We celebrated Valentine’s Day early at Operakällaren, a one star Michelin restaurant in Stockholm’s center. Operakällaren is the city’s oldest restaurant, dating back to 1787 when the restaurant was situated under Gustav III’s opera house. Operakällaren is still linked with the royal family – Stefano Catenacci, the Chef de Cuisines, is responsible for all catering to the Royal Castle. We loved our meal and enjoyed the whole experience – delicious food and a great wait staff! Koen and I were also surprised that Stefano Catenacci came to our table personally to press our duck and even let me try! He also mentioned I’m the first guest to ask!
Finished! Finally finished! After three months of no free time – researching and writing in the evenings after work and on my days off – my thesis is completed! One step closer to my MBA!
One tradition that started a few years back, is that when my mom is in town we go out for a class of champagne at Café Impérial. It doesn’t matter what time of year, we always go to celebrate. Café Impérial is a beautiful café located in the Paleis op de Meir, the former Antwerp residence of Napoleon Bonaparte. So fabulously French! And this time we were lucky enough to celebrate on my mom’s actual birthday!
On our way back to the Netherlands, we planned for one more day trip – to Reims located in the heart of the Champagne region of France. After a big brunch, we packed up the car and headed north. Arriving at the Vranken Pommery Estate was a bit like arriving at Disneyland. I love the Neo-Elizabethean architecture and the powder blue buildings!
The tour was really great – I definitely would recommend visiting if you’re in Reims. The story of Madame Pommery is inspiring. In 1860 her husband passed away and she took control of the champagne house and turned it into what we know today! Can you imagine being a widowed mother of 2 in the late 1800s growing and managing the Pommery Estate?!
After our tour and champagne tasting, Koen’s sisters headed home, while Koen and I explored the city and had dinner with his parents in the city center.
Because we spent the first day at the house relaxing, for Saturday we planned a day trip to Beaune, known as the “Capital of Burgundy Wines”. Where better to take a walk through the vineyards, visit a chateau, and taste a few wines?
We began our day in Beaune with fuel for the rest of the day – aka coffee! After our caffeine boost, we headed to the Parc de la Bouzaize for a family picnic. We already packed the necessities – French cheese and fresh vegetables – and picked up fresh baked baguettes while walking through the city.
After lunch, we took a walk through the park which ultimately led us to the vineyards. What a breathtaking view. This was the first time I’d seen a vineyard. In Beaune, there are many routes you can walk through, and we took the one up a hill and were able to overlook not only the vineyards, but also the city of Beaune. The sun was shining, the sky was clear and blue, I had to keep pinching myself to know it was all real.
This was the perfect precursor to our tasting. We visited Bouchard Père et Fils, one of the oldest wine estates in Burgundy (founded in 1731!). Taken from their site, here is a description of the Château de Beaune:
In 1820 Bernard Bouchard purchased the Château de Beaune, a former royal fortress built in the 15th century by King Louis XI.
Four of the five original towers of the fortress, as well as parts of the ramparts, still stand today, and have featured on the list of historic monuments since 1937.
The cellars run deep underground beneath the property providing ideal natural storage conditions for Bouchard Père & Fils’ fine wines.
Up to 10 metres deep, the wines develop and age undisturbed. These include a unique collection of over 2,000 bottles from the 19th century. A priceless historical legacy with, as its icon, the oldest wine – a Meursault Charmes 1846 which still retains its luster.
After our tour of the Château, we were able to sample 6 wines – 3 red and 3 white. Koen and I couldn’t leave without buying a few bottles!
A trip to Burgundy wouldn’t be complete without a typical Burgundy meal – boeuf bourguignon, a meat stew made with red wine (from Burgundy, of course). For dinner we made reservations at 21 Boulevard, a restaurant specializing in the food of the region, located in a 15th century cellar. It was a great way to end our day in Beaune!
May 2015 marks the 35 year wedding anniversary of Koen’s parents Dook and Els. All of the children wanted to do something special, so we planned a weekend getaway to Burgundy, France for all 8 of us. The date was made known, but the destination remained a suprise until the day we departed!
We chose a beautiful house in Saint-Germain-Des-Bois, in the countryside to stay for the weekend. Koen and I drove down with his parents. To break up the trip, we made a quick stop in Péronne for lunch and to stretch our legs. Péronne is in Picardy, France and boasts a big history for such a small country town. The Museum of the Great War is located in the old chateau, and the whole city has statues and monuments dedicated to the Australians and WWI. Why Australia? I had the same question and looked it up once I was back home in Antwerp. At the Battle of Mont Saint-Quentin, Australian troops stormed, seized and held the key height of Mont Saint-Quentin (overlooking Péronne), a pivotal German defensive position on the line of the Somme.
The four of us arrived in Saint-Germain-Des-Bois at Moulin du Merle, at exactly the same time as Koen’s sisters. We had already done groceries and enjoyed the evening cooking together, drinking wine, and playing games all night!
Koen and I were finally able to visit Ellis Island! We really wanted to go last year, but because of Hurricane Sandy, the museum was closed. Koen and I visited Ellis Island with Christina and her family, Ashley, and Meredith. This was a special visit because Christina’s father’s father and grandfather (so her grandfather and great-grandfather) entered the United States via Ellis Island and both of their names are commemorated on a plaque. Koen and I visited the Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp recently, which is about leaving Europe for the United States, so we felt like we came full circle visiting Ellis Island and learning about entering the US.
Tonight I made dinner! About twice a month I become inspired to cook and try a new recipe. Because I have Sundays off, it is always an opportune time to experiment in the kitchen. I decided on Spaghettia alla Carbonara. I asked around for tips, researched its origins, and then decided how I would make it – as authentically Italian as possible. Carbonara translates into “charcoal burners”, which is why in the United States this dish is often called “Coal Miner’s Spaghetti”. Traditionally the Carbonara is made with Italian bacon, Parmesan and eggs and should not be “saucy”. This means no cream!