Monday, August 3, 2009

Baden and Alsace 4.7.09 (2): Flammkuchen and Sudden Storms

From Haut-Koenigsbourg to Riquewihr, where we walked up and down the main street with its tawdry tourist shops and macaroon vendors, and too preserved, too self-conscious and perfect artifacts of medieval life. As we climbed the hill of the main street, a fierce storm suddenly blew up and we took shelter under the awning of one of the souvenir shops.

Rain poured from the skies, sluicing a sudden river down the main street, as miniature whirlwinds turned it into spouts rising up from the street several feet high. Adding to the excitement, one of the large table umbrellas of the café across the street took flight, hurtling through the air towards several hapless people who had sought sanctuary outside another shop.

When it was over, we found a nice, quiet little restaurant, where the four of us shared three flammkuchens, all delicious. The first had onions, cheese bits and bacon, and crème fraiche; the second, gruyere and munster with the crème fraiche; and the third, sheep’s milk cheese, tangy and fresh, atop the base of crème fraiche and gruyere. All with wonderful Alsatian white wine from the area.

After this, we stopped at a shopping area—centre commercial—outside one of the towns near the border, and marveled at the huge selection of good French food: seafood and fish, sausages piled atop sausages, cheeses to satisfy any taste, wines and crémants from all over France. We bought a local crémant and a sausage, as well as a box of sugar roses for Mary and a small handmade French pitcher for ourselves, pretty with its dark blue glazing and sprays of yellow and pink flowers on a green bough.

Everywhere we went, people seemed confidently trilingual, switching from French and German to English with ease. In the castle, we tagged along on tours in all three languages (the French being by far the most informative and dramatic, with a vivacious compact little man acting out the medieval method of battle, noting that one got one’s enemy down and then frapper! frapper! frapper!, arms gesticulating the motion of the pummeling halberd).

But when we bought ice cream at a café in the shopping center near the border, the waitress either did not understand Regina’s German or refused to understand, and switched immediately to French. So our drei Kugeln became trois boules, and we went away happy after having negotiated the linguistic maze and gotten what we had ordered.

At the hotel, a meal of delicious Black Forest trout in brown butter with almonds, parsley potatoes, and salad, and to bed for a very welcome early evening, with several hours in the company of James Hamilton-Paterson and his hilarious (and often disgusting) Cooking with Fernet Branca.

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