About the food...
We are in a unique position to really find out what food is like here, since we have no kitchen and must eat almost all of our meals out. It has been very hard to find a bad meal here! We eventually did at an Italian place, but I suppose it's our fault for deviating from the great Bavarian offerings here.
It's funny, because when I read descriptions on the menus, even in English, the entree usually sounds fairly unappetizing. I guess they don't mince words much. I have generally been very surprised and pleased by what shows up on my plate. As I have mentioned before, the salads are really good and fresh, with great flavor combinations-- like one with curried chicken and fresh oranges. There are a lot of deep fried items on the menus, and schnitzels and bratwurst, and many items are accompanied by fries. None of these are things I would usually eat, but there have been plenty of other options. And, the quality of the meats and everything is so good that the meals don't feel as heavy as you'd think. The other night, Jeff and I had steaks that were just amazing, accompanied by fries. I don't know what they did to those fat little wedges, but I swear that they had almost a butterscotch flavor to them-- also enhanced by some kind of dipping sauce that was more like hollandaise than aioli. Salads come with a lot of pickled vegetables, which I love. And I thought I knew what sauerkraut was, and really enjoyed making my own, but it is nothing like what they make here. First of all, they serve it warm, and it is heavily spiced, with allspice and cloves, for example.
Restaurant food seems to cost about the same as it would in the US. Maybe a little cheaper, even, but of course we did most of our eating out at happy hour, and I don't think they have those here. Wine and beer is very affordable, and of course very good! I'd never had a German red wine before, and I really can't understand why! They are delicious, and remind me very much of California reds. A local recently confirmed this impression, telling me that many of the original vintners in CA were German, and brought their vines over to propagate. Ironically, what we need to keep under control when we eat out is our water consumption. It is unheard of to serve tap water at the table, and so we have to pay for our bottled water-- almost always carbonated. I find myself drinking a couple of glasses before we go out so I can save a few euros!
The style of service is also very different, but I kind of like it. Waitstaff are generally paid a reasonable wage, and tipping is very minimal. No one is overly eager-to-please, trying to get everything just right for a higher tip. You seat yourself, and the table is yours for the evening-- no trying to rush you out the door so someone else can sit there. Someone will come and bring you a plate of napkins and silverware for you to place for yourself. Service is a little slow, and food doesn't typically arrive all at the same time-- so the rule is to just eat yours when it comes, and don't wait for the others. It all seems so laid back, with the emphasis being on the food. But of course everything is also very clean, which is extremely high on my list. So far, we've eaten most meals outdoors-- it will be a slightly different experience when the weather changes.
I have yet to go to a real grocery store. We don't have a car yet, but we'll rent one on Saturday and I will finally be able to put some substantial food in our fridge. Fortunately, there is the daily open market that I mentioned previously. I have bought a lot of produce there, and it is all great. And, I think, quite a bit more affordable than in Portland. This is very satisfying to me-- that we can afford to actually shop from farmers, and to do so on a frequent basis. Today I also bought some dairy products from the local convenience market, and all of it was both organic and very affordable. This is fantastic!! I will have so much fun cooking here.
The greatest challenge with eating here actually has nothing to do with local food. We had Amelia's food allergies tested before we left Portland, ostensibly to simplify matters once we arrived here. She has had so many limitations that I hoped we could find out some good news and eat more freely now. Well, there was good news but also some bad. She had graduated from many of her old allergens, including eggs, corn, bananas, melon and tomatoes. However, she has since developed a severe allergy to peanuts and almonds and.... the dreaded GLUTEN. Believe it or not, she hasn't had a bit of bread since we arrived here! The only way this is possible is because there are so many other good options for her, including potatoes, which are served everywhere. The hotel we're at has a crazy-extravagant "continental" breakfast. There are plates of cheeses and cold cuts, desserts, weird salads-- even one with oysters-- sausages, eggs, breads, an assortment of mueslis, fruit salad, and a range of yogurts. Amelia really packs it in, usually eating a bowl of muesli (with fruit juice in it,) three breakfast sausages, two slices of ham, and fruit. She is a very happy camper! And she has also had more meat on most days than she used to have all week! She doesn't mind of course, and I keep watching for a big growth spurt!
We were told that people here really like to eat sweets, and boy!-- They weren't joking! People hand Amelia candy all day, and there are bakeries on every corner selling cakes and danishes. I am trying to just be flexible and not make it a big deal. Also, the portions are huge! I think I've probably finished everything on my plate only a couple of times. Even salads are hard to finish. I have heard that Germans do not like to waste, and my sources confirm that they do indeed finish their portions. I'll work on it-- it shouldn't be too difficult!