Category Archives: Drinking

Speculoos City

Most cafés in Northeast France serve a Belgian Speculoos biscuit with every tea or coffee you order. While you can find Speculoos throughout the country, it’s more at home in Lorraine, which shares a border with Belgium as well as the holiday of Saint Nicolas, when bakeries produce giant Speculoos cookies in the shape of the good saint. Whenever I was served a coffee in another region of France and received a chocolate chip cookie, it was a bitter disappointment.

The cookie is a basic spice cookie, which sounds plain but is completely addictive. I’ll prove it!! The flavor is so popular at the moment that you can buy gazillions of speculoos-flavored treats: cereal, pudding, toasts, spreads, and pastries. The spread is at least as deadly as Nutella. I don’t drink espresso all that often in the States, but some clever friends knew that when I did I would feel sad without that Speculoos on the side, and bought me a cookbook to make them at home, along with a ton of other dishes (speculoos pie crust, speculoos tiramisu with chevre and figs, apple/almond speculoos soufflés!) made with the flavor . Continue reading

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Bmore Diaries: Pitango Gelato… AFFOGATO

Bastille Day in Baltimore dawned dark and pouring rain; actually kind of fitting for a girl who is trying to get back to the very rainiest and foggiest part of France. By 10 a.m. the clouds had rolled away, leaving a fresh breeze which lightened up our French-speaking picnic at Fort McHenry. A friend from New Jersey came down to meet me afterward and we made our way along the harbor in search of coffee, beer, or ice cream.

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La Maison Forestière

A nearby forest-bound sculpture garden.

The more idyllic the scenery, the harder it is for me to take pictures. That was the case this week when I visited one of my fellow teachers in Hennezel, France. It’s home to less than 450 people and completely surrounded by woods, but somehow cozy anyway. My host’s husband is a forestier; something like a woodsman or a forest ranger, who spends most of his days walking through the woods choosing the best trees to cut down while allowing the forest to prosper. Their house is a “maison forestière” heated entirely by wood with vegetable patches against the lean-to, and blossoming pear trees and lilac bushes.

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Café Culture

Espresso love in Amsterdam.

When Americans get together after work and on weekends, we join for happy hour, diner brunches and baseball and football games in sports bars. Sure we drink coffee, but Europeans cannot get their heads around the fact that there is no concept of meeting in a café during lunch break (what lunch break?) or after work. Just because we’ve exported mediocre coffee chains all over the planet doesn’t mean we have a café culture.

In France I am in a café at least a few times a week. But this weekend I took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Amsterdam and am ready to make the controversial statement that the Netherlands has the clear lead in the gold medal race of bar-and-coffee ambience. I should note that this has absolutely no relation to smoking pot: I had actually expected to avoid coffee shops because of smoke clouds; herbal or otherwise. This would have been tragic, because every bar or café we stopped in (three or four daily) was welcoming and warm, and each had a vibe all its own.

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Alsace’s Route du Vin, and “Grandmas Are Awesome”

This is not the first time I’ve said this, nor is it by any means the last. Despite living in a backwoods Bermuda triangle that seems to hold onto locals, I’ve met a number of amazing older women. Women who have lived in Zaïre. Women who moved to London without housing and spent two months hiding under a friend’s bed at night. Women who have bathed in a hot stream with Bjork (really!) and hiked the Camino de Santiago post-retirement.

And last weekend, women in their 80s who speak four languages and can tell you everything on earth about the history of wine, Alsace, and France.

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Bedouin Mint Tea in the White Desert

Cairo last Tuesday was so smoggy that buildings on the other side of the Nile were blurry by 9 a.m. On Wednesday night the White Desert, nearly 250 miles southwest of the capital, was nothing but cool sand, flowing black sky dotted with stars, and silence.

A popular trip out of Cairo is overnight tours of the white and black deserts, and we definitely needed more nature in our vacation. It was only one night tent-less under the open sky with two guides from nearby Bahariya, but it turned out to be one of the more thrilling parts of 10 days in Egypt. The very best part was not hiking or sandboarding, but wandering around the white desert rocks and chatting and laughing in the night around the palm-fed fire.

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An Eggnog Alternative: Sahlep

I decided a few weeks ago that it would be much easier for me to create an entirely different Christmas this year than to try and replicate a Christmas at home with my parents and sisters. It’s impossible, and would probably have left me feeling sadder than if I just let it go. Instead, I ate seafood and champagne French-style on Christmas Eve (otherwise known as a réveillon), my Christmas tree is a pointsettia, and I even went to midnight mass. Peaceful, and landed me some practice singing Christmas carols in French.

In that line of thinking, I decided against making eggnog this week and trekked up to the Turkish grocery stores on Epinal’s hilltop for some Sahlep. Continue reading