Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Time to Wine

It’s a given that the wines of Luxembourg are delicious: grapes for wine have been grown in this country for over 2,000 years, so, winemakers here obviously know what they’re doing. Taste aside; moving to Luxembourg last year, I immediately discovered two wonderful reasons to drink Luxembourgish wine.

First of all, wine is bigger in Luxembourg. Oh yes, you read that correctly: in one of the world’s smallest countries and the only Grand Duchy on the planet, the wine is bottled in 100ml bottles that are 25 percent larger than a normal wine bottle. Which makes your lovely dinner last about 25 percent longer. (Don’t worry, it’s available in normal 75ml bottles, too.) We’re talking co-operative produced table wine in big bottles here, but it’s tasty, crisp and refreshing and – to get to the second reason I love Luxembourgish wine – it is so much easier for me to recycle. Instead of walking my grocery cart full of empty jars and wine bottles all the way down the street, nearly a full mile, to the nearest recycle bin like I normally do, I can just skip to the grocery store two minutes around the corner with my giant empties. (Score!)

Alima grocery stores in Luxembourg Ville have a large, boxy green machine, usually near the registers, where you can insert your empty 100ml wine bottles and – voila! – out pops a coupon refunding the 20 cent bottle deposit that you didn’t even realize that you paid because the wine was so inexpensive to begin with. You can use the coupon toward groceries. Or toward more giant bottles of wine.

Oh, and did I mention that these giant bottles can be purchased for less than 5€ each?

(Keep reading and you’ll get a primer on Luxembourg wine, and a heads up on two can’t-miss wine festivals taking place in September.)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fête de la Mirabelle (August 27 & 28)

Adding to the list of delicious things to discover in this part of the world is the colorful assortment of fruit available this time of year. Take the plum, for instance. Red and black plums are nothing new to me, but when I shop here, these old standards are part of a rainbow of selection of more colors and varieties of plum than I ever even knew existed: like yellow plums, the green Reine Claude, smoky purple quetsch and, of course, the golden mirabelle.

Mirabelles are the tiniest plums I’ve ever seen, about the size of a shooter marble. They taste plummy, but not as tart; they’re a much more mellow, sort of sugary sweet. You’ll find them in countless ways; cooked into tartes and tartelettes, preserved in syrup, made into confiture, and perhaps most popularly, turned into eau de vie, the fiery, alcoholic after-dinner digestif created to burn a hole through the large dinner you’ve just eaten.

This weekend in Metz, you’ll have a chance to find mirabelles in all of these forms and more, at the 61st annual Fête de la Mirabelle.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The 671st Schueberfouer (A Bit of History)

You’ve seen the posters up all over town; you’ve read articles in the news and on blogs in recent weeks, the program schedule has been released and finally: the Schueberfouer is here. It officially opens tomorrow (Aug. 18) at 5pm, though restaurants open at noon and rides are available from 2pm onward. This is the Luxembourg version of the summer state fairs you’ll find in the United States, but without the farm animals and without the deep fried pickles, Coca-Cola, Snickers and Twinkies. (Yes, world…Americans really have deep-fried everything.)

The Schueberfouer is a big deal. It attracts more than two million people annually, has been the subject of documentaries and a number of books, and is one of Luxembourg’s oldest traditions.

But like most things in Luxembourg, there’s more to the Schueberfour than meets the eye.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Congé Annuel

The congé annuel is a beautiful thing. As long as you’re not me, trying to take my father on a pastry hunt.

Last summer, my parents visited Luxembourg for the first time. Nick and I whisked them off on a grand tour of the country and the greater region, but, I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that my dad’s favorite part of the trip was scoping out window after window of colorful, mouth-watering pastries and crusty loaves of bread at the boulangeries and pâtisseries that adorn so many street corners in this part of the world.

(Honestly though, who can blame him?)

Seeing this, I knew there was one window that I had to take him past: Jean-Claude Arens, a pâtisserie and chocolaterie near our apartment that has a window display that knocks my socks off every time I walk past. With a puffed chest, I led my dad around the corner to show him what would surely become his very favorite window of treats in town and… the shades were drawn, the lights were off, and a sign on the window read: Congé Annuel.