Sunday, September 18, 2016

Freitzeitpark Lochmühle

One of the Large Play Structures
If you're looking for something that's guaranteed to be especially fun for the 3-7 yr old crowd, I've got three words for you:

Super Fun (if small) Roller Coaster
  For 12€ per kid(90-120cm) and 14€ per adult (over 120cm), and only about a 30 min drive from the center of Frankfurt (20 min from Dornbusch), you get several hours of safe, clean fun. Itty-bitty kiddos (under 90cm) are free. (Most rides are divided into "age 7 and over" and "under age 7". As I said     above, I think the target age is 3-7 years, but there's still a lot of fun for the 18 to 36 month set, and a few things the bigger kids will get a kick out of. The playgrounds are great for all ages--including someone as old as my husband. Ha!)

Farm Equipment Display
I'll let the pictures speak for themselves, but there are a ton of fun playgrounds, a couple rollercoasters, and other theme park-type rides alongside farm animals and other farm exhibits. It's really interesting as a lot of the simpler rides are "self run" (you'll see what I mean) but the other visitors were all very polite and mostly orderly in line, taking turns, etc. There's even a large indoor space should it start raining or get too hot, although it's not big enough for everyone in the park to congregate there should it start pouring. Good news, though...the park website has a link under "Extras" (on the English site) for you to check the current weather and forecast at the park before you head out.

Picnic Area with Grill
Feel free to bring any food and drink you like as there are spots to picnic all over, and
there's even several charcoal grills (get there early...probably by 10:30 or reserve one for your party and bring your own briquettes). They also sell plenty of food from light snacks to full meals, beer, wine, coffee, ice cream and everything in between. The grounds, restaurants/snack bars and the bathrooms are all super clean.

Dogs are also allowed, but keep in mind they are supposed to stay on the paths at all times, and they state clearly that they expect you to pick up any feces using doggy poo bags (on sale at the Kasse--cashier--for €0,50 if you forgot yours).

PLEASE NOTE! The park is only open from late March until early October every year, but it's open seven days a week during the season.

Getting to Freitzeitpark Lochmühle: If you're using GPS to drive there, you should just be able to search "Freitzeitpark Lochmühle" and it will pop up. It's in the town of Wehrheim. Alternatively, you can take the S-Bahn 5 from Frankfurt to Friedrichsdorf. Change at Friedrichsdorf to Taunusbahn heading for Brandoberndorf. Get off at Saalburg/Lochmühle, and all you have to do is cross the street to get in to the park.


Friday, September 16, 2016

Homemade Croutons - Let me count the ways...

Traditional German Nut Bread on the
right, Pretzel Rolls on the left. (The
pretzel croutons are especially good
on chili or soups--think potato soup
or cheddar cheese. Yum!)
With so much great bread here in Germany (and cheap!), sometimes I go a little overboard. You too? Glad I'm not the only one.

Naturally, with a family of only four, I often end up with bread we can't get through because it goes stale. My son loves to save it for the ducks at the duck pond, but my favorite thing to do with it is to make homemade croutons!

Homemade Croutons are so great because a) they cost next to nothing (especially when the bread is already a sunk cost and would otherwise go to waste), you can make them with absolutely anything you have in the house, customizing to go with your personal tastes, c) they keep in the freezer for weeks so you can make them and use them when you're ready, and d) they make normal, run-of-the-mill salads and soups extraordinary!

Croutons can also be a surprising, unusual addition to many other types of dishes from ragouts to stews. Love your slow cooker, but still complain that everything comes out the same texture? Throw some homemade croutons on there, and you've just elevated your dish to a whole other level.

Here's a guide for you so you can give it a shot.

Step 1:
Cut or tear your bread (sandwich, French, ciabatta, pretzels, bagels, English muffins, corn bread, you name it), depending on how you like it. Smaller is great for salads and "fancy" dishes, big is great for soups, and hand-torn is very rustic (kind of like a big hug, if you ask me!).

Step 2:
Decide whether you want to bake or sauté your bread crumbs. Baking makes them more uniformly crunchy, while sautéing gives you a bit of variation in texture. Both are equally easy, but sautéing requires that you watch the bread crumbs from start to finish.

Step 3:
Prepare your toppings. This is the fun part....
For about three cups of breadcrumbs, I use about 2-3 Tbsp of melted butter or olive oil. The most versatile three ingredients are garlic, salt and pepper. If you want to use garlic, you should peel 2-3 cloves, smash them, and add them to the butter while you're melting it (or simply heat your olive oil up until you can smell the garlic). It's not wise to use minced garlic because it will burn.

Other ideas for additions:
~ Fresh Herbs - parsley, thyme,
~ Spices/Dried Herbs - garlic powder, paprika, chili powder, spice mixes (watch the salt--don't add any extra if your mix contains it), curry powder........
~ Nuts/Seeds - smaller varieties like poppy and sesame would work best
~ Cheese - hard cheeses, like parmesan, shredded small work best
~ Prepared Sauces like Pesto or Romanesco (usually better with olive oil)

Step 4:
Mix up your croutons in a large bowl with your desired additions. Just add a bit of whatever you like from the list above to the melted butter or olive oil, then toss with your croutons.

Step 5:
Bake or sauté! For baking, just line a large baking sheet with foil, and spread your prepared croutons onto it in an even layer. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until crispy and gold brown, about 15 minutes.  For sautéing, simple heat up your pan over medium heat until warm. Add croutons and a little butter/oil from the bottom of your mixing bowl - IN BATCHES - into your warm skillet and sauté until browned. Be sure to move your croutons around a lot, and do not overcrowd the pan to avoid steaming your croutons. Remove croutons from oven and let cool on pan, or if sautéing move the croutons onto a paper-towel lined plate to cool.
I wish you guys could smell this right now!
Step 6:
Use or Store. Use your croutons warm immediately, or store them in an airtight container or Ziploc. They'll keep on the counter for a few days, or in the freezer for a few weeks. To use from the freezer, just bring them to room temp on a plate (so any condensation can evaporate) and warm them up quickly in the oven.

Step 7:
Get ready to impress your family and friends with this hand-crafted yummy garnish that you secretly know is super easy!!

Let me know what your favorite combination is, and the unique ways you've used your homemade croutons!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

"Dogs can go everywhere in Germany!"...sort of...

For those of you who have been in Germany for a while, you might be saying, "Dogs really can go everywhere!" but for those of us who are new, we're thinking..."Really?"  I've only been in Germany six weeks now and it is true that I am continually surprised at where I see dogs, as well as how nonchalant Germans are about having them in restaurants, food stores, banks, etc.

Jonesy Boggs
We Americans (particularly the Missbach family!) love our dogs and consider them members of the family, but it is NOT ingrained in our culture to include them in every aspect of our lives, unless you live in a smaller town. Even where it is totally acceptable to have dogs in Germany, it STILL feels unnatural to newcomers to take our dogs to those places. Plus, the truth is that dogs aren't truly welcome EVERYWHERE....
Nieve Noel

So I've decided to start compiling a list, particularly for newcomers to Germany, for you to reference before you start out on a jaunt, trip to a restaurant or errand-run with your pooch. This list, so far, only reflects my personal experience so it must be expanded! Please feel free to leave comments to let me know additional places where can/cannot take them, or correct me if I'm wrong (including providing exceptions/additional considerations).

Where you CAN take your dogs...

- Outdoor seating areas of every restaurant
- Through the indoor dining room of a restaurant in order to get to the outdoor area and inside more casual restaurants. Don't be deterred by tablecloths and candles...just ask them as you walk in if it's ok. They'll let you know, and won't be offended that you asked! (I'm still investigating dogs inside more formal restaurants, but not really sure if I would want to take them if I was dressed up anyway...)
- the Bank
- On the U-Bahn, Strassebahn (street tram) and S-Bahn
- into the dry cleaners or other non-food related businesses
- inside malls and into clothing stores, including department stores (unless they display the "no dogs" sign above); I've seen many dogs in Galeria Kaufhof
- the Opel Zoo
- Lochmühle Freizeit Park (Dogs must always stay on paths and they state clearly that you must pick up any feces. Doggy poo bags are available at the Kasse (cashier) for €0,50.)
- Freilichtmuseum Hessenpark (Admission for pups is €1 and gets you a poo bag--yay! The "rules" state that dogs shouldn't go in the buildings themselves, but we saw many patrons flouting this rule.)
- Saalburg Roman Fortress (€1 entry for each dog, provides you with one poo bag each): This is a great place to take your dogs as there is a lot of hiking around there.

Where you CANNOT take your dogs...

- the Supermarket (but plenty of people leave them tied up outside)
- most playgrounds (in the areas where children play, for health/sanitation reasons)
- the Palmengarten
- the Frankfurt Zoo
- inside churches and cathedrals (not surprisingly)

To be updated as I find out more and you guys share your knowledge with me! Thanks!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Ordering Tap Water in Germany - Leitungswasser

One little glass. So much controversy.
One complaint that I heard a lot before I even got here (and a lot more once we arrived) is how no restaurant serves tap water. Even with the tap water being perfectly potable, it is not common here for the customer to be served a free glass of water. On the contrary, most restaurants offer a wide variety of bottled waters, both still and sparkling, and they'd simply prefer you pay for that.

But I'm stubborn. My kids don't care a thing about bottled water. And I certainly don't feel like spending 2-3 extra Euros x 2 every time we go out (many times the water will cost more than the beer), when they'd be perfectly happy with a glass of tap water, which is perfectly healthy for them. One solution, of course, is to bring your own water bottles and I do that often. But sometimes I forget and sometimes it's too much of a hassle.

So I figured, shoot, I know the word for tap water. I'm going to start ordering it. And I'm happy to report, I've had quite a bit of success, without being rude or pushy!!!

I just say, "Zwei Gläser Leitungswasser für die Kinder, bitte." (Two glasses of tap water for the children, please.) Several times, I've had no problem with this and they don't even question it, bringing out the glasses with the other drinks. Most of the time though, I'll admit, the response has been, "Leitungswasser?" or "Leitungswasser? Sind Sie sicher?" or "Leitungswasser? Wirklich?" (Tap water? Are you sure? Really?) I just stick to my guns and say "Ja, bitte." (Yes, please.)  Keep in mind that this water is not going to be particularly cold, nor served with ice, but it's clean, cool, good water! (The water in Germany, at least here in Frankfurt, is known as "hard" water, which means it has a high mineral content, such as calcium and magnesium. The WHO has published research indicating that this does not have harmful effects when consumed and the NRC states it might actually be beneficial, but you will have to make the decision for your own family, of course.)

Only once did I have a waiter say to me, "Aber wir haben verschiedene Sorten von Wasser in Flaschen." (But we have several varieties of water in bottles.") To this, I just responded that the kids prefer to drink tap water. (Aber sie trinken lieber Leitungswasser.) and that seemed to satisfy him so he got us our ***FREE*** tap water!!!

Don't be intimidated by don't have to speak German or even understand too much to get what you want. Just ask for Leitungswasser and if they question, just keep saying, "Ja, bitte," and I predict you'll get exactly what you want, like I did.

Viel Glück!

Side note--Please note that "Leitungswasser" literally translates to "pipe" or "plumbing" water in German, which could explain the German's less than favorable view of it. I've also been told that, for this reason, most Germans do not offer "pipe/plumbing water" to their guests as this might be viewed as an offense. Some people even think it's rude to order it at a restaurant because of the German's view of it. But if you're not rude when you ask for it, how could you be being rude? Also, you'll probably find amongst German families and even German restaurants, much like in the United States, that water opinions and preferences actually vary quite a lot.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Hof 35 in Bockenheim

Life can be full of surprises if you're open to them.

I ventured out on my own today to a place I'd been before but never by bike--Bockenheim. I had purchased a pair of shoes for my daughter from one of those shops where you can find almost everything (Tedi--almost like a dollar store but a little nicer...can be found all over Germany) but they were too small. I drummed up the courage to go get them exchanged while I looked up a few key vocabulary words and recon'd the route on Google Maps. I rented a NextBike and off I went.

Exchanging the shoes was, fortunately, a breeze so I decided to walk around a little bit. I had eaten at a corner Döner place with friends the previous week, but I was sort of looking for a surprise off the beaten path, and I found it in Hof 35 (Leipziger-Straße 35).

I turned in to a little alleyway and was immediately greeted by the smell of freshly brewing coffee, as I looked up to see the cutest little balconies reminiscent of something in the Mediterranean. There was also an outdoor eating area lined with potted herbs and plants between two shops: Galerie (a framing shop and beautiful home goods store) and Kindermode, an upscale children's clothing boutique (unfortunately--or perhaps fortunately!--closed at the time). Turns out the dining area belonged to a restaurant/bistro called Hake's, so of course I decided to try it out!

I ordered a Café con Leche and the Tortilla Stulle. (Stullen are thick pieces of fresh bed topped with various toppings from simple butter to elaborate sandwiches. The name originates from northern Germany, and simply called Schnitte or Butterbrot in most of the rest of the country.)

This particular Stulle was basically a Spanish tortilla (egg and potato omelette) between two pieces of fresh white bread with a mayonnaise/mustard spread, lettuce, tomato, roasted red pepper and cucumber. Awesome! It needed pepper but I always like more pepper than is probably normal. It was an unexpected combination, but delicious and such a creative way to use up leftover tortilla!

I had a really nice time sitting in this little haven...hope you can make it over there to try them out, and let me know how it goes!