Uncategorized

Unique wine barrel furniture from Bijan!

Last weekend, a guy in my wine Facebook group, name of Bijan, advertised an open house at his wine barrel furniture-wine sales shop. Although I think he sometimes goes to Stuttgart to sell wine and furniture at AAFES, his actual shop is in Igstadt, which is very close to where Bill and I live near Wiesbaden. Bijan has somewhat limited hours, or one can call him and make an appointment.

Many times, I’ve seen Bijan advertising his beautiful wine barrel creations in my group. His pieces are all made from French wine barrels from Bordeaux or riddling racks from the Champagne region of France. Until today, Bill and I have never managed to make it to his place to see his products in person. He usually only opens on certain Saturdays from 10am until 2pm. We tend to sleep in on Saturdays or get to doing other stuff… and by the time we remember he’s open, it’s too late. This week, we made a point of going to see him. He was also kind enough to post a reminder in my wine group.

One of the things I’ve been wanting for our home is more storage for our wine. I’ve also been wanting to put some more furniture in our living room, since until today, it was half bare. I didn’t want to buy another generic wine rack from Amazon. I was hoping for something more unique and interesting. Bijan’s shop fit the bill perfectly.

We were greeted at the door by Marco Polo, the adorable canine ambassador, and I immediately saw what I wanted. There was a wine barrel cabinet that had racks for up to 8 bottles of wine, racks for wine glasses, and a shelf. On top of the barrel was a wooden table top with a glass insert in the middle, which turned the barrel into a pub table. There were several barrels to choose from, each one unique. Most had once held red wine, but there was at least one white wine barrel. Some barrels were light colored, while others were darker. And they each had unique bands around the barrel. We ended up choosing a barrel with black bands, only because it had the wine glass rack in it. The others didn’t have that.

I also wanted a riddling rack to hold some of my wines. The racks were originally used to produce champagnes, but are great as temporary storage for wines at home, too. We selected a dark stained rack with three rows on each side– it opens like an easel, and can hold up to 60 bottles. We never have that much wine in our house, because we drink it constantly. But right now in my basement, we have a bunch of wine in boxes, because we didn’t have enough wine racks. Now we can put the wines away and get rid of some of the boxes.

I’m thinking we’ll get a couple of stools for the new table/cabinet, and then on chilly winter nights, we can sit by the fireplace. Bijan makes stools, or maybe we’ll find a couple locally. It may be worth it to have him make us a couple of them. I’ll probably fill the glass insert with corks. The lady who sold us the cabinet said the wine that was stored in our cabinet was very nice… it’s stamped 2017.

Bijan takes cash and credit cards, and he also accepts the VAT form from Americans, so we don’t have to pay 19% tax. We got a ten percent discount, and ultimately paid just under 1000 euros for everything. Bijan knew exactly how to fit everything in our Volvo so it got home safely. I thought it was going to be hell getting the barrel into our house, but it worked out fine, after a few grunts and heaves from Bill and yours truly. Below are some photos of our new treasures. I forgot to get a picture of the building itself. They really have some unique stuff in there. We may have to go back!

Bijan also sells French wines and ports, and he was kind enough to throw in a couple of bottles for us.

Standard
booze tourism, Germany, shopping, Wiesbaden, wine

“Wining” away our Saturday in Wiesbaden…

A couple of weeks ago, one of Bill’s co-workers invited us to go to a wine tasting/market in Wiesbaden. She bought tickets for us, two of her other friends, and of course, herself. The event was held in the Colonnades near the Kurhaus in downtown Wiesbaden. To gain entry, we had prove we were fully vaccinated, but all other COVID related measures were dropped. We were supposed to be limited to two and a half hours, but fewer people showed up than were expected, so we could have stayed longer if we’d wanted to.

I really had a good time. I had forgotten how much fun these events are, even though I usually end up drinking too much. 😉 We met people representing wineries from around Germany, but there were also a couple of wineries from Italy and France in attendance. We also talked to a lady who runs a nut business out of Freudenstadt, which is very close to where we used to live when we were in the Stuttgart area. She had some really tasty cashews and other nuts that had complementary sweet and savory flavors. She also had salts, cheese breads, and granola.

We didn’t manage to hit every table. If we had, I would be in even worse shape this morning than I am… My liver really got a workout. But I did manage to get some photos. Lots of people were out and about, including a number of wedding parties. Springtime in Wiesbaden is a great time to see brides!

It’s so nice to have some normalcy again. I hope to enjoy it for as long as possible.

I enjoyed talking to some of the winery reps. One French lady bonded with us over a love for Georgian wines and the ancient way wines are made in the Caucasus. She said she did an internship in the Republic of Georgia, and since I lived in Armenia, we both knew about the region. ETA: It turns out the woman was actually from Germany, but she imports French wines. We found this out when Bill got the Rechnung!

Another winery was represented by the founder’s son, who said their winery was extremely tiny, with just one hectare of vines. Besides wines, they also made plum brandy and wineschorles (wine spritzers) that were refreshing. I think we came home with about 30 bottles!

I think we’ll take it easy today… enjoy the nice weather, and take care of some chores.

Here are a few shots of some of our neighborhood’s cutest residents. We ran into them on our walk the other day. Our neighborhood also has a bee feeding vending machine made from a repurposed gumball machine.

Standard
Uncategorized

A beautiful afternoon in Wiesbaden, preparing for our vacation!

We had beautiful weather in Wiesbaden yesterday, which was great, since it was Saturday. Bill wanted to visit the ADAC office downtown to pick up a vignette for Switzerland. I’ve written a few times about the vignette system that many European countries use to help pay for their high speed roads.

Some countries, like France and Italy, use tolls. Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic, among other countries, use “vignettes”, which are stickers one can buy at gas stations near borders, at ADAC, via mail order, or at the borders themselves, that entitle a person to drive on the roads. Swiss vignettes are unique in that they’re good for about fourteen months at a time, if you time it right. You can buy the vignette for the following year in the late fall– say late 2021– and it remains valid until the end of January 2023. But we didn’t buy our vignette at the end of last year, since we haven’t been in Switzerland since last summer.

When we go to a place that requires a vignette, Bill will usually get it ahead of time at ADAC. This also gave us a reason to go into town and have lunch. Wiesbaden was alive with people yesterday, folks enjoying the sun, running last minute errands before Easter, and just having a good time. Wiesbaden is so festive, especially at this time of year. I especially love the buskers– guys playing songs on guitar like “Ev’ry Rose Has its Thorn” (which I hated when it was popular) and guys playing “La Vie en Rose” on the accordion, which is a lot more European.

The weekend market was in full swing. I thought about doing some browsing, but then remembered that we’ll be going away soon. So instead of buying stuff, we just looked and I took some photos. Every time I start to think that living in Europe is getting too inconvenient, I’m reminded of why I love living over here. There’s always something going on, especially in a pretty, vibrant town like Wiesbaden.

I was planning to find us a nice place to eat lunch, but we ended up at Five Guys! Why go to Five Guys when we could have gone to any number of other places? Well, it was getting close to 2:00pm, which is when a lot of restaurants stop lunch service. Five Guys is quick and the restaurant was not busy. It had also been awhile since our last visit. I noticed that this week, even fewer people were wearing masks, although some folks were still abiding by the recently dropped COVID-19 rules. Five Guys still has the plastic barriers up around its booths, which I figure they’ll keep from now on, in case the rules come back… which they probably eventually will.

After lunch, we decided to go back to the Market Square and have a glass of wine as we watched the weekend market shut down. Below are a few photos from our day. After we were finished in Wiesbaden, we came back to home, stopping by a nearby Hofladen for some eggs for today’s Easter breakfast.

The farm has a little shack where you can pick up what you need and pay on your honor. I love that about Germany. We don’t have as many farms up here, as we did in Jettingen. This one is very close to our home in Breckenheim.

I hope everyone enjoys their Sunday… and if you celebrate Easter, I hope it’s a joyous celebration. I plan to finish my puzzle and read. Sounds like a usual day!

Standard
Uncategorized

Spring lunch at Villa Im Tal, and more travel plans!

Bill decided he wanted to go out to lunch again this weekend. Villa Im Tal, one of our favorite restaurants in Wiesbaden, was closed last weekend, so we went to Landhaus Diedert. This weekend, however, Villa Im Tal was open. Bill noticed that their menu appeared to be leaning more toward Italian cuisine. We are planning a big trip to Italy at the end of this month, so we made reservations for 1:00pm. Villa Im Tal is easily booked on OpenTable.de.

Some readers might recall that on April 2, Hesse dropped most of its COVID rules. However, I remembered that last weekend, when we dined at Landhaus Diedert, everyone was wearing masks in the restaurant. Although I threw out all of the masks in my purse, I made sure to carry a new one for today, just in case. On the way down the country road where the restaurant is, we passed a lady on a beautiful piebald pony who looked like he was about to start shedding his winter coat. He was still fluffy, like a teddy bear. SIGH.

We showed up right on time and donned masks, since the hostess/server was wearing one. She checked our vaccination statuses, which I understand that a lot of places are no longer doing, since it’s no longer required by law. Once we proved that we are up-to-date on our shots, she led us to our table. We noticed people were a lot more casual about masking this week. Some people wore them, but most people didn’t. The dining room is very spacious and there was plenty of room.

We usually sit in the front dining room when we visit Villa Im Tal. The one exception was in 2020, when we ate outside on a beautiful spring day. Today, it looked like the front dining room wasn’t set up. We were seated in the back, which was kind of interesting. It has a different ambiance, and offers a nice view of the lovely meadow that made me long for the days when I still had a horse and could go trail riding. Or, barring that, I would just like to hang out in a meadow with horses and smell their intoxicating aroma. Maybe someday…

In any case, Villa Im Tal is in the thick of “Spargel season”. It’s time for fresh asparagus, and they offered plenty on their menu. They also had their own version of the wonderful wild garlic soup so prevalent in Germany in the spring. Bill decided to have an asparagus heavy lunch, while I went with surf and turf. And we both had the garlic soup for our starters. Dessert consisted of a strawberry rhubarb tart with white chocolate ice cream for Bill, and an almond “cannelloni” filled with chocolate mousse and a small scoop of blood orange ice cream for me. The ice creams were house made.

Total damage for today’s lunch was about 215 euros, but it was well worth the cost. Service was, as usual, excellent. We were enjoying the space with a number of happy locals and a couple of very well behaved dogs. One dog was so good that we didn’t even notice her until the end of the meal, when her people led her out. Maybe someday, Noyzi will be good enough to go to a restaurant.

Below are some photos from today’s lunch. It’s always a pleasure to visit Villa Im Tal. It was funny, though, because the young woman who waited on us wished us a “pleasant journey”. I kind of laughed and said, “You mean, back to Wiesbaden?” She was surprised to find out that we live here. I guess they don’t get a lot of Americans in that part of town.

This week, we also made some decisions about our upcoming vacation. I hadn’t been really wanting to take this deal, offered by a member of my wine group on Facebook. He’s a sommelier in Florence who offers tours and sells wine. We’ve bought a number of his monthly boxes, which don’t come cheap, but are of excellent quality. He hit Bill up for a trip to Florence. I had originally said no, but then in the wake of the loosening COVID rules, decided what the hell. So, on April 23, we will be off on our next trip.

So far, our itinerary is this: One night in Andermatt, Switzerland, on the way down to Italy. Three nights in Torrechiara (near Parma) for three nights. Three nights in Florence, with one night incorporating the wine tour we’re taking. We will get there early because Bill wants to go to the Uffizi, a very famous art museum. He had wanted to go during our last visit, back in May 2013, but we weren’t able to arrange it. This time, we will make a point of making a visit happen. The third night, we will be having dinner and a wine tasting, and the weekend will consist of the rest of the tour, which will include visits to wineries and castles, and lots of wine tasting and probably a fair amount of wine buying. We will spend a night in Cortona, then come back to Florence, where we’ll spend another night before heading northward to Vaduz, Liechtenstein, where we will spend two nights before coming home again.

I had originally planned for us to go to Lugano, but I realized that it was too close to where we were coming from, and the timing might be tricky. Also, I have a feeling that we’ll be kind of ready for some quiet and decompression. Lugano will probably be a little too happening for us at the end of the trip, when I know I’ll be anticipating coming home. Vaduz is very beautiful. We went there for a few hours in 2009, with Bill’s mom, and we ended up literally getting trapped in Italy later. In any case, Vaduz is closer to home than Lugano is, and it’s not so close to Florence that we have to kill time before check in.

We WILL get to Lugano at some point. I do still want to visit there. I just want to do it at the beginning of the trip instead of the end. Maybe we’ll spend my birthday there in June.

We still need to nail down the hotel situation in Florence, but that will be sorted out soon. I hope to come home with lots of cheesy comestibles, wines, hams, olive oils, and pasta. I always look forward to Italy, so I think this will be a great trip. This will be my third time in Florence. The first time was in September 1997… and in fact, I was there when I heard that Princess Diana had died. I actually saw her picture on an Italian newspaper with the headline that she’d died. I thought I was looking at a tabloid. I am probably one of the few people in the world who heard about her death on September 2, 1997, rather than the day it happened. Ahhh… the days when we weren’t plugged in all the time. I remember listening to her funeral on French radio while riding a train through the South of France, en route to Spain.

Anyway, I think it will be a great foodie trip, and I look forward to writing it up. Stay tuned.

Standard
Uncategorized

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.