November Highlights: travel, food and wine

The leafy front of Munich's oldest bakery, now a restaurant
Restaurant Pfistermühle, housed in Munich's oldest mill (no idea if it's any good)

I tried doing a regular ‘favourites’ post once before, and failed to keep it up, but this past month contained so many warm and fuzzy moments for me that I just wanted to make a note of them.

After an October that disappeared in a haze of unpacking and settling our smallest team members back into life into Germany, November was all about enjoying what we’d missed about our life here whilst we were gone.  There were friends and family to spend time with, favourite German pastimes to indulge in, and a home city to re-explore.  But I also got to travel, meet a lot of new people, and learn a great deal, and as a result, I’ve come away from November feeling satisfied, inspired, and ready to embrace December.

Friends and family (and cakes and booze)

My parents came to visit from London this month.  These two never cease to amaze me with their game-for-anything attitude (my 75-year-old mother had been moose hunting in Finland two days before they flew to Frankfurt?!).  I’d not seen my folks since January, and they mostly wanted to hang out with their grandchildren whilst they were here, but we made it to Wiesbaden’s Café Maldaner for some old school elevenses, and also spent a long afternoon with my in-laws in Mainz, drinking Sekt and enjoying a huge assortment of cakes.  We also had a visit from my sister-in-law and her family who live in Konstanz, and spent the best part of a week doing what us Dietzens do best: drinking and feasting and getting up to mischief.

Selection of cakes in a glass counter at Café Maldaner, Wiesbaden
The cake counter at Wiesbaden’s Café Maldaner

I also went back to work at the beginning of November.  Returning to my tungsten-lit office on the tenth floor of an increasingly unsafe building in Mainz (we’re getting kicked out next year, and all the various things that are now breaking – you know, like the lifts – just aren’t being fixed) felt like slotting the last piece of the coming-home puzzle into place.  I learned far too late in my working life that it’s more important to me to be in a friendly, supportive working environment than in a job that earns good money, and after 18 months away, I’m very content to be back at my desk.  Also, there seems to be regular excuses amongst my colleagues for drinking Sekt and eating cake, and what’s there to complain about that?

A partially-eaten Frankfurter Kranz on a purple cutting board
A colleague’s celebratory Frankfurter Kranz, made by her mum

Winter vegetables

I can’t tell you how happy I am – and I mean really, to every corner of my soul happy – to be back to my old food shopping routine.  My weekly trip to the Wiesbaden farmers’ market fills me with joy: the fruit and vegetables I buy there are locally grown, freshly harvested, and full of flavour, and I loved being welcomed back by some of the folk there who’d noticed I’d been gone.  I recognise having access to fresh produce this good is a real luxury, and I’m even more grateful for it after twelve months living somewhere where it wasn’t possible to shop like this every week.

A farmers' market stand of winter root vegetables
Winter roots at the Mainz weekly market

German wine

I don’t keep my love of German wine much of a secret, and I very much missed exploring wine country this last year.  However, I also missed being able to nip to our excellent local wine shop:  I trust Martin’s every regional wine recommendation, he knows just what I like to drink, and I always come away with a bottle (or two) feeling like I’ve got a treat in store.

So, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying drinking German wines again this month, and my favourites included these five: three bought from Martin at Vinicus, one from my father-in-law’s cellar, and one picked up during the excellent wine tour I went on in October:

I mostly drink German whites, but November’s wine of the month?  A German red.  A fruity, berry-ish Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir)/Merlot cuvée, it was so good that we went back to grab the last three bottles from the shop.

Close up of a bottle of German red wine, with a glass in the background

Travel

I feel extremely lucky to be invited on German culinary adventures because of this blog (so thank you for reading it, because without you I wouldn’t be going anywhere!).  This month, I was invited to Bavaria to spend 24 hours on an organic farm, learning about the growing and harvesting of organic winter vegetables, and cooking and preserving the produce alongside one of Germany’s leading organic chefs and a gathering of likeminded bloggers and food industry folk.

Combined with 24 hours in Munich the day after, and without wishing to sound over the top, the trip turned out to be a bit of a turning point for me.  To spend a weekend with people who share my goals and passions, especially after a very challenging couple of years, I can’t express just how inspired and driven I came away to do more of the same.

A group of Germans sitting around a fire baking bread on sticks
Baking bread on a stick (Stockport) at Naturhof Schönegge, Bavaria

Amongst the many new faces I met for the first time whilst I was in Bavaria, I finally got to meet the warm, funny and incredibly generous Rachel, who I’ve been chatting to online for many years (and who’s just launched a new Munich food site).  There was also food activist, author and butcher Hendrik Haase, whose work I’ve followed for a very long time as well; and I also met up with a relatively new online acquaintance, Joe Baur, who I’m now plotting exciting future projects with.  It was a really inspiring weekend for me, in all sorts of ways, and I really hope I can get to do more of the same next year.

Instagram Stories

This month, I for the first time dipped my toe in the mad waters of Instagram Stories.  The first 24 hours or so were terrifying – talking to myself on a tiny phone screen is not something that comes naturally to me – but I shed my embarrassment surprisingly quickly, and I’m totally hooked on it now.

I’m not someone who shares my every breakfast online; I’d just like to share my German culinary adventures, such as my weekly market trips, my Bavarian farm adventure and now, my visits to the German Christmas markets.  Once a week I’m also doing #dietzeats, in which I sample various German delicacies and let you know what they’re like, so if you have a suggestion of something you’d like me to try, please let me know!  You can find me @asausagehastwo.

What’s coming up in December?

A plain Advent wreath on a wooden parquet floorWell the answer to this one is probably obvious: an awful lot of Christmas festivities.  I’ve got my Advent wreath awaiting its candles, and some Plätzchen-baking on the cards this weekend.  And having been totally bah, humbug about Christmas markets for the last seven years, I’ve decided to try and embrace them.  So there’s lots of hot alcohol in my future, and so far, thanks to the success of my inaugural hot chocolate with rum, things are looking pretty good.  I’ll check back with you at the end of December…

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