Monday, June 28, 2010

Mangé a Notre Maison: Silky Veggie Soup

As is the case every summer, I have begun to crave veggies. Especially the veggies that come out of my Dad's huge garden, but considering we are currently 3,868 miles from my dad's garden, and the fact that it's too early in the season to really eat anything from his garden (my stomach doesn't often listen to reason), I am forced to buy my vegetables from Grand Frais, which is a horrible, horrible grocery store. No, just kidding. Going to Grand Frais is like walking into a Trader Joe's sized store only the entire center is filled--filled with about four times the produce section of a normal grocery store. And all the produce is beautiful! And exotic. We've tried some of the strangest fruits and vegetables from that place. I really need to get some pictures sometime.

Anyway, to go along with my veggie craving kick, I decided the other day that our normal cornichon, saucisson sandwich was just too heavy for the nice, warm weather we had been having (it was nice, now it's just disgusting), so I picked up these:

With no idea of what I was going to do with them.

But our many times of making potato leek soup inspired me to just slice them all up,

Throw them in a pot, cover them with water,

Let them simmer until they're good and tender,

Purée them with the stick blender,

Throw in a handful of parsley (which could have been done earlier, if I had been gifted with the trait of foresight) and purée some more,

Add in about 1/2c of cream (ours was more liken 1/2 &1/2 but heavy cream would do just great...probably better, in fact), season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper,

And serve. And in the case of really hot weather (like what we're experiencing now), this soup could be made with vegetable or chicken stock in place of the water, slightly over-salted (flavor is lost when food is chilled), and served as a cold soup.

Here are some rough amounts to go by if you care to duplicate* the deliciousness:

Silky Veggie Soup

yield: 4 bowls
2 turnips
1 small zucchini
1/2 head of cabbage (any kind will do)
1 onion
1 qt water (or stock)
1 sprig parsley leaves
1/2 c cream

  1. Peel the turnips and slice all vegetables into 1/4inch slices.
  2. Place vegetables into large sauce pan and cover with water (or stock), if needed, use more that given amount. 
  3. Bring pot to a boil then turn down to a simmer.
  4. Allow vegetables to simmer for 45min-1hr, or until very tender.
  5. Add parsley to pot and blend. This can either be accomplished with a stick blender, in a stand blender (do small batches and be careful!), or if you'd prefer a chunkier style, with a potato masher. 
  6. Stir in the cream and salt and pepper to taste.

*really, this general idea could be used almost any vegetable you can find, so feel free to substitute away, although this particular mixture did make a great flavored soup 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

One order of General Tso's please

So Michael attends an American University in France. Logic stands to reason that he is surrounded by both American students and French students (well, if I would take the time to explain the program, you would know this). However, this time has also given us an opportunity to become acquainted with many people of many other nationalities. We know Italians. We know Indians. We know a Colombian. We know...many other nationalities that I can't think of at the moment. But the reason for this post is that we are friends with (and for the summer, Michael works with) a Chinese guy named Chen, who was willing to cook us a fabulous, authentic Chinese dinner one night last week. And as always, sorry for the horrible indoor pictures, our building designer apparently was not a fan of natural light.

Here's Chen, preparing dinner in this equally tiny kitchen, one dish at a time on one induction burner. 

He was running a little late (old news to us, we are awful at entertaining on time) because *gasp* he cleaned his apartment, for us! So while we waited we drank orange Fanta and watched the beginning part of a Chinese animated movie, it was something about a Lord Tiger (2010 is the year of the tiger, so naturally he is lord), a pack of greedy wolves and a herd of goats (or sheep, apparently they don't differentiate in the Chinese language) who all worked for the Lord Tiger at his amusement park.

Chen is a bachelor, and as such, he owns one bowl and one pair of chopsticks (right beside him on the counter), so in in order to be fed, we had to bring over our plates, bowls, and chopsticks. And as we watched our cartoon, the plates began filling up, one by one

until they were all plated

and we were seated.

Dish #1: kidney and green peppers
The Verdict: delicious & different

Dish #2: slightly sweet egg and tomato
The Verdict: eggcellent (sorry), it was new to me but eggs and tomatoes are two of my favorites

Dish #3: pork and celery
The Verdict: salty (just how I like it ) and yummy



Can't you see the pain of too much good food in Michael's face? We were warned that if we didn't finish everything, we may never see our dishes again.

That warning came from this charming fellow who is making us tea in this photo (I was enamored by the glowing water kettle).

Then we ate more! This was one of the sweetest (and messiest) watermelon I've ever met. Boy knows how to pick a good watermelon.

Thanks Chen, the food was amazing!
And now we must find a way to repay you with some delicious, authentic American food. What does that even mean by the way, people? Sadly, fast food is about all I can think of and I'm counting on you all to help! If you have any ideas of "authentic" American food (no chicken please), please leave them in the comment section of this post. The help will be greatly appreciated.

And just for kicks, I thought I'd throw in this last picture:

Sign #2 that you're a bachelor (after only having one bowl and one pair of chopsticks): your seran wrap is stored in the fridge.

Ok, enough picking on Chen.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Where We've Been

I have no idea how long it's been since I last posted a general update here and really, there's no better time than now! And besides that, I just want to fill you all in on just what's been keeping us busy since our road trip to the south. I'll give you a little hint: it involves lots of food.

First on the menu was this yummy treat, wild asparagus. Well, they're not really asparagus, it's some form of grass. Really yummy grass!

This was Michael's bachelor meal, currywurst, which I know I've mentioned on the site before but can't seem to find (perhaps this is a hint that I need to start tagging my posts). If you have no clue what currywurst is, you can read all about it here. Anyway, Michael had to eat a bachelor meal a few weeks back when some girl friends and I went downtown to a great little place called La Vintage (which I mentioned in my last post, A Fellow Wellsborian). It was a great night full of giggles and stories (there were two Americans, one Brit and one French girl in attendance) and come-ons by the barkeep. He could certainly say "You are very beautiful" in English. Go Figure.

 We enjoyed yet another beautiful sunset over the lake. Sorry if y'all are sick of sunset pictures. I will never be, so you must deal.

 We've worked on our artichoke cooking skills and let me say, for the record, we're getting pretty darn good at it. 

 Then we enjoyed said artichoke with some amazing Lamb Persilliade...

...and these buttery steamed new potatoes. Talk about terroir! Boy, could we taste the soil in these babies.

And for a random lunch I turned these--

--into this creamy and tasty soup. Recipe to come soon if anyone is interested.

We had the pleasure, at some point (don't mind me, my concept of time passage is completely out-of-whack), of taking part in a Champagne reception/dinner with lots of Georgia Tech (and otherwise) big-wigs to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Georgia Tech Lorraine.

That's Vinod in the center...he decided to be a creeper and go around getting pictures taken with all the couples. Here he is with Leah and Kyle (hope you don't mind the link, Leah)...

...and with Rocky and Maria (things started to get silly at this point)...

...and again with Jingfei and Sara. who are not a "couple", but you get the idea. This photo also reveals the source of the bunny ears. 

The next day we got to take part in another 20th Anniversary perk: the undergraduate field trip to the Hackenburg Military Fortress

And the St. Avold American Military cemetery (both of which will be awarded their own blog post in the near future).

That is all...for now.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Fellow Wellsborian

We had a visitor. No really. We had a visitor!

Why have I not mentioned this before? Well, because we didn't even know that Brandon (Kilduff, that is) was in the country until my usual facebook stalking made me aware last week. Just before we arrived last August, he unfortunately returned to the United States after spending a year in Strasbourg, just an hour and a half from Metz. Well, I found out last week that he is back for about a month, just gallivanting around the area before heading to England for an internship, so we invited him up. And he came!

Of course, I didn't take any pictures, but I do have a little proof.

Thursday, when he showed up at the train station, he had this with him.

What a nice gift. Although it feels strange to have someone give us a gift for hosting them for a night. It made me feel old.

After making a saucisson and cornichon sandwich for lunch, we lazed about for a bit while we got caught up on all the 'boro gossip. At 6 we all headed over to GTL where Michael had to meet up with and chaperon the undergraduate summer students to a welcoming reception downtown. Brandon and I were sneaky, convincing the other graduate assistants to let us hitch a free ride downtown after which we skipped off, leaving Michael to his reception (which turned out to be....nevermind, I'll shut-up now). I took Brandon to all the normal, in-town sights: the Cathedral, the oldest church in France, the opera house, and the protestant church, by which time Michael was done with his reception and met up with us.

We met up with the other graduate assistants at a bar and chatted for a few hours before going out in persuit of a bar that would be showing the France v. Mexico game. We watched the game, which sadly ended 0-2 in favor of the Mexicans. We did have the pleasure of enjoying some Kronenbourg (from Alcace, where Brandon lived), mainly because it was the cheapest beer there.

At the bar, Brandon also introduced us to this Alcasian delight. Picon is an orange flavored apéritif that is made to be added to beer (as is the case with this bottle) or to cocktails or wine. And yes, we did stop and buy a bottle literally on our way home from leaving him at the train station.

By the end of the game we were famished, so we walked down the hill a bit to La Vintage, a fabulous wine bar that I had gone to a few weeks back for a girls night out. The food is cheap, the wines are great (and reasonably priced by the glass, when can you ever say that?) and the barkeep is a hoot! Then, as is our fashion, we tortured Brandon with the 45 minute walk home.

The next morning we were unfortunately deterred by a sick GTL student that we had to drive to the doctors office while Brandon was left to fend for himself. Michael then returned to school to finish up his duty while Brandon and I shopped for and made our picnic lunch (pan bagnat, I'm so original) complete with this:
Feta and olives....thanks Brandon, for adding to our growing list of France-acquired habits that we will never be able to satisfy (with out spending a fortune or growing crazy from the search) when we move home.

We enjoyed our picnic lunch on one of the new granite benches located outside of the Centre Pompidou which we then went inside to visit. We will have to visit again, if only to get pictures (and because it's free under 26yo), but it was really an enjoyable time. They have some incredible paintings (Matisse, Picasso, and my new fav, Georges Braques) but as has been the case for me at MOMA (Museum of Modern Art in NYC) and other modern art galleries, the conceptual art is a bit beyond my grasp.

After the gallery we found a bar with a TV (showing some French soap opera, but they switched it for us) to watch the USA v. Slovenia game. We enjoyed some more beers and threw out some French and English swear words when the stupid (STUPID!STUPID!STUPID! (stupid looks funny in all caps)) referee called a penalty on our last goal.

And that was pretty much it. We walked back to the train station with Brandon and helped him find a good host gift for his next hosts in the Irish store and then said our awkward adieus (only awkward for us Americans in France unsure of whether to faire la bise (kiss) or hug or shake hands).

And then we stopped at the store an bought alcohol. Such is the story of our lives.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

For Our Dads

If there could be one stereotype that I perfectly filled growing up it was most certainly "Daddy's Little Girl". After 5 boys, I think that he was ready for a girl. Although he may dispute this fact. Did I ever tell you all that most of my childhood I was called "Fred" (or Jugbutt? My dad gives out some wacky nicknames, but that's a different blog post)? He told me for years (in a playful way) that he had really been hoping for a 6th boy. And then, puberty hit and I went though the phase of not wanting to be anyone's little girl. But by my late teens, with the hormones sorted out, I decided yet again that I was "Daddy's Little Girl" and have been since, despite the while 23 year old married adult thing...

Here we are at the last Steelers game Jerome Bettis (my favorite Steelers player of all time) played at home before that years world wind, on the road playoff season which ended in yet another Superbowl win. You can tell I was making my way through Culinary school at the time by the extra 5lb on my face.

Lo and Behold, we have a picture of the two of us with Tom, my wonderful Father-in-law! And it's not 10 years old! This photo was actually taken at Michael's graduation from Carnegie Mellon University and unbeknown-st to Tom (and everyone else for that matter), we were secretly planning for our wedding two weeks later. I know, we are cruel.

Honestly, I feel like a broken record but I don't have much to say that is very different from what I said back on Mother's day. We both feel incredibly lucky to have grown up with the parents, and more specifically, the fathers that we ended up with. In my humble opinion, Tom and my dad (Jack? it's weird to use his first name) have been nothing but the best as role models, friends, and occasionally, disciplinarians (although I'm not sure Michael ever needed discipline?) to us. And if it was even possible to sweeten the deal, we both have ended up with correspondingly wonderful in-laws.

We are lucky, we know it. And we love you both!

Monday, June 14, 2010


I've never been good at clearly expressing my thoughts and on this topic, Michael will heartily agree. I can't even fathom the amount of times I've blurted out a random statement just as he walks in the door...something along the lines of "Why didn't you bring them home?". He just stares at me, and maybe chuckles before I realize that he cannot read my mind and has absolutely no idea what on earth I'm talking about.

Well, I realized today that I've done the same thing with this here blog (yes, that was meant to sound like I come from rural Pennsylvania), and in the very name of the blog nonetheless! I thought that perhaps I could illuminate you on the topic today.

It's obvious that the name "Metzing Around" is a play on the city's name but I bet that most of you don't know how Metz came to be pronounced Mess. When we were preparing to move here, we were stumped on the pronunciation of the city that we would soon be moving to. "How on earth do you pronounce "Metz" in France?" we asked ourselves. Michael (in his wikipedia-ing ways) did some research and came up with the following:

(I have no historical reference for this one, this is all based on speaking to locals and some random website that Michael found long ago which I have been unable to find again...not that I looked very hard)

The general story goes like this. Being so close to the border has led to many, many occupations by the bully neighbors to the East. Throughout those many occupations, Metz and the surrounding region became very heavily influenced by the German invaders. For centuries and centuries the town was pronounced just as you would read it, with a "t" and a "z". After one of the two world wars (both of which resulted in a German occupation of Metz) there was some understandable resentment towards the Germans. The locals, therefore, decided that instead of pronouncing the name of their fair city in the German style, that they would begin pronouncing the city as Mess and this has been true with most locals that I speak to. It has happened on many occasions though that when we are traveling outside of the area (both in Nice and Aix-en-Provence, for example) and we say we are from Mess, we get a funny look for a minute from the questioner, then their face lights up and they say "Oh, you're from Metz!".

And when I was trying to come up clever names for the blog I thought...."Metziness"..."Metzed Up"..."Metzin' With Ya"...

...and thus "Metzing Around" was born.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ah, the Mediterranean Sea, I never want to leave thee...

[I'm way behind on this one people and I apologize. It's been a crazy week since we got home but I won't bore you now. I'll save that for my next blog post! Anyway, corresponding photos from this trip can be seen by following this link.]

What a spectacular trip we had; quite reminiscent of our time in Hawaii last year only not quite as claustrophobic (not stuck on an Island in the middle of the Pacific, that is).

And for the most part, the trip went as planned and aside from my stomach not agreeing with some admittedly horrible [read: greasy] travel food, we hit no bumps along the way.

We got out of Metz at around 8pm and wound our way by Nancy, through the crazy long tunnel through the Vosges Mountains (again), by Basel (Switzerland), and eventually stopped around midnight at a tiny rest stop somewhere along the road in Switzerland. It was no where near as  nice as the highly commercial Aires that you find in France but it was well-lit and probably 4 other cars had chosen it as their bed for the night.

We followed suit. We made our beds and curled up for what ended up being not such a bad night after all.

We woke up and continued our beautiful drive through the Swiss Alps.

Michael hopped in the driver's seat for an hour or so to give me a break. But not long after switching places our gps went on the fritz, sending him down a very random dirt road. It got a little fishy so Michael (and his inexperience driving standard) handed the wheel back to me for the rest of this drive.

After a quick jaunt back into France we took a detour through Monte-Carlo, Monaco where we got this fleeting glimpse of the famous casino. We headed right back up the hill and out of the city though (no gambling for us!), I can't imagine having to find a parking space in that city!

That's 3 European Micro-Countries down though, leaving only San Marino and Vatican City.

We finally made it into Nice and after parking (in our nicely reserved and safe spot...thank you guest house) and showering (we needed it -- two people in an car without ac for 36 hours does not smell good) we made our way down the tram line only to walk past this guy on the street! This is the first Steelers jersey I've seen in Europe (besides my own) and it's needless to say that I was excited.

And this, this is where we spent most of our time in Nice: on the Promenade des Anglais (walk of the English) which is situated just above the beautiful stony beaches. We walked here for hours and barely covered any ground; the beach was certainly vast.

We also spent lots of time trying to avert our eyes from the many bare-breasted women and thong clad old men; more on that later though.

 We walked up to the top of this with the intention of visiting the gardens (on top of a hill?) only to find that they were closing?

So it seemed that we hiked up the many (many, many) stairs for naught...until we turned around to see this glorious sight.

 By this time (of course) we were getting hungry, so we found this crowd infested place

...where we ordered this delicious chèvre pizza (Mom -- mmm, goat cheese!)...

...which was eaten here.

We couldn't have hoped for a better first night in Nice.

And since it looked like everyone else was enjoying the sun and sand (I mean stones) so much that we would have to give it a try.

Here's a good example of what we witnessed every 10 ft or so. The second woman back (it is, indeed a woman) is actually wearing a one-piece black suit that she had artfully rolled into a tiny thong like apparatus in order to avoid the dreaded tan lines. At least she wasn't laying top-side up!

The water was chilly but certainly refreshing. And as Laura pointed out, crystal clear.

Clear enough to play around with the underwater function of our camera :-)

This has to be my favorite picture of the trip. This is the best example of the tiny thong phenomenon. He does have a thong on, it's just that tiny and is pulled down lower than it should be resting. Oh, and the two pairs of legs at the bottom of the shot, those belonged to two topless women that I have cropped out for your viewing safety.

And after venturing down this tiny Niçoise street in search of a delicious baguette for lunch, our time in Nice came to an end.

But our trip was far from over. From Nice we moved on to the beaches in Cannes, with sand. I decided here that I actually enjoyed laying (not walking) on the stone beaches in Nice more. There's nothing I hate more than sand in my swimsuit.

And from there we moved on to Aix-en-Provence, which was lovely but isn't along the coast, so no beach.

We spent a few minutes on the main drag in town listening to this fabulous band (Deluxe) and watching their

And viewing some interesting artwork (the theme of today's blog post is "The Topless Women of Southern France" if you haven't caught on by now).

And after asking around a bit we settled on this trip's splurge meal/M's belated Birthday meal at La Tomate Verte (the green tomato). It was amazing (see fb album for pics of each course).

We decided that we couldn't have planned our unplanned trip any better. Essentially, we wanted to get into Marseille but I had no intention of driving into that city (we have friends who lost everything when their car was broken into in Marseille). It ended up working out perfectly though because parking in Aix is free on Sundays, and there is a very cheap regional train connecting Aix to Marseille in just 45 minutes. After so much driving I was all to happy to hop on a train and let someone else worry about traffic and parking.

So on Sunday morning we made a quick stop at the Aix market for something for breakfast before hitting up the train to Marseille.

The entirety of the day was spent doing mini-walking tours of the city. We eventually (despite my incessant complaining of "my feet hurt", "my head hurts", "my legs hurt", "my stomach hurts") made it up that hill to see Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde.

Along the way we saw many sights including this one of the shiny new port.

And the beautiful old port, which is too filled in with silt for commercial use so it's reserved for the lucky (and wealthy) sailboat and yacht owners of Marseille.

 We walked through a large environmental festival along the old port...

...where we saw some creative versions of our world (note Michael's eye in one of the tiny mirrors).

We watched the storm clouds roll in from the Porte de l'Orient

 And after much, much walking, we finally made it to the stairs leading up to Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde.

This is my "I'm going to kill you for making me walk this much" face; lovely, isn't it?

But eventually we made it. Wait! What? More stairs?

We were rewarded greatly though by the spectacular view.

Our last day in Provence was spent going to a small village farmer's market (where we bought lunch provisions which will be seen later and lavender oil...mmm)...

...and visiting the Pont du Gard, one of the best Roman Ruins (although not really ruined) in Europe. Look it up on wikipedia if you're interested, it's incredible but this blog post is already too long.

We spent our time there eating our lunch of bread, Spanish oranges, summer rolls, and olives (all from the market)...

...taking in the spectacular sights...

...and taking a refreshing dip in the river before hopping back into Lunny (Lune Rousse's nickname) for the long and hot ride home.

Thankfully, the trip home was shorter than we expected (6 hours) which Michael was nice enough to drive the second half of on the nearly deserted late night autoroutes.