I'm writing this on a very rainy drive from Stuttgart, Germany to Zurich, Switzerland. Stuttgart will be a special memory on this trip, as it is in this city that I got to hang out with a friend I've known since she was 7 or 8. She was actually my sister's friend, but has been part of her life for so long, she's pretty much family. In fact, to the day, the last time I saw Tina was on my sister's wedding day two years before, so we got the chance to record an anniversary greeting for my sis and her husband. I think she was pretty happy to get a video message from her sister and her oldest friend from so far away.
Tina and I took a walk through downtown Stuttgart at a clip, since I ended up being 3.5 hours late. It was another day of waiting on the bus until the hotel rooms were ready, so we had some lost time to make up for. Knowing I was a foodie, she definitely wanted to show me some local specialties, so we started with one of her favourites on a sunny patio near the
river moat by the Johanneskirche. Maultaschensuppe is a dish that blurs the line between dumpling and ravioli. With a slightly denser dough than the latter, it's filled with finely ground pork, herbs and spices, the "dumpling" is served in a richly seasoned beef consommé. It was the perfect snack to tide me over until what would would be a very meat-filled dinner later.
We continued walking the many squares filled with gorgeous buildings, fountains and statues spanning eras from renaissance to contemporary, and I took quite a lot of pictures. One example of the art nouveau style was the Markthalle, a year-round indoor market filled with produce, meats, fish, cheeses, breads, olives and more. It was like a smaller version of Toronto's St. Lawrence Market. I picked up some intensely green olives from Sicily that were very lightly brined, so you still got the lovely flavour of the fruit. At another stall, Tropical GbR, they sold nothing but stuffed dates. They were like little jewels in the case, glittering with nuts, confections and flowers. Tina and I chose four to sample while we sat by a park fountain, drinking some very nice coffee.
The four flavours we tried were pistachio and marzipan; candied ginger with what we think were lavendar buds; maraschino cherries and Italian nougat; and Macadamia nuts with vanilla bean and another flower we couldn't identify. For me the cherries were the winner (of course). What they call maraschino cherries are nothing like what we know from North American grocery store shelves. They were more like what you would find in a black forest cake. Tina's favourite was the nut and vanilla date. We both agreed that the marzipan was disappointing, as the marzipan really didn't provide enough flavour or texture difference to be anything special.
After another quick coffee stop for some butterbrezel (butter-filled pretzel), we met up with Tina's partner Matthias (whom I was meeting for the first time in their 12-year relationship) for some more walking and dinner at a nearby brewhouse for a classically Germanic culinary experience. I deferred to the suggestions of the locals when it came to beer choice. Though I didn't love the pilsner on it's own, it was certainly drinkable. But when matched with the rich veal sausage with yellow mustard, and a lightly pickled salad, it worked really well. I also snuck a bite of Matthias' schnitzel which, while simple and a bit on the dry side, was still flavourful.
A big thank you to Tina and Matthias for giving me an insider's view of Stuttgart, and for their recommendation to visit Bernd Kreiss' shop to pick up a bottle of representative German wine. On the salesperson's suggestion for a red, rather than the more regionally famous Reisling, I bought a bottle of 2008 Dautel Lemberger. I can't wait to share it with my other wine-loving friends when I get back home. Yeah, I'm talking to you, Suresh and Joel. ;)
I'm hoping to try some fondue while we're in Switzerland, even if I have to go on my own, goddamnit. And there will definitely be some more chocolates purchased. Until next time...