The days are just packed!

February 25, 2015

THV 2015 A

The title of this post is from a Calvin&Hobbs cartoon book which was given to me by my friend Thomas Langenohl many many years ago. The cover shows Calvin and Hobbs lying on a branch of a tree and sleepily observing their surroundings, otherwise doing nothing.

This is how it feels right now. We have had three weeks on the farm in Glenburn, Victoria doing (almost) nothing.  We,  that is my wife Margit and our twin daughters Lucy and Charlotte, and of course me. It is about one year that our family is separated into two subunits: the girls going to university in Melbourne and we, the parents living in Sofia, Bulgaria, worlds apart, after moving for 19 years together in Asia from country to country. As for many close-knit families, we all suffer a little. A little much, I would add. The better for us now, we are hanging out together and just talking, listening, cooking, eating, singing, joking, laughing and pottering around the farm together, enjoying each other’s company, knowing how little time is left for such things in the current state of affairs.

THV 2015 B

We have all left home at one point or another, my wife Margit at 17 to get an education, me at 19 leaving for military service.  International gypsy life seems to have had a super-uniting effect on the four of us. Shared history and memory are very specific in that case, not inclusive and difficult to explain.

All good things are coming to an end. Soon we will part company for another year.

Life on the farm was and always will be bliss. And the days are just packed.


Winstub: S’Thomas Stuebel, Strasbourg, Alsace

January 19, 2015

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Canal in Strasbourg

Strasbourg in autumn is very picturesque, and a great place to visit. I was lucky that I had to attend a conference and therefore had the chance to be there for a few days last year in early November.

I love this city and the wine region surrounding it: Alsace is one of my favourite French wine region. I especially love their whites, among them Riesling, Gewuerztraminer and Pinot Blanc and the Pinot Noir.

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S’Thomas Stuebel

Since I was a day early for the event, I used the Sunday afternoon for a stroll to explore the town. I had visited before. Actually my first visit was when I attended high school (or as we call it Gymnasium). Since I was in the “French branch” of my school, we went quite frequently to various places in France. We stayed at a youth hostel. Our teacher made us try some of the local wines. It was here in Strasbourg that I tasted my first Gewuerztraminer.

I was eager to visit one of the famous wine bars. Unfortunately, the S’Thomas Stuebel was closed on Sundays. I promised to come back another day. Which I did.

Winstub

The name plate at the entrance promised a truly indigenous dining experience. Something earthy, something traditional, something authentic with special dishes from the region and local wines.

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The guest chamber of the wine bar

I was not to be disappointed when I cam back a few days later on the last day of my Strasbourg visit. Together with a colleague, we intended to explore the culinary delights of the Alsace wine region. We longed for simple, peasant type of food and nothing fancy.

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A white wine served in an earthen flagon

Since my friend does not drink alcohol, a bottle was out of the question. Therefore, I ordered a 1/2 ltr. which was served in an earthen flagon. I selected a local Pinot Blanc.

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The assorted Alsatian dishes

As you can see from the photo above, we went for very basic, nutritious and hearty local food. The potatoes with ham were wonderful. The cottage cheese with garlic and onions was creamy and rich. The salads contained all the garden greens typical for the season.

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Crème brûlé

I am not a big fan of deserts, but the crème brûlé on the menue I was not willing to miss out on. I did not regret my choice. A fruit schnaps was used to make the crème brûlé, make it burn.
When we left, the taproom was filled with local diners. If you should visit Strasbourg you should not miss the S’Thomas Stuebel. Have dinner there and enjoy the local cuisine and the excellent selection of Alsatian wines.


Duas Quintas, Douro – White wine from Portugal

December 23, 2014

It was already late when we walked along the river on the lookout for some food in Lisbon the other day. We were a larger group of conference participants. We were hungry and not very picky. That’s the reason that I do not remember the name of the restaurant. However, it turned out to be a good choice. As so often, the group wanted me to select the wine. Not an easy undertaking when everybody is fancying different types of food.

Fortunately, the waiter was very helpful in the selection of wine. It is years that I have visited Portugal, and I am not on a sure footing regarding it’s wines.

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2013 Duas Quintas by Ramos Pinto, Douro

The white wine I choose was from the Douro, one of my favourite wine region in Portugal. I had visited with my family in 2008 and treasure the wonderful memories of the Douro valley.

Ramos Pinto is a well know producer of mainly port and red wines.
Casa Ramos Pinto produces since 1880. Since 1990 it is part of he Roederer Group.

João Nicolau de Almeida joined Casa Ramos Pinto in 1976 and is one of the main architects of its success in modern time. The American magazine Wine & Spirits chose him as “Man of the year 1998”. Since 2001 he is managing director.

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2013 Duas Quintas, back label

Also the whites of Casa Ramos Pinto are of great significance. Duas Quintas is a blend of traditional varieties (50% Rabigato, 40% Viosinho, 10% Arinto), has 13% alcohol, a ph level of 3.12. and an acidity of 5.8%.

Golden in colour, bright and clean, the aromas of citrus and ripe fruit are very pleasant on the palate. The wine is full bodied and has a good structure. 2013 was a ripper of a vintage which shows in the wine. It was the right choice.

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My appetizer

Even my at times spicy appetizer, grilled peppers with chips, was well suited to the wine. And the main dish, pieces of white fish, went also very will with the fine citrus aromas of the wine.

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The white fish

I wish we could have stayed longer. I have to find the restaurant again. It is near the congress centre, one crosses the main road and walks upriver. Easy.
Furthermore, I should visit again the Douro region. I have such fond memories. I know, there is never enough time to explore all the fabulous wines of a place.


上朋 – my favourite Japanese restaurant in Taoyuan, Taiwan

October 31, 2014

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Shang Peng is the name of my favourite Japanese restaurant in Taoyuan, Taiwan

When I teach at the International Center for Land Policy Studies and Training (ICLPST) in Taoyuan, I try to have at least one meal in this restaurant.

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Japanese “nibblies”

Usually, I go with my friend Jim Riddell. Last time we had another fabulous meal. This time we did not drink beer but ordered a bottle of sake.
The charming waitress brought us a bottle of Black&Gold by the Gekkeikan Sake Company, a producer from Kyoto who is producing sake since 1637 in Fushimi.

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It came in a nice decorative bottle which Jim took home after the meal. We drank it cold not warm.
But boy I tell you this Sake was as smooth as silk, pure and balanced, in short an elegant wine.

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What a good choice this was. from here it was downhill all the way.

Below you will find photos of the various dishes we enjoyed with the Sake.

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Assorted raw fish

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To cleanse the palate

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Jim’s raw fish dish

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Jim’s soup

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Eel with rice

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The twisted fish

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Ingredients for the soup

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Ingredients for the soup

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The soup in parchment. It is amazing that the paper does not burn.

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Fruit at the end

What a wonderful evening this was. After paying I forgot my credit card at the counter.
The restaurant rang Jim a little later and informed him about this.
And the next day I picked it up at lunch time.

If in Taoyuan you should seek out this place and enjoy a Japanese meal. it’s definitely worth it.


Bulgaria – a paradise for wine lovers

September 19, 2014

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Vineyards in Trier

For someone like me, a native of Trier or Augusta Treverorum, as the city was called in Roman times, the move to another ancient Roman city, in this case Sofia, Bulgaria is not a big thing. Sofia was called Serdica (or Sardica) then, possibly named after the Celtic tribe Serdi.

Constantin the Great is supposed to have said “Serdica is my Rome”. And here we have the third city in which I lived and which belonged to the Roman empire. But he did not make Serdica the seat of his government. For this he choose Byzantium, later renamed Constantinople. By the way I lived in another Roman city: that was Vicus Bonnensis or Castra Bonnensis, the present day Bonn, my alma mater where I studied agriculture.

If I had lived two thousand years ago, a move from Trier to Sofia would have been a move from one province of a wast empire to another. Latin would have been the lingua franca. I would have had access to all the Roman infrastructure common in those days: a bath house, a circus, an amphitheater and so on.

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Constantine Basilica in Trier

Both my native Augusta Treverorum (the city of Augustus in the land of the Treverer) and my current home Sofia got their name from the native Celtic populations (the Treverer in my case). Both were major cities of the Roman Empire. Trier was located in the Roman province of Belgica, Sofia in the province of Thrace. Both places history is tied to the Roman emperor Constantin the Great.

There are also differences. Augusta Treverorum is famous for its wine cellars and its wine production, vineyards reaching deep into the city. Sofia does not have vineyards in its vicinity. However, the old province of Thrace was famous for its wines, and so is present day Bulgaria.

I admit that there is still a lot of room to improve its produces’ fame but more and more Bulgarian wines are available in wine shops in other parts of Europe, especially Germany and England.
Needless to say I use my spare time here in Sofia to explore the many wines of Bulgaria. My welcome present by my colleagues consisted of a wine guide, Di Vino 2014.

I would like to invite you to come along on this journey and explore the richness of the ancient land of Thrace, and it’s contemporary wines.

Le Voyage

Le Voyage by Katarzyna Estate


Gran Monte harvest festival 2014 – Khao Yai, Thailand

February 28, 2014

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Traditional folk dances to welcome the guests

The Gran Monte Harvest Festival was the highlight of the year for me here in Thailand. For the third time in a row I had the opportunity to participate in this wonderful event at the Gran Monte Family Winery in the Khao Yai region, about 2 1/2 hours northeast of Bangkok. And it is not getting boring, just the opposite. Each year Khun Visooth and his team surprise their guests with new highlights.

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Khun Visooth overseeing the competition

On the wine front of course everybody is eager to taste the new vintage. This year we were, among others, looking forward to the second vintage of the Viognier. Nikki Lohitnavy, the wine-maker, is doing a great job. I just love her hand grafted wines. And every year it seems they are getting better and better.

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Margit with Sole, the Chenin Blanc

For tasting notes, please visit the wine blog of my friend Oliver, the Winegetter. I cannot do tasting notes like him; just reading Oliver’s descriptions is mouth watering.

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Ripening grapes

Another novelty this year was that the evening program of the event was held in new building for the VinCotto Restaurant. After the addition of the tower, a wine cellar and a much enlarged main hall, the new VinCotto restaurant has the flair of a traditional country inn. I particularly liked the various bits of veranda which reminded me of an Australian porch.

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Together with my wife Margit, I threw myself into the festivities. Since we stayed overnight in the cottage at the estate, we did not have to worry about anything. Many musicians joined us in the evening and entertained the crowd with the good old songs from the last century: rock and roll.

GM HF5

Since we are leaving Thailand for Europe in June, it felt a bit like a farewell. But the good thing is that to travel back home to Australia we have to come via Thailand. Therefore, there is hope that this was not our last harvest festival. We will come again.

Cheers

GM HF6


2013 in review

February 5, 2014

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 39,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.