My European Food Trip Shock: Meat, Poached Eggs, Wine and Pastries

During our latest fall trip to Europe this year, I became much more a carnivore and red wine sipper. I had meat and red wine nearly every dinner for over two weeks.   Oh yes, we didn’t forget the pastries, especially in France and Germany.

Normally, I only eat meat 3-4 times per month at home. Wine for dinner is about once month. I had no idea I could change my palate temporarily across the Atlantic.

Eggs murette --poached eggs cooked in rich meaty red wine sauce. A regional speciality in Burgundy wine region. Nuits-Saint-Georges, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Eggs murette –poached eggs cooked in rich meaty red wine sauce. A regional speciality in Burgundy wine region. Nuits-Saint-Georges, France 2016. Photo by J. Chong. In background, escargots with basil pesto and olive oil were also a local French favourite.

Burgundy Wine Region, France
After landing in Paris, we sped by train with our bikes to start our adventure in

Civilized way of boiling your own egg at hotel breakfast buffet. Dijon, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Civilized way of boiling your own egg at hotel breakfast buffet. Dijon, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong

the city of Dijon, nestled in the Burgundy wine region. There, we supped on local regional specialties of duck breast with deep cassis or black current sauce, escargots redolent with garlicky basil pesto and ouefs des (eggs) murette. Eggs murette were poached eggs in a deep meaty, red wine sauce — a satisfying dinner entrée that stands on its own.

In this French region, poached and boil-your-own eggs, were simply more common. Even at the Ibis hotel chain, the breakfast buffet had an electric water cooker with lovely, tiny wire baskets to dip your brown egg into the hot water bath to boil your egg.  Such civilized care for do-it-yourself hot boiled eggs would not be available in North American hotels.

Duck breast with cassis (black currant) wine sauce. Dijon, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong. Cassis wine was a local wine speciality produced in Burgundy wine region.
Duck breast with cassis (black currant) sauce. Dijon, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong. Cassis wine was a local wine speciality produced in Burgundy wine region.

Though we were in the mustard-producing region of France, we didn’t find dishes with distinct mustard sauce on the menus.  Instead some mustard was shyily folded into a white sauce with barely noticeable taste.

I snapped up a bottle of cassis wine and Maille truffle mustard.  Sadly, I didn’t repack my luggage. My mustard pot was confiscated by Canadian border security authorities since it exceeded the fluid limits.

Buffet breakfast in Burgundy wine region, served in a castle-like room. Nuits-Saint-Georges, France 2016.

It was surreal to be cycling among Burgundy vineyards, with road signs declaring Grand Crus Wine route.   We were spinning by the grand dames of wineries which produced the world’s most prestigious,  expensive red wines  in the world.  More about this in another blog post.  Suffice to say, we could not ignore opportunities for a glass of quality red wine at dinners, for far lower prices than we expected.

Our short bike trip in this region, included an overnight old guesthouse near the village of Nuits-Saint-Georges. Unexpectedly, a fulsome buffet breakfast was served in a guest room with stone walls and outfitted with castle-like ambience.

Like many hotel European breakfasts, often there was pate choices in addition to cold cut meats and bolder flavourful cheeses at several places where we stayed.

Salad with slices of fois grais (duck pate) and poached egg. Escargots with basil, garlic pesto on the side. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Salad with slices of fois grais (duck liver pate) and poached egg on top. Escargots stuffed with basil olive oil pesto on the side. Beaune, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong

Onward to Alsatian Cuisine- French Food Touched by German Influence
Later, north of Burgundy, we returned to Alsatian cuisine in Strausborg, France near the German border.  Centuries of changing country borders led to French food with definite German stamp. In Strausborg we feasted on a local  appetizer — an eye-popping, huge flammekuechle, a very crepe-thin flatbread with cheese, onions, tomatoes, basil or a dessert version of thinly sliced apples. All washed down by red wine.

LIght dessert of flammekuchen. A crepe-thin flatbread with very thin apple slices. Strausborg, France 2016. Flammekuchen is a merged French-German word. "Kuchen" is German word for cake.
LIght dessert of flammekuechle. A wood-fired, crepe-thin flatbread with very thin apple slices. Strausborg, France 2016. Flammekuechle is a merged French-German word. “Kuchen” or kuechle is German word for cake.

Kicking Up with Paella, Grilled Seafood in Barcelona, Spain
For the past  three decades, I shop and visit markets locally and whenever we travel overseas. Meat is king in Catalonian cuisine. At the Boqueria, a large bustling market near the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona, there were many vendors offering various cured Iberian meat cuts.  There were little appetizer paper pouches of sliced Spanish prosciutto, sometimes with fingers of cheese.

Snack pouches of sliced Iberian ham or different Spanish prosciutto with sliced cheese fingers. Boqueria Market. Barcelona, Spain 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Snack pouches of sliced Iberian ham or different Spanish prosciutto with sliced cheese fingers. Boqueria Market. Barcelona, Spain 2016. Photo by J.Chong

As a seafood lover, I did have paella twice at 2 different places. The first paella dinner was at the Boqueria Market, where we also bought a bottle of the restaurant’s  house brand red wine for 10 euros.  Our Spanish version of panna cotta was served in a small flat paella pan.

The second restaurant was in the Gothic Quarter of medieval buildings.  Thankfully the paella was less salty and had more seafood cooked into the large paella pan.

Shared freshly grilled seafood platter for lunch. Boqueria Market. Barcelona, Spain 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Shared freshly grilled seafood platter for lunch. Boqueria Market. Barcelona, Spain 2016. Photo by J.Chong

Most memorable, was sitting at a seafood tapas bar and watching 10 employees prepare, serve and cleanup from seafood dishes for  watching bar patrons. Here, our freshly grilled seafood platter includes 2 different types of prawns, razor clams, periwinkles, just flash sautéed soft squid, octopus and mussels.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
This preserved medieval and Renaissance town is know internationally best for its large traditional German outdoor Christmas market.  Here, Franconian cuisine is a bit heavier than southwestern Germany where Jack was born, near the French border.  Here, we saw people cutting into huge pork hocks that had been slowly braised for hours, sausages and more.

Enjoying a slice of zwetschgenkuchen, a German plum cake. Marketplatz, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Enjoying a slice of zwetschgenkuchen, a German plum cake. Marketplatz, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Our hotel sign. Hotel has been in business since 1400's.
Our hotel sign in the German town. Hotel has been in business since 1400’s. Photo by J.Chong

Of course, we  tried  local interpretations of spaetzel, a German pasta cooked by dropping batter through a kitchen grater-like device in hot boiling water. Some spaetzel were a bit tough while other spaetzel was just soft to soak up sauces.

Bowl of spaetzel on left with right bottom dish of beef and mushroom sauce. On far top right is German beef saubraten with vinegar based sauce. Potato seminola dumpling balls in sauce. Rotenburg ob der Tauber, Germany 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Bowl of spaetzel on left with beef and mushroom sauce. On top far right is German beef saubraten with vinegar based sauce. Potato seminola dumpling balls in sauce. Rotenburg ob der Tauber, Germany 2016. Photo by J.Chong

Culinary Observations for  Stomach and Wallet
In French towns of Dijon and Beaune  and in Rothenburg, there was a stunning array of bakeries with fresh bread and many different pastries. It’s a wonder

Elegant autumn chocolates. Dijon, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Elegant autumn chocolates. Dijon, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong

how these businesses can survive with other competitors just down the cobblestone street.  Most pastries ranged from 1-4 euros each,  at a quality in big Canadian cities, rarely found at much higher prices.

I watched a French food cooking tv show, where contestants shaped their cake creations with multi-layered torte techniques, cremes and fondant with aplomb, not seen on North American foodie shows.

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Often in hotels, inns and street cafes in France, Spain and Germany, freshly squeezed orange juice was made before your eyes.

Tourists in European better hotels have the perk of a multi-purpose café machine at breakfast buffets:  you pressed button of your choice for single or double shot espressos, cappacuinos or café au lait.

For Canadians to enjoy Europe, it’s best to think like the locals who have never experienced cost conversion of euros to Canadian dollars.

Sitting against a ceramic "kachelofen", old heater in restaurant converted from a 15th century tannery. Strausborg, France 2016.
Sitting against a ceramic “kachelofen”, old heater in restaurant converted from a 15th century tannery. Strausborg, France 2016.

In France, Spain and Germany where we ate, we only felt ripped off at high prices twice and only because we didn’t spend an extra fifteen minutes to go off the tourist-stampeded track.  An entree of duck breast with cassis sauce was 17 euros. A huge pan of seafood paella was usually 10-15 euros for 1 person. A glass of quality red wine (pinot noir, shiraz, merlot) was 3-5 euros.

Surprisingly after all that food, Jack had very little weight gain. My additional 4 lbs. dropped a week after returning to Canada.  Admittedly, I felt slightly constipated with a lot of meat eating but not enough diverse veggies.  Maybe weight control, was walking in cities, some light cycling and for Jack, the physical effort of hauling 2 folding bikes up and down staircases at European train stations.

It was an unexpected foodie adventure we never planned at all!

Les Halles Market. Lyon, France. During a 3 hr. train stop trip to Barcelona. Photo by J.Chong
Les Halles Market. Lyon, France. During a 3 hr. train stop trip to Barcelona. Photo by J.Chong
Chestnut roaster offered piping hot chestnuts with soft centres. Marketplatz, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany 2016. Photo by J.Chong
Chestnut roaster offered piping hot chestnuts with soft centres. Marketplatz, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany 2016. Photo by J.Chong
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32 Comments Add yours

  1. Pit says:

    Now you make my mouth water! I should have come with you. 😉 I don’t have much experience in French or Spanish cuisine as I haven’t travelled there. except for Spain many many years ago. I’m glad you enjoyed your food all over Europe.
    Where, btw, did you stay in Rothenburg? We’ve stayed at the Hotel Markusturm twice, and were very happy with it. As to breakfasts in Germny’s hotels: these are usually, as you saw, fantastic breakfast buffets. I’ve never seen anything like that when travelling here in the US. What I – and my wife, too – like in Germany are the fantastic breadrolls, plus the “Aufschnitt” [= cold cuts] you find at the breakfast buffets. Oh, I wish I could find that here!

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    1. Jean says:

      Pit, since my German is minimal and hotel name is long enough: http://www.flairhotel-rothenburg.de/home.html The Flair brand HIDES the uniqueness of the hotel and its name, Reichskuchenmeister. We didn’t realize how large their operation was until we got there –meaning they have a nice “stube”, formal restaurant (where breakfast is also served) and a large outdoor restaurant patio also.

      I was a little shocked that included in the breakfast buffet, ….was the option of cake slice and not just kugelholpf. But full blown multi-layered torte or rich cheesecake.

      Yes, one can’t imagine different pates and many different cold cuts served at a Holiday Inn or Best Western in North America. Not even at a higher end independent hotel. I have had some unusual breakfast buffets at certain bed ‘n breakfasts in our bike trips in North America.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Pit says:

        Thanks for the link. As to the name: a hotel called “Reichskuechenmeister” [“Imperial Master Cook” or something like that] should really have some very good food. Am glad it lived up to that name.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Mandy Deans Kassies says:

    Hi Jean Sounds like you had a wonderful vacation, great to read your update and see the photographs, take care. Mandy

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    1. Jean says:

      Am grateful for your thoughts, Mandy.

      Like

  3. Sue Slaght says:

    Travel can bring unexpected surprises and it seems this trip brought culinary surprises .The photos of the scrumptious food are wonderful. The cycling sounds special too, albeit a little challenging lugging folding bikes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      For certain, I would recommend folding bikes for European trip involving cycling and some use of trains. The high speed trains (over 200 km. / hr.) at this time, don’t allow full size bikes. They must be folded. The interurban trains do allow full size bikes but a folded bike inside its bag, gives passenger more flexibility to board with bag as just an oversize bag.

      We certainly did not plan at all for this trip to be like a foodie trip….even though admittedly he and I are probably foodies (meaning we do have broad palates and like to try different things/can be critical. That’s more due to our individual upbringing and family backgrounds.:))

      Liked by 1 person

  4. ^The pictures make me so hungry again even at this late hour here!
    Food is always the highlight for me when travelling in other countries or even cities. It is so great to try out new things and perhaps even dishes you know already just prepared slightly different

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      You know, CCF, it becomes dangerous if food is always the highlight for foreign country trips. 😉 But I agree, that it certainly is one of the visceral memories for any travel trip! You are right that same dish at home, can have different variations in a different country. Note: We made a conscious choice not to eat any Asian cuisine during our European trip.

      What are your favourite German dishes?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Actually I cant even say for sure what my favorite German dishes are as there are a few when it comes to some dishes with either red cabbage or sour cabbage…
        It is always hard for me and my wife to go out eating abroad as she only like Chinese food.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          I didn’t know that your wife stuck only to Chinese food. She has been long enough with you?

          My parents did stick closely to Chinese food at home. But they are happy to have pizza, certain sausages, mild cheeses. I know what you mean. I did not become accustomed to olive oil tasting dishes until in my early 30’s….and I’m born in Canada.
          Red cabbage is nice when done with vinegar, etc.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I’ve been with my wife for over six years, before that she lived in Europe for another five years plus worked in a restaurant hotel environment for four years since coming to Europe. Still she hates Western food, same applies to her parents who have visited few time.

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  5. Mabel Kwong says:

    This sounded like every bit the food trip, Jean. And what fine food you enjoyed alongside cycling around Europe. It is very nice of the hotel to provide you with baskets to poach those eggs yourself – if you tried it, hope your egg came out cooked properly and just the way you like it. I usually like my egg semi-hard, semi-watery, but find it so hard to achieve the perfect consistency.

    I would love to try that apple flatbread. It looks like a large pancake, a large pie even. I would prefer it to be more sweet than sour, though.

    Paella is one of my favourite foods. Sorry to hear the first one was salty – maybe it is a different kind of paella and the chef had a different way of cooking it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      I’m pretty flexible re boiled eggs texture. You would enjoy the apple flatbread since it had little sugar and the dough is very thin like a crepe. Admittedly I was initially a bit surprised when they first served this large looking dessert. It’s been wood-fired. Overall some of the food tended to be ovesalted –to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. thedumplingmama says:

    What an amazing trip Jean! All of the pictures of food, pastries, wine looked so delicious! Can’t believe you only gained 4 lbs. next year I’m planning to spend time in Burgundy and Boudreaux and now cannot wait to eat!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Believe me, I had a lot of food there. It’s been many years since I’ve had so much meat.

      Like

  7. MB says:

    Your trip sounds so fun! All the food, cycling, and adventures.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      It was a trip abit different than our previous trip 6 yrs. ago..we went to different places and there was less food memories!

      Like

  8. I was stunned you’d cycled through France Spain and Germany. Until I realised you’d been on the train. Funnily I travelled between France and Spain, and breathed a sigh of relief at Chamertin (Madrid). I knew I could get fresh orange juice and decent coffee. My French desires went long ago. I find Spain far more flexible for food tastes. You can ask for what you want. Not what they tell you to have.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Clearly we weren’t long enough in these countries to experience certain cultural quirks. But then we most likely would have been oblivious to it, given linguistic limits. Barcelona was my first time in Spain which has Catalonian independence flavour. You probably have spent long periods of time in Spain, roughseas. I’m unfamiliar with locals telling others what they should eat. Coming from beef, ranchland province, it might be opposite –some folks rejecting small “dainty” food or people who dislike all seafood vs. a big rippin’ steak.

      Ah, great coffee is Kona coffee from Hawai’i. It’s very difficult to get outside of Hawai’i. 😉 My coffee snobbery shows here. Surely, the best coffee comes from the countries that produce it. Anyway, we really enjoyed the red wine in France and Spain.

      Like

  9. livelytwist says:

    Your unexpected foodie adventure sounds and looks like it was fun! I’m glad there were no adverse effects to your change in diet. Pity that you ‘lost’ your bottle of cassis wine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Ah, it was my pot of truffle Maille mustard. I have the bottle of cassis sitting on a home counter right now. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. BuntyMcC says:

    These are fantastic photos and food descriptions. I’m glad your bike tour included such rewards!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      There will be a few more European blog posts..minus the food. 😉

      Like

  11. What an incredible culinary journey! I would like to try flammekuechle someday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Very easy to digest. 😉

      Like

  12. havepaprika says:

    Wonderful post. The food (and drink) we enjoy (or not) when we travel is absolutely part of the whole experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      I agree –local food needs to be part of that foreign travel experience. 🙂 And then work it off by lots of walking or whatever to enjoy the sights.

      Like

  13. Bun Karyudo says:

    It all sounds very interesting – and absolutely delicious! I’m particularly impressed by the fact that major weight gain was not a problem. I’m not confident I would have coped so well in the same situation. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      I too, was a little surprised. It was puzzling. I don’t consider we did an enormous amount of walking and cycling but maybe being dazzled by foreign environment, I didn’t notice. However won’t count my luck next time, Bun. For certain, it won’t be boat cruises with all you can eat buffets, until I absolutely have no other choice.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Bun Karyudo says:

        Cycling sounds a better option, doesn’t it? 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          Yup when streets aren’t filled with pedestrians.

          Liked by 1 person

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