Thursday, September 03, 2009


I live in Germany. I work at a German University. I want to take a German course. There are German courses offered at the University. I am not allowed to take them. Today was thebreaking point. For a week, I had been waiting to hear back from the woman in charge of courses. She called me back today, I was optimistic based on our last conversation. She told me she looked into it and since I am not an exchange student, I will be unable to take a course. The best (scharciasm is necessary) part, the decision was made by the various departments because doctoral canidates do not need German. While this is true to a point, I have to attend staff meetings in German, my students mostly speak German and the majority of hte administrative staff at the University speaks only German, but it is not necessary for my job and thus I can't have a course. Seriously? I got so frustrated when, after a year of searching for a course, I hit this wall I just cried, in. my. office. - talk about professional. **Update: I have a German course. I had a meeting with my boss this afternoon and expressed my frustrations (in a much calmer way than above). She called the business school and now I have a German course. I have no idea about the level, all I know is it meets 3 hours per week and they will let me in. She told me to try it out and I am more than happy to do so. Yay German!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Good Things Come in Small Packages Part 1

Edit: This post was written for the wedding blog but I posted it in the wrong place. Since it is so photo heavy, I am having trouble moving and don't want to start over but thought I should explain the RI/wedding references. Apologies for the confusion. I just found this link via a Tweet and it inspired me to start posting about RI. If you have not been to RI, and I know this includes about 10% or so of our guest list, hopefully you will learn a little bit about the smallest state in the nation.
The focus of this post, in case you haven't clicked on that link is food. Particularly RI specialties. Let's take a bit of a culinary photo tour featuring the foods I grew up on and nicely compiled in the link above, shall we.
Starting with what I like to call cold pizza. This culinary delight is a native Rhode Islander, best from Crugnale's bakery or any bakery in Cranston. Sometimes it is referred to as bakery pizza (because you buy it at a bakery, not a pizza shop) or party pizza (aou will find it at EVERY party). Since I just told you you can find it at every party, I guess this should be on our wedding menu, maybe the caters will let us bring some in. In looking for a photo, I found some cute commentary, you can read about cold pizza from a fellow transplanted Rhode Islander. I loved this quote, " can find it here and there in the Northeast. But Rhode Island owns the niche."

Moving on, you will need a nice refreshing treat and you MUST have a Del's soft frozen lemonade while in RI. Pictured is the watermelon and lemon variety. As a kid, we only had the lemon, followed by lemon lite and then watermelon. Last May, I went to Del's and found a whole selection of new flavors but I still prefer the original. Mr. Lemon in Providence is rumored to be better than Del's (which is a BIG statement to make in RI) but I can't sing their praises since the one time I had it, ended in a car accident (I was sitting in the back seat). Del's is a must "eat" while in the ocean state and available at several Del's shops, trucks and carts.

Photo Source

Now that we left the snack food behind, let's talk main dish in the form of a Lobster Roll (the picture here looks so delicious but was too big for my blog and I couldn't do the necessary resizing right now). The lobster roll is the ultimate in fancy meets casual. You can get one of these babies at a clam shack or a formal restaurant. In the right area, you can even buy one from McDonald's during the summer. Think lobster tail chopped up with a dressing in a toasted hot dog style bun with a pickle on the side, nom nom nom. I was never a fan of the lobster roll, until I tried one (in 2006), unfortunately I'm not in RI during the summer enough to tell you where to eat my favorite but I'm sure you could find one on your own. I have never had the McD's version but would not make that your first.

For a seafood treat that I am a lot more familiar with, try some clam cakes and chowder (say: chow-da). The basic ingredients in clam chowder are clams, potatoes and onions, often other ingredients are added and every chef has his or her own twist. There are three main types of clam chowder available in RI.
For the purists, there is the ever elusive, RI chowder, sometimes referred to as quahog chowder. When done right this is super delicious but not on many menus.
Photo source
The always available and my choice is New England or White clam chowder. I love to drop in oyster crackers or dip my clam cakes! I am trying really hard to get this on the wedding menu. If you want an upscale version, try the Blue Fin Grill in the Providence Marriott, they serve New England clam chowder year round, clam cakes are not on the menu but the calamari appetizer is pretty good too if you are looking for a pairing but be sure to share, the chowder is filling.
The third type of clam chowder is Manhattan or red, which is the favorite of my mom, a non seafood eater. This is also easily available at most clam shacks or seafood restaurants. Typically it is more of a soup and less clammy than the others (which naturally explains why mom likes it so much).

Photo source

You MUST pair your chowder with clam cakes. These deep fried little guys are not light and I would not recommend more than 3 per sitting, your stomach will thank you later. The ones pictured below are from what is quite possibly, my favorite clam shack by the beach, Aunt Carries.

Photo source

All of this delicious RI food is making my mouth water and my stomach grumble so I am going to stop daydreaming and think about a more realistic dinner. Don't think that's all RI has to offer, I will be back with more temptation from the smallest state.

Sunday Fun Day

My day went something like this... bike, train, wine, bike, wine, bike, photos (repair pause), bike, wine, lunch, bike, ice cream and sekt, bike, wine, bike, strasenbahn, bike. This sequence could never happen in the US for so many reasons but it was such as great day, the US should really rethink that public consumption lay and encourage cycling and riding public transportation, it would all make people happier and is great for the environment. I digress, back to the story...
Last Sunday, along with 330,000 people, we went on a cycling tour in the Pfaltz, along the Germany wine street. One day per year, the street is closed to all motorized traffic until 6pm, in this time cyclists, in line skaters and a few walkers descend on the Pfaltz to sample the regional wine and culinary delights. We arrived at the station to learn our train was delayed, after a 20 minute wait, we barely made it into the train in Mannheim. The bike car below is intended to carry 12 bicycles and was one of two on this train, looks like DB was not ready to meet the demand. We anticipated riding the train to Neustadt but decided to get off one stop earlier and bike to the trail to avoid being overwhelmed by people and bikes at the station. You can see a map of the wine street for the event here. We started toward the middle and rode north.

Once on the trail, we were instantly convinced by the apres-ski style music. There were so many cyclists, I was overwhelmed. About 10 minutes into our ride, we stopped for our first wine schorle (Riesling with sparkling water in case you forgot). Prost!

Our stop was at a roadside tent manned by a dive club. They were very prepared but it was still 11am and most people were just starting out. I think we were the first group to stop here. The schorle was refreshing and the dive team was more than happy to entertain us. They even let us sample their flammkuchen. Excited for the day ahead of us, we rejoined the trail and continued our trek in the direction of Deidesheim, set to meet more friends for lunch at 1. We soon realized we had an hour to ride 4km and decided to stop again.

This time we had a sweet schorle which was very nice. It tasted a bit like a berry ginger ale in case you were wondering. Soon we were biking through the vineyards.

The weather was just perfect but our trek was about to hit a real roadblock. Patrick spent the better part of Saturday getting his bicycle in line on account of the fact that it has not been used since before he went to the US in 2005. He replaced the chain and checked both tires for leaks. It was at this point in our day that the new chain broke. It literally snapped off his bike. Luckily we were pretty close to a bike help station set up by the TKW.

While the bike was on the operating table (they literally put it on a table to fix the chain), the girls wandered into the wine fields for a brief photo shoot.

About one hour and 20 EUR later we were back on the trail and late for lunch. Luckily the friends we were set to meet were also running late and we were able to flag them down as they rode past. I managed to take a picture of the schorle but we were hungry and the camera was away by the time the food came. I had a delicious home made bratwurst and I am generally not a fan of the brats so this was either really good or I was hungry, I would tend to argue in favor of the former.

After lunch we were on the move again, heading towards Wachenheim, home of Schloss Wachenheim which is actually a winery famous for their Sekt. We were not without proper castles. We found this one along the way, we first saw it from a distance when we stopped looking for meat skewers and found an American flag (only waffles so we moved on). When we got closer, it was really picture perfect.

So perfect, in fact, that we asked another cyclist to take our group photo with the castle in the background.

All in all it was a great day and we all instantly agreed to do it again next year. I think this may be my favorite photo from the day, we all look so naturally happy and the sun is shining and the castle is peaking out. This was also where the pony rides were offered by the same family who was selling grilled horse meat but that's a different story.