Friday, July 19, 2013

And So It Goes...

     During my youth, I moved a lot.  Being part of a military family, it was natural.  Spend three years in one location and then off we went to the next.  I do not remember minding it much but I do remember that my younger sister hated leaving her friends and starting over again.

     Early in our marriage, we moved a lot.  Again, part of a military family, this was a natural occurence, but the moves were more frequent.  We spent six months in Georgia, then on to one year in Lousiana, followed by three years in one part of Texas and ten months in another part and finally, three years in Georgia.  Many of these moves consisted of us loading  our cars with all of our belongings and then driving the cars to  location to be weighed before we began the trip.  Why did we do this?  Because, we would be paid for moving ourselves and we wanted the extra cash.  I do not remember minding these moves either.  But Dear Husband, who had lived in the same town all of his life prior to college, had a more difficult time.  However, it was an adventure and we managed to make the most of each location in which we lived.

    Then, with a relocation to Washington, DC, the moving ended.  Sure, we moved from townhouse to house and that really was a bit of a pain, but we were in essentially the same location for twelve years.  I worked for the same company for those years and it was amazing.  However, I do remember that every three years or so, I would get the itch to pack everything up and take off for parts unknown.  I would become sick of seeing the same people day after day, seeing the same arrangement of furniture in the house, of knowing what the options were for weekend fun.  Soon; however, that phase would disappear and I would be back in love with the "sameness" of it all.  

     Out of the blue the opportunity came to move...across the Germany. We would essentially re-start our lives in a foreign country.  The adventure monster stirred in my mind..."We have to do this."  And we did, packing up and taking off for parts unknown.  By now, we could no longer pack our belongings in our car.  We were allowed to bring one car and 18,000 pounds of household items.  Unbelieveably, we had about 17,000 pounds of had we  accumulated all of this stuff?  In the weeks leading to the move, I found it cathartic to go through everything and really determine if we needed it or not.  Many trips were made to the Salvation Army and I am sure that the garbage guys loved seeing the twice weekly pile of junk (as I now termed these non-needed essentials) on our curb.  In the end, we shipped only half of things and left the rest in storage.  We sold a car and the house and off we went to start our new lives.  

     I actually find moving almost akin to New Year's Day. It is a way to start over.  Yes, the location changes.  Yes, the job changes.  Yes, the friends and the school change.  What I am talking about is having the ability to analyze my life and say, "What do I want to change? This time around, do I want to be more social, become more involved in school events, plant a garden or work out more?"  So, with any move, I make my Moving Resolutions.

     Our time in Germany was fantastic.  While we are not nearly fluent in the language, we learned so much.  Dear Daughter, knowing no German, blew us away by attending the local German school for six months.  Her resulting self confidence is a pleasure to experience.  We loved travelling, loved being together as a family and experiencing the new life together.  And then...the packers came again...

     So now, we are in Belgium.  We arrived four days ago.  It is very different, but it feels right.  We have quickly found a house and soon I will be "nesting" in the new location. Dear Daughter has missed most of this transition by taking a wonderful trip back home.  It has given me and Dear Husband time together and the time to reconnect has been fantastic.  The move out of Germany went very smoothly. The move into Belgium, so far, has gone smoothly.  I have made my new list of resolutions.

     And one of these resolutions...we have to do a better job at learning the language.  On our third night here, we nearly caused an international incident!  We were at dinner; sitting at an outdoor cafe on the Grande Place in the nearby town of Ath (pronounced "Ott").  It was a beautiful evening and we were enjoying two Leffe beers (Belgium has some great beers) when our dinner order arrived.  The server mumbled something in French and I nodded my head not really comprehending what she said.  Quickly, she placed the two dinner entrees in front of us and it was only after she left, that we realized that the order in front of Dear Husband was not the fish that he thought he would be receiving.  In fact, what was there did not look very appetizing.  But how do you say in French that you received the wrong order?

     Dear Husband, believing that I had received the right order decided to go ahead an eat his meal. I am sure he was not that pleased when I informed him that I also received the wrong order.  Sure, it was beef but it was not the cut of beef that I had ordered.  Oh well, bites already taken, we continue to eat.   Several minutes go by and then there is excitement near our table.  More food arrives and our waitress points to our table...then looks can we already be eating?  We are mortified.  We are eating another table's order!  How do we get out of this?  How do we explain this?  We solve this by doing absolutely nothing but sitting there in silence.  More discussion takes place between the wait staff...we now are staring straight ahead with our hands in our laps trying to absorb into the chairs.  I hear one waitress say, "I asked them and they said, yes."  Or at least, that is what I think she said.  Remember, my French is terrible!  Finally, our waitress returns, takes our plates and silverware and rattles something off in French.  We look at each other and telepathically say, "Perhaps we are being punished and will not be allowed to eat at all."  After a few short minutes, another order arrives...our order.  A few minutes later, the other table receives their order.  All is well.  We finish the meal, have coffee and make sure that we leave a good tip.

     Resolution...learn the language!

    And so it goes...Bonjour Belgium!

Monday, July 1, 2013

La Batisse, St. Avold, France: Sunday Lunch and the ABM

     Yesterday,we spent an incredible afternoon dining at our favorite place for Sunday lunch.  La Batisse, is a small restaurant located in St. Avold, which is about an hour's drive from our house.  While the impressive Lorraine American Cemetery is located in St. Avold, the town itself is dreary and devoid of much life...except for Sunday lunches at La Batisse.  The dining room is simple, yet refined.  You could say the same for the menu yet on each visit, we are amazed at the simple creativity of the chef.
Farewell Sunday Lunch at La Batisse

     While each day there is are "suggestion du moment" - daily specials, more often than not, diners request one of the "menus".  Frankly, these are the better deals.  For a set price, you get a choice of appetizer (entree), main course (plat), cheese and/or dessert.  These menus never change except that maybe you can vary your choices within the menu.  The menus also do not typically have fancy names.  At La Batisse, the menu that cost 22 Euros, is simply referred at Menu 22.  The menu that costs 30 Euros, is the Menu 30.  However, the highest price menu at 41 Euros is given a special name, Menu Excellence.  Yesterday, on what may be our final visit, we ordered two Menu Excellence and an extra plate for Dear Daughter and with a tasty aperitif, we began our dining afternoon.

     The entree was foie gras, prepared in-house by the chef.  It was incredibly flavorful and nearly melted in your mouth.  While I normally like toasted bread as an accompaniment, the sweet, almost pound-cake like bread was a welcome surprise.  Dear Daughter, wanting nothing to do with foie gras, finished the bread and various fruit garnishes.

     Course 2 was two slices of seared foie gras served with a slightly peppery but light fruit sauce and a small salad.  Again, the foie gras just melted away in my mouth.  Dear Husband's second course was a carpaccio of scallops.  It was incredibly creative - thin slices of raw scallops, lightly seasoned with a dollop of some sort of sorbet in the middle.  While Dear Daughter would have nothing to do with the foie gras, she did manage to polish off most of the scallop carpaccio.

Seared Fois Gras

Salmon Carpaccio

     Course 3 was the main course.  I elected to have the St. Jacques Forestiere (or scallops with mushrooms) while Dear Daughter determined that Dear Husband should have the beef filet.  Unbelievable!  The scallops were surrounded by tiny mushrooms and this incredibly complex sauce.  I would not have thought that mushrooms would go with scallops but this combination certainly worked.  Dear Daughter must have liked it as she quickly polished off two of the four scallops.  Dear Husband was presented with a filet of beef topped with yet another slice of foie gras and also surrounded by yet another type of mushroom and a rich sauce.  I am not a big mushroom eater but these were absolutely divine - the depth of flavor was incredible.

Scallops with mushrooms

Beef with Foie Gras

     But that was not all...following the cheese plate, which was mercifully small, came dessert.  For me...a carpaccio of pineapple...thin slices of carpaccio served with grated coconut and cinnamon and a delightful scoop of salted caramel ice cream.  Dear Daughter had the best creme brûlée that has ever been made.  Dear Husband and I managed to sneak one bite each.

Pineapple Carpaccio

Creme Brûlée

     We rolled out of the restaurant nearly three hours later - thoroughly satisfied - having had wonderful food, wonderful company and a wonderful time.

     But you ask, "Why did you title this The ABM?"  So, now I tell you.  (Sorry, I got carried away by the food, as usual.)  We were driving through a small village on our way home when I saw a bakery sign that indicated that you could get bread 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.  How could that be?  I know that the French love their bread, but there is no store in the world that would be open continuously.  I had to stop and investigate.  Here is what I saw:

Its an ABM!

     Now, what does that look like to you?  An ABM!  An Automatic Bread Machine!  You put in one euro and out pops warm baguette.  No joke!

And even was good!  Why can't we have one of these in our village??

Hey, you can't see that in Coronado!