Christmas lunch was cancelled today, on account of having better things to do; but we made up for it this evening, with a fine dinner of roast chicken. Craig, Sarah, Kade and myself feasted on chicken breast (originally frozen — they were out of fresh chook), crispy potatoes, corn cobs and various vegies — with a side of seasonal cranberry sauce. Sadly, the roast (as roasts do) took much longer than expected to cook, so we were bloody starving by the time it was ready. Shots of Jäger and several card games comprised dessert.
There's no Austrian dish more famous than schnitzel, and I could hardly visit the country without trying it at least once. This evening at Yoho, I ordered a plate of Weiner schnitzel for dinner (lit: "Vienna schnitzel"). Unfortunately, it wasn't actually made of veal, as a true Vienna cutlet should be (hey, we're talking hostel food here :P); but then again, at least it was chicken, as opposed to pork (which I've already been forced to eat once too many lately, and which apparently can be found in many Austrian schnitzels). Not bad: but I'm afraid that Il Bolognese, an Italian restaurant in Sydney's humble suburb of Boronia Park, still takes the "best all-time schnitzel" prize hands-down.
This evening we went to the Augustiner Bräu, and we went there both to eat and to drink. They offer one selection of drink: beer. Good Bavarian beer, served strictly by the litre — no problems there, beer don't get much better than that. They also, basically, only offer one selection of food: pork. Ahahaha... not so good — not for the Juden and the pork-averse amongst us, anyways. But what choice did I have — G-d didn't command that thou shalt drink thy stein and otherwise starve, didst he now? So yes, I admit, I ate a bit of pork knuckle. And yes, I admit, it was surprisingly very tasty. I hope I'm remembering correctly, when my Sunday school teacher once told me that we Jews don't believe in hell.
I popped into a cheap café in Salzburg today for lunch, and ordered something called a Fitness-Salat. I wasn't expecting much: but what I received left no room for complaints. The Fitness-Salat is a salad dish consisting of fried chicken, lettuce, tomato, corn, grated carrot, olives, egg, mozzarella cheese, and (I think) more. Tastes great: and the place that I went to served an enormous portion at a great price. Nice change from the "can't afford a decent meal" phenomenon, that I've been facing of late in Europe. I was really hungry: but even so, I struggled to finished this one.
Weißwürste (lit: "white sausage") is a Bavarian specialty: it's made mainly from minced veal, and stuffed into a skin of pork casing. It's eaten without the skin — you either suck the mince out of the skin, or you slice the sausage in half — and is usually served with beer (and often with a big baked pretzel). I tried weißwürste on my tour of Munich today, in the Viktualienmarkt beer garden. Sadly, I did not adhere to the Bavarian tradition of eating the dish before noon: I missed the deadline by about an hour. Tasted great nonetheless.
The Dutch are not known for their amazing cuisine. Fortunately, however, modern Amsterdam is known for its impressive selection of international cuisine: in particular, Asian cuisine. For lunch today, I found a great Thai noodle bar in the centre of town, that cooks up a delicious satay chicken stir-fry, served with rice and chili. Quite cheap, and absolutely delicious. There are numerous such places in the city, and they all look just as good — be sure to try one next time you're here.
When we think of "hot chips", most of the English-speaking among us think of the name "French fries", and we thus believe that the world's favourite cooked potato snack originated in France. This, however, is wrong. Legend has it that back in WWII, when the American troops were fighting in Europe, they sampled the dish for the first time, and liked it so much that they took it home with them. But so bad was their knowledge of European geography, that they thought they were down in France — when in fact they were fighting in Belgium! Having now been to Belgium, I now know that the true name of the dish is "Belgian fries". And what's more, nobody cooks up a better plate of fries than do the Belgians.
Along with beer and chocolate, Belgium is also famous world-wide for being the home of amazing waffles. You can get a waffle in all but the smallest towns around here, and every time they're guaranteed to be fresh, hot, and delicious. This morning in Turnhout — as part of the town tour — Stef treated me to my first-ever geniune Belgian waffle (a syrup-coated beauty, no less) in the town's central Christmas market. What can I say, except that they live up to their formidable reputation, and warm you up to boot?
As anyone who's ever been to Cologne (aka Köln) should know, the city's famous hallmark beer is a brand called Kölsch. There are several competing brews available, but all of them are served in tradional little "shot glasses", completely fresh and straight out of the barrel. After dinner this evening, my friend Regine took me to one of the better Kölsch bars in town, and we had time to down a few glasses of the stuff and to have a little chat, before Regine had to head back home to Bonn. Great-tasting stuff.
While visiting Freiburg's Christmas market this evening, my friend Killes introduced me to Glühwein: that is, traditional German mulled wine. Glühwein is a central European specialty particularly common around Christmas time, and it can invariably (in December) be found in a town's main market, served steaming hot inside an ornate mug. It's quite delicious, it warms you up, and apparently the fact that it's hot only serves to make the alcohol stronger. I didn't realise it at the time, but this was to be the first of many cups of Glühwein (and the first of many Christmas markets) that I'd encounter while in this part of Europe.