Showing posts with label Food and Drink. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food and Drink. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Jordaan Amsterdam Cafes and Cheese

Amsterdam Bikes - 1
Bikes on bridge: Runstraat Amsterdam

Jordaan is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Amsterdam and I spent a recent Thursday afternoon walking around there enjoying the city. I started by walking down Runstraat.

I was looking for a simple lunch so I stopped in at De Kaaskamer, which was offering a daily baguette for 5 Euros, why not? It was a local ham and soft goat cheese served on half a dark baguette. De Kaaskamer is one of those really great cheese shops where they sell hundreds of cheeses and the staff know everything about the different cheeses so they can point you in the right direction. The sandwich was great.

De Kaaskamer Amsterdam - 2
At De Kaaskamer cheese shop Amsterdam

I returned to the shop later in the afternoon to buy cheese to bring home. Then I realized you really need their expertise to help choose. After tasting several I decided on two. Here's how they are described on their labels: 

"'Brokkel de Brokkel' so do break off a piece of this very, very old cheese - impossible to cut with a cheese slicer. Invite some friends, open a bottle full bodied wine and enjoy this strong but sweet speciality. Break-a-breaker!"
"Deurninger Speciaal van het landgoed Kaamps - Special Dutch cheese made by farmer Herbert Nijland on his farm in the village of Deurningen near Hengelo. the cheese is treated with an Austrian mountain fungus. Special flavour!"
I'm looking forward to a Dutch cheese-tasting evening at home!

Then on to the Cafe de Pels just down the street, a cafe we visited before. Very nice coffee, newspapers, darkish interior, and totally comfortable.

Bistro t'Stuivertje Amsterdam - 2
Restaurant 't Stuivertje in Jordaan District Amsterdam

More walking, I was happy to find the great restaurant called t' Stuivertje on Hazenstraat 56 that we enjoyed so much last time we visited Amsterdam. I was glad to see it was still in business. Here's my review of Bistro 't Stuivertje from last time. I also found a very nice looking pizza place called pazzi (see my review) and a cool looking cafe, but to be honest, there seem like a million cool looking cafes in Amsterdam and especially in the Jordaan (maybe that's why I like it?).

Amsterdam Canals - 2
Amsterdam canal in winter

After walking around a little more it was happy hour, as my mother likes to say, and so I stopped in at a nice cafe at the corner of Elandsgracht and Prinsengracht overlooking the canal. I had a nice Heinekein beer and enjoyed the sun setting in the windows across the canal.

Cafe in Jordaan Amsterdam
Looking out from Jordaan cafe

All my Jordaan photos on Flickr.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Beer and Pizza in Amsterdam

't Arendsnest Amsterdam - 2
Partial list of the Dutch draft beer available at 't Arendsnest

Beer and pizza are two of my favorite things. After a full day attending the Social Cities of Tomorrow conference in Amsterdam, I took a leisurely walk back to my hotel through the Jordaan district of the city.
't Arendsnest Amsterdam - 4
IPA type beer at 't Arendsnest

I was lucky to find the 't Arendsnest beer bar which serves "Dutch beer only!" from seemingly most of the beer brewers in The Netherlands (although I did not notice any Heineken there?). They have 30 or so beers on tap and over 100 in bottles including a selection of Dutch abbey beers. I didn't realize that The Netherlands also had abby breweries (they are not all in Belgium).

I tasted two pilsner type beers and an India Pale Ale, all three were draft. All three were really good, very hoppy and clean tasting. They have a beer sampler for 7.50 Euros for three 12cl tastes, but I ordered normal size 25cl glasses and wound up paying 10 Euros with tip. Both bar tenders were fluent in English and happy to guide me to the right beers. They have some 'bar food' and many of the locals shared cheese plates, but the food did not seem to be the main point here! They also have tastings and things so it would be worth checking he website to learn if something interesting is going on when you visit.

After my beer I remembered walking by what looked like a great pizza place the day before: it had a wood burning oven, only served pizza and advertised "Italian slow food". So I decided to try and find it again. I retraced my steps, found the right canal (Prinsengracht), turned down the Elandsgracht (Jordaan Park), left on 1ste Looiersdwarsstraat walked to number 4 and Pazzi was open with room at the bench they have for people who want to eat their pizza in the shop.

Pazzi Amsterdam - 2
Blackboard menu at Pazzi Italian slow food Amsterdam
I ordered a Margarita, the pizza I use to compare pizzerias, and sat down to wait. About 3 minutes later I was served a great pizza: crisp thin crust, tart sauce, good amount of buffalo milk mozzarella cheese. By this time I was sharing the bench with a couple women who were splitting a quatro formaggio (served here with rucola) and two guys on my right who had both ordered Piccante pizzas. Apparently the Piccante pizzas were not spicy enough for the guys and they asked me to pass the hot pepper olive oil (that's when I asked them what kind of pizza they had since it was not entirely clear by looking).

Pazzi Amsterdam - 3
Piccante pizza at Pazzi Italian slow food Amsterdam
I finished my Margarita and decided to order one of the Piccante pizzas too. After all, when's the next time I will be in Amsterdam. As the guys were leaving they gave me back the hot pepper oil, but told me to be sure to taste the pizza first because it might be spicy enough for me without the oil. The Piccante pizza was also great. It had smoked mozzarella cheese, lots of hot pepper (no need for the hot pepper oil) and herbs. Really fine. (I brought half the pizza home.)

So, a fabulous gourmet evening for me in Amsterdam! All my photos from 't Arendsnest and Pazzi on Flickr. My Amsterdam photos on Flickr.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Slow Day at the Wurst Stand

Slow Day at the Wurst Stand

Wurst stands are ubiquitous in Vienna. I see this one everyday on my streetcar trips "downtown". I took the photo last Friday, it was hot and the chef was so relaxed it just seemed like a perfect opportunity.

Ironically, after posting the photo I had wurst for lunch at the airport and then wurst for dinner at the city hall reception given for the Cities for Mobility Congress in Stuttgart. It was a great reception with lots of international guests. The mayor spent the entire evening there talking with us and enjoying the great local hospitality.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Vacations without cars!

One of my favorite places in the world, Scuol Switzerland. You don't need a car as this photo shows ... it says: Engadin Scuol - for vacations without cars!

More photos of the Scuol Railway station, a wooden bridge and the great food we ate on my flickr set: Scuol Switzerland.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

(B)eat Pizza!

You can't beet this pizza!
I couldn't help but think about my friend Walt when I made this pizza on Tuesday night. Walt's an American ExPat in France. He writes a great blog with lots of posts on the wonderful food they cook and eat (here's one for okra and tomato pizza). But Walt can (and does!) make a pun about pretty much anything. So when I thought about the possibilities for puns from this pizza (how do you beet this pizza), I had to think about Walt. My pun's not perfect, but I am still learning from the master! Maybe Walt will add a pun in the comments!

Here's how I made the pizza. Christa had cooked and sliced the beets a couple nights before. After cooking, she marinaded them in oil, vinegar and caraway seeds (she had planned to use them in a salad). Instead, I made a pizza with them. I used (sorry to admit) roll out dough from the dairy case. First I pre baked the crust with a little olive oil and salt for about 10 minutes (I always find it necessary to pre bake these refrigerated pizza doughs).
Beet Pizza and Beer ... Yum!

Then I spread the pizza with yogurt, placed thinly sliced onions and freshly ground horseradish on the yogurt, ground some pepper, then added the beets. On top I added a little more horseradish. In the oven for about 10 more minutes and voila!

It really tasted good.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chicken Wings at Buffalo Niagara Airport

Buffalo Wings - Hot! Chicken wings at Buffalo Niagara Airport (from my flickr photos).
Just returned from a trip to the USA. No trip would be complete without having chicken wings in Buffalo. Here's a photo of the wings I had at the Anchor Bar restaurant in Buffalo Niagara Airport. They were pretty good!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Berlin Recommendations

Kollwitzplatz Berlin 22sept10-3

I was in Berlin last week for the Innotrans conference. Berlin's one of my favorite cities, it's a very special place - especially when the weather cooperates as it did on this trip.

One of the reasons I like Berlin is that I really have learned my way around - 3 one-month long German courses at the Goethe Institute helps a lot. I think I have walked through all the city neighborhoods and the Goethe Institute's culture program introduced me to the museums and the city's history.

Berlin S-Bahn sept10-10

Riding the S-Bahn above the city from Charlottenburg to Ostkreutz is probably the best urban rail experience in the world. You pass all the main Berlin sights including the Reichstag (with its transparent dome), the new government buildings, the fantastic new main train station (Hauptbahnhof), the historic art museums on Museum Insel and of course the Spree River. Many of the stations are works of art in and of themselves: Freidrichstrasse, Hackescher Markt, Alexanderplatz ... I could ride this line all day long ... but alas, I had work to do at Innotrans.

Innotrans is a huge exhibition for all types of public transportation. All the major manufacturers of buses, railway vehicles and equipment, vehicle components, software systems, consulting firms, ticket machine vendors, ... you name it, they are there. It's almost too much, even for a public transport guy like me. The main reason I attended was to help the Rail Technology Cluster Austria (RTCA) with a couple projects.

On my trip I returned to several old favorite restaurants and tried two restaurants recently reviewed in the Financial Times - all were great and were a wonderful antidote to public transport overload. I had an appetizer of cold smoked trout served on potato salad with bacon the first night. I enjoyed a really fresh draft Augustiner (Munich) beer with it. The kitchen and bar at Alte Europa (in Mitte) is quite creative and the food is always great.

Kurpfalz-Weinstuben Berlin 21sept10-3

On Tuesday I went to Kurpfalz-Weinstuben (photo above). The restaurant has a limited menu because one person, Rainer Schultz (the owner), cooks. I spent a long time discussing the menu with my waitress and finally selected the 'wild' soup (wild is meat that traditionally is hunted: deer, boar, etc. and is generally available in the fall). My soup was made with boar and wild mushrooms. It was delightful.

Did I mention the wines? The restaurant is justifiably famous for its wines - they offer probably 50 wines by the glass. I asked my waitress to make recommendations for me, and she did a great job. A very dry Riesling with the wild soup.

Kurpfalz-Weinstuben Berlin 21sept10-2

My main course was a kabob of pork fillet and pieces of apple wrapped in bacon (actually Tyrolean dried ham). The meat had been marinated and was as tender as could be. It was served with a potato salad made with apple cubes and tiny diced pickles. I don't like heavy potato salads, but this was incredibly light - Chef Schultz told me he made it with creme frache instead of mayonnaise. I was bad and asked if I could taste the sauerkraut (a side dish that accompanied one of the other main courses). My waitress brought me a large bowl full and it was wonderful: very light and fresh tasting, not at all sour, again, home made. That's Herrn Schultz in the photo below.

Kurpfalz-Weinstuben Berlin 21sept10-5

I ended the meal with honey parfait which was the perfect compliment for all the food and wine I enjoyed. Kurpfalz-Weinstuben is a wonderful place. My meal with wine was about 45 Euros without tip.

Berlin Schwartzwaldstuben 22sept10-3

On Wednesday I returned to a place in Mitte called Schwarzwaldstuben. I actually lived on the third floor of this building on my last Goethe Institute course, so I had eaten here several times. They specialize in cooking from the Black Forest (in German: Schwarzwald) and also have Rothaus Beer from the region. I had the lunch special shown in the photo above, Wild Goulash - goulash made from deer meat - that was perfectly cooked and seasoned. It came with green Spätzle - perfect for soaking up the wonderful goulash sauce.

That evening I went to another restaurant recommended in the FT: Weinstein. It's located in Prenzlauerburg and is also a wine lover's paradise. One of the nice things about this restaurant is that if you order three courses they give you free mineral water and coffee, so I ordered three courses!

I started with celery soup: bright green with little bits of sausage in it. It went perfectly with the Pfaz wine recommended by my waiter.

Berlin Weinstein 22sept10-4

My main course was deer fillet served on top of a bed of green beans (which were cooked with bacon and onion) surrounded by four oven roasted cherry tomatoes (at the corners). The meat was so tender you could cut it with your fork and the vegetables were cooked well enough to stand up to the meat. Incredibly, the recommended wine was a Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel ... my favorite California Zin from my ZAP days in San Francisco ... served by the glass! You know what I drank.

Berlin Weinstein 22sept10-6

Dessert was mini quark cakes in a compote of plums marinated in cinnamon. The quark cakes were little balls, light as a feather, served warm in the bowl full of compote. Yum. The recommended wine was a sweet German Riesling from the Mosel region, and while I am not normally a sweet wine drinker, the waiter said it was really worth trying, and he was right. While sweet, it also had a touch of mineral taste that gave it more depth than many sweet wines I have drunk. My meal cost about 52 Euros without tip.

Weinstein also has a tasting menu on Monday to Wednesday that lets you try small portions of their seasonal menu, perhaps I should have done that since everything I ate was superb. The price for the tasting was 36 Euros (without wine and tip).

ZRH Airport 23sept10-1

I needed to fly through Zürich on my way back to Vienna, and our flight was quite delayed leaving Berlin. But, I just caught my flight from Zürich to Vienna (I was one of those guys running through the airport and they closed the door right after I walked on - thanks Swiss!) and arrived at home to ask Christa when we can go to Berlin for a holiday.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Tre Porcellini in Macelleria Falaschi - San Miniato

I helped with the Slow Food Terra Madre in Vienna last fall. My job was to help make the group of vendors from Italy feel at home (I know, tough work, but someone's got to do it!).

I spent a lot of time talking and eating with Andrea Falaschi from the Falaschi butcher shop in San Miniato. They host an annual "Jazz at the Macelleria" party at the butcher shop (macelleria means butcher shop in Italian) and this week I received this invitation for a puppet show from them ... unfortunately I can't attend but wish I could, their sausage and prosciutto are fantastic! The photo on the right is Andrea making a point, note the knife in his left hand ...


The Sergio Falaschi's Butcher, this year at the international exhibition of street theater "La Luna è Azzurra" in San Miniato, has decided to offer a show of puppetry, inspired by the Group " Teatro a Dondolo" from Pisa, based oa reinterpretation of the Three Little Pigs story, inspired by the three figures of pigs raised in the wild state, the ones rised in the semi-wild state and the pink pig raised in stable. The show will be accompanied by a live musical performance, conceived for the occasion by "Bill Gorazde".
During the the show, entitled " I TRE PORCELLINI IN MACELLERIA" (The Three Little Pigs in Butcher), a tasting of three different types of salami will be offered to the pubblic: The Cinta Senese Dop (from pork raised in the wild), the Grey (from pork raised semi-wild state) and classic Tuscan salame with wine (from pink pig raised in stable). The salami tasting will be all accompanied by "Annick" and "Nicole" wines by Cosimo Maria Masini.
.......We kindly requires adults accompanied by childrens.............

The evening event will be held on Thursday, June 24.
The performances will start at 21:15 and 22:15.

We are waiting for you!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Munich update

I visited Munich last week and had a great time. I re-visited my favorite "bio" lunch stand at the Viktualienmarkt, then headed to the nearby Stadtmuseum (City Museum) for a very nice exhibit called "Typisch München!" ... not enough on Munich food and beer for me, but otherwise fine (here's the German description). They had the Munich medieval period city model on display in the exhibit. More on city models here.

It was a dreary rainy day, so after walking around a bit I decided to head to the Munich Film Museum, which is in the basement of the Stadt Museum. They were showing an American film called "The Lusty Men" about rodeo cowboys. It was really good, I learned a lot about rodeos and the film itself was excellent.

I had dinner at one of my favorite Munich restaurants Der Pschorr located at the edge of the Viktualienmarkt. I had Sauerbraten with a knodel and rot kraut (red sauerkraut), the food, and the draft helles beer from a wooden keg was fantastic as always.

On my return trip (I flew to the USA via Munich), I stopped for lunch at the Augustiner Keller brewery, which is about 400 meters from Munich's main train station (I was taking the train back to Vienna). I had the lunch special: hackbraten (meat loaf) with spatzle and the JW Augustiner Edelstoff beer. Also very tasty ... what is it that makes beer taste so good in Munich? Let it suffice to say that I had a relaxing trip back to Vienna!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Kristian's Monastiri Vienna - Restaurant Review

Last Saturday we had an excellent dinner at Kristian's Monastiri in Vienna's 7th District. The restaurant was totally full and everyone seemed to be having a nice time. The restaurant staff were friendly and attentive - even though they were so busy - a welcome change.

Our waiter recommended two bottles of wine, first a Grüner Veltliner - one with a nice mineral taste (so good we drank two bottles!), and then a red curvee. The wine list focuses on Austrian wines and these two were excellent. It was especially nice because the recommendations were relatively reasonably priced (25 Euros, 39 Euros).

We were served an very nice amuse bouche to start, there's a photo above. (Sorry for the photo quality, the lighting was very romantic!) It was a small piece of smoked duck breast and a pepper mouse.

Then several of us had the artichoke - sheep cheese salad, also very good. Several of us also had the manzanitas pork: two different cuts of meat served together. Also quite nice.

We tried three desserts and the cheese plate. All were excellent. On the left is the variation of sorbets and ice cream. On the right are the Bohemian pancakes and rhubarb ice cream. At the top of the article is passion fruit, creme brulee and passion fruit ice cream.

Our only complaint was that some smoke wafted in from the adjacent smoking section a couple times, although it was not bad by Austrian standards. Dinner for five with three bottles of wine cost about 300 Euros including tip.

I used to walk through the wonderful pedestrian passageway alongside the restaurant everyday for a project I was working on in 2007 and always wanted to eat here, now I wonder what took me so long. We'll be back again soon!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bern Switzerland Recommendations

Bern rooftops and the Alps in the distance from the roof of Bern's main station (from my Bern flickr photos - click on any of the photos to enlarge).

We traveled to Bern often when we lived in Switzerland and recently visited to attend a conference. Here are some recommendations.

Bern is Switzerland's capitol and is less than an hour from Zurich by train. The train is a great way to travel: it's faster than driving and you can see exactly how Switzerland's "taktfahrplan" system works (it's a timed transfer system where all trains arrive in stations a few minutes before the hour - then passengers transfer between trains - then the trains all leave a few minutes after the hour). Here's some information on transport in Zurich and Switzerland from my website.

 Bern Cathederal and center city (shot near the Barengraben).
The Zurich - Bern route is especially interesting because to make the one-hour "takt" work, the SBB had to build a high speed section of track on the route. Now the non-stop trains take about 57 minutes - the high speed section was designed exactly to fit the one-hour takt. If you take the train, look around: there is a non-stop train every half hour and several local trains - and they are almost all full. The Swiss rail system is a great example of how creating an integrated network of high quality public transportation can get people out of their cars. But, back to Bern.
 Kornhaus Bridge in Bern (note the tram on the bridge and the Alps faintly in the background).
Bern's main train station is in the center of town. Like most Swiss rail stations Bern's is very busy. It's filled with stores (which, due to a special law, are open late and on Sundays - in contrast to most stores in Switzerland). From the main concourse you have two choices: go towards the city center or towards the parking garage.

Surprise! First, go in the direction of the parking garage. A set of elevators will take you past the parking floors to the fourth floor: the elevators open onto a huge park called the Grosse Schanze in front Bern University's main building. This photo shows elevator building, cafe and university building (unobstructed view). In the other direction is a view over the city and if it's clear you'll be able to see the Alps in the distance (see top photo). There is a restaurant here which is pretty good, it's actually a cafeteria for the SBB workers, but Swiss cafeterias can be quite good.

The historic center of Bern is a UNESCO world heritage site. Much of it was built during the middle ages and it's filled with brightly painted fountains and cobblestone streets. The most noticeable feature are the arcades: there are continuous arcades on many of the central streets. The first level of these buildings is filled with stores, restaurants and cafes. There is a farmers market on Saturday in front of the Swiss Parliament and extending down some of the adjacent streets. The photo is behind the scenes at the market: coffee to go. The center of Bern is a wonderful place to wander around.

One of the highlights in Bern is the Zentrum Paul Klee. Klee grew up in Bern, became a teacher at the famous Bauhaus school in Germany, and then moved back to Bern. A large collection of Klee paintings was donated to the city on the condition that they build a museum for it. The Zentrum Paul Klee museum, designed by Renzo Piano, is a beautiful building with an undulating grass covered roof. The site overlooks the city and is easily reached by the #12 bus from the main train station (the museum is at the end of the line and so the buses say "Zentrum Paul Klee" on the front). The museum can be crowded so plan accordingly.

Also note that if you are coming on the train to Bern you can buy a combination ticket for the round-trip train ride, the local bus and the museum from your originating train station. Just ask for a "RailAway" ticket for the Zentrum Paul Klee (German only). Also note that RailAway (English) has lots of great rail ticket combination offers. These not only save you money, but also reduce the hassle of figuring out how to buy tickets and use local public transport systems (although using public transport is not difficult in Switzerland).

You can also walk to the museum, the city has recently created several "trails" through Bern connected with Paul Klee. The trails also take you to other Bern sights and have signs describing the connection with Klee. The sign at the right has a drawing Klee made when he was growing up showing the same perspective of the city as you can see.

We have three restaurant recommendations, although there are plenty of great places to eat in Bern. The first is the Altes Tram Depot, a modern microbrewery built into, well, an old tram depot. It's directly adjacent to the Barengraben: an open-air cage for bears (Bern's city symbol is the bear, you'll see bear images a lot in Bern). Right in front of the tram depot is the old bear pit, just looking at it makes you feel sorry for the bears kept there; but on the side is the newly completed bear area: a large expanse on the banks of the Aare River with its own river water. It's a huge improvement and another popular tourist site.

 New Barengraben in Bern.

The Altes Tram Depot restaurant has traditional Swiss and "beer hall" food not to mention excellent beer. We have eaten here many times and it's always been good. Last time I had their wild (venison) shown in the photo, and our friends had Zurich geschnitzels (veal in cream sauce), Munich Weisswurst and spatzele - everything was tasty and high quality. It's a busy restaurant but service is quite good although it can get loud (after all it's a beer hall!). They have a wonderful terrace/ beer garden overlooking the Aare and historic center, it's a great place to have a beer and enjoy the view. (It's also on the #12 bus line to the Paul Klee Zentrum - bus stop: Barengraben).

On our last trip we had dinner in a wonderful restaurant called Brasserie Bollwerk. It overlooks the railway viaduct that leads into the Bern main station, so there's lots of trains going by (especially just before the hour and just after the hour, have you been paying attention?). They also have a nice terrace for outdoor dining, although it's on a busy corner so there is lots of automobile traffic. The restaurant is a member of Slow Food Switzerland and so much of the food is local and organic - they are also non-smoking! They have drawings from a local artist, the photo shows a set of postcards to help explain the local Bern dialect of German.

We started with a calamari and fennel dish (shown in the photo), then the special of the evening, a wonderful roast lamb (perfectly cooked) with potatoes and vegetables. Dessert was a really find chocolate mousse. They also had a wonderful Côtes du Roussillon wine that went perfectly with the food. The staff at Brasserie Bollwerk were friendly and efficient. They are open for lunch and dinner during the week.

Note that across the street in the ground floor of the rail station is the SBB Heritage Foundation library. This is not really a museum, but the historic archives of the Swiss National Railway. They often have small exhibits in the lobby area. They are only open on weekdays 9-12 and 13:30-17, and you need to ring the bell to visit.

We had lunch at another great restaurant called Moléson. One of my favorite foods is tarte flambée, the Alsacian pizza-like dish. I like the traditional version with creme frasche, muenster cheese, bacon and onions; Moléson's tarte flambée had a couple more ingredients, but was very tasty. The service could not have been better - they even let us substitute the traditional tarte flambée for the one on the daily special menu (a chicken-curry based model, maybe ala Wolfgang Puck's spicy chicken pizza, but, to me a bit of a travesty ...). We had a wonderful salad to start and coffee was served just right. The restaurant in the back looked excellent too (we ate in the front cafe). They also try to use local ingredients and organic food.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Scoul Switzerland Recommendations

We returned to Scoul, one of our favorite places in Switzerland, for our ski holiday this year. The weather was great and the snow was fine. Scoul is about four hours from Zurich by railway. This post lists some of the reasons we love Scoul.

First, of course, is the Rhaetische Bahn; Scoul is the terminal station (shown in the photo above) at the southeastern end of the Engadine Valley (St Moritz is at the other end of the valley). The Rhaetische Bahn is a narrow gauge railway that serves the canton of Grabunden. It operates the famous Bernina Express and Glacier Express. This is a special year because the Bernina line is 100 years old. Anyway, the Rhaetische Bahn is exactly as you imagine a Swiss railroad: small red trains traveling through a magnificent landscape. If the weather had not been so good we would have taken a few joyrides over the Bernina Pass, but that will need to wait for this summer.

The skiing in Scoul is very good. Switzerland is spoiled for all the wonderful places to ski and Scoul, which would be on the top of the list in any other country, is not as popular as the more famous resorts. But, of course that has the positive side that it's a little less crowded and a little less expensive. The lifts are also a bit outdated (they have several Tee bars and old chairlifts in addition to the brand new gondola and a couple new chairlifts).

Another great reason to go to Scoul is the mineral bath. They have a relatively modern bath complex right in the middle of the town. My favorite part of the bath is the outdoor section with a view of the mountain peaks in the not so far distance (see the photo on their website). You can visit the bath for three hours (bring your own towel) or do something called the Roman-Irish bath, which is a two-and-a-half hour experience of going from sauna to massage to steam bath to different temperature mineral pools, followed by a half-hour rest. We've done both and they are highly recommended. You need to book the Roman-Irish bath in advance, see their website.

Scoul is a tourist destination and there are many places to eat and sleep. The old town down the hill from the main street, has wonderful historic architecture and traditional guest houses. The main street has several historic and modern hotels with all the comforts you would expect in Switzerland.

We have stayed at the Hotel Traube, an historic hotel, the Hotel Curuna, a very nice hotel with a very good breakfast, and Chasa Sofia, a four-room bed and breakfast that is out of this world. All three are located right in the center of Scoul, within five-minute walk of the bath.

Finally there's lots of great food in Scoul. We visited a wonderful cafe on our trip in February: Mund Art. It's a great place for cake and coffee or a drink anytime (try the local beer: Biera Engiadinaisa). The people are wonderfully nice and friendly, the owner gave us a tasting of his homemade chili pepper syrup.

We had a wonderful dinner at the Hotel Traube restaurant (they also have Biera Engiadinaisa). Their wine list is superb, they probably have 50 different wines from the Canton of Grabunden; we had an excellent Pinot Noir (Blauburgunder) from Annatina Pelizzatti. We all had variations of venison (Wild), either steak (shown in the photo upper left) or stew with spatzele, one of my favorite wintertime mountain village dishes.

Finally, no trip to Scoul would be complete for us without a visit to the Pizzaria Giovanni adjacent to the Hotel Curuna. They have a wood-fired oven, use local organic ingredients where possible and have a wide variety of dishes beyond pizza, but the pizza is great. Service was a little scattered on our visit but the food was fine.

We can't wait until our next visit to Scoul!