May 29, 2013

Food in Champagne

Without a proper kitchen in Champagne

Scallops in France - ak-thenextchapter.blogspot.com
Scallops. Had hoped to cook these for starters
To my utter disappointment it turned out that the kitchen we had in our flat(s) in Reims, France (see link for previous post), weren't really suitable for cooking for eight people, so once again I missed out on the whole cooking experience in France (see the post about Champagne before I went on the trip). In Paris in December I missed the opening hours, this time it was the kitchen and not the least the seating area that was too small for a proper sit-down dinner. It didn't stop me from roaming the markets though, but I had to hold back on the actual shopping. 

One of the things I miss the most in Düsseldorf, Germany, is fresh seafood. Being from Gothenburg (Göteborg) on the west coast of Sweden I am spoilt with good seafood, but it's difficult to come by - or at least expensive - in Düsseldorf. France is full of it though, a I had hoped to make scallops as one of the starters. Now I had to settle with just photographing them. Not bad either. but never the less... Notice by the way how French scallops look different to what you often find elsewhere? The French keep the roe - we Swedes as well as the Germans have a lot to learn!


Close-up of a table with wine glasses, and various snacks - sausages and salami in the middleWe had a little picnic though, so some shopping we could do - cheese, salamis, radishes, strawberries, pears, nuts - someone even brought some from Germany - and, of course, champagne to go with that. French cheese, or cheese in general is a passion of mine - the more flavour and the stronger the smell the better, and where do you have a better selection than in France?

The whole trip was never the less very focused on good food: From gorgeous goose liver (fois gras - yes, I know, better avoided for the sake of the geese but it's something I can't resist at least once in a while), to beef tartar (amazing when done well, with good quality beef), from vegetarian choices to rabbit, from veal to fish, from chocolate tarts (three types of chocolate in one cake!) to berry tarts and sorbets, and wonderful "Cafe Gourmand" - that wonderful dessert that really is several small "tasting portions" of different dessert, plus a coffee - a good way to get both coffee and dessert at the same time, the way we Swedes like it.

And during the whole trip, of course various very nice champagnes, both from the tours we took, from tastings at the champagne houses, and from nice champagne bars we visited.

I am coming back to Champagne! Who wants to explore it me? 

May 26, 2013

Starting point Reims

In Reims - Champagne is not just the drink 


AK-thenextchapter.blogspot.com - how about a glass of Champagne
How about a glass of bubbly?
Reims is the main city in the Champagne area, in the north east of France (the link will take you to the tourist information). This is where the main train station is, and this is where we stayed when I visited the region with friends May.

It was my first time to really stop in the area, previously I have driven through, or just stopped for a coffee or a quick meal - this time I had a chance to really enjoy it. We were eating and drinking our way through Champagne - more about the food in a later post.

The champagne region is beautiful, but not very warm, at least not when we were there. It didn't really come as a surprise, the spring in northern Europe hasn't been very warm over all this year, but naturally we would have preferred sun every day, we were on holiday, after all. However the special climate in the area is what makes the wines so special, Champagne is one of the coldest areas where you can grow grapes that are good enough for quality wines - and if that is what it takes, then I can put up with it.


May 24, 2013

A Journey in Taiwanese food

An journey in Taiwanese food - this and that

I told you one eats well in Taiwan, didn't I? It's crazy good, the food is all made of good ingredients - Taiwan grows just about every fruit and vegetable you can think of and the Taiwanese like to cook what's in season.
Follow me on a little journey in Taiwanese food. Most of the food here is from simple restaurants where the food and not the interior design is what counts. Many of these places I wouldn't have been able to find if it wasn't for the family of my friend who lives in Düsseldorf - I will forever owe them for introducing me to Taiwan.
From the very first meal I had in Taiwan, after a long flight that I mainly slept through - rice, tofu (smoked?), sprouts and salad - a meal I had just to survive until the planned dinner in the evening, to the buffet we had with the family the last day of my visit.  Taiwan is indeed a food heaven.
Street food in Taiwan - rice, tofu, sprouts

May 22, 2013

Dreaming about Beef Noodles

Beef Noodles - so Important there is a competition

Century eggs and other side dishes - ak-thenextchapter.blogspot.com
Side dishes served with the beef noodles
I had, long before I finally ended up going to Taiwan for the first time, heard about the fantastic food, and the pride the people take in cooking and eating well. That may even have been one of the reasons I decided was the right country for me in the first place...

One of the dishes I especially had heard about was beef noodles.
Beef noodles may not be part of the original Taiwanese cuisine, if there is such a thing as pure Taiwanese cuisine; For hundreds, or even thousands of years people have migrated through this area, everyone bringing their own flavours and their own habits with them.   A part of the population have their roots in China, both China well before Mao and those who came after Mao took over power in the 1940-ies, but there are a lot of people with their roots elsewhere, not the least the aboriginee population. This makes for a very interesting mix, foodwise!

 With Taiwan being an island seafood is very common, that there is a fair amount of vegetarian dishes - and a lot of chicken.  It is far easier to transport chicken and hens than fully grown cows. So no wonder beef is less common than chicken.

But never the less the beef noodles are immensely popular in Taiwan, and every year there are competitions - who makes the best beef noodles. Taiwanese people travel around the country or at least the city to find the best beef noodles - once you have a favourite you often stick with that shop, or stall.

May 16, 2013

Maastricht, Netherlands

Exploring the hilly part of Netherlands  

I normally travel every month, it is an addiction and a way of living. Maybe I should have said it the other way around but it truly is an addiction, I have to travel to feel well, and if I don't travel for work it becomes even more important to travel for fun.

Valkenburg Castle ak-thenextchapter.blogspot.com
Valkenburg Castle
This year I have tried to cut back as I am planning on moving to Taiwan, so I have spent less time on the road and didn't plan any big trips, except for the trip to Austria which I wrote about before, I was staying in home in Germany. Wuppertal, Duisburg, Essen, Köln and the other cities around Düsseldorf not included (links go to the official website for respective city), I was not out on a single trip the first months. And then came the day when I just couldn't stand it anymore. I had to get away! And looking at the map and looking at the train tables one city was sticking out - Maastricht, in Netherlands (Limburg area - link go to the city of Maastricht). I have plenty of friends who have been and told me how beautiful it is, it is very close by, but still I never made the trip - shame on me. Amsterdam, Brussels, I have seen them all, but never did I go to Maastricht. So on a Friday in April I decided to change that...

If I had known such a beautiful city was in the nearby, I would have gone much sooner! It is relatively easy to get to Maastricht from Düsseldorf. Driving may be faster, at there aren't any direct trains between Düsseldorf and Maastricht (check Deutsche Bahn for tickets and time tables), but the train ride is simple and connections are plentiful, and furthermore, it is inexpensive, especially considering you actually travel to another country.


May 10, 2013

The Foodie in me - a trip to Champagne

Champagne - it's not just a drink


Seafood in Bretagne - Brittany - ak-thenextchapter.blogspot.com
In May I am going to Champagne (north of France) with group of friends; one of the last opportunities I have to travel with friends on this side of the world before I leave for Asia. Travelling with friends is not something I do very often, I most of the time prefer to travel on my own and rather spend part of the trip visiting friends - but now and then it is really fun to travel together with others, and share the experience, especially when we are a group of people with a common interest. 

The group going to Champagne are all interested in good food and good drinks (hence Champagne, because of course we are visiting the vineyards and champagne houses and of course we will both sample and buy champagne). We have also travelled together before and we know each other well enough so that we can wander off and do our own thing as well, if we feel like it. 

May 09, 2013

Leaving the comfort zone

Düsseldorf TV tower, bridge seen from the side of a river bank.

It is very easy to get stuck in old patterns, do things because it's expected by you, do things in the same way as before "because it is how you always did them".

I have spent a few years in wonderful Düsseldorf, this pearl on the River Rhein, named not after Rhein, but after a small stream that flows into the bigger river: Düssel. And Dorf in German means "Village" - the village on the river Düssel. Düsseldorf is a great city, with a lot of things happening, and close to everything, easy to get to and from. It is also very easy to live in, not the least because of the very strong expat community that exists.

Furthermore there is always something going on - I have written about it before, in the post about What I will miss. I know I can always find people I know. Every Wednesday in the summer there will be people I know on Ratinger Strasse in Altstadt, having a beer, every third Thursday of the month the Düsseldorf Expat Meetup that was started via Meetup.com will meet up, in the summer there will be a number of official Expat Meetup BBQ:s, every Sunday when it is sunny I know that I can find friends grilling in the park, I know who has a birthday and tends to celebrate it. There are cultural events, there are happenings, there is just so much happening in Düsseldorf. 

The problem is that after a while you get comfortable. Not just with events that are going on, but with everything: I always go to Kaffereich for my coffee, I go to my special Turkish shop for my fruits and vegetables, and for meats, I often end up at Casita Mexicana in Pempelfort or Bilk for a tasty Mexican meal, I go to Bernstein & Inbar for a chocolate treat and maybe a macaroon, I get my treat of home made ice cream at Diele. I follow a routine. And while routines are good to some extent, you get to a certain point where too much in life becomes familiar - and to me, that is when it is important to get some sort of change.

Small blue rowing boat, tied up. Bird inside the boat.This time the change I need is bigger than before. It's not about cutting your hair short when you had it long for a long time, it is not about going to a totally new shop or a new restaurant, it is not about moving in the same city. It is not even about getting new tasks at work. I have tired them all, and they helped before, but every time you step out of your comfort zone your comfort zone eventually grows. My comfort zone has grown a lot. I am comfortable in most normal situations I end up in right now, because they are all familiar, I need to step out of that and into the unknown. I need to get into that boat, release the anchor, and see where the river takes me. I need to do something different. And what's even more important, I need to listen to that fire that burns in me, and follow my passions. I have to be true to myself. A desk job is not me being true to myself anymore.

Again and again we hear about the importance of leaving your comfort zone, and if nothing else is true in life, this is what I believe in. For me, leaving my comfort zone today means leaving friends and family and moving to a new place, start new, start fresh, but leaving the comfort zone may mean different things to different people. That is OK, that's even the way it should be.
Leaving the comfort zone can be finding a new shop, taking a class, trying a sport you never tried, cooking a meal you never cooked, maybe going to a café on your own, or to a bar, and actually sit down with a book, and feeling relaxed about it. It may be travelling on your own for the first time, but the only thing that is important is that it is you stepping out from where you feel comfortable and try something different. It is not a competition except for with yourself. I am the only one I am competing with, and I will never compete with someone else. If they compete with me: Well, that's up to them, but I am not going to get into that mess. You are supposed to challenge YOURSELF, that's what leaving the comfort zone is all about. It's not someone else's comfort zone you should leave. It is yours.

It's only YOU who can really do it. Challenge yourself. I am challenging me.

May 08, 2013

More about me and travel

On the Road

I have mentioned it before, but I am an avid traveller. Travel and food are the two addictions that I cannot live without.

Footsteps in sand
I have always taken notes when I have been travelling, and I have always observed what is going on around me. I started to travel on my own, without grownups, very early on, and that has helped form and shape me.

The travel has indeed become an addiction, without travelling I start feeling down, uninspired, and restless - I have the need to be on the road. It has nothing to do with fancy trips or luxurious hotels, or sunbathing, instead it is about inspiration and about meeting people, about challenging myself, seeing that I dare, trying to get new angles, new experiences, seeing new things. 

Travelling is what makes me tick.

May 04, 2013

Seeing Austria - a new experience and a challenge

On Skis and Snowboard

In January I was in Austria. I went to Sölden with some friends, to enjoy the winter and do some sport (and yes, I do like winter, when I can travel TO the snow and not live in the middle of it...).

I am not a very good skier, but I do enjoy the freedom on the mountain, the smell of the snow and the fresh, crisp air, and I enjoy the views tremendously. I have fun getting down the slopes, even though my legs may hurt afterwards. It may not be pretty all the time - but I do get down, if sometimes a bit too slow, especially the first run of the day - I simply didn't start early enough and didn't ski often enough. 

http://ak-thenextchapter.blogspot.com - ice in Sölden
Icy Sölden, as spotted on a hike
The last few years I have been down in the French alps with UCPA. And every year I say to myself that I want to do more than one trip the coming season - and in the end I never do. There is just never enough time. 

This time I was given the opportunity to travel out with a group of friends to Austria, and I planned for that to be my first trip, followed up with a trip with UCPA, but in the end Sölden was my only ski trip this season, but that is a different story. And in the end I only skied one day, the rest of the time I tried something very different...

A three day trip with friends was an excellent opportunity to try something new, something I had been curious about for a long time - Snowboard. Yes, I tried snowboard. Before Austria I had never ever stood on a snowboard, I had actually not even touched one - but I really wanted to try. I REALLY REALLY wanted to try, and as I didn't have the guts to sign up for a whole week of snowboarding, I could not do it with UCPA - as great as they are, with them you have to decide for the sport before you go, so they can organise what needs to be organised. Without having tried, I wasn't brave enough to plan for snowboard for a whole week.

May 03, 2013

A first post on getting out of the Comfort Zone

The Comfort Zone - ak-thenextchapter.blogspot.com
Staying comfortable
As you know, if you are following this blog, I am about to move on, and see something new - namely, moving to Taiwan to study Chinese. A lot of people are amazed and astounded that I am taking this step, leaving a good job behind to start from scratch.

Well, to me it is a lot about the comfort zone,  I really have to get out of it - because if I don't have any challenges, I stop developing as a person.  I have been here too long and gotten too comfortable, and everything, also everything that goes on in my private life, is very easy and very comfortable - I am very comfortable. And it is not in the comfort zone that the magic happens...

The magic happens outside of the Comfort Zone - by SocialMediabar.com

I am going to write more about it later but in the meantime I wanted to post this link, which explains it rather well - to all of you out there; What is your comfort zone, and what do YOU do to step outside it?