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Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Weihnachtsmarkt 2. Nosh

It's either the Ch. Musar 2003 or 2008 at Beirut
restaurant in Cologne. A noisy, happy evening
A spiritual journey to Cologne? Nah, we were there for fressen, se gaver de or, in English, making pigs of ourselves. Things started off badly en route, in the delightful Belgian town of Leuwen where I cocked up VR's tournedos and my rib-eye steak by carelessly ordering them à point (ie, drained of all life). Oh the shame!

But Beirut, a Lebanese restaurant in Cologne, made up for my booboo. It was packed and we were seated temporarily with the wine list which reminded me why we’d reserved Beirut in the first place. Lebanon is home to Chateau Musar, a great vineyard, and source of a huge dilemma for me: the 2003 (€69) or the 2008 (€55)? My deliberations brought forth the proprietor who chose our meal by ordering a plate of everything on the menu and signalled his approval when I - slightly against my instincts - picked the older wine. The 2003 was magnificent though just about to dive off the edge of a cliff; ordering the 2008 afterwards solved the dilemma and confirmed my instincts.

Am I a lush? An eighty-year-old lush?

We ate meat, tons of it, at Brauhaus Sunner in Walfisch the following evening, where, as mentioned, the star turn was the feisty shouty waitress (left) - super competent, did a good Marlene imitation. Beer, what else?

At La Paix, in Lille (in France) on the way back I ordered blanquette de veau honouring France's greatest culinary tradition - home cooking in a restaurant. An elegantly re-created brasserie which worked.

Just forgot. Starting out we stayed at the Burlington in VR's home town Folkestone in Kent. Ate at the hotel's Bay Tree Grill, where VR's Dad was chef immediately post-WW2. Sentimentalists the lot of us.
VR and Occasional Speeder: Gluhwein mit Rhum


  1. Miam miam.

    (Bloody typical French to put the last consonant first; like the tonic sol-fah for music, litres-per-kilometre, I'm sure there are other examples.)

  2. I have a bottle of Chateau Ksara (2011) for Christmas Day. Purchased from the Wine society it was a good deal less money than your Musar but I have high hopes.

  3. Ach, how I yearn to go fressen und trinken with you both! You could educate me about Wein (it has long been a secret desire of mine to be able to sit at table and ask for a certain vintage ... how cool!).

    I have a bottle of local wine - my first ever Ohio wine - for the holidays. It is a 2013 Traminette from the McCafferty Bridge Vineyard in the Ohio River Valley. The label on the back describes it as "reminiscent of Gewürztraminer from Alsace." I do not know what to expect, but that's part of the fun. And I have a bottle of 2014 Edesheimer Rosengarten Gewürztraminer Kabinett from the Pfalz in reserve, just in case.

  4. That is a great photo of you. Had the dilemma been solved when it was taken?

  5. Lucy: My mind's too sluggish, but it doesn't matter. I bathe in the conceit that Tone Deaf is capable - by what process I wot not - of attracting gnomic comments like this.

    Sir Hugh: The Bekaa Valley, cursed by international politics and endless tribalism, blest by its vintners. I've drunk Lebanese wine other than Musar and it was fine; even if yours turns out to be merely a pink drench, be sympathetic towards its aspirations. Imagine, if you like, someone creating a vineyard over-shadowed by Spaghetti Junction and menaced by motorcycle gangs. And then open another bottle if you need to.

    RW (sS): No, nothing so sterile as mere education, a process that did me no good at all. Just me and VR, egging you on to talk about your Grannie's house and its structured environment, about eating noodles in one of those tiny horse-box cafés round the pachinko parlours of Shinjuku, lubricated by a wine that might be considered neutral between us - say Otago's most expensive PN.

    This "reminiscent of" is a new trend among wine-sellers: the suggestion that for £7.95 one may drink wine that has something in common with something far more expensive, far rarer wines. Be prepared to condemn if it goes wrong; the practice could be pernicious. However I see that like the Boy Scouts you are amply prepared for disaster; gewurz is always a present help in times of trouble. "Traminette" is curious, isn't it? The daughter of a traminac, which I first encountered in what used to be called Yugoslavia?

    MikeM: That's the more expensive - but fading - 2003. The smile on my face is animated by a conviction that the 2008 would be, in some respects, better. "Stronger" I said somewhat vaguely to the proprietor who was allowing me the luxury of speaking in French. Trying to communicate in German, with my limited foot-locker of verbs, was definitely ball-and-chain work

  6. Sounds like you all had a magnificent time, RR. You convey the impressions so well. All that meat, "lushness" and the happy interactions with those around you. I am not a wine buff, but you seem to have the knowledge which enhances your (considerable!) enjoyment.

  7. Were you served très bien cuit instead of à point? Shame on them!!
    Don't read any further where I'm going to confess that I used to order lifeless shoe sole bien cuit/WELL done beef from the grill. Waiter never dared make a comment but others did and what the chef said I did not hear.
    I'm enjoying this trip with you and your loved ones, and the photos.
    I should have put 'Christmas Market in Germany' on the list when Pasha asked me "what is on your bucket list?".
    When we left Germany, Christmas Market was on 'come back' and held in the gym of our town.

  8. Avus: If you were a wine buff you wouldn't admit to it. I mean, what sort of image does "buff" evoke? Someone who votes Tory for a start. Someone whose waist measurement exceeds 50 in. Who shines or is wont to shine. Remove it from your vocabulary unless you're talking military boots.

    Notice that acerbity is making a come-back. More to follow.

    Ellena: If I'd had my wits about me I'd have said what I usually say: saignant or bleu. In France à point does duty for medium. And you're right about averting my eyes; "shoe sole" is hard to take from someone who regularly achieves goddess status. Oh Ellena! If I ever take you out I'll order steak tartare and watch on until you've eaten every scrap. And you, pretending to be a sophisticate.

  9. Ha ha I love steak tartar. If you ever get to take me out you'd be welcome to order it. My mom used to make it on special occasions and that's how I was introduced to it.

  10. That top photo is terrific, looks like an Old Master - I don't mean you! But the amber lighting, the pose, and that strange black triangle over your right shoulder that looks like you're wearing a monk's hooded cloak.

    Didn't anyone like the hummus? A bowl of it on the left looks nearly untouched.

    As for any meat that is saignant, forget it. Animal or human blood is for vampires - not calling y'all vampires,understand, I'm speaking jestingly. I'd rather eat shoes soles than steal tartare and I don't care if I'm uncool. I'm sure you'll never take me out to dinner, Robbie.

  11. Ellena: You're full of surprises. But the only way to have rarer meat would be to slice it from the living beast and most of us prefer to dine in restaurants not charnel houses,

    Natalie: Of course the top photo is terrific; it shows an old, old man looking reasonably well on a diet of, inter alia, rare beef. Surrounded by photographic fol-de-rols. Hey this is not the time to be proscriptive/prescriptive; we could always dine in separate restaurants, each wearing our own self-donned halo.

    The humous. Dear God! The table must at that time have accommodated twenty-five plates and it is clear from my glass that I'm not finished yet. In fact on the five days a week I don't diet I eat two slices of bread spread with humous and then overlaid with paper-thin slices of onion (sweet onion preferred). It would not suit everyone, I am not proselytising on its behalf, and it does nothing for my social acceptability. But then, by now, you may feel entitled to ask the question: What would?

    The diet is now into its third year and I no longer break dining-room chairs. In that sense at least I am more acceptable

  12. My halo has run out of batteries, a type which isn't made anymore. But I'll recycle it into something which will catch your eye when we meet outside the separate restaurants where you will dine on steak tartare and I on well-done shish kebab.

    Bonne année, Gros Calin.