Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas Market 2010, Nuremberg, Germany

It is that time of the year again, where the weather gets colder and the festivities draw closer. Christmas markets (German: Christkindlmarkt) are street markets held annually in the lead up to Christmas, ending 1 or 2 days before Christmas day. The Nuremberg or Nürnberger Christkindlmarkt is the most famous Christmas market in Germany, with over 2 millions visitors from all over the world yearly.

Christkindlmarkt is translated literally as "Christ Child Market" and the Christkind is considered an essential part of this particular market. The Christkind or Christmas Angel is elected every two years and has to be a girl, aged between 16 and 19 years old. The selection is taken very seriously, there is even a jury to select the finalists, whittled down from a huge number of competitors on an internet poll. Every year, on the Friday before the first Advent Sunday (26th Nov this year), the Christkind opens the Christkindlmarkt with a prologue. Unfortunately I was unable to see the Christkind for myself as she only makes appearances during weekdays at selected times only.

The Christmas market is spread all over town with booths/stalls sporadically placed leading up to Hauptmarkt, the square right in front of the Frauenkirche (Church of the Lady). The Hauptmarkt is, so to say, the centre of the old town and also the centre of the Christkindlmarkt.

We visited a few stalls before reaching the main square.

A stall selling authentic Elisenlebkuchen; premium quality Lebkuchen (a soft, German version of gingerbread) which can be only found in Nuremberg. It is designated the Protected Designation of Origin by EU law and must be produced within the boundaries of the city.

The friendly owner of the stall provided us with a sample of the lebkuchen before we proceeded to buy a few for consumption at home. The lebkuchen was soft and crumbly and was different from any other we've tried before in Germany. Perhaps the gluten-free production of the lebkuchen had something to do with it. The prices range from €1.50 for the standard lebkuchen to €2.50 for the ones lovably decorated with icing.

Half-metre Nürnberger Bratwurst with onions in a baguette for €3.00 a pop. This local speciality was definitely a crowd favourite!

Even the Japanese and Koreans made their mark at the market!

The Lorenzkirche (St. Lawrence Church) from afar.

Another highlight of the Christmas market not to be missed is the hot mulled wine. Hot mulled wine costs between €2.50 to €3.00 a cup with an additional option of amaretto or rum shots, for those who like their hard liquer. There are various types of mulled wine; amongst them the blueberry version or the grape version. For non-alcoholics and kids there is the fruit punch option, so no one is left out! The clay cups/mugs vary from stall to stall; each has their unique version.

Crossing the river before reaching the main square

Notice the crowd visibly growing as we approach the main square.

We have arrived!

The Frauenkirche standing tall over the hundreds of stalls.

A children's choir providing us with a sweet chorus, as we walked through the throngs of stalls.

Other versions of the gingerbread.

Christmas tree ornaments

The real beauty of the christmas market really shines through when darkness falls and the lights from the stalls are turned on. It is really a fantastic sight, as we discovered after we stepped out of our short break at a cafe nearby.

A massive wooden Christmas carousel.

The horses have come out to play!

A completely different feel to the Christmas market compared to an hour ago.

The stalls sell mostly festive decorations and sweets; with various snacks in between.

Beautiful and colourful crystal decorations.

Toys wonderfully detailed and made using the simplest of materials.

More dainty decorations.

A band has replaced the childrens choir as the next performers on stage.

Corn on the cob and more wursts for the hungry.

Amazing workmanship goes into creating these wooden marvels.

Miniature stall and carousel made with attention to detail. The miniature stall even has fake snow to create the Christmas feel.

The Christkindlmarkt is definitely one of the highlights of the year in Nuremberg and is a must-go for visitors to the area during this period. Certainly a quintessential German experience in the lead up to Christmas!

Christmas Market at Nuremberg runs from 26th November to 24th December 2010.

Opening times: Mon-Thu 9.30am - 8.00pm; Fri - Sat 9.30am - 10.00pm; Sun 10.30am - 8.00pm. The last market day will be Friday, 24 December 2010 from 9.3oam to 2.00pm.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mee hoon kueh / Pan Mee (Flat flour noodle soup)

Mee hoon kueh, the Hokkien delicacy also known as pan mee (flat flour noodle soup) is one of my favorite comfort food. I was craving for some today and thankfully I didn't have to go far to satisfy my cravings as my dad makes really excellent mee hoon kueh. (Have yet to find a restaurant which can beat his version!)

The ikan bilis (anchovies) broth is wholesome and full of flavour. The mee hoon kueh noodles made from flour, salt water and oil has a smooth texture; not too chewy, not too soft, my dad gets it just right. Add in some choy sum, shitake mushrooms and lean pork strips (or chicken strips if you like) and you've got yourself a tasty bowl of noodles. It's so good, I can easily eat 2 big bowls of this!

Hand-torn mee hoon kueh

We always have our mee hoon kueh with a side dish of crispy, deep fried anchovies.

So, where do you get your mee hoon kueh fix?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Lafite, Shangri-La Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

I have been wanting to do lunch at Lafite for the longest time, so it was music to my ears when Hubby finally uttered the words "Let's go to Lafite".

With more than 20 years under its belt, Lafite serves fine French cuisine and is one of the oldest fine dining restaurants in KL. This year, Lafite restaurant welcomed a new chef de cuisine, Chef Georg Schröppel. Chef Georg has a pretty impressive resume; from working in two and three Michelin-star restaurants such as Residenz Heinz Winkler, Restaurant Waldhotel Sonnora in Germany and French Laundry in the United States to winning "Best Restaurant in Town Award" from Talk Magazine with Ritz-Carlton Guangzhou and earning the Chef's Master Degree in Rothenburg, Germany.

Under Chef Georg, Lafite has moved away from molecular gastronomy and now offers what he describes as "wholesome European cuisine" prepared with simplicity so that his diners can really enjoy the natural taste of each ingredient.

Lafite.. one of the country's top fine dining restaurant

Lunch is the perfect opportunity to sample the food at Lafite. Chef Georg's luncheon menu offers a large selection of cold and warm appetizers and main courses to choose from and a dessert showcase. For one appetiser and main course, the price is RM 82++ and for two appetisers and a main course, the price is RM108++. Both sets include unlimited desserts from the showcase and coffee or tea. We were both feeling greedy so we went for the latter option. What a fantastic deal!

The decor is elegant, contemporary and very posh. The glass water feature was quite unusual and reminded me somewhat of the Dalek's out of Doctor Who. Only this one in Lafite doubles up as a dessert showcase had tons of mouthwatering desserts. Contrary to what we've heard, the service we received that afternoon was excellent. Food service was nicely paced, giving us some time to chat in between courses and indulge in our food and surroundings. It is always a nice touch when my handbag gets a seat of its own (two Japanese ladies saw that I was given a handbag stool and asked if they could have one too lol).

Four types of freshly baked bread served here. We particularly liked the brioche.

Hubby finds this photo of the squid ink roll highly amusing. Appetizing.. no?

Instead of butter, the bread here were served with aioli.

An amuse bouche of yellow bell pepper mousse topped with sesame seeds; light and sweet.

Lovely appetizers to kick start our meal..

We both decided to order one cold and warm appetizer each. My first appetizer of Yellow Fin Tuna Tartar, topped with black sesame crisp, crushed avocado, cucumber salad, ginger yuzu vinaigrette was exquisite. Beautifully presented, with fresh and clean flavours.

Hubby's first cold appetizer was the excellent Chilled cucumber soup. A lightly seared Hokkaido scallop sits in the centre and is topped with a black sesame cream, dill and herb salad. Wonderfully refreshing.

I had the Spiced Risotto for my second appetizer. The risotto was very rich and creamy; topped with duck bolognese and sits on a bed of braised radicchio lettuce. It was a lovely dish, but if I knew it was going to be so rich and filling, I would have ordered only 1 appetizer.

We were slightly disappointed with Hubby's appetizer of Quail eggs and asparagus. This was categorised as a warm appetizer but everything on the plate was cold. The white asparagus was cold, the poached quail eggs was cold and not runny enough and even the Bernaise sauce was cold.

The main courses were spectacular...

It has been quite a while since I ordered fish for a main course but I made an exception today and ordered the Golden Brown seared Atlantic Cod Fillet. A great choice indeed! I was most impressed with the big chunk of roasted cod placed before me. Served with baby potatoes, young carrots, green beans, asparagus and black truffle sauce, this was simply heavenly. It was so good, I wanted to lick my plate clean.

Hubby's main course, the Braised Short Rib was equally impressive. The short rib was very tender and flavourful and was served with crispy celeriac sticks, young brocolli, corn and thyme sauce.

A sophisticated candy store..

Throughout the meal, it was hard not to eye the desserts from the showcase as we were sat directly opposite it. Everything looked so tempting. I wanted to try everything. If only I had more tummy space left...

I would strongly advise that you start your lunch sharp at 12 noon, so that you can slowly enjoy your meal before moving on to the buffet dessert showcase. Some of the dessert items get snapped up really quick, for example, the cheese platters were all gone by the time the second table went up for their dessert.

I was impressed with the dessert selection available that day. I loved everything I tried, especially the macaron. It was hard to stop after the first one. I must have eaten at least 5 that afternoon.

Simply irresistible macaron

The handmade chocolate bars were very good, particularly the Caramel Fleur de Sel. Also available to purchase at Cinnamon coffee bar in Lobby Level. The pastries were excellent; everything was so pretty and delicious. The dessert showcase is a real treat for anyone with a sweet tooth.

Puff stick royal and strawberry tart

Rose eclair

Marshmallow lollipop

Pistachio squares and rice crispy treats with edible gold paper

This was really yummy! Creme caramel with honey dew confit

Milk chocolate lollipop

The magnificent Lobby Lounge at Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur

Verdict: In hindsight, we should have only ordered 1 appetizer and 1 main course and left more room for dessert. We didn't expect the desserts to be so good since it was technically a buffet. On top of being delicious, the food at Lafite is also visually appealing (beautiful food always scores extra points with me). All-in-all, a wonderful meal :)

Non smoking restaurant.

Dress code: Smart casual

Opening times: Lunch Monday to Friday 12.00 - 2.30pm; Dinner Monday to Saturday 7.00pm - 10.30pm. Closed on Sundays and public holidays.

Location: Lafite Restaurant, Lobby Level, Shangri-La Hotel, 11 Jalan Sultan Ismail, 50250 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Tel: 03- 2074 3900

Website: http://www.shangri-la.com/en/property/kualalumpur/shangrila

GPS Coordinates: 3.1541, 101.706297

*Winner of Best Fine Dining Category - TimeOutKL 2009 & 2010 awards
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