Doing life right, at home and away

Tag: strasbourg

Of Strasbourg, the city

I actually wanted to some more share photos and write some more about Strasbourg – and Alsace – months ago, but the post kind of kept trailing and trailing. So I grunted and finally decided to take it off the back burner. If you are interested in Strasbourg and are looking for all kinds of travel tips, you should also check out my other posts:

Of eating in Strasbourg – restaurant tips, bars and such!

Of my favourite shop in Strasbourg – name says it all, for buying Alsatian artisanal pottery!

Well, it just so happened that Finland had its governmental elections and, instead of heading to my regular voting spot in Stuttgart, we opted for Strasbourg. The bus ride with ADAC Postbus from Karlsruhe is so cheap it’s almost impossible (10€ return) and only takes one hour. So, you will get a sexy mix of wintery photos and more recent, spring flavoured examples. You should also check my previous post about some eating in Strasbourg for more.

Anyway, to set the mood, here I am enjoying a demi of Bière Juliette from the local Brasserie Uberach on the terrace of Café Atlantico (bistrot-resto-dodo):

Drinking an Alsatian beer in Strasbourg

The author, drinking a beer.

It was one of the warmest days of spring so far and the spring was a bit further along in France than in Germany. The weather was verging on blazing hot and the air was filled with the sweet aroma of Magnolias, which were in full blossom along the riverside and on the backyard of seemingly every house and building.

I really like the city and the region. Alsace is generally a wonderfully curious place. It has such a bizarre history and I reckon its having been ping-ponged between different rulers and empires so many times has left a significant mark. Most visible and recent, though, is the modern German cultural and governmental impact. Due to the whole ping-ponging – especially between Germany and France – Alsace still applies “the local law”, which is quite an interesting arrangement. It lets the region have some of its entirely own, local legislation, operating alongside the rest of the French legal system.

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Gourmet food at Chez Yvonne, Strasbourg

Of eating in Strasbourg

While there is a rather limited amount of things I miss from my time in Paris, there is the food. If you are interested in Strasbourg overall, you should also read my other post. 

But, overall, eating in France is great.

It was actually Paris (and France) that shaped my attitude towards food and cooking so significantly. Don’t get me wrong, my mother is an amazing chef and taught me well, but in France, such culinary wonders are right at your fingertips and the choices are so endless that it will change you forever. Of course rather ironically, when living in Paris, cooking was practically impossible because of the inexistent kitchens.

Alsace is an interesting region due to their complicated history, being kind of the buffer zone of whatever happened between France & Germany. If you actually look at the timeline of Alsatian rule, it’s been ping-ponged by nations and empires probably a dozen times! (actually more, but I got bored of counting)  

So while Alsace is arguably not French in the traditional sense of the word (or neither is it German – my friends from the region tend to say, smirking, that they are Alsatian, which in the historical context makes a lot of sense),  whenever I cross the border – the change in attitude towards food culture is immediate.

Alsatian food is relatively different to the rest of France, due to the German influence. Pork is more widely used and Choucroute – the local version of Sauerkraut – is a regional speciality, alongside some more German-style sausages.

One of the most famous local specialities is a tarte flambée (or a flammkuechen in German) – which apparently originates from some Allemanic German speaking farmers in the region, who would  use a thin sheet of dough to test the heat of their wood fired ovens.

Tarte Flambe in Alsace

An other – a personal favourite – is the Baeckeoffe, or “backer’s oven”  by the local dialect. It’s the epitome of what to make in an Alsatian clay pot in the midst of the winter. It might even be the reason I have Alsatian clay pots! It’s a multi-meat stew (traditionally mutton, beef and pork), seasoned with Alsatian white wine and juniper berries and a selection of root vegetables bringing it together. Other things, such as leek, thyme, parsley, garlic, carrot and marjoram (or oregano) are used to give extra flavour.

The legend tells, that the Baekeoffe is actually inspired by a traditional Jewish dish of Shabbat, the Hamin (also called Cholent). The original dish was developed over centuries to conform to the prohibition of using fire from Friday night until Saturday night. The trick was to prepare it on Friday afternoon, then give it to the baker, who would keep it warm (and kinda cook it) in his cooling oven until Saturday noon.  A super cool trick from the baker:  apparently, he would take a long piece of dough, kind of a “rope”, and line the rim of the pot, then get the lid seal extremely tightly and keep all the moisture in.

By now, I’m sure you are wondering about the alcohol situation. Well let me tell you.

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Poterie d'Alsace shop window

Of my favourite shop in Strasbourg

There are many things to write about when writing about Strasbourg, but this post is exclusively dedicated to a topic dear to me, as well as my favourite shop: Poterie d’Alsace – Alsatian Pottery.

It’s right in the centre of the Old Town, at 3 rue des Frères, right behind the big cathedral. If you want to know more about things in general, check out my post about the city and eating in Strasbourg.

A friend of mine, Iris, told me about this shop a year ago when I was first visiting Strasbourg. I’ve been getting into clay pot cooking ever since I moved to Karlsruhe and was looking for my first “proper” clay pot. I was mesmerised by the shop and its ceramics – from the floor to the ceiling, all bright colours, the beautifully simple and delicate decorations and everything covered in the smooth, glossy glaze.

Alsace has a thousand year long tradition in pottery and a large portion of the area has specialised in pottery making. In 1850, thirty villages in the Lower-Rhein area were in the business of making pottery – however nowadays, only two most important nodes remain: Betschdorf and Soufflenheim. Around twenty family run artisanal potteries still exist in these towns. I have been dreaming of taking a pottery tour in Soufflenheim, but so far I’ve had to settle for visiting this little shop.

I also quite like the “story” behind the pottery region: back in 1165, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa of France granted the villages the right – or privilege – to extract clay from the surrounding forests. And this right is exercised by the pottery villages still today!

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