Mussels & French fries

Last week I heard that the French eat mussels with fries. This may be obvious to all those who are constant visitors in France or French restaurants. I’m not. But I was happy to have learnt something new. Yesterday I found mussels at a good price and decided to prepare them by myself – this was the first time for me. That’s why I had to inform myself about the preparation of this yummy shellfish species. In the shop they advised me to boil them for 3 to 5 minutes.  But I also consulted the treasury of wisdom: Internet! Since as everyone I have my prejudices, I looked for ideas on Italian not German websites. Here in the North, we are not the masters of seafood preparation 🙂

So, here the results of my research: a traditional recipe from Southern Italy. I tried it out and the mussels were delicious…

I guess the video makes it possible to understand the recipe even without speaking Italian.

Obviously, I don’t post any recipe for French fries… but believe me, it is a good combination!!!


Schwarzwälder Sauermilch!

It’s a very sunny autumnal day, as beautiful as it happens all too seldom in our part of Europe. I’m sitting on a nostalgically cut bench under the columns of the Hohenheim Palace. There is the huge botanical garden and arboretum in front of me, big trees covering the horizon. Only between some of them, there are dark green hills visible. Somewhere further they become even higher and pass over into Schwarzwald. This is where the product I’m enjoying along with the view is from. Sauermilch, meant is sour milk, is something so prosaic, but I have never seen in in any supermarket of Berlin. Here in the south I discovered this simple and pure product reminding me of my childhood, exactly as they suggest on the package. What a smart marketing, which reads in my mind! If you happen to be in Central or Eastern Europe you will be probably shocked by the unending list of milk products here, many of them pure, with merely one or two ingredients. What a joy after the never disappearing salty and weird taste of Michigan’s buttermilk, ricotta or yogurt. Well, don’t miss the Sauermilch from Badenia, once you are here. It is so simple and beautiful that I fail to describe it!

Rossese by Luigi Calvini, San Remo, Liguria, Italy

Rossese is another interesting variety to be found only in Italy. The origin of this variety is unknown, but it’s grown in Liguria at least since the 16th century. There are two DOC areas where it’s cultivated: Riviera Ligure di Ponente Rossese and Rossese di Dolceacqua. Both regions are tiny and so all Rossese grapes come from barely 400ha.

Liguria is a very particular wine-growing region. You must consider that there is not even one flat hectare of terrain. It’s all about a long and thin strip of land between the Mediterranean (the part called Ligurian Sea) and the Alps. They produce relatively little wine and it’s much about regional, often autochthon varieties like Bosco, Albarola or Pigato.

Wines from the Riviera Ligure di Ponente are mostly pure Rossese and so was mine. I had a bottle of one from 2010, but Rossese is not Barolo, and I doubt it should be stored and aged. The aroma was quite unique reminding me of rosehips, but also strawberry and maybe slightly prunes. Tasting it I discovered a remarkable note of acidity of herbal character. And I must admit, as much as I liked it, my friends didn’t.

I guess you cannot serve this wine to impress some important business partners but it is a definitely fascinating trip into the culture and identity of the picturesque coastal Liguria and its people.

Vinho Verde, Casal Mendes, Portugal

Big part of vinho verde you can find in the German market, and probably not only here, tastes like sweetened sparkling water with a portion of citric acid. One might argue that it is not the best wine you can get from Alvarinho grapes, as far it’s made from this variety because it is not necessary according to the DOC rules. Let’s just think of those great creations from Albariño (the Galician variant of the name), which Rías Baixas usually offers.

But recently I tried some nice vinho verde in two completely different restaurants: a Turkish one – Osmans Töchter, and a Chinese one – Toca Rouge (both worth of visiting, once you are in Berlin, whereas the second one is better value for money). In both cases it was the same wine: Casal Mendes’ Vinho Verde. I got even more excited once I discovered how much cheaper it is in our Mediterranean supermarket. I guess I paid like € 4,50. You can imagine that in the restaurants they take four times more.

What I appreciate about this wine is its balanced structure, pleasant acidity and fresh crispy taste. In comparison to many vinhos verdes, I would call this one neither sweetish nor too sparkling. It’s made from Loureiro and Trajadura grapes, not Alvarinho, and the result is delicate and very satisfying.

pure blueberry juice by Maero

Just a quick recommendation… When I was in a wine shop in Brondello, Piedmont, the owner added to the wines that I purchased a blueberry juice as a gift. It was a nice gesture but then even a nicer discovery. This is not a juice of the highbush blueberry originating from the North America and available in supermarkets around the world, but from of the European blueberry, called also bilberry (in Italian mirtillo), usually collected in the forests of Central Europe or the Alps. Although I grew up in a culture highly appreciating all kinds of berries, I have never tried a juice made from this species.

The juice – produced by Azienda Agricola Maero in Castellar – is a pure and biological product, with no sugar added. The latter fact makes it pretty impossible to drink it without mixing with something else, as by itself the bilberry juice is quite sour. I loved it with water and Polish rose hips syrup.

Letting aside the long list of vitamins which you can find in bilberries, this is a really refreshing all natural drink.