I had all these ideas of what to write about for this month. However I think I will stick to Christmas as my theme.
First I want to add some old family photos, a little nostalgia. That is part of Christmas, isn't it? Family, friends, memories, and reindeer who know to fly and santa and ....These are old photos from the L.E.Veeser family album.
Now to present times, and our life in France.
How is Christmas different in France?
Not as many houses decorate with outdoor lights out as they do in the US.
Christmas trees are not as traditional here, more often a crèche is set up, not a tree. Note that the Christmas tree (O' Tanenbaum) is a German tradition. Have to add a photo of my little tree this year. I took off in a different direction!!
However, the northeast corner (Alsace), where the German Christmas influence is seen: businesses, houses, streets... are decorated. The Alsacian region also still keeps Marché de Noel (Christmas market), which is very German.
What is the Marché de Noel you ask? Little “cabin” stands are set up outdoors and merchants sell all sorts of things for Christmas. There are candles, pottery, scarves, mittens, knives, wooden bowls, glass ware, paintings, toys, sausage, cheese, chocolate, wine, .... and the list goes on.
Here in Dijon, this year I think it was down to about 10 little cabins, mostly selling food. It just is not as big here. I think the small village of Eguisheim has more stands than Dijon!!
On Christmas Eve, there is a traditional meal called Réveillon. You should see what some of the suggested menus are for Réveillon. Three, four 5 course meals with scallops, and foie grasand ...Not for the faint of heart. I was told that Réveillon is the family gathering, and Christmas day is family and friends.
So where does this take us. I needed a little Christmas fix. It was cloudy here, and foggy and not very Christmassy in my opinion. So Keith suggested we go to the Alsace and take in the Marché de Noel at Colmar and at the same time buy some wine (Riesling for the sauerkraut and sausage dinners he loves so much).
We set out in the fog on Tuesday Dec 18th. It takes about 3 hours by the tollway. [This particular autoroute is always busy as it is the main north south route on the east side of France. Lots of trucks use it also to avoid the Alps.] As we passed through the Jura mountains, it was the very picture of winter/Christmas. There was new snow on the ground in the higher mountain area(road was good though) and the trees were covered with the heavy wet snow and the ground was all white. In the distance you could see the village with the church steeple rising above all the houses. How picturesque! However we were on the autoroute and one could not stop to take photos.
Then we headed across the street to Domaine Gruss to buy some wine. We have been there several times before and they are always very welcoming. As we started our tasting with Cremant de Alsace, 3 people from Switzerland arrived to buy some wine also. Madame Gruss told some stories and we tasted their fine Alsacian wine and compared notes with the Swiss. Monsieur Gruss arrived and served some wine too and told his latest tale about trying to buy some property in Eguisheim. Then the fils (son) arrived, Andre, and took over the wine tasting. It was almost 6pm when we left, having put in our order to be picked up in the morning.
We did not think to make dinner reservations, this was after all a Tuesday night in the winter, not tourist season. Oops! We went to the hotel restaurant at about 8pm, only to find it full. Hmm, now back up to the room and get our coats, hats, scarves and gloves, for it was chilly out side. Photo has a couple of snow flakes.
The hotel next door said the restaurant was closed (looked like a private Christmas party in progress). We turned and started to roam the streets and VIOLA, down a side street Keith found an open restaurant, the Auberge Ramparts.
We were seated in the back room where is was nice and warm.
Keith loves sauerkraut and ham, and found it immediately on the menu. I took the special,Beckenhof, which is a very traditional alsatian ham/beef/lamb layered with potatoes. It was mostly ham and potatoes, but very good too.
Half way through dinner a large group was seated in the room with us. They were in a very Christmas mood and asked everyone to join in with them singing Christmas carols (in french of course). The other table next to us (Belgians) joined in too. The vigneron (winemaker)with the large group served us some of his Gewurztraminer Tardive. This is a sweet after dinner wine. He asked where we were from and Keith said we were Americans living in Burgundy. Surprise surprises, most of the people at the table were from Dijon.
All in all, just by chance we had a very pleasurable evening. We were told that we should go to the fete (festival) in St Appo (suburb of Dijon) on Dec 27th. The vigneron from Alsace will be there with his wine and oysters.
On Wednesday morning, we picked up our wine. Madame graciously offered us more wine to taste, but it was 9:30 in the morning (!!), and we were going to be on the road.
We went into Colmar (town of about 70,000 to 85,000 counting surounding area). It is beautiful at any time, and at Christmas very special. We walked around the old city for a couple of hours, taking in the Christmas market and the exhibits artisinal (artesian). I really did get an effusion of Christmas, so I want to share it with you through a couple photos.
|Colmar Decorations - backside of stand|
|Leaving the Alsace Mountains in mist|
As for Christmas day, we are going to Marie Therese and Christian’s house.
|A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL.|
RECIPE OF THE MONTH
CHOCOLATE CAKE (Gateau Chocolat)
This recipe is taken from French Word-A-Day- http://french-word-a-day.typepad.com/ (Michèle-France's chocolate cake).
It is a french chocolate cake recipe. As always, I tampered with this recipe. I added orange chocolate as noted below. It was wonderful. It is a moist, rich and very chocolaty dessert. This is not a diet dessert, oh my no, it is far from it. But it is the holiday season.
1. Melt the butter and chocolate using a "bain-marie" (one saucepan placed in another saucepan, the lower one holding water). Tip: adding three tablespoons of cocoa powder to the butter/chocolate mixture will make the cake even richer.(I added the cocoa of course).
2. Combine sugar and eggs. Stir in butter and chocolate mixture (cooled). Add flour.
3. Pour into a cake pan and cook for 20 minutes at 180°C (350°F).
4. I sprinkled sliced roasted almonds and powdered sugar on top. Just a little to decorate.