Sunday, July 17, 2016

July 2016 - In Our Town

Hi, everybody, and welcome to Cépage et Cuisine, Mary’s and Brian’s blog about wine, food, and culture.  In case you’ve wondered, that’s pretty much the translation of the name of our blog. Cépage et Cuisine is French and translates to Grape and Food.  Today we’re sharing a little of our town, Plymouth, Michigan.  It is a small town about 20 miles west of Detroit.  By the way, don’t believe everything bad you read in the news about Detroit.  It is a wonderful city that offers a high quality of life and many amenities.

This is a great time of year in Plymouth.  We have a small farmers market in our downtown area every Saturday morning, plus many interesting shops and restaurants.  I jog into town and Mary meets me there to shop the fresh items.  It’s not the Beaune market, but it’s not bad and going there has become a relaxing weekend ritual for us.  Mary totes me back home in the back of the pickup truck.

Here are a few photos of the local and fresh items that are available.

Fresh Michigan cherries … can’t beat ‘em.

Entertainment was provided by the Village Strings, local acoustic musicians who feature the hammered dulcimer, mandolin, fiddle and other traditional stringed instruments.  Enjoy this short clip.

Here’s Mary browsing the flower selection.

       Here’s our downtown Main Street … very Americana.
Boule Bakery supplies a large selection of fresh baked bread every day.  They even custom make my sugar-free whole grain bread for me.

Here’s the Plymouth Coffee Bean where we buy our whole beans for daily grinding at home just before brewing.  The Coffee Bean also exhibits local art and provides a venue for local musicians and poets.

Here are our fresh items for the day.  Fresh sweet peas are in season and they are wonderful.  We never got those fresh before we moved to Plymouth.  I think the climate in the hot and humid South was inhospitable to them.  They were always frozen or in a Green Giant can. 

Morgan and York, our favorite deli and wine shop in nearby Ann Arbor, conducts wine tastings many Saturday afternoons.

Taking in a Tigers game in Detroit is a fun, fun evening.  Gives Mary a great excuse to enjoy a hot dog and a cold one.

That’s our post for today.  We hope you enjoyed it.  With all that's going on in the world around us, we think staying in touch with the simple pleasures of community and family will help us keep perspective and priorities in place.  Thanks so much for reading us at Cépage et Cuisine.  Check back for more posts about wine, food, and culture, which we’ll try to add from time to time.  In the meantime,


Thursday, July 7, 2016

June 9, 2016 – Homecoming

Hi, everybody, and welcome back to Cépage et Cuisine, Mary’s and Brian’s blog about wine, food, and culture.  We returned home today, back in the USA.  We left Bernkastel at 6:15 a.m. to give ourselves plenty of time to get lost on the two hour drive to Frankfurt.  I'm happy to say we had only one short wrong turn diversion and made the drive in good shape.  Here’s a friendly auf wiedersehen on the way out of town.  I think it means “see you soon” in Bernkastel-Kues.
Here’s Brian at the Frankfurt airport.  We went to the food platz for breakfast and saw this place.  They had a sign that said Europa-frühstück, a European breakfast, so in we went.  It turned out to be this giant plate of sausages, bacon, eggs, potato pancakes, and greens.  The photo looks like I’m on the phone seeking help on how to attack this plate of food, but I’m actually calling Delta about travel.

Big Dee got us over here …

… and Big Dee will take us home.

A couple of movies, a little snoozing and here we are, back in Plymouth, Michigan, home sweet home.

By about 5:00 or so in the afternoon, 11:00 p.m. in France and Germany, we were ready for dinner.  As we have done the past couple of years, we went to a sports bar in Plymouth called the Box Bar and ordered up good old nachos deluxe.  And once again, that pitcher of Diet Pepsi is for drinking, not pouring.  It’s the American way.
We had dinner outdoors on the patio.  Here’s a big difference between the U.S. and Europe.  Here in Plymouth, the smoking ban at restaurants extends to outdoor patios.  In France and Germany, cigarette smoking is much more common than here and is allowed on the terrace at restaurants.  Mary and I commonly chose to dine indoors in France and Germany because of all the smoking on the terrace.

Here’s Kellogg Park in downtown Plymouth.  Yes, that Kellogg, from Battle Creek.

Sonoma was glad to be back home, but annoyed that we left her at the vet for so long.  I’m not really choking her in this picture.  She’s just a little anxious about the whole ordeal.

So, what are some observations and lessons learned?
Magny-les-Villers is a little slice of heaven in Burgundy.  We love it and always want to return.  Life is easy, the joie de vivre, the love of life, our friendship with Marie and Yves, it is unmatched in any of our travels.
The Beaune market on Saturdays is the most incredible spectacle of a farmers market we have ever seen and can imagine.  The energy and excitement are electric.  Don't miss it!  Go there!

Seven years in a row, Isabelle takes care of us at La Ciboulette. Like a community.

       The beauty and serenity of the Burgundy countryside …
             … simple food, expertly prepared …
… friendly, everyday folks, who speak not a word of English but who want nothing more than to share their craft and their history with American strangers.

Wine produced by the same family, from the same ground, for centuries, expressing a profound harmony of people and place, enjoyed over hours with exquisite cuisine.

Ancient vineyards, farmed in the old ways to produce the highest form of a noble wine.

The struggles of each new generation to carry on the family domaine in the face of weather disasters, war, and economic stresses largely beyond their control.

Good friends, good food, good wine … isn’t life all about relationships?
The unexpected discovery of ancient sites in small towns and villages, visited in quiet solitude, the visitors humbled by history and art.

Always being the first to arrive, even at 7:30 p.m.

Places that inspire spiritual reflection on the very site where slaughter and tragedy were visited.

                       To old dogs learning new tricks!

Boys and men, buried where they fell in battle 100 years ago.

Finding virtual perfection in a wine and food that leaves me speechless … which is quite hard to do!

Coming over a forested mountaintop and being awestruck by the beauty of the Mosel Valley below.

Again, in Germany, like in France, the same family farming the same soil, year on year, generation on generation, century on century.  It’s hard for Americans to grasp.

Villages along the Mosel, one after another, so beautiful that each looks like it was plucked from a fairy tale book.

Hillside vineyards that seem impossibly steep.

Understanding the very different cultural behaviors and cuisine in two countries that are next door neighbors.  Whereas we might describe the culture and cuisine of France as somewhat laid back and elegant, Germany might be described as stoic, focused, and hearty.
And the Mosel, it’s always there, defining the place, giving it life.
                       Family homes at water’s edge.
         And most of all, this sweet, sweet partner in life.

That’s our post for today, the final post of our 2016 wine, food, and cultural adventure.  Thanks for reading Cépage et Cuisine.  Thank you for your comments and likes.  Now that it’s over, let us know what you think and what you’d like to hear more about in future posts.  We hope we can keep it going from time to time with posts about wine, food, and culture right here at home.  In the meantime,



Tuesday, July 5, 2016

June 8, 2016 – A Cellar of Old and New

Hi, everybody, and welcome again to Cépage et Cuisine, Mary’s und Brian’s blog about wine, food, culture, people, and places.  I haven’t made much of an effort to learn German while I’ve been here, but today is our last day, so guten tag!  Really, I have nothing at all against the language, but learning to get around with a little travel French language was enough of a challenge on one trip.

The adventure is winding down.  Our only appointment for the day was a visit to Weingut S.A. Prüm late in the afternoon, so we organized our things to pack up and just goofed off around Bernkastel.
Here and above are photos of the main marktplatz (I did learn a word or two).  The architecture is gorgeous and the surrounding steep vineyards give the place a breathtaking, almost fairy tale appearance.  I will say, though, that Bernkastel is pretty thoroughly commercialized with all the typical souvenir shops, gelato, etc.  It is a universal tourist language, I guess.  A more authentic experience of the Mosel is found in the nearby smaller villages and towns, which is where we spent most of our time.

A close look at the people in these pictures provides an interesting cultural observation.  Most of the people walking around are our age or retirement age … alt fahrts, you might say.  Look at the group of young folks sitting on the bench in front of the shop in the center of the photo, obviously bored.  There were about a dozen of them.  I said to Mary they must be on some sort of organized school trip, but I don’t think teenagers find old churches, historical buildings, and vineyards very interesting.  To be fair, we have seen many cyclists and hikers who are fit and robust, but the average age of tourists here is definitely older than what we see in Burgundy and elsewhere in France.
There is a wurst steh on a side street, a sausage stand, what Americans would call a hot dog stand.  I asked Frau Mary if that would be ok for lunch and the reply was something along the lines of, “yeah, yeah, yeah!”  It’s a walk-up and walk-away establishment, enough room for four of five to stand at the narrow counter, no tables.

The selections are sausages of various types along with sauces and fries, served on a paper plate.  Takes about 10 minutes … shut up and eat, delicious.

The buns are not really what we think of as a hot dog bun.  They’re more like a Kaiser roll.

Someone suggested we should visit the Riesling Haus in Bernkastel, which is indeed a serious wine shop and tasting bar.  It is not jammed with tourists and we enjoyed browsing.  The entire inventory is Riesling from the Mosel and other German regions … amazing.  I’ve never seen such a selection of extremely high quality, premium, well-known Riesling.  Considering the prices are so low in Germany, I was hoping to bring home a case on the plane as luggage, but we couldn’t find an appropriate shipping box.
We visited a wine bar across the river called the Brückenkeller, which translates to “bridge cellar” because it is located under the bridge.
The weather was a little drizzly and when another couple departed, we grabbed their table under the umbrella.  The sign for apfelstrudel was a siren song for Mary.
On our last day in Germany, she didn’t pass it up.  Here it is in all its glory with the vanilla sauce and whipped cream.

The final tasting appointment of our trip was at Weingut S.A. Prüm in Wehlen, another of the descendants of the Prüm family I described in the previous blog post.  The Prüm family history in vineyards and wine production dates back almost 900 years.  Sebastian Alois Prüm inherited one-seventh of the family business in 1911 and founded the S.A. Prüm estate.

Like many of the producers we have visited, S.A. Prüm produces a variety of wines from many vineyard sites in trocken, feinherb or halbtrocken, and sweet styles.  Our host, Lisa, tasted us through a dozen or more wines, beginning with their rosé of Pinot Noir, which their list of wines describes as der perfekte Sommerwein … no translation needed!

Here’s a photo of one of their wines, the Bernkasteler Lay Riesling Kabinett 2010.  To quickly deconstruct the label, the village is Bernkastel, the vineyard is the Lay vineyard, the grape is Riesling, the ripeness level is kabinett, and the vintage year is 2010.  Gutsabfüllung means estate bottled.

Like the wines of Weins-Prüm, whom we visited yesterday and are practically next door, the wines of S.A. Prüm show a similar definition of detail and balance, the vineyards and vintages displaying subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle differences.  Many of the same vineyards are sourced by both producers, so similarities are definitely present, but slight differences in expression can also be appreciated.

The cellar at S.A. Prüm combines old and new.  They still use these large old oak casks for a short duration in the time between fermentation and bottling.  A quick interesting side note is that when the casks are not in use for wine production, they are kept filled with water in order to keep the staves expanded properly.
Here is the new.  These are large temperature-controlled stainless steel fermentation tanks.
Something I found interesting is they have these very small stainless steel tanks of varying sizes so they can separate fermenting juice from small, defined parcels of vineyard in order to understand differences within vineyard sites.

Look at this magnum of wine next to a standard bottle of Riesling.  Beautiful, isn’t it?  That would be perfect (perfekte) for dinner on the terrace with a small group on a summer evening.

Here’s Lisa, our friendly host.

We enjoyed the Zeltinger Hof so much a few days ago that we decided then and there to make a reservation for our last evening.  I described the experience in the blog post from June 5 (posted June 26), so I won’t duplicate all of that here.  I will say that Mary was delighted to enjoy a traditional German spätzle (pronounced SCHPETZ-la) a sort of dumpling or egg noodle, which she said was wonderful.
The wine for dinner was this Reinhold Haart Goldtröpfchen Riesling Kabinett 2014.  For those who have read all our posts, you will recall that Johannes Haart at Reinhold Haart was the first Mosel producer we visited.  It was a fitting wine for the occasion.  We've developed a greater appreciation for the wines of Reinhold Haart, especially after meeting Johannes Haart at their estate.  Like all of his wines we’ve tasted, this kabinett had the same great balance between acidity and fruit I’ve discussed several times when tasting wine.  It was nicely aromatic of peach and flowers.  The palate had a delicate texture and weight with freshness and cut with flavors of stone fruit, golden delicious apple and a nice mineral quality.  Lovely.
That’s our post for today.  Thanks so much for reading us at Cépage et Cuisine.  Here’s a photo of Zeltingen at sunset from the other side of the Mosel, which captures perfectly the astonishing beauty and serenity of the place.  Our wine adventure in Germany has come to an end.  We return tomorrow to the loving arms of home.  We will post one more entry about returning to Plymouth and reflecting on this year’s adventure in wine, food, culture, people, places, geography … all of it.  So, in the meantime,