Thursday, October 05, 2006

Hallo Frankfurt!


Oh, it was too long ago, my little trip to the land of meat and beers. Now I am listless and without good cheers.

So a good friend o' mine, Caroline, was taking a bit of break from the grind that is our turbulent, undecided lives, by staying with her relatives who live in Frankfurt. My then-vacation-less ears perked up with her offer for free housing. I found a pretty reasonable airfare. So off I went.

I was a bit apprehensive about not knowing any German. I even borrowed my friend's rosetta stone cd-rom thingies, which isn't exactly German for tourists, so I never got to say, "The horse jumps over the old white car," to anybody. But eventually I became slightly less terrified of umlauts and most everybody there speaks decent to excellent English and made me feel like a lesser person because we in America don't ever learn anything.

I got in late Saturday morning. Carol's relatives live on the edge of Frankfurt, on the end of one of the metro lines. Things are smaller, quieter and there are bike-riders galore. My first meal, kindly prepared by Carol's aunt, consisted of the city's namesake sausage - frankfurter! Hohoho. Somehow it's a little funny. And there was mustard from a tube, pickled beets, and glorious mashed potatoes. Evidently, in Germany, the starch-tastic tuber is a health food and carb-tastic bread is naturally part of meals. I like that.

We went into Frankfurt proper later in the day to walk around. There were lots of people just hanging out in the cafés and bars, having coffees and drinks outside. Carol and I decided that if our town in NJ had like 10% of these establishments, it would be a 100% cooler and less depression-inducing. All it takes is some decent caffeine and a beer or two. Our needs are simple and peasantlike.

Frankfurt-am-Main - that's the full name of the city, it's on the Main river - is the financial center of Germany so there are some tall buildings and such. We went up to the top of one of them, the Commerzbank I think, to take in the view and heard Paris Hilton's "Stars Go Blind" in the elevator. Frankfurter ho, ho. Go figure.

Then we somehow hit up most of Frankfurt's culinary specialties in one evening. We stopped and had some apfelwein, which is hard apple cider that tastes mostly of sweet-tart and yummy apples. The table behind us had a big jug of it and were very loud and boisterously drunk. Some dude nearby asked Carol's cousin if she spoke Chinese and she got mad at him because she's totally German. She gets that a lot, she says, which is understandably maddening. Point one for America - we get less of that here.

And now, the feasting and the dancing! We were led to a restaurant with a big moose head on the wall whose irony-or-not I wasn't able to fathom. But we were joined by Cousin's friends and ate outside and good times were had.

grüne sosse

This is grüne sosse, which pretty much translates to Green Sauce. The green comes from the many different herbs used, and though it's mayo based, the sauce is actually very light and slightly tangy, which goes perfectly with hard-boiled eggs and potatoes.

We also had this pork and mushroom dish with spätzle that I don't remember the name of. But it was might tasty and surprisingly, was the only time I had spätzle during my stay. In fact, I'm feeling a little sad and spätzle-less right now. Or maybe it's just a fun word to say, covered in butter.

In the background here is basically pizza ... but not! It's called flammkuchen and though it isn't a specialty of Frankfurt or Germany-proper but Alsace, the dish abounded at many of the restaurants in Frankfurt and Berlin. It has very thin and crispy crust and the main difference from what we're used to is the crème fraîche instead of gobs of cheese. I think the traditional flammkuchen has the crème, onions and bacon, but ours was covered in a shower of arugula. Fun!
Then Carol's cousin ordered us some handkäse mit musik, another Frankfurt specialty. "Käse" is cheese and this one is a bit smelly though the taste wasn't pungent at all and it had a slightly rubbery texture. I wouldn't exactly embrace this cheese again... not that you should go around hugging cheeses. Handkäse is served with chopped onions and the "mit musik" or "with music" refers to the farts afterward! Hahahaha! Hohohoho!
Since it was cold, we moved inside and had some wine and talked about American TV - Lost, 24 and Grey's are big there, but dubbed and a season or two behind - and how your career is pretty much set when you're young and this and that. It was a lovely first day.
May the Musik be Mit you. Momomomomomo!

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