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    "Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful we must carry it with us or we find it not."

    R. W. Emerrson

    Entries in Bringing Back Cocktail Hour (5)


    Bringing Back Cocktail Hour - Christmas Markets in Germany

    Our friend Katie had told us that Germany was the place to experience the holidays.  When she sponsored “dinner and drinks for two”, we decided to set off on a search for the most delicious food and lively libations available in the country’s celebrated Christmas markets.

    We started our tour in Düsseldorf, a large, pedestrian-friendly city with several markets, each with its own unique atmosphere.  Our favorite was Altstadt (Old Town), home to a giant ferris wheel overlooking an intimate collection of well-lit holiday stalls.  We explored the offerings from the local vendors and satisfied our hunger with fried potato pancakes, pork shank, and a heaping helping of grilled mushrooms topped with spicy chili sauce.  As the temperatures dropped we warmed our hands and our bellies with spiced glühwein served in decorative mugs.

    We boarded a northbound train to Osnabrück, the town where three of Jenn’s grandparents were from.  It didn’t take long for us to fall in love with the historic town and its Christmas market which was the perfect size; the people were friendly and the food was among the best we’ve encountered.  We strolled through the stalls surrounded by beautiful, colorful buildings as we consumed Nordic salmon over a bed of lettuce.  The salmon had been smoked on a cedar plank secured over an open flame that gave it an out-of-this-world char grilled flavor.  This first dish of the day satisfied our immediate hunger, but it wasn’t long before we were queued up at another stand where we ordered a thick pork nackensteak “mit kraut”.  The glühwein continued to flow as we ate our way across Germany.

    The final stop on our fun filled Katie-funded Christmas market tour was one of the country's largest and oldest.  Stuttgart houses more than 270 stalls filled with holiday goodies, and it accommodated an immense weekend crowd during our visit.  We tried two new plates – A sauerkraut dish that included sausage bits and hot mustard, and a hearty chili con carne.  You can surely guess what we selected for our warming beverage of choice.

    We raised each new cup of glühwein (and glühkirsch, and glühschnapps) saying “Prost” and “Thank you Katie” for bringing back this wonderfully non-traditional cocktail hour.  Have a Frohe Weihnachten!


    Bringing Back Cocktail Hour - Budapest, Hungary

    The Saturday afternoon sun warmed us as we stepped onto the city streets to begin a long walk from our Pest apartment, across the Danube River, and into Buda.  Along the way we slowed our pace and secured a park bench on Margitsziget (Margaret Island) to take in the sky’s softer hues at dusk.  This Saturday was special, being Matt’s 40th birthday, a milestone we had looked forward to celebrating abroad.

    With Jeff’s considerate “Bring Back Cocktail Hour” contribution in hand, we sought out a fulfilling dinner and drinks.  As we made our way through the quieter corners of Budapest, we encountered Sörmanufaktúra Söröző, a tiny Hungarian pub.  It was no bigger than a large coat closet, but housed a quaint courtyard with outdoor seating.  We secured two local craft beers, which were happily consumed over lively conversation.  Hunger set in, so we made our way to Mandragóra Kávéház.

    The restaurant's cozy atmosphere and attentive staff were comforting, but the best part of the evening was the food.  We started with an appetizer of well presented cattle liver pâté served along-side homemade brioche and greens.  The pâté was covered by a thin layer of what appeared to be cream cheese which added a smooth texture and subtle richness to an already velvety and flavorful dish.

    We sought balance in our entrées by choosing one that was hearty and another that was delicate.  The exceptionally tender wild boar stew was offered with noodles which had the consistency of gnocchi.  On the lighter side, the panko crusted tilapia was flaky, and well paired with its creamy remoulade sauce and butter potatoes.

    We raised our glasses of Pannonhalmi Salve, a cheerful local wine, and toasted Jeff’s generous sponsorship of a perfect birthday celebration in Budapest.


    Bringing Back Cocktail Hour - Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany

    Munich’s Oktoberfest, a beer lovers’ festival of global proportions, provided the perfect venue in which to recognize Mike's generous "Bring Back Cocktail Hour" sponsorship.

    To locate Oktoberfest at Theresienwiese we simply followed the people dressed in traditional dirndl and lederhosen until the buildings parted to reveal a collection off impressive tents and well lit amusement park rides. The smell of roasted meat filled the air and spurred the appetite.

    We explored the grounds before selecting a tent that captured our attention. It was our first time drinking Pschorr beer and we enjoyed its frothy, cool, clean flavor. Our libations were perfectly accompanied by a freshly roasted hendl (chicken) which was juicy and well seasoned with a salty finish. The hours passed as we sang songs and shared camaraderie in this cross-cultural gathering of merrymakers.

    We raised our mugs with a hearty “Prost!” in appreciation of Mike’s generosity for helping us realize our delicious Oktoberfest dreams.


    Bringing Back Cocktail Hour - Dawn Beach, Sint Maarten

    We headed to Dawn Beach as the warm sun descended towards the horizon. It was time to Bring Back Cocktail Hour thanks to the generosity of Bill and Denise who sponsored "dinner and drinks for two". Our culinary objective for the night would be a real treat, Caribbean lobster.

    The enchanted evening began with healthy pours of rum which we sipped while watching the waves roll in. The scene was so beautiful, we decided to take a romantic stroll on the beach to preemptively work-off some of our impending calories.

    After our stroll, we returned to the open-air restaurant. Our table was beachside, romantically candlelit, and a musician sang soothingly, accompanied by the sounds from the ocean surf.

    The beautiful lobster had been split, chargrilled to perfection, and presented with red beans and rice, beignets, and a small salad; truly mouthwatering. We also ordered shrimp tacos with all the trimmings which Matt described as the best he's ever had - And Matt knows his tacos.

    The evening was perfect and we send a huge thank you to Bill and Denise for making this amazingly decadent experience possible.


    Bringing Back Cocktail Hour - Dunbar, Scotland

    A few months have past since our last Bring Back Cocktail Hour post. We dined at several great restaurants in Scotland, but wanted to apply Mark and Sue's generously sponsored "Dinner and Drinks for Two" to something special - our celebration meal upon completion of the John Muir Way. And what a hearty and fulfilling celebration it turned out to be!

    With cold coastal winds and a tendency for precipitation, Scottish cuisine is often the stuff that warms and fortifies with large portions and rich sauces. Our entrees, served up at The Rocks restaurant, were no exception.

    - Duck confit tart with red onion marmalade and creme fraiche

    - Rack of lamb with red current jus

    - Osso bucco with chive mashed potatoes

    And to top it off, a bit of the bubbly - No proper celebration would be complete without it!

    With glasses raised, we toasted our accomplishment and extended a satisfied and grateful "Cheers" to Mark and Sue in appreciation of their thoughtfulness.