A Hidden Treasure in Franconia: the Altes Gewürzamt

Today started off a bit rough.  The clouds blanketed the sky in that way they do when they let you know that summer is over, and I could have slept another hour, but my body had other plans.  Even after my favorite cup of coffee I couldn’t naturally put a smile on my face.

Weeks ago we had planned on taking a day of our vacation to follow a dream of my husband’s and visit his favorite spice producer.  Years ago he fell in love with the herbs and spices of Ingo Holland, and always dreamed of visiting the small town and shop that gives life to so many of our dishes.  And, as luck would have it, today was the day.  I wanted to go in a better mood, but I just couldn’t wing it.  My husband even asked me if I was sure we should go today, but, as this is not the first time in my life that I have woken up on the wrong side of the bed, I told him that the trip would do me good and that sitting at home on our couch definitely wouldn’t make it better.  With that, we were off.

We decided to go by train since the trip to Klingenberg, where the Altes Gewürzamt calls home, is over 3 hours away from us on the Bavarian boarder with Hessen and Baden-Würtemburg.  This way we could have a “mobile couch day” on the train and sink into the books we are reading.

We exited our last train, stopped at a small bakery for a snack, and where directed by a friendly lady to find our destination.  Not that Klingenberg is large – not at all – it is just a maze of many old houses.

Because we arrived during the Altes Gewürzamt‘s lunch break, we walked around the town before heading to the store.  We walked through one alley after another of 400+ year-old houses, and even found ourselves on a bridge hovering over a small canyon running through this really small and inconspicuous place.  We found a path leading into the canyon, and walked through it.  What a surprise and a hidden treasure.

We made our way back to the heart of town – passing by a few wine cellars built into the hill that the town sat at the foot of.  Finally it was time.

We opened the door to the Altes Gewürzamt and were quickly encompassed by the warm smells of wood and spices.  By the time the door closed behind me, I had a smile on my face.

For a moment, I stood in the first room and just looked around.  We were greeted by two very friendly employees, and I tried to decide where to start.  I decided to walk around the store, and then walk around it a second time to gain focus.  Finally, I was in my element.  Food is just my world.

After I mentioned to my husband that I was going to smell every spice in the shop before we left (they have one open container per spice), one of the lady’s who worked there turned to me with a lovely smile and asked if I would like to set my backpack down by the register because it would take a while to discover them all and I would be more comfortable that way.  I took her offer, and started traveling the world through my nose.

Some smells were new, some were invigorating, others nose tickling, and yet others brought back fond childhood memories. I smelled in the container with chives at least three times – they smelled so buttery.  Since when do chives smell buttery?  I smelled into a container of Timut pepper that smelled like spicy grapefruit.  I tasted Danish Jozo Salt that grows in exquisitely thin little square flakes and crunches like chips.  I smelled the mind-blowing floral explosion of Iranian Safran.  I smelled a spiced-wine spice mix laced with roses and lemon grass. I could go on and on. What an experience.  Oh, and did I mention that they also have different types of vegan gummy bears??  I am moving in.

Two hours later, we were at the register and ready to take our bounty home.  It doesn’t look like a lot, but we already own quite a few that we order through their online shop.

We walked out the door, and as I closed the old wooden door behind me I felt like I had spent the whole day in a spa.  Aroma therapy does wonders.  I had such a great time, and had such a huge smile on my face as we walked back to the train station that my husband said that he thinks I had more fun than he did, and it was his dream we were full filling.  And that, lady’s and gentlemen, is why even when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, you should always decide to get up and go do something great rather than hang out on your couch all day.

Besides, I had enough “mobile couch” time today.  We spent a total of 6 and a half hours on different trains going back and forth for a less than 3 hour visit.  It was totally worth it.  What a great memory this place has made.

Advertisements

Simple Breakfast Guacamole

On Sundays we go all out and have a nice big breakfast.  Usually it involves lots of bread from our favorite local baker – Bäckerei Wein Mühle, a colorful mixture of the hundreds of homemade jams that we have in our pantry, and a delicious vegan dark chocolate spread from dm.  However, every once in a while, I just don’t want to have a sweet breakfast, and crave the flavors of my childhood – creamy avocados and tangy citrus.

I grill my bread (Carrot-Pumpkin Seed Whole Wheat Bread) over an open flame on the stove top to give it a nice roasted flavor.  Then, I whip up a quick and simple guacamole that I like to top off with some freshly sliced tomatoes.  A delicious vegan breakfast with complex flavors that help start off a nice weekend morning.

30520648255_7e0d6a39d9_oGuacamole
Serves 1-2 / Prep Time 5 min / Total Time 5 min

Ingredients:
1 Avocado
juice of 1/2 Lime (or Lemon)
1 big pinch of Salt
1 big pinch Garlic Powder
1 dash of ground Jalapeño

Directions:
Mash avocado with a fork and mix in all other ingredients.  Taste and adjust flavors – every avocado is different!

Spread on freshly roasted bread and top with tomato slices seasoned with pepper, or with your favorite vegetables: cucumber slices, alfalfa sprouts, radishes….

Quick Peanut Noodles

This peanut noodle recipe practically saved my life.  I know it sounds ridiculous, but this recipe has seen me through thick and thin…12 hour work days, kids’ soccer tournaments, pick-nicks, late nights, long and strenuous hikes, and short lunch breaks.  What makes it so amazing…other than tasting awesome?

It is a wholesome meal that can be made in 15 minutes…or even the day before.  It’s flexible, spicy, full of energy, filling but light, and loaded with vegan nutrients – a perfect pre-excersise meal.  And, if you want to change up the flavors or quadruple it, go ahead and be creative!  On many occasions,

I have left out the sambal oelek and added BBQ sauce, or replaced the fresh squeezed lemon juice with lime juice, or added tomatoes…

After countless requests from friends, work colleagues, and family members…here we go!  Comment and let me know how you make it your own.

peanut_noodles_above

Quick Peanut Noodles

Serves 2 / Prep Time 15 min / Total Time 15 min

Ingredients:
~6 Cups Boiling Water
100grams Cellophane Noodles
1/4 Cup All-Natural Peanut Butter
juice of 1/2 a Lemon
1 teaspoon of Sambal Oelek
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 teaspoon Ginger Powder
1 Cup chopped Cucumber
2 Cups thinly shredded Iceberg Lettuce
1 Tablespoon chopped salted Peanuts
1 Tablespoons sliced Green Onions

Directions:

Bring your water to a boil.  If you have an electric water boiler, this will be your quickest bet.

Place the cellophane noodles in a large mixing bowl, and pour the boiling water over the noodles, until covered.  Loosen the noodles slightly with a fork.  Set aside, and set a timer for 12 minutes.

In a small mixing bowl, stir together peanut butter, lemon juice, sambal oelek, garlic powder, and ginger powder.  The sauce will thicken the more you mix.

Prepare your cucumbers, lettuce, peanuts, and green onions.  Go ahead and get creative if you feel the itch – add tomatoes, mushrooms, roasted eggplant, broccoli, radishes, carrots, black beans, bbq sauce, sesame oil…the sky is the limits.

Once your timer has buzzed, drain off the water from the noodles.  Cellophane noodles are usually very long, so, at this point, take the time to just cut through them a few times to make things manageable.

Scrape the peanut sauce into the warm noodles, and mix it in.  It will be very thick, so use a fork and spoon to “comb” it it.  This will take a minute or two.

Through in your fresh veggies, give it a quick toss, and garnish it with green onions and chopped peanuts.

Done.

Quick. Simple. Delicious. Vegan.

If you want to make this a day in advanced, go ahead.  Just keep the noodles, sauce, and veggies separate from each other until you’re ready to serve to keep it from getting soggy. Heat the sauce up for 30 seconds to soften it up before mixing into your noodles.