Blasting into 2019.

30 Dec 2018 – Sunday.

Last weekend of the year and we were treated to a sumptuous brunch of German pancakes aka Pfannkuchen by Sangita. She used bananas to help sweeten them naturally and we were spoiled by her having them cooked for us ala-minute.

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Honestly, I love the crêpe-traditional pancake hybrid so much that I was hankering after them days after. Even back in Singapore, Florian sweetly whipped up a batch of these last weekend just to satisfy my cravings. These pancakes are usually eaten with fresh fruits and apfelmus (apple puree), or spread with Nutella, or simply with cinnamon sugar. And in Germany, they eat their Pfannkuchen not only for breakfast or brunch, but for any time. That’s the way to roll!

We had a super chill day thereafter, having our usual tea in the afternoon.

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Sangita spoiled me yet again with homemade matcha tea.

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I also indulged in watching the finals for Ski Jumping which was pretty cool. I was stoked that the Japanese guy won because.. Asia represent!

For dinner, Sangita and Towston took us out to this Peruvian restaurant called Leche de Tigre aka Tiger Milch.

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Peruvian food is really interesting! On paper, a lot of their dishes sounded European with an Asian twist because of the types of spices and herbs used. In reality though, the food we ate had characters of their own that didn’t make them Eastern or Western at all.

We ordered a mix of items to share. Some were a little lacklustre, and some were pretty outstanding.

This Lamb Shoulder and Red Onions in a Steamed Bun.

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This was ok. Compared to the other ‘burger’ we had, it paled.

This Pork Belly Steamed Bun with Passionfruit Chilli Mayonnaise and Salsa was really good though with the achievement of delicately balancing spicy and sweet with the savouries.

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The soft bun gave way to melt-in-your-mouth pork. They complemented each other lightly because the meat was quite a heavy weight while the bun was soft, light and fluffy.

Chaufa Hongos: Garlic Fried Rice, Shiitake, Enoki, Soft Boiled Egg, Sesame, Coriander, Nori

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This sounded so Asian, and while it did have elements that tasted very much similar to what you might find in a Japanese restaurant, the execution of this dish was quite inspired. The rice, rather than being fried dry with individual grains the way we prefer it here, it was made more risotto-like with a soft creaminess that was comforting and pack full of flavour with the garlic and drizzle of sesame oil. The mushrooms lent an earthiness and texture, while the egg was slightly pickled to give off some tartness, with the yolk remaining lusciously molten. We really enjoyed this!

Prawns, Avocado, Potato Chilli Puree, Coriander Oil, Olive Mayonnaise, Plaintain Chip.

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This ceviche didn’t quite blow us away. It was heavy on the potato puree and the prawns on top failed to shine.

Ceviche Verde: Octopus and Cod, Cilantro Tiger Milk, Sweet Potato Puree, Red Onions, Corn, Coriander, Chilli, Crispy Corn Tortilla Chips.

 

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This ceviche verde was a little more traditional, and simply put together. The fish was extremely fresh and the crunch of the chips was much appreciated. It was good, but not crazy good.

What was crazy good though, was this:

Pulpo: Grilled Octopus, Olive Mayo, Chorizo Crumble, Dry Black Olives, Chimichurri Oil, Coriander, Chilli, Chifle.

 

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The octopus was so good we ordered a second round of it. The tentacle was charred beautifully on the outside, yet remained so tender on the inside. All the elements came together to support the star, the pulpo, of the dish. Definitely one to return for again and again and again.

It was a really lovely dinner that we had with Sangita and Towston. They were incredibly generous with Flo and I during our stay with them and we cannot thank them enough for their warmth, love, and hospitality. Hopefully we’ll be able to see them sooner than later!

31 Jan 2018 – Monday

Monday morning, we left Sangita and Towston’s, packing our luggage into Lars’s car and setting off to Jens’s. But first, a stop at Die Kleine Konditorei!

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So apparently, one of the New Year’s Eve traditions in Germany is for each person to eat a Berliner. It’s really a jam-filled doughnut but don’t tell Flo I said that. Anyway, one of the Berliner’s is usually filled with mustard just as a practical joke. Flo and I cleverly asked for the mustard one to be placed in the middle so that we wouldn’t get mixed up and be the ones biting into it.

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Well… No one took the Mustard Berliner in the end. Boo! Somehow, everyone went round taking a Berliner but we’d bought some extra ones since Flo was insistent that he could eat two or three of them so other people might as well. Jens did wind up with a bite of the ‘lucky’ Berliner next day when Flo, Jens, Leslie, and I were having tea together so while it was pretty funny, it would have been fun if someone had taken it the night before.

New Year’s Eve dinner was raclette. Unlike the Swiss raclette we so often see at street-stalls in Singapore, this was done the German way with each of us having our own little individual trays to grill.

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Basically you put little bits of whatever you want in your pan – chicken, red peppers, mushrooms, pickled onions, sliced boiled potatoes etc… And you top it with an entire piece of raclette cheese. I wasn’t so sure about having so much cheesy goodness in one shot so made do with half a slice each time.

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The pan goes into the mid-section of the grill where there’s a burning hot red iron thingy helping to melt the cheese and make it bubble and brown, while on top, you can grill meat and if you’re like me, sliced mushrooms.

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It takes a while for the cheese to really get hot and bubbly but once it does, you slide everything out onto your plate, load the mini pan up again and get it under the heat while you eat what’s just been cooked.

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It’s was a really nice meal to warm up with especially when it’s cold out. Although, it did take days for the smell to clear out of Jens’s apartment. It reminded me very much of what we do here these days for Chinese New Year – Steamboat. Only this was more like a German Grillboat. A lot more heavy on the belly with all that cheese, and more grills were needed because each could only accommodate four, but it was fun gathering together round the table chatting away while making important decisions about what combination of ingredients should go into the raclette pan next!

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After dinner, we gathered around the living area…

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And did yet another quirky German thing. We watched Dinner for One. Apparently it’s played multiple times every single Christmas and most of Florian’s friends actually watch it each year!

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I thought it was a movie but it turned out to be a 20min skit. It’s a comedy but the humour was what we’d say, cheesy. Still, it was a good laugh especially when watching with friends!

We spent the rest of the evening before midnight relaxing, some drank, while some of Flo’s friends showed me how the home-safe fireworks worked.

Just before midnight, we counted down, screamed “Happy New Year”, kissed and hugged each other before we all ran downstairs for the real fun to begin.

Fireworks!! 

Unlike in Singapore, fireworks are allowed to be set off in Germany and can be bought in supermarkets. They range from little poppers to ones that go up, up, up into the sky, bursting into beautiful displays of colours and light.

Flo got me to set some off but y’know, I’ve never set them off before so every time I did, I’d ran off just after setting fire to the little string, wondering how many seconds I had to get as far away as I could before it exploded. The excitement got too much that in the end, I happily stood back and watched the activity around me.

The sparklers I enjoyed though. We have them here as well but like, a quarter of the size we were playing with. These were so long and so pretty. They went on for quite a while before fizzling out.

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Once everyone had had their fill of fireworks, and the night’s cold started to seep under our skins. It wasn’t long before everyone left for home while we turned in around 4am. It’s been a long time since went to bed that late!

01 Jan 2019 – Tuesday

We did NOTHING the entire day. For reals! We just ate, relaxed, ate some more, watched Gone Girl, and went back to bed.

02 Jan 2019 – Wednesday

Jens had the day off so while we had a very lazy morning, we decided to maximise the clear blue skies that we hadn’t seen in days, to visit this nature park a few minutes drive away. I was really more excited about going to see the deer that live within Niendorfer Gehege!

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It was a beautiful day! That being said, when Hamburg is grey and cloudy, it’s actually warmer because the clouds act like a blanket keeping the warmth in.

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So it being a clear, cloudless day meant that it was very much colder than previous days.

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Still, the sun being out did provide some warmth as we basked beneath it watching the deer.

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There are fences cordoning off the area specifically for the deer to roam freely but the holes in the fence were pretty big. Big enough for visitors to drop by with lots of fresh vegetables for the deer to feast on.

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We didn’t think quite so far ahead though so we went empty-handed. The deer obviously weren’t very impressed with us, especially when Florian picked a fallen pinecone off the ground and tried to offer it to them. They weren’t falling for his tricks.

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When we’d had enough of deer-spotting, we walked further into and out of the park to what would likely be the German equivalent of a pub. Perhaps ‘gastropub’ is a more fitting term.

It was a large wooden cabin with a bar at the side and tables all around the main area. It was filled mainly by older folk with their grandchildren. Most of them were there for a typical German hot lunch – i.e. Grünkhol, Labskaus… or a slice of cake each for tea.

I had a hot Chai to warm my insides up.

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Florian couldn’t resist a childhood snack made of cut up German pancakes, cooked further until a little crunch and caramelised, topped with icing sugar and served with a sour cherry compote. 

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The sour cherries were delish but the pancake bites were a little dense and stodgy. Flo gave it the thumbs down.

Jens’s dessert fared much better. He had apple doughnuts sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, served with vanilla ice-cream, whipped cream and a wafer roll.

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Yup, they were yummy! The thin crunchy batter gave way to piping hot, nicely cooked apples.

We stopped by the supermarket to pick up some items to make a home-cooked dinner of Grünkohl which is actually kale. It all sounds very healthy on paper but it’s a really heavy dish. The base if made of kale cooked down, and it’s eaten with sausage, cured ham and another type of sausage that’s more mashed up inside, and boiled potatoes.

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I wasn’t sure if I’d like it so I bought some soup home. It looked like our Asian hot and sour soup but omg! Worse decision ever!!! It was gross. But I finished it because it wasn’t exactly cheap. The Grünkohl would have definitely had been a better choice, without so much of the meat.

03 Jan 2019 – Thursday

As I’ve mentioned is my first post on Hamburg, Lars very generously let Flo and I borrow his car for most of our duration there. So Thursday, we had to return the car. We set off first thing in the morning to have the car washed and cleaned inside and out, got it filled to the brim, and went over to Lars’ in Buxtehude which is a super quaint little town.

I told Flo that if were to ever move to Hamburg, Buxtehude would be my first choice. It’s a little way out of the main city, but there’s a train line that runs straight in. The town centre has little rivers winding through it and it’s extremely photogenic with its cobbled streets and old buildings.

We planned the spend the afternoon with Freddie and Jonathan but before we picked them up from their kindergarten-nursery, we went for lunch with Lars at a charming cafe in the town.

German pancakes were on the menu so it was a really obvious choice for me. I went for the Apfel Pfannkuchen with an additional side of Apfelmus.

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As you can see, it looks very different from Sangita’s. Still tasty but it was more crisp and more eggy, like the sides of a French Toast. It was also more sweet and caramelised. I enjoyed it but much prefer the ones Sangita makes.

Anyway, after lunch, we got the boys up and spent the afternoon playing with them. It was really nice for Florian to be able to spend time with Freddie especially, and it warmed my heart seeing how patient he was in helping Freddie churn out whatever play-doh shaped snake he wanted out of this machine press. I know that Flo loves kids and hopefully, it will be our time soon.

Once Freddie and Jonathan had had their early dinner and were washed up for bed, we went along with Lars back into the city where we were all having dinner with Florian’s friends. It was a dinner treat for us from them for our wedding.

I can’t remember the name of the restaurant but it was set in this really historical building complete with dated decor and wall tiles. It was quite small although they had some space at the back where there was a small function going on.

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We had bread to start, and for those who had ordered the set meal, they had something like smoked salmon to begin with. I tried some of Flo’s. It was light and tasty.

I ordered a main of Monkfish with Beetroot Pesto, Parsnip Foam and Crunchy Buckwheat.

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The fish was amazing! It was tasty, meaty, and had some crunch from the buckwheat granola. The beets and parsnip added some earthiness to the oceanic flavours, and needless to say, I scrapped the plate clean.

The set dinner came with Tonka Bean Creme Brûlée, Yuzu Sorbet and a crispy Tuile.

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If you have me as you’re wife, you’re always going to give up a tasting portion of any of your food to me, just as Flo did. The creme brûlée was smooth but a bit too sweet for me. The flavour of tonka was not too overwhelming, providing a hint of vanilla-cinnamon umami, while the yuzu sorbet was a little too punchy and didn’t quite go so well together with the brûlée.

I have grown to really enjoy the company of Flo’s friends. I can see why he values them so much and they, him. At times, it’s a little difficult to follow their conversations when they lapse into German but more often than not, they try to converse in English when I’m around. This holiday, I’ve come to know some of them better and have been able to banter and joke around more with them. We will probably see some of them in the near future, and others, at a later date. Without a doubt though, I know that these people are here to stay in both our lives for the long run!

04 Jan 2019 – Friday

Our last final day in Hamburg. We met Ute for lunch and the spend the afternoon with her.

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We went to Daniel Wischer Fish Restaurant that began as a humble little stall selling fresh fish everything.

Flo had the Sole with brown shrimp.

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With a side of bacon roasted potatoes.

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And I had the Seafood Stew because I’m a sucker for seafood stews.

This was the large portion although the small would have sufficed.

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This bowl of soup was filled with lots of fresh, meaty chunks of fish, prawns, octopus… I finished all the protein but the soup was too much for my stomach to make space for.

After lunch, we went to Miniatur Wunderland.

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I’ve been to a Model Village in England where they had little models of many countries and towns so I imagined it to be like that.

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But this was at a whole different level! They had Las Vegas with lights and all. The creators of all these cities also added their cheeky spin on them, things you can only spot if you look really closely. For example, santa claus climbing a chimney, a couple getting it on by the beach, a man flashing the police. Every human and creature is painstakingly made by hand!

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Most of the cities in Miniatur Wunderland are European, but I imagine it’d be pretty cool to have some Asian countries modelled eventually.

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It was also really interactive. There were buttons on the sides that you can press and like, a hot air balloon would take off, or firemen would start hosing down a building on fire.

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The airport was by far the coolest! They had a whole runway and the planes could actually take off!

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And only in Miniatur Wunderland can you see monks and nuns playing football.

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It took quite a few hours to go around the entire exhibition, trying to take in as much detail as we could. It was actually quite tiring by the end of it.

Ute wasn’t feeling too good that afternoon either from eating something bad the night before so it was even more draining on her. After we’d finished seeing all the exhibits, we sent her on her way to have some rest and to recuperate at home, while Flo and I walked over to the Portuguese Quarter to have dinner with Samir and Oma Gertrud.

Tapas appetiser was really good. The prawns and calamari were perfectly cooked! In face, this was really generously portioned so much so that I wondered if we’d be able to fit the other two platters that were to come into our bellies.

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The Meat Platter which Samir and Florian managed to put a large dent into with some help from Oma.

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And the Seafood Platter that I tried my best to work on.

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The grilled prawns were best, not so much the boiled looking ones you see at the foreground. There was crab but it was more dry and tasteless compared to the sweet, meaty, Sri Lankan crabs we’ve been spoiled by over here.

It was a good catch up with Samir and once again, I really enjoyed Oma Gertrud’s company. She’s such a sweet, little grandma and so lovable. We invited her to come visit us in Singapore later in the year but she was hesitant because of the long flight over. So we’ll see if we can work something out so that she won’t have to travel alone. It’ll be nice having her visit and treating her to some delicious food here.

05 Jan 2019 – Saturday

The beginning of our 24-hour journey home!

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From Hamburg to London. Exit immigration and had to pick up our luggage before we re-checked ourselves in for our London-Dubai flight. Flew to Dubai. Had our layover and were delayed 2 hours after boarding because of some ‘lavatory problem’. Then the turbulence on the flight back was so bad my hands were even clammier than usual since I don’t like flying to begin with. So you can imagine, it felt good to finally be back on solid ground! Home always feels so damn good after a long time away and there’s really nothing like slipping into our own comfy bed and going to sleep! Yup, I enjoyed our three weeks in Europe but there’s nothing I love more than being back in our hot, humid, tropical weather, close to friends and family, and close to good food!

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