isn’t as old fashioned as it might sound. ¬†Virtuoso pianist Duncan Galloway and a male singer whose name I didn’t catch were playing classic hits like “I’m Confessin'”, “Witchcraft”, and “The Girl from Ipanema”. ¬†It was quite enjoyable if you like that sort of thing… and I do.

Our view of the festivities.  We were at Table 1.  I was glad to see they had a full house!

The dinner consisted of four courses.  They had a vegetarian/vegan option and a meat option.  Bill and I opted for the regular meat option.

Bill takes in the scene.

There were candles and flowers and hearts everywhere…

 

I started with champagne.  Bill wanted a bottle of wine with dinner, but they brought him a glass. 

Then they brought out the amuse… ¬†a curried shrimp with red cabbage and pesto.

Next came cod with pureed Jerusalem artichoke and spinach, topped with champagne sauce.

Crustacean soup!  This was delicious, with its clear, briny broth and two shrimp filled raviolis.

Then came the meat course. ¬†This was veal with a medley of Italian vegetables. ¬†I don’t actually eat veal very often, but I will admit this course was very nice. ¬†I gave some of my veal to Bill, who has fewer moral objections to eating it.

A well satisfied date!

Finally, we had dessert, which was white chocolate mousse with hibiscus.  I probably would have preferred chocolate, but this was a nice, light ending.  

 

Hotel La Casa is a beautiful place and I’m hoping someday we can spend a weekend there, sans dogs (because they aren’t allowed). ¬†The spa alone is tempting, but the restaurant is also excellent. ¬†The food has been beautifully presented and delicious on both of our visits and the service is friendly and very professional. ¬†I definitely recommend it for a great date night, especially if you like design. ¬†The dining room is very stylish.

Yours truly, whispering sweet nasties in Bill’s ear.

I asked my Facebook friends if I should go for pretty or cuddly. ¬†They all said cuddly, but Bill wanted pretty… so I went with pretty. ¬†

Anyway, this was another successful Valentine’s Day celebration. ¬†We had a great time and those traumatic memories of my youth have been successfully buried for yet another year. ¬†I hope your Valentine’s Day was just as enjoyable!

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Valentine’s dinner at Im G√§rtle in Entringen…

Ever since we moved back to the Stuttgart area in 2014 after a five year absence, I have often remarked to Bill that it feels like we never left.  And yet, this time around, we are doing a lot more things locally than we did the first time we lived here.  During our first tour, we lived in a little town called Pf√§ffingen, which is about 10 kilometers from Herrenberg and maybe 7 from T√ľbingen.  Because we were living between two decent sized towns, we spent a lot of our time in those two towns.

This time, we live in Jettingen, which is also about 10 kilometers from Herrenberg in a different direction.  We spend time in different places now, but still like to go to our old stomping grounds.  Entringen is a little hamlet in Ammerbuch, maybe two or three kilometers from Pf√§ffingen.  We had to drive through it any time we went to one of the four American military installations near Stuttgart. Now, we go to Entringen by choice when we want to see our old friend we nicknamed “The Mad Scientist” or are headed to T√ľbingen.  We don’t even have to go that way if we don’t want to.  We can access that area via a different route that doesn’t take us through Herrenberg.

Somehow, the first time we lived here, I never heard of Im G√§rtle.  It’s in Entringen, kind of on the outskirts in an area of the town we had never before explored.  While Bill was in Africa last week, I was tasked with finding us a nice place for dinner on Valentine’s Day.  When I noticed Im G√§rtle on OpenTable, I was intrigued.  At first, I thought it was in T√ľbingen.  When I saw that it was actually in Entringen, I was very curious.  Then I saw that it got really good reviews on OpenTable and Trip Advisor.  I also noticed that all the reviews were in German.

I am a firm believer that locals are the best judges of local cuisine.  Most everyone had good things to say about Im G√§rtle.  Both the food and the ambiance got good marks.  So I decided to make the reservation for 7:00 tonight.  We arrived right on time.

A photo of the sign.  It was dark out… 

 

To get to the restaurant, you drive down B28 to the little town of Entringen, then turn onto a narrow residential street.  Hang a couple of more turns on equally narrow residential streets and head up a hillside.  The restaurant is at the top and offers a nice view… or, at least I think it would be very nice during the daytime.  I can see by the photos taken during the spring and summer that those are the best times to visit.  Then you can sit in the garden.  Parking for the restaurant is free and fairly plentiful.

The lady who greeted us didn’t speak any English at all.  That was okay.  One of the waiters did, though he wasn’t obvious about it.  Bill and I probably got more practice speaking German tonight than we have in a long time.  The dining room was full and we were, of course, the only Americans there.

Obligatory shot of Bill.  Right after I shot this, he ordered a Bordeaux and some sparkling water.

They brought out some delightful fresh bread, which was served with excellent butter.  There were two slices each. 

Next came an amuse.  Sweet slivers of peppers, zucchini, and eggplant drizzled with a little balsamic vinegar…  They were a nice way to start the meal.  

We each got green salads.  My dish did not come with a salad, so this is a photo of an a la carte salad. Bill’s dish came with salad and his was smaller than mine was, but just as good.  Underneath the towering greens and endive was a small pile of potato salad and a mound of carrots.  The salads were topped with peanuts, cashews, and sunflower seeds.  This salad was too much for me to eat in one sitting, but it was delicious.  The dressing was like a smokey mustard vinaigrette.  I stopped after eating maybe half.  I knew the rest of dinner would be huge.

I had a porkloin with a side of colorful vegetables and spatzle.  I’m pretty sure the gravy was made with mushrooms (it had an earthy flavor), but I was able to avoid it easily enough.  The top of my pork is a garlic crust.

Family sized spatzle.  We took most of this home with us.

Bill had vension with spatzle, sauteed mushrooms, a roasted pear with cranberry sauce, and potato croquettes.  There was also a side of cream and venison meant to drench over the meal.  Most of that venison and cream came home with us.  Bill loved this dish… but he loves game anyway. 

For dessert, I had hot love…  that is, vanilla ice cream with hot raspberries, whipped cream, and a white chocolate/chocolate garnish.  The raspberries weren’t actually that hot, but that was okay.  They tasted very fresh.  This restaurant prides itself on farm to table dining and that was evident with every dish, including dessert.

Bill had a Grand Marnier parfait.  It came with plums on the side.  The parfait was a little melted.  Bill enjoyed it anyway.

And we had espresso… and that came with cookies and sweets.

Service was leisurely, friendly, and very professional.  I could tell there were a lot of return visitors.  One couple had brought their well behaved dog with them, while another had a little boy who was honored with the task of bringing out the check.  This is definitely a family run establishment; everyone working there seemed invested in its success.  The two wait staff members were very nice and welcoming and the food was excellent.  And, at 119 euros, it didn’t break the bank.  We were also allowed to pay with a credit card.

Another shot of the sign.

Not such a good shot of the beautiful wrought iron gate and steps leading to the restaurant.  Be advised if it’s icy, you have mobility problems, or are walking in heels for the first time in awhile, like I was.  

Im G√§rtle is a very charming restaurant.  The interior is a little 60s, with sort of a Brady Bunch vibe.  The music on the sound system was also straight from the 60s and 70s.  We heard “The Entertainer” and “Behind Closed Doors” by Charlie Rich on the sound system, at least until most everyone had left.  Then they turned off the music in the dining room and played some alternative tunes in the kitchen.  Bill got a kick out of that.

On the walls, there are many works of art.  Indeed, the restaurant even has an art museum, which is open for limited hours on the weekends.  Edited to add, my German friend Susanne says that 85 year old Manfred Lutz founded the restaurant over fifty years ago.  The artwork in the restaurant and museum was all done by him.  His grandsons are now in charge of the restaurant.  I think I saw Manfred Lutz at the restaurant last night.

I recommend making reservations.  It’s very easy to do that using Open Table.

Tonight was our first visit to this restaurant, but I doubt it’ll be our last.  We really had a good time and I want to see what it looks like when the weather is nice and the view is easier to see.  Highly recommended!

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anecdotes

Big Valentine’s Day plans…

Last year for President’s Day weekend, we went to Regensburg. ¬†It was bitter cold. ¬†On Valentine’s Day, all the restaurants were packed. ¬†We went to a crappy Thai takeout place. ¬† The food ended up having mushrooms in it. And then, Bill went back to our hotel room and threw up his dinner. ¬†We had a good time in Regensburg, but Valentine’s Day 2015 pretty much sucked.

This year, we’re staying local. ¬†Bill had to go out of town and I have been sick all week anyway. ¬†I decided we’d have a decent Valentine’s Day dinner and booked us at a restaurant in Entringen that doesn’t belong to The Mad Scientist.

We have not been to Im G√§rtle before, but it’s located very close to where we used to live when we were here the first time. ¬†Since Bill has been traveling all week, I decided I wanted to keep Valentine’s Day somewhat low key.

It looks like a nice place. ¬†Doesn’t have a lot of reviews on TripAdvisor and they are all in German, but what I’ve read indicates that the restaurant is pleasant enough. ¬†And it looks like it’s in a nice area, although it will be dark when we get there. ¬†I look forward to posting a new review and getting out of the house.

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President’s Day Weekend in Regensburg… Part 5

Saturday night was especially hectic in Regensburg because it happened to be Valentine’s Day.  When Bill and I woke up from our naps, it was dinner time.  We weren’t really hungry, but we knew that if we didn’t get something light for dinner, we’d be ravenous in the morning.  So we went looking for food.  Unfortunately, Bill wasn’t feeling so hot.  He had a scratchy throat and a slight cough.  He said his chest was getting heavy.  I started dreading it, because I feared I’d soon get what it looked like he had.

Most every restaurant we saw was packed with people.  We also saw a guy dressed in a costume, obviously because he does the nighttime candlelight tours offered in Regensburg.  We saw him approaching one of the squares, where a group appeared to be waiting for him.  He muttered “Shit!”, then changed direction.  We later saw him approaching from another direction.  I don’t know what that was all about… Bill said he probably had to go to the WC or something.

We finally ended up having our Valentine’s Day dinner at Ha Tien, a little hole in the wall Asian place that had pizza, Asian food, and at one time, it looked like they had doner kebab, too (it was x’d out on the menu, though).  I had a crispy duck with rice and vegetables.  Bill had spicy chicken with vegetables.  We took a risk and didn’t ask if the vegetables had mushrooms in them.  They did.  Bill gallantly removed them from my dish and fortunately, they didn’t turn the flavor too earthy for me.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel because Bill was still feeling icky.  On the way back, we noticed one large cafe had seemingly closed early and was hosting some kind of dance class.  I don’t know if that’s a regular thing or something they just do for Valentine’s Day.  It looked like fun, though… if only I could get Bill to dance!

When we got to the elevator at the hotel, we could hear a bunch of kids on it giggling and yelling, so we decided it would be better to use the stairs.  We went to our room where, not long after my evening shower, Bill proceeded to lose his spicy chicken dinner.  When Bill throws up, it’s very loud.  Sadly, his vomiting episode went on for several long minutes.  Poor guy.  He felt better afterwards, though.  I think the spices put him over the edge.

It took awhile to get back to sleep, thanks to the kids running amok in the halls and the fact that we’d both had naps.  I entertained myself by watching and listening to horribly strange YouTube videos by a guy who calls himself “Lil Markie”.  I blogged about him on my main blog.

I also researched a spa concept I spotted while wandering around Regensburg.  In Germany, there’s a spa chain called Float.  Basically, it’s a place where you can float naked in warm salty water in a pitch black tank for an hour.  I thought about booking a session there, but determined that I’d probably get claustrophobic.  Besides, it’s not a cheap experience, though it is one of the rare activities one can do seven days a week in Germany.  I see they have a location in Stuttgart, too.  Maybe someday I’ll work up the nerve and try it.

It wasn’t much of a Valentine’s Day meal…  Maybe we’ll do better next year.

I didn’t know Oskar Schindler once lived in Regensburg.

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