Because husband doesn't really want to take more than one big foreign vacation a year -- and because he went to Europe several times before we met (lucky) -- I went on a trip with my lovely friend Emily. The above picture is the two of us in front of the puppets of Lyon (for which the city is noted).
Initially, we were trying to decide between France and Italy. We picked Lyon, France because of the gastronomy and because I have a little bit of French (and zero Italian), which makes it easier to get around. We had thought of taking a train to Florence and spending a few days there, but for whatever reason, train tickets were crazy expensive to Italy but relatively cheap to Germany -- so we headed north to Stuttgart instead. Neither of us has a lick of German, but most people in Germany speak some English, so we didn't have any difficulties. My small French did come in handy in Lyon, where knowledge of English is not nearly as prevalent.
Both cities were a lot of fun. People were amazingly friendly to us throughout the trip, and the food and drink in both locales were absolutely heaven.
The full album of pictures from Lyon is here.
And the full album of pictures from Stuttgart is here.
Selected pictures of food and drink-related sites below the cut!
This is one of the innumerable fine bouchons (or small, unpretentious restaurants) we ate at in Lyon. As reported, Lyon drinking and dining is full of delights -- local apertifs include kir (cassis and white wine) and a variation called the communard (a shot of cassis in Beaujolais). There were several variations on kir, too -- because we had to wait for a table, this restaurant gave us a free, kir-styled apertif of violet liqueur in white wine.
At this particular restaurant, I sampled the local specialty known as quenelles. A quenelle is a large, airy dumpling that's sort of like a big gnocchi. They reminded me of the Parisian Gnocchi that I make at home from time to time.
We also ate copious quantities of Potatoes Dauphinoise, which are heavenly scalloped potatoes, and Tarte Tatin, which is sort of a caramelized apple tart. Expect to see my attempted recreations on this blog in the near-ish future.
Lyon has lots of cheap, eminently drinkable Cote du Rhone wine; it was a warm day, and we didn't want or need any meat, so we went with a Rose. It was the perfect accompaniment.
We had picked up the cheese from the food market up in the Croix Rousse, which is Lyon's old silkworker's district. The picture shows sliced pumpkin at the same food market. It was going for a Euro a slice. If I could get pumpkin like this in the states, I might try my hand at my own pumpkin puree.
They really do take care with their food in Lyon. This was in the window of a chocolatier; I suspect these are marzipan veggies but didn't go in to inquire.
This is the cellar of a wine store that had been recommended by a friend of Emily's. I was amused by the intermingling of religious iconography with the bottles (there were also several statues of the virgin in strategic nooks and crannies).
We also did a wine tasting up in Beune, in the Burgundy region. Beaune is an hour and forty five minutes north of Lyon. This place allows one to descend into the cellars where wine is stored and sample 15 varieties of wine.
They were generous samples, too. It's a good thing we took the train!
We also ate very well in Germany. I don't know if this is a year-round thing or something that was only common because we're approaching Easter, but they had lovely painted hard-boiled eggs for sale all over the place. I'm not huge on hard-boiled eggs, but Emily enjoyed them as a beautiful and cheap snack on several occasions. We were able to find little kits to make similarly decorated eggs at home, so I know what I'll be doing this Easter.
The pastries were really good, too. This is a Bavarian (?) doughnut from a very nice bakery/cafe in Stuttgart. I was eating a delicious apple pastry that didn't photograph so nicely.
This is Emily eating an excellent poppy seed pastry, which we split because the slices were huge. Of all the pastries I tried in Germany, this was my favorite; if you know what it's called or know of a good recipe for it, please pass it along!
Of course, there was beer in Germany, but they also make good wine in the Stuttgart region. I'm not keen on Riesling, but they had a nice red called Trollinger that complemented the local cuisine. One notable regional entree is Maultaschen, a meat or cheese-filled ravioli served in a savory broth. I ate it for dinner two nights in a row (of three total German suppers) -- it was that tasty, though rather further afield from my own culinary repertoire than French cuisine and therefore unlikely to be attempted at home.
In sum: this vacation was culinary heaven. Luckily for my waistline, both Lyon and Stuttgart are very hilly cities, and Emily and I did so much schlepping around that I was able to stuff myself silly without putting on an ounce. Would that I could always eat so well.