Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dirty Old Men

Why oh why do I attract them? From as far back as I can possibly remember I have attracted the attention of many a sleazy retiree. It came in handy during my years as a waitress, boy did I milk some of them for tips. But since taking my hiatus from the hospitality industry, this ability to catch all the old geezers has become a bit of a burden.

I hit a new low yesterday leading to my current acquisition of a stalker. I was killing time yesterday afternoon at a café near our lovely train station (this was probably my mistake, I should have stuck to the cafés in Centre Ville where people keep to themselves, but I digress), reading Pride and Prejudice when a cute (as in old-man cute) tanned and balding man at the next table started to chat. After a few minutes of talking over the table and watching other customers eying up my partially vacant table I agreed to sit with my new friend before I headed off to work. His name was Salah and he is from Morocco. He speaks little English which, compounded with my little French, made for a very comical 15 minutes of conversation. There was much flirting and asking me to be his "bébé" (girlfriend). He is on his one month of vacation in Brussles (from which he will return to Morocco in 2 days time) and after a day trip to nearby Forbach, France, he was awaiting a train to take him back to Brussles. He also tried to get me to come to Brussles with him. This was all despite my very insistent spouting of "No, thank you, but I am married" in my most clear and enunciated English. When I declined accompanying him to Brussles he insisted that I should visit Morocco and I should have his number for when I (we -- I reminded him yet again of my husband) do come for a visit.

So, to sum up this adventure:
I am too nice for my own good.
I like to think the best of people (and in old men this includes them not being dirty sleaze balls!).
I need to avoid crazy tourists near the train station.
I can always find a way to get a free coffee.

After prying myself from him (he insisted on walking away with me so he could catch his train that was leaving in....an hour?) I walked past the waiter as he gave me a little chuckle and an understanding look that said "I am so sorry you had to put up with him."

Edit: I forgot to mention (perhaps I've repressed it already) his multiple attempts to lean over the table and plant a big smooch on my lips. I successfully avoided such come-ons by violently turning my head the other way and explaining in the simplest English I could muster that "I am very happy with my husband and do not kiss other men." In hindsight, the whole ordeal was both one of the most humiliating and comical times in my life.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mangé à Notre Maison: Pan Bagnat

I can trace this incredibly simple, healthy, and delicious sandwich back to Mrs. Kennedy's French class in High School. And while that original version may not be as daring or cultured as it is now made à Chez Reindl, it obviously left good enough memory to be jogged out of my brain when we were looking for good travel food before one of our many trips from Pittsburgh to DC in the past few years. The sandwich is actually the hand-held version of the Niçoise salad from, you guessed it, Nice, France. Anyway, enough chat and on to the recipe.

Pan Bagnat

1.5 T lemon juice
2 t red wine vinegar
1/2 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
1/4 c olive oil

1 large baguette (or any long, thin bakery bread)
1 can of tuna, preferably packed in olive oil (although we couldn't get oo packed and it was just fine)
1 green pepper, thinly sliced
1 onion (of your choice), thinly sliced
1 very ripe tomato, thinly sliced
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced in rounds
1/2 c black olives (niçoise are traditional but may be hard to come by, kalamata or canned will do)
5 anchovy filets
2 T capers
a handful of basil leaves
*obviously, some of these ingredients are for the more daring eaters or may be impossible to find in your store of choice so please feel free to leave out any components you wish

To make the vinaigrette whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl. Then slowly drizzle the olive oil in while whisking to emulsify. Taste and add a bit more salt if it is still too sour.

To assemble the sandwich first slice the bread horizontally and peel out most of the inner crumb of the bread on both the top and bottom so as to create a "well" for the rest of the ingredients to pack into. Drain the tuna of the majority of it's excess oil and line the well of the bottom piece with the tuna. And then, start stacking all of the remaining ingredients, except the basil, on top. Make sure you only laying out a single, thin layer of each ingredient as it is important that the sandwich fit together in the end. When the stacking is complete, drizzle the vinaigrette on the top very slowly. This may seem like a lot of dressing, but you should use most of it. The name Pan Bagnat literally means "wet bread" and you want to have enough to soak through all the toppings and into the bread. If you do have a little dressing left you can always do what I did and make a leftover salad with whatever veggies couldn't fit on the sandwich. Now lay your basil leaves on top of the pile and lay your welled top half of bread on.

Finally, lay down two long pieces of plastic wrap and wrap the sandwich as tightly as you can (literally, as tightly as possible!). Now leave it at room temperature for at least an hour for all the flavors to meld and marinate. In our experience this sandwich is best if made the night before, stuck in the fridge overnight, pulled out the the morning then eaten for lunch by the lake with a beer...or an iced tea if you're in the States.

I hope you've all enjoyed this first installment of Mangé à Notre Maison. This is my first mass recipe share so if you happen to try the sandwich, please let me know how it turned out.

Bon Appétit!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Coming Soon, to a blog near you: Mangé à Notre Maison

Since all I seem to do according to this blog is shop, cook and eat, I though that it would only be right if I started to share some of our culinary adventures. I have been meaning to post recipes for quite some time now but despite appearances, I rarely get pictures of meals in the process and I would feel guilty posting recipes without corresponding pictures. And to be perfectly honest, a good majority of our recipes come from www.epicurious.com (a wonderful mash-up of Bon Appetite and Gourmet magazines' recipes) so I never felt right about posting them to my page. So, as a way to ease my mind on this subject I've decided that I will try to post links to the corresponding Epicurious (or other) website whenever I can and post any authentic, tried and tested Chez Reindl cuisine here on the blog.

This segment of Metzing Around will be entitled "Mangé à Notre Maison" (eaten at our house) so you can get a feel for what we are eating 1/4 (or for some, 1/2) way across the world. I plan to start tomorrow, as noted earlier, with a favorite sandwich of ours, Pan Bagnat and will post whenever something good comes up. If any of you happen to remember a particular past meal that you would like directions on, please comment and let your wishes be known!

À demain!

P.S. I am no chef (unless you are talking pastry, and even then I'm pretty rusty) and claim no expertise.

You can crush the flowers but you can't stop the spring.

Mid-April in France means a 2 week break for all school aged students so with all of my English learnin' kids on vacay, I have a break as well.  Michael, on the other hand, busier than ever with the semester nearing an end and projects and finals on the horizon.  With a little early work on his part though, we managed to go on an accidental date night last week. We had made plans to head into town on Tuesday evening to see Alice in Wonderland in VO (version original) and 3D with a couple of friends as a social outing (something we are admittedly very bad at doing). On our way into town we found out that one friend had decided not to go and the other was stuck late at the dentists office, we we were on our own. We enjoyed the movie, the chance to get out together and the spring lovely walk to and from town.

Thursday was a super social day for me. In the morning  I went over for a visit with Janice and Kimber in the morning, then out to lunch with those two and Jeramy to my first Chinese Buffet in France. The food was good (although very different from the American interpretation of Chinese food) and the staff was comical; they were certainly intrigued by the Americans with the cute little girl.

It sometimes feels like all we do here is cook and eat and this past week was no exception. After Leah and Kyle reminded us of the existence of Sloppy Joe's we got to work recreating the dish without the modern convenience of canned sauce. I was pleased to realize, upon whipping up a batch, that they are not nearly as unhealthy I had initially assumed. Ignoring the fact that it uses ground beef (which could be substituted with ground turkey, chicken, or even tofu), the basic recipe we used (which can be found here) was chalked full of veggies and tomato sauce.

And on Saturday we prepared for a lovely lunch picnic on the lake since the forecast looked amazing. The food of choice was a pan bagnat sandwich, a favorite travel food from our time in Pittsburgh since it could be made into a full, health meal and was very compact, making it easy to eat while driving the 4+ hours to either Wellsboro or DC. The components consist essentially of what you would find in a Niçoise salad here in France (or back home) packed very tightly with a lemon vinagarette into a crusty bread, wrapped well and pressed for several hours to allow everything to meld and marinate. I'm planning to delve into recipe sharing on the blog and this tried and tested recipe should be one of the first to appear within the next few days. In the meantime, here a picture of Michael enjoying our sunny spot on the lake with bare feet and a beer.

We've also been experimenting with some fun Sunday brunch-type meals...essentially to give us something to do on Sundays. Eggs Benedict is certainly in the rotation but we've also been trying out some fruity concoctions as well. We first made an awesome traditional German apple pancake doused with lots of cinnamon sugar (which we loosely based on this recipe) which turned out to be pretty amazing and surprisingly, not to sweet for me. More recently though we decided to give these delicious banana caramel pancakes (based loosely on this recipe) a try. They were super yummy and reminiscent of bananas foster.

On another Sunday foodie adventure this past week, we spent a good long time coming up with the idea of duck burritos, and subsequently, a good long time making them. Since the selection of Mexican food here in Metz is quite skimpy and expensive (and very strange at times -- imagine fajita seasoning that tastes just like sweet BBQ) we ended up making everything from scratch. Sorry there are no pictures of the final product but to be honest, burritos aren't really the most wonderful looking food. If anyone is interested in the rough recipe (I never measure) I will be posting it later along with alternate suggestions for making it with chicken, since I know that all of you don't have access to duck meat for $4 a pound.

And finally, a plant update: as you can see, my bean plant which was just sprouting out of its dried legume form only a few weeks ago is now nearly a foot tall with new leaves galore. I'm not sure if it will produce many beans being indoors but it's fun to experiment and daydream of a time when I will finally have a garden space.
À bientôt, mes amis!

Thursday, April 8, 2010


10 things (not people, I would need far more than 10 spaces) I miss dearly:

1.  my Saab (not that I should complain, Lune Rousse is a champ!)
2. cream cheese
3. bagels
4. being able to find crochet/knitting hooks/needles in any size
5. Stony Fork Store bacon
6. a yard
7. a big kitchen with a 4-burner stove and all of our kitchen...stuff
8. my sewing machine
9. a full-sized bathtub
10. our bed

10 totally awesome reasons I love living in France:

1. cheese, cheese everywhere! and much of it raw milk cheese
2. cheap duck meat (comparitively)
3. wine.
4. the fabulous kids I teach English to (I've just added to more little boys!)
5. all of our friends here at GTL
6. good bread everywhere
7. the ability to safely walk and bike everywhere
8. Méli-Mélodie, the choir I've joined
9. beautiful, cheap produce
10. a huge selection of yarn from the thrift store for €1 per 100g

By the way, neither list was made in any particular order and since I just threw this out there I am sure I am missing a lot. Oh, and the idea for this particular post came from my friend Alyssa.

Monday, April 5, 2010


You can view all of the photos from the past few months by visiting this photo album and jumping to the 4th page.

Why Hello There!

 Warning: This post contains content not suitable for those under the age of 12.

Now that I've shoved Michael off of his computer, I finally have time for a real, pictures included post and since there are so many, how about if I just let them do the talking.

I love my husband very much, but I were forced to pick out one flaw it would be his sentimental attachment to holiday decorations. For months I have been asking -- no begging -- Michael to let me get rid of our dried out and shedding Christmas tree. Finally, sanity prevailed and I promised him we would find something to fill the space. As you can see, he still wasn't very happy about it, but we got a lovely tree to fill up the corner (which I still need to take a picture of) and I must say that both of us are very happy not to stab ourselves with dried pine needles daily.

A few weeks into March, I planted some herb plants which I hope will sustain us through our remaining 9 months here in Metz. This picture of the basil pot was taken only days after planting and thanks to some sunny days the plants are almost an inch high.

And here is my other experiment, a white bean placed snugly between damp cotton balls and a jelly jar. The idea came from a science book belonging to Margeurita and Eleanora, in fact, we are growing lentil plants at their house but I am fairly certain they will be dead by the time the girls return from their spring break in Italy. As with the previous picture, this was taken weeks ago and two of the three plants are now growing and one is close to a foot tall!

My knitting has kept me sane since finding the thrift store. I am happy to report that gifts were sent home to Rosie and Heather for our little nieces or nephews to come and the two bibs above were made for Janice and Jeremy's next little pgirl. Since I do have the time and youtube instructional videos at my disposal I have been forcing myself to make sure everything I make is a challenge and forces me to learn something new. These bibs demonstrate my new found love of cable knit.

As you can see, the bib on the left is just the same as the two above and while I do love cable knit, I am now sick of cable knit bibs for the time being after making 8 in a matter of two weeks! The bib on the left however, was my first attempt at a design in knitting and also my first i-cord.

And finally, my first sweater (or shrug rather) in the process. It was an incredibly easy pattern and since it is made from the neck down, it can be made to whatever length is desired; mine was finished when I ran out of yarn. I still need to block it and figure out some sort of fastening mechanism (perhaps more i-cord?) but I will post updated pictures of that when it is finally totally done.

Janice hosted a wonderful baby shower for two other GTL wives who are (along with Janice) all expecting the arrival of their babies within the next month and a half! The shower was lovely. We enjoyed wonderful food, fun games, and good laughs and were hopefully able to help a few girls prepare for their first babies so far from family. Oh, and Kimber was a hoot, as always.

Our cravings for typical American take-out food never cease so along with pizza night we have been experimenting with quite a few Chinese take-out themed dinners. I know I've posted about General Tso's Chicken but we hit a new high this past week when we took a dive into the world of dumplings. Now that we know our little hand blender food processor attachment works as a meat grinder, I have a feeling we will be making many many more of these. The first half we fried up after eating some spicy, crispy green beans and the rest was used the next day for a lovely won ton soup lunch.

And yet again, Leah and Kyle came over for dinner and we managed to not take any pictures of the actual event. The dinner was initially going to be a very simple pizza and beer night (we though we should share some of the pepperoni sent by mom and Ben) but upon noticing the beautiful rhubarb at Grand Frais we couldn't resist delving into spring with a strawberry rhubarb pie. The night was great with lots of good conversation as always and some good, American style food.

Now for the part that should be censored from little eyes. As it turns out the Easter Bunny came and Stayed on Sunday. Of course he first hid eggs for us, which Michael found without much help (that Easter Bunny is a good hider) and left us with some delicious chocolates including the strange asexual cow pictured above...

...and for dinner he lent himself to a wonderful preparation of braised rabbit with mustard sauce. I know it sounds terrible and both sets of parents exclaimed "You're eating the Easter Bunny!?!" but we had been meaning to make rabbit here in France and Easter Sunday just worked out perfectly. For those of you that are not completely grossed out, the rabbit turned out beautifully. It was tender and very mild flavored. Which leads us to

Today which was the first nice spring day we've had in awhile. We took advantage of the sun and went for a nice walk down the road to a beautiful old cemetery (well, the picture above is of the new section) with stones from the mid-1800's. We walked around for a bit and finally decided that

Spring has finally sprung in northeastern France.