If you've ever wanted to go on a Culinary adventure in Germany Belgium, and The Netherlands, I can tell you from first hand experience it's a dream come true! Scroll down to read all about my tasty adventures.
When we planned our trip to visit our exchange student, Ilim, this summer, we didn't really envision it being a culinary adventure, but every day we tried something new and exciting and my taste buds have never been happier.
Even though we spent two weeks of our vacation in Germany, the only bite of actual German food to cross my lips was a piece of soft pretzel that my husband shared with me.
Ilim's family is Turkish and her mom, as well as her aunts and cousin, who prepared meals for us, cooked traditional Turkish cuisine.
It was amazing.
Each morning we all gathered together on the patio to enjoy a hearty breakfast. Before we were even out of bed, Zübeyde and Ramazan, Ilim's parents, would have made a trip to the bakery to buy fresh breads and pastries. We'd usually wake up to the smell of eggs and sausage cooking, come downstairs to find the table filled with cheese, jams, honey, glazed apricots, sun dried tomatoes, capers, and olives much of which was grown in their family's garden in Turkey.
I absolutely loved the sun dried tomatoes. They were the best I've ever tasted. The tomatoes are grown in Zübeyde's mother's garden. She harvests them then dries them in the sun and sends them to Germany. Before serving them, Zübeyde would re-hydrate them in some simmering water, drain off the water, then coat them in olive oil, which is made from olives also grown in her mom's garden. She seasoned them with salt, garlic, paprika, and rosemary.
Being served meals made from such fresh ingredients was such a delight. We ate and ate and ate some more. At night we'd fall into bed full and satisfied then wake up ready for more. Jim couldn't get enough of Zübeyde's stuffed grape leaves and I was just excited to try anything she put in front of me.
Eating all those amazing meals was a gastronomic experience in and of itself but then, we traveled to Belgium.
Belgium is heaven on earth for a chocoholic like me.
In Brussels and Bruges, you can't walk more than 20 meters without finding a chocolate shop. I was giddy with excitement and more than a bit overwhelmed.
Cases lined with beautifully molded pralines and hand rolled truffles, shelves filled with packaged candies, the likes of which I'd never seen before, and windows featuring dazzling works of edible art were everywhere I looked.
Oh, my. Words really can't describe my joy. I couldn't quit smiling.
The chocolatiers in Belgium are some of the best in the world, and not only did I get to taste their creations, but I was able to see the magic happen in several of the kitchens.
Can you believe the pieces in the top left and bottom left of the picture above are sculpted from chocolate? They were masterpieces carved from food. Wow.
We only had one evening in Brussels and one day in Bruges, which was enough time to shop, but not enough time to try everything I wanted. It was too hot to carry much chocolate around with me. I bought a little bit to sample, but dream of spending an entire week, going from shop to shop, having time to really savor and enjoy each chocolatier's specialties.
I could eat chocolate everyday, but there was so much else to try, like Belgian waffles and apple fritters in Ghent, coconut baklava and fresh cherry ice cream in Hamburg, crepe like pancakes in the Netherlands, freshly baked speculoos cookies in Bruges, and Poffertjes, tiny little puffed pancake like morsels, in Amsterdam.
Oh, and did I mention the cheese? In Amsterdam, we sampled smoked gouda, aged gouda, young gouda, goat's milk gouda, sheep's milk gouda, pesto gouda, garlic and herb gouda and more. We couldn't help but fill a shopping bag full.
Thankfully we had a suite case that came to Europe full of presents, so it was empty and waiting to be filled with cheese and chocolate and jam and cookies and apricots and sun dried tomatoes to be brought home.
Our trip wasn't all about food. Our hosts were not only wonderfully gracious, they were amazing tour guides. We saw so many beautiful places, like the Baltic Sea pictured above.
Would you like to hear more about my trip and see more pictures? I'd love to share.