Sunday, May 24, 2009

Eating My Way through Germany: You Don't Know What A Sweet Tooth Is Until You Come Here

The streets of Heidelberg's old city (Altstadt) are all cobblestone and pedestrians only (Fußgängerzone), full of little shops that are teeming with goodies.

That's the cathedral in the background, standing in the middle of a square that also has markets on weekends.

It's absolutely lovely. And, for part of the summer and the whole next academic year, I get to live in an apartment right at the heart of all this loveliness! It's one of those apartments with dormer windows and sloping ceilings, above restaurants and stores.

The problem will be keeping from eating at the luscious bakeries and chocolateries that line the blocks every day! In the space of 2 blocks I counted 1 bakery, 2 chocolateries, and 2 gummy bear stores. Stores that are devoted only to selling gummy bears! I'll let the pictures do the talking. All I'm saying is, you only have to walk 2 blocks to see everything I've posted below. You might need to get a glass of milk to cut the sweetness.

In the window of our favorite bakery. Those cube things are called
Pflasterstein, meaning "cobblestone."
They're filled with cake and marzipan.
Those globes in dark and white chocolate - scroll down for further detail.

The first resolution I made upon seeing this is: I have to try
every one of these outrageous looking sweets.

Remember Augustus Gloop from the new "Charlies and the Chocolate Factory"?
I think the caricature of him as a German chocolate eating machine
is not too far from the truth...

Okay, this was photographed with a hand to give a sense of size. It is enormous.

It's filled with cake and cream and more chocolate. It's decadence, in ball form.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Getting Crafty

Ever since getting together with my friends, E and D, to visit yarn and fabric stores in NYC, I've been spending an inordinate amount of time knitting and sewing. It's fast becoming an obsession!

At Purl in Soho, petting the pretty, pretty skeins of yarn.

At Purl Fabric. I love their Japanese prints!

Last weekend, D came down from Boston to have a sewing weekend with me. It was a chapter of accidents: elastic thread didn't work, not enough fabric (due to errata in a book), not enough tracing paper, etc. etc. But, we still got to play with pretty fabric!

And I've been knitting like crazy - too bad I can't knit during lecture! I guess that would 1) be disrespectful and 2) reinforce stereotypes - do I want to be the female academician who knits during meetings? Anyway, I finished my first hat:

It's knit of the softest baby alpaca wool - but in a sedate color, since it's a guy's hat. As my friend E likes to say, guy's knits are all boring. They all have to be in "manly" colors of blue, gray, or black. Ah well!

And here is Marlowe, modeling a scarf I knit and gave to a friend. I fell in love with the hand dyed yarn - but when it's knit up it is too funky for my style, I think.

Marlowe says, "Somebody help me!!! She's a crazy knitting freak!"

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Amouage Perfumes

nce upon a time there lived a sultan. He was very sad because his land was once renowned for its riches and especially for its heady perfumes. But now the bazaars were empty, and the perfumers, one by one, had packed their chests and departed to seek their fortunes elsewhere.

But one day he had an idea. He would hire the most famous French perfumer and bring him to his palace. He would ask him to bring the art of perfumery back to his land. He would ask him to concoct something absolutely breathtaking, full of spices, incense, and attars so rich that whole fields of roses would be used for one precious vial.

The French perfumer came. He admired the palace. He listened to the sultan's sad tale. He stepped into the laboratory set up for him and went to work.

Three weeks later, he asked for an audience with the sultan. He brought forth a small crystal bottle. When he unstopped it and held it under the sultan's nose, the sultan almost fainted with joy. From the bottle flowed the scent first of roses, then of Provence herbs--all classic scents in the French tradition--but then it changed its tune ever so slightly. Suddenly, the sultan could smell the desert night, the cool breeze under a hundred flying carpets. He could smell the musky scent of Scheherezade as she lay in her silken bed, frankincense rising from a censer behind her. It was the answer to his dreams.

The perfume markets began their trade again. Artists and craftsmen competed to mix the sweetest fragrances, the richest oils. The French perfumer went back to his land, with a thousand camels, five hundred chests of jewels, and one hundred golden lamps, full of perfumed oil. The sultan rejoiced and breathed in the fragrance rising from beyond the ivory walls of his palace.

Okay, maybe there weren't a thousand camels, but this story, in its bare bones, is all true. In 1983, the Sultan of Oman asked Guy Robert to revive the Arabian art of perfumery, no expense spared. Guy Robert is the "nez" of French perfumery. He concocted Amouage Gold for the Sultan, what he called "the crowning glory of my career."

And I own it! I bought a bottle of it off ebay when I discovered that its 24% lead crystal bottle and 24K gold top (for Gold for women) was being discontinued. It is truly a thing of beauty--both bottle and scent.

Amouage Gold for men (left) and women (right)
I must admit that my favorite Amouage scent is Jubilation XXV and not Gold. XXV is just about the most perfect thing I have ever smelled. It is an incense scent but full of the heady smell of a fruity wine as well. It's a man's scent, but I long ago decided that gender does not play a role with regards to the nose. At least not for me. When I wear it, I swear I'm at the market place in Oman at dusk, surrounded by candied dates and scented resin. I only have a sample vial for now...Amouage is a pricey brand, and for good reason! You can smell the amazing quality of their ingredients. But this makes them prohibitively expensive. My Gold bottle was a steal. Someday, though, Jubilation XXV will be mine.