Friday, October 27, 2006

Ein Bier Bitte!

I was our first day in Germany. My German is a little sparse, but I knew a few important phrases:

“Sprechen Sie Englisch?” - Do you speak English?
“Wo ist die Toilette?” - Where is the toilette?
“Ich liebe dich” - I love you.

After checking into the hotel, we went out to practice our language skills. We found a quiet and very authentic brauhaus just down the street. I’d been anticipating this moment for years. A buxom beer maiden would bust through the swinging doors clutching huge frothing steins of strong beer. We would sing drinking songs and swing our mugs in unison to the “OOM-PAH-PAH” of tubas played by brawny men in lederhosen.

When the waiter arrived I proudly proclaimed:

“Zwei Bier bitte!”

That means “Two beers please”.

The waiter came back with two tiny glasses of a pale bubbly liquid. The glasses were tall and thin, sort of like oversized shot glasses. Was there some mistake? I looked around; everybody was drinking from the delicate little glasses. The neon sign in the window advertised “Gaffel Kölsch”. The poster on the wall said “Gaffel Kölsch”. The little glasses were labeled “Gaffel Kölsch”.

Was Gaffel Kölsch German for "Gay Bar"?

The patrons didn’t look especially gay. It occurred to me, perhaps there was more than one type of beer in Germany.

Kölsch is a local beer unique to Cologne, or Köln, as it’s known locally. The beer itself is a clear bright yellow color with a pronounced hoppiness. The taste is refreshing. Kölsch is actually a dialect of German spoken in Cologne – so the beer is named after the city. Natives in Cologne drink Kölsch – to do otherwise would be unpatriotic.

If you want a big frothing stein of beer, go to Munich.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Cute and tasty

I was recently on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and was surprised to see a big hairy animal swimming in the marsh. At first I thought it was a beaver - turns out it was a Nutria, or Louisana swamp rat.

Nutria are native to southern South America, where they are know as “Coypu”. During the 1930’s the state of Louisiana got the bright idea that they would be a valuable fur and food animal, and encouraged nutria farming. Among the pioneers of nutria farming was E. A. McHenry, famous for inventing Tabasco sauce. Nutria farming wasn’t profitable, and many of the animals escaped. Current estimates put the population at about 20 million in Louisiana. They have since found their way to North Carolina.

Nutria are tasty and cute, but they have a bad habit of destroying marshland. Not only that, but they can spread a parasitic infection called “nutria itch”. Many states are actively trying to eradicate the creatures. Marsh damage caused by nutria probably contributed to the destruction of hurricane Katrina.

Louisiana Nutria Recipe

Chef Philippe Parola Commandeur des Cordon Bleu de France

Heart Healthy "Crock-Pot" Nutria

  • 2 hind saddle portions of nutria meat
  • 1 tomato, cut in big wedges
  • 2 carrots, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 1 cup demi glace (optional)
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin
  • 2 potatoes, sliced thin
  • Brussel sprouts
  • 1 cup water
  • salt and pepper to taste
Layer onion, tomato, potatoes, carrots and Brussel sprouts in crock pot. Season nutria with salt, pepper and garlic to taste and place nutria over vegetables. Add wine and water, set crock pot on low and let cook until meat is tender. Cook for approximately 4 to 6 hours. Garnish with vegetables and demi glace (4 servings).
© 2008 Raoul Rubin