Friday, July 25, 2008

Creme Brulee

My newest kitchen gadgets - tools you must have for making creme brulee - a fire torch and dishes. I have been wanting a set like this for a long time since Creme Brulee is one of my favorite desserts. Finally I saw this on sale for half price. Jackpot!

So... I got home and wasted no time looking up creme Brulee recipes from I even asked my five star restaurant chef friend Marco what heavy cream is in German. The milk product section in the supermarket is kind of confusing. It turns out they don't have heavy cream just regular cream (sahne in German). I bought one and doubted if it would work. From all the recipes, I picked a simple one from Alton Brown. It was easier than I thought and it turned out beautifully. Most importantly, it tasted really good. We loved it and gave a five star rating to the recipe.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Got Sun Kissed in Copenhagen and Malmö

No BBQ, no camping, and no partying on the 4th of July weekend for us. Instead we headed to Copenhagen Denmark and Malmö Sweden - two countries in one weekend trip. Very exciting! Not a bad idea at all!!

We got into Copenhagen around 9 a.m. and got an early start to explore the downtown area. We passed the longest pedestrian shopping street. My favorite was the Royal Copenhagen porcelain store and it's museum on the top floors. When we saw an employee hand painting a couple of dishes, we then understood why they cost so much.
We had a little to eat at the Kongens Nytorv (New Royal Market) and hopped on a boat at the Nyhavn (New Harbor). We got our first view of the Amalienborg (Amalia's Castle), Borsen (old stock exchange), National Museum, Christiansborg Palace, little Mermaid, and Christiania (the famous Free Town) from the water. It was a very beautiful and hot boat tour. The weather was hot and we were glad to be in shorts, however the people from the Free Town were even bolder and just lounged naked on the decks. We spent the rest of the day walking around most of the city which we could not see from the water. We got so much sun and were tired from all the walking so we took a little nap before our big night out. We went to the number one tourist spot in Copenhagen - Tivoli Gardens for dinner and a Jazz concert afterwards. What a special 4th of July!

Josh had been missing riding his bike especially after seeing a "Biking with Mike" ad. Thus, we got up early, rented two bikes, and biked with Mike. Fortunately, Saturday morning was usually considered a slow day for bike rental and the bike tour, so there were only two of us riding with Mike... we had a private tour guide. The tour took us to some parts of town that no usual tourists would have gone. It was really nice. Not only was riding the bikes easy in the city but we also obtained a lot of information and history. We learned the famous Little Mermaid whose head had been cut off twice. The first time was many years ago. The people and the city council were so shocking that they replaced the head in three days. However, the head was never found until decades later. A famous controversial dying artist called the media saying that he had something to say before he stopped breathing. When the reporters arrived at the artist's bed side, the artist slowly pulled out the Little Mermaid's head from underneath his bed. The news was so shocking that it went world wide. The second time happened a few years ago. Three drunken kids sawed off the head but got caught right away. What a poor life that the Little Mermaid has.

We thought the bike tour was only one hour long but... after 3.5 hours biking, we were beat. We decided to hang out in the free town - Christiania which is probably the cheapest place to hang out in all the Scandinavia countries. I have to explain here why Christiania is called free town. The Christiania was a military base. After the military left, the alternative lifestyle hippies moved in and 'camped' never paying for rent. One thing I asked Mike was what exactly is their alternative lifestyle? You know... beside living there for free and the people don't need much and don't want much (obvious from what we could see from their houses). Mike answered that it's the 'share system' and no ownership outside of his/her own house. Interesting... Well, back to out trip. We picked a bar, found a shaded area and rested. Soon, we noticed some interesting and somewhat illegal activities going on - marijuana selling, buying, and of course smoking. We sat there watching the people come and go. Soon, we were surrounded by people and the smoke of joints. We received an informal education over our drinks on the art of smoking, which was demonstrated several different ways around us.

Sunday our last day of the trip, we decided to go to Malmö in Sweden since it was just a short train ride. We even got a great deal on the train tickets. Perfect, now I can say I have been to Sweden. There was not much to see in Malmö. After a boat tour, we had pretty much seen it all. A couple of things worthwhile to mention here are the second tallest building in Europe and the longest bridge in the world between Copenhagen and Malmö.

Euro 2008 (European Champinship)

What a exciting three weeks for Germany!! It's like the World Cup all over again expect the games were in Switzerland and Austria. Since the games started, we could hear people cheering from the nearby bars from our flat. No matter which team won, there would be honking on the streets at the end. It sounded like German people finally awoke from the winter.

We didn't watch every game except for some very important ones, even when we were in Berlin. We finished our day early just to make sure we would see Turkey vs. Czech Republic because whichever team won would play with Germany. Since there is a large Turkish population in Germany, we thought that it would be crazy on the game day.

The semifinal, Germany vs. Turkey was on a week night - Wednesday. Downtown Stuttgart was filled with people by the time we got there around 6p.m. Everyone wanted to be at the Schloss Platz for the public viewing (each major European city has its own public viewing area which has more capacity than the stadiums.) We waited in line and finally got in around 6:30. Katja and Kathrin joined us later while some couldn't make it (stopped letting people in after 7) As you can see from the picture on the left, it's like 'sea of flags and people!'

It was a great game, there were many scores, and tied until 2 minutes before the game. Finally, Germany kicked another goal to finish on top of Turkey. Everyone was crazy afterwards. The streets were entirely blocked and downtown was shut down for a celebration parade. It was such an exciting experience.

We went to downtown again for the final. This time, the public view area was already pack and closed before 6p.m. The game started at 8:45 p.m. Can you believe that? And it was a super hot day too. On one hand, I can't image standing in the sun baking for so many hours waiting for the game. On the other hand, it would have been great. Well, we didn't have the option so we found a bar, sat down, and still enjoyed the game with friends and other nervous German fans. It was a superb game. Every minute of it was making me so nervous even though I am not a soccer fan. Too bad Germany didn't win at the end but I have learned so much about soccer from these three weeks.


After a year of life together in Germany, we finally made a trip together to the capital - Berlin. My first impression was... good food. We were starving after we checked into the hotel. We found an Indian restaurant 100 meter from our hotel. The food was great and the price was reasonable...nan a bit different and spice just right.

A good dinner plus a good night sleep, and we got an early start for our visit. Our first stop the Berliner Dom, is a big protestant church with a huge dome you can climb all the way to the top of. I could barely walk by the time we made it to the top of the Dome, but after seeing the view from the top, the sweat was well worth it. Our stomachs soon started protesting after the workout. We walked for a while until we found an restaurant ; Berin is a very diverse city with a great range of cuisine. Lucky us, we found one and had a good brunch. Afterwards, we spent the rest of afternoon on museum island. There are five museums - Bode Museum, Pergamonmuseum (it is one word not two. Here is an example of the language for you) Neues Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie, and Altes Museum on the museum island. We got an museum day pass and visited three of them. Our favorite one was Pergamonmuseum which has many famous examples of Greek ancient architecture - Pergamon Alter and sculptures. Only one disappointment was that part of museum was closed for some reason. The other two we visited were Bode Museum (sculpture collection museum) and Altes Museum where we saw some ancient Egyptian arts.

The picture on the left was taken on the top of the Reichstag which was built to house the German Parliament. We waited in line for an hour just to get to the top. Can you see how interesting it is that people walk around the glass dome.

Can you tell this is Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall)? We didn't notice until I saw the sign which I learned from German class (good thing I was paying attention in the class.) Can you see the guy in uniform on the very right. He would stamp your passport with the East German entry stamp with one Euro.

Berlin is very large and spread out and in the end we only saw a small portion of it. I'm sure we'll visit again if we are staying in Germany longer.

Dinner on the Table

Here is our new dinner table. I got some table linings to give the room some color. It has being great to entertain friends at the table. We no long stand in the kitchen eating food anymore. I have been making Josh sit at the table every night- (he prefers eating on the couch.) It is wonderful that we can finally sit and eat in a relaxing and proper manner.

Today we had Bruschetta with Sauteed Sweet Peppers and Creamy Gorgonzola, green salad, grill salmon, and german sausage and a glass of white wine. It's my first time making Bruschetta with sauteed peppers. It was yummy... I'll make it again when friends are over.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Schloss of Bavarian King Ludwig II

We stayed in a small town by Bodensee the night before and didn't realize that Neuschwanstein was two hours away. So...we got up early with our brunch packed by our hotel and headed to the castle. It's such a breath taking drive...thanks to Josh's great driving...he kept his eyes on the passengers and the side of the road instead of the center of the road (well...not most time... I'm just teasing Josh here.) Actually, the scenery was so beautiful that my hand was out with my camera half of the time.

Schloss Neuschwanstein (Swan Castle) is so magnificent even from a distance. No wonder that Disney would copy the design for its magic kingdom. The view from Neuschwanstein was incredible. We could see Hohenswangau (yellow color castle at the bottom right) and the lake. We also visited the Hohenswangau since it was just situated about 30 minute walk from Neuschwanstein. At the waiting line, I noticed one guy wore an orange shirt with 'Go Bronco'. I read said Boise State and Fiesta Bowl. I was so surprised that I sneaked a shot of him.

Having brunch while we walking...very efficient! Time is money!!

By the time we walked back to our car, it started pouring rain. Since it was still early, we decide to visit one more castle nearby - Linderhof.

Three castles in one day and they were all owned by the Bavarian King Ludwig II who built the first two I mentioned above. Therefore, we heard the King Ludwig II story three times, especially the part about how he was mentally ill and mysteriously died with his doctor in the lake. Enough of the Ludwig, each castle has its beauty and its style. I was amazed and impressed by each one. Although it was a lot of castles to see in one day, it was still a wonderful road trip.


We were so happy to have Maytal coming to visit us. We decided to take Maytal to the most beautiful lake, Bodensee and the most popular castle, Schloss Neuschwanstein in Germany. Our friend Katja also joined us. We picked up Maytal at the airport early in the morning and left for the Bodensee around noon. A road trip is always fun, especially when we have more than just the two of us.

Lindau is at the north side of the Bodensee and it's only few km from the Austria boarder. We actually drove into Austria by Josh's mistake - a wrong turn. This picture was taken from the harbor of Lindau over looking the lake all the way to Switzerland. It's absolutely heavenly.

Wasserburg, about 5 km west from Lindau is also a picturesque town. The onion shape dome church is one of the most frequently photographed sights in this region. We rented a paddling boat and enjoyed the views from the water. We had so much fun with the boat... First, we almost got run over by a big ferry because we were in its departure path. We got a few loud horns and many stares... Then, the stairwheel stopped functioning... I bet the boat rental shop never thought that they need to sell boat rental insurance.

Then, we got bored...