Crazy bridges – how to destroy the Mosel

May 15, 2010

Planned bridge near Uerzig, Mosel

Two days ago the deadline for the petition ended. I confess that I did not make it in time. But I have joined the facebook group called “Stop the new B 50 and save the Mosel vineyards from devastating damage” opposing the building of this bridge.

The planned bridge is massive. It is about 160 meters high and 1.7 km long. It will probably cost about 270 million EURO which is equivalent to about US $ 400 million. On the facebook site above you can find more photos and animations showing you what the bridge will do to the Mosel valley.

The issue made it even into the New York Times which carried an article about it contrasting pro and contra views. Because the cost and benefits of such a massive undertaking are not clear cut. If you asked me to which camp I would belong, well, I asked myself two simple question: 1. would I give up my vineyard land for the venture? and 2. Would I like to look at this bridge from my window when I wake up in the morning?

My recent Australian experience with the North-South pipeline suggests that there is very little hope that such mega projects can be stopped by citizens protest. The Plug the Pipe campaign could not stop the project but it surely raised the political costs to Victorian the labour government. And election time is near.

Topher analyses the political economy of the North-South Pipeline. Unfortunately, there are no elections in my home state of Rheinland-Pfalz this year. So we are less lucky than the Victorians. The only thing which might save us is the empty state coffers.

Restaurant review: Weinhaus Spielberg, Randersacker/Franconia

May 13, 2010


The settlement of Randersacker, Franconia

One of my favourite wine regions in Germany is Franconia. My maternal grandparents came from this part of the country. My grandfather, Hans Heinrich Schuessler, was the man who introduce me to the pleasures and the mystery of grape wine. He was a native of Reichenberg, a small hamlet just south of the city Wuerzburg, the capital of the region. Randersacker is situated at the opposite side (from Reichenberg) of the Main river. We visited the place while touring Germany some time ago.


The inscription on the Bocksbeutel bottle reads: In vino veritas

The market town of Randersacker was first mentioned in a historical record in 779 AC. The historical centre of the town, though small, is quite nice and worth visiting. We were on our way back to Wuerzburg but wanted to have dinner at Weinhaus Spielberg.

Franconia produces outstanding wines, mostly Sylvaner/Silvaner but I like also the Riesling wines. It’s speciality is the Bocksbeutel, a wine bottle in the form of an ellipsoid. This is what we came for when we selected Weinhaus Spielberg as our target.


A coaster of Weinhaus Spielberg

Weinhaus Spielberg is a traditional country inn where solid German food and good local wines are served. We ordered some local specialities, especially typical Franconian dishes. The two pictures below might give you an idea what food I have in mind. We had the house wine with the food, a very refreshing, young and delicious Silvaner.



The service is very efficient, the waiters are friendly and very helpful. At times the Weinhaus is very busy. However, there is no need to fret, you will highly satisfied with what you will get. My credo: visit the place yourself, and see with your own eyes, taste with your own taste buds and have fun in Franconia.

Weinhaus Spielberg
Stefanie Sokoll
Lurzengasse 3
97236 Randersacker

Tel.: +49-931 / 708391
Fax: +49-931 / 709957

Opening hours:
Monday – Sunday: 11 – 24 h
Friday: open from 17.00 h
closed: Thursday

From Shakespeare’s kitchen

May 11, 2010

Today I will share a recipe with you. Francine Segan produced this marvelous cookery book titled: “Shakespeare’s Kitchen – Renaissance Recipes for the Contemporary Cook”. We cooked from this book the most wonderful fish.

Red snapper with Caviar is the dish called.

From the outset I have to admit that our supermarket had only sea-bass on offer and instead of caviar we had to be content with ordinary fish roe. Indeed, Francine remarks that the original recipe was based on roe, not caviar, which was not well understood in Shakespearean times.

– 4 small red snapper or trout with head on
– 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
– salt and freshly milled black pepper
– 12 dates, minced
– 1/4 cup finely grated fresh ginger (cam from my own production on my terrace garden)
– 8 ounces of caviar or roe
– 8 ounces fresh red currant or barberries
– 1 table spoon sugar
– 2 table spoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

How it’s done:

– Preheat the grill, brush the fish inside and outside with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, combine the dates with the ginger and gently fold into the caviar/roe, spoon the mixture into the cavity of the fish, grill of about 405 minutes on each side until the flesh is firm
– Place currant, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan, simmer for about 10 minutes until thickened, puree until smooth
– Place the fish on a plate and serve the sauce in a small dish next to it. Finished. Enjoy.

And this is what the dish may look like:


Beautiful roe

The side dishes came also from the same cooking book. They were sweat onions (six different kinds of onions) and artichokes in vinegar with herbs.

The sweat onions


The wine we had with the food was not Shakespearean. Instead, we had a very simple wine with it, a ‘Frascati superiore’ from Rione. Ever since we lived in Rome about 20 years ago, I love the young white wines from Frascati,especially on hot days, the wines are refreshing and uplifting. It was a good complement to the “heavy” Shakespearean food.

Les Ormes de Cambras – Merlot from France

May 9, 2010

I grabbed the bottle from the supermarket shelve. Just like that. Again, I liked the label. This time a traditional one, with some trees, an alley. Later I learned that they were elm trees. I also liked the price, below 450 Bath (about 11 EURO) which is cheap for Thai conditions. That of course also meant that this wine was a “cheap” one, considered the many import duties and the exorbitantly high Thai alcohol taxes.

‘Les Ormes de Cambras Merlot’, the wine is called (2008 vintage). It’s alcohol content is quite low (12.5%), the colour is a beautiful dark red. Since we produce Merlot ourselves, I am often intrigued to buy other peoples Merlot to see what it is like.

The website of Les Ormes de Cambras told me that the Merlot could be had for 2.30 EURO/bottle in France if you also buy the three other wines produced by this enterprise (a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Cinsault).

2.3 versus 11 EURO for the bottle. I wonder how much the producer of the wine gets from this? What is his profit? 20 cents? 30 cents?

Since the website does not say anything about a vineyard, I assume this is a mass wine of industrial dimensions. But it tasted much nicer than expected. I might consider to get some more bottles.

‘2008 Les Ormes de Cambras Merlot’, Vin de pays d’Oc, France

We always have food with our wine. It was a light dinner, just the celery salad with olives, carrots, peppers and garlic and some self-baked white bread. Delicious, and so healthy.

The Merlot was sufficiently well balanced, not heavy, a fruity almost elegant wine which went well with the salad.

A salad for dinner

The celery salad

By the way, Les Ormes de Cambras is located near the city of Béziers in Languedoc in the South-west of France.

Pierre Sparr Riesling, Alsace

May 8, 2010

Pomfret con alceitunas y alcaparras

We had fish for dinner. Following a Spanish recipe, we had “Bonito con Aceitunas y Alcaparras” (tuna with olives and capers) from the “Culinaria Spain – Spanish Specialities” cookery book by Koenemann, 1998, Cologne, which is a wonderful book. It has not only breathtaking recipes but great pictures, stories about the food and the people, the various regions of Spain and, of course on Spanish wines.

We deviated from the original recipe by replacing the tuna fillets by whole pomfret fish but used all the other ingredients for the preparation of the dish. Needless to say, it was delicious. The recipe worked also with pomfret, one of my favourite fishes here in Asia.

2008 Pierre Sparr Riesling, extreme, Alsace

I had no Spanish wine in my wine fridge, but a Riesling from Alsace which I had bought a couple of days earlier because of its funky modern label. Pierre Sparr is the name of the estate. The 2008 vintage Riesling is still young and exuberant, just the right stuff for pairing it with the strong taste of the olives and the capers. The acidity made all the difference.

Pierre Sparr Riesling extreme

2008 Pierre Sparr Riesling, extreme, Alsace

I tried to find the same label on the Pierre Sparr website but could not. It must have been a special label for the export market. Back home in Alsace the same wines have more traditional wine labels. The Sparr family winery goes back to 1680. Pierre Sparr is representing the ninth (!!!) generation of Sparr family wine-makers and vignerons. The winery is located in Sigolsheim at the heart of the Alsace region. The family owns and operates 34 ha under vines and contracts fruit from about another 150 ha, usually small growers.

I love this wine region and have visited many times, especially during my student days. Alsace has a outstanding gastronomy, spread over the most picturesque region, right at the foot of the Vosges mountains down to the Rhine river. Vines have been cultivated since Roman times.

Pierre Sparr offers a wide range of wines (and also grappa). I guess the wine we had belongs to the lowest quality segment which you can buy in France for about 8.25-9.50 EURO/bottle. I paid much more for it here in Bangkok. It displays rose petal aromas, citrus, peach and honey. The wine is sprizzy and has zest, a good structure and a long finish. Its’ perfectly made and will last for some more years (12% alc/vol).

I hope we have the chance to visit Alsace again this year. And meanwhile I look out for Pierre Sparr wines here in Bangkok.

Restaurant review: Gasthaus Bidinger, Schoden

May 5, 2010


Show me the way

It’s a public holiday in Thailand today (coronation day), and this might be the reason why I am in a reminiscing mood, the dominant “mood of old people”. But Gasthaus Bidinger (Gasthaus/Gasthof = inn) in the hamlet of Schoden, Saar would be a nice place to visit today. Lunch at Bidinger is one of my favourites when with my mother in Trier, Mosel. The food is traditional German country tucker, solid and substantial, and very enjoyable.


Gasthaus Bidinger, front entrance

Apart from rustique rural food, Gashof Bidinger offers also a nice selection of traditional drinks, for instance Bitburger Pils beer and the local apple-pear cider, called “Viez”. Viez is usually a quite sour, low alcohol drink widely consumed by the local peasantry. Mixed together with some sparkling water it is very refreshing in summer. Moreover, Bidinger also bottles his own local wines. The Saar produces some of the best Riesling wines in Germany, and is one of my favourite wine regions.


Many empty bottles


“Moselaner” apple cider, locally called: Viez


Wines from the Saar

I would love to be at the Saar today. If you have the chance to visit, do so. It’s a jewel, hidden away somewhat but still easily accessible. A visit to the Saar can be combined with a trip to see Trier, the oldest German city and Luxembourg, just next door.

Gasthaus Bidinger,
Klosterstr. 30,
54441 Schoden
Tel: +49-(0)-6581/99260
Fax: 06581/99261

Away with the fairies – The Iron Fairies in Bangkok

May 4, 2010

A magical place

The Iron Fairies is the coolest hangout in Thonglor, our neighbourhood in Bangkok. On any night of the week, it is busy and buzzing with people. This Wine Bar cum Restaurant might even be the most hip place in town.

I pass by every day when walking to and from my office but it took me a while to check it out myself. It’s been there for about six months. In front of the narrow building, strange equipment is “parked”, sometimes an old motorbike, sometimes and old pump or other ancient equipment.

Ashley Sutton, the owner, originally from Perth, Western Australia, is a great host. He is not only a successful children’s book author but also a blacksmith, bar man, restaurant manager and who knows what. He is always there and makes sure his clients get what they want. He has a lot of experience because the Iron Fairies in Bangkok is not his first wine and jazz bar. There are Iron Fairies in Perth and new York.

We asked him for his best red wine, and he recommended a Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon from Western Australia. It was a good choice. We got a decent wine for a decent price. Also the food was not bad, although the burgers are a bit on the sweet side.

There is also great entertainment at the Iron Fairies. We were lucky to have four young Thai jazz musicians who made our time most enjoyable. On Saturday nights a magician is the attraction.

The Iron Fairies is a very small place and fills up quickly so that latest at about 10 pm, the doors are closed. We were early and it was during the week so that we had a choice where to sit.

In the daytime, the Iron Fairies is also a workshop, a place where fairies are made. Unfortunately, my old digital camera does not produce good pictures if the light is not right. Therefore, only the above photo is available to me.

I found some good pics on the internet. But of course, the best is you check it our yourself. If you come to Bangkok, come to Thonglor and visit the Iron Fairies.

The Iron Fairies

Iron Fairies
394 Thonglor Road (Sukhumvit Soi 55), Bangkok
(opposite Ton Krueng Thai Restaurant)
Tel.: +66 (0) 84 425 8080
Open Monday-Saturday, 8pm to 2am

Greetings from Jelaluddin Rumi

May 3, 2010

Who says words with my mouth

by Jelaluddin Rumi*

All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that,
and I intend to end up there.

This drunkenness began in some other tavern.
When I get back around to that place,
I’ll be completely sober. Meanwhile,
I’m like a bird from another continent, sitting in his aviary.
The day is coming when I fly off,
but who is it now in my ear who hears my voice?
Who says words with my mouth?

Who looks out of my eyes? What is the soul?
I cannot stop asking.
If I cannot taste one sip of an answer,
I could break out of this prison for drunks.
I didn’t come here of my own accord, and I can’t leave that way.
Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.


We have a huge barrel of wine, but no cups.
That’s fine with us. Every morning
we glow and in the evening we glow again.

They say there’s no future for us. They’re right.
Which is fine with us.

Quoted from “The Essential Rumi” by Coleman Barks with John Moyne, Castle Books, New Jersey, 1997, page 2

*Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhī (Persian: جلال الدین محمد بلخى), also known as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī (Persian: جلال‌الدین محمد رومی), and popularly known as Mowlānā (Persian: مولانا) but known to the English-speaking world simply as Rumi (30. September 1207 – 17. December 1273). More on Rumi on wikipedia.