travel agent recommendations?

We’re looking at some potentially complicated travel:

  • There are no non-stop flights to our destination from anywhere near us.
  • There are no flights that will take us all the way to the destination via our airline alliance of choice.
  • Some of the best deals we’ve found via our airline alliance of choice for the long-haul part of the trip would require an overnight stay in a foreign (to us, sorta) city before travel on an off-brand airline could continue to our final destination.
  • Booking airline tickets à la carte scares the bejeezus out of me, since I’m not a travel agent and don’t know how to set up interline ticketing for myself. I would hate to miss a connecting flight due to a delay on the first flight and have to purchase a second connecting flight ticket.
  • Four bullets really would have been plenty for a post like this.

So my fellow expatriate globetrotters living in Germany: can you recommend us a travel agent? Preferably one with a branch here in Regensburg? I’d love some consumer experiences to help me decide. We’ve never used a travel agent for anything before.

couple things

Here are some various things that are going on with us at the moment.

Little Bitty Peach PiesEdeka’s got nice white-fleshed nectarines from France in stock. I bought five of them, feeling nostalgic for France last month. Guess what? They were every bit as good. So I stopped eating them and the rest are going into some personal-sized pie pans I bought at Little Bitty Peach Pies cookmal! at the DEZ. What a neat store! I am sure that is going to be a dangerous place for me/us (like Pryde’s in Kansas City). Plus, they sell KitchenAid standmixers…now, if only our Siemens-branded Küchenmaschine would sputter and die…

the new clock

the new painting

In other longing-for-France news, we finally hung some stuff on our walls. We’d been planning this since having bought a painting and a cute clock at the Sunday market in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue back at the beginning of our France trip. Odd thing though: we couldn’t, for the life of us, find our hammer (necessary for wall-mounting light stuff not requiring drill-in wall anchors). Fortunately the Real store is only about 7 minutes away by bike and they’re open until 20:00 on Saturdays. Else we’d have to wait until Monday when the stores are open to get our wall decorations up.

mid-pie And these photos were brought to you by some new gadgetry: Sarah’s new point-n-shoot camera and my new flash for the DSLR. I love my DSLR and trying new stuff out with it, but I don’t always love lugging it around with me. Samsung E55 Samsung E55This little number should be ideal for the sneaky snaps at the grocery store or capturing German Man Short-Shorts while out and about.

One last thing: give us your Southern-Spain travel stories. AirBerlin has published their fare specials for Spain up to and including summer 2010, and we’re thinking about a four of five day trip, with a flight into and out of Sevilla, sometime in the Spring – like March or April, but preferably not in the week leading up to Easter.

Buttermilk Biscuits

Buttermilk Biscuits | Serious Eats : Recipes.

Oh. My. Goodness. This is it. This is the recipe I have been looking for all these years. These are even better than the biscuits I couldn’t get von dem Obersten. The original recipe is linked above; my version (chiefly metric conversions) is below. I particularly liked the hint about not twisting the cutter when you cut them out to keep the texture optimum.

2 1/2 cup (375 g) unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 (150 g) stick very cold butter, plus 1 tablespoon
1 cup very cold buttermilk

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F (220°C).

2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt till combined. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) cubes and drop into the flour mixture. Take the butter pieces between your fingers and press them until they are as thin as a nickel (1€).

3. Place the butter and flour mixture in the freezer for 15 minutes (that’s actually just a quarter of an hour).

4. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a small bowl and set aside for brushing the biscuits later.

5. Lightly flour your work surface.

6. Take the chilled flour and butter mixture out of the freezer. Slowly incorporate the buttermilk into the flour mixture. Gently fold the dough together with a spatula. The dough should not have any dry flour pockets and should not be overly sticky.

7. Transfer the dough to your work surface and pat it into a rough square. The original recipe instructs you to roll the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick, but that seemed too thick to me. I am sure I my average thickness was only about 2 cm and I didn’t roll out the dough at all — I just kind of flattened it with my hands. Using a 3 inch (7 cm) round cutter dusted with flour, cut out as many biscuits as you can. Do not twist the cutter; press the cutter straight down as you cut. Dip the cutter in flour between each cut. Gather the scraps and re-roll the dough until it’s the same thickness as before and cut out as many biscuits as possible. You should end up with about 9 biscuits according to the original, but we only got 8.

8. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the melted butter. Bake until biscuits look golden brown, about 17 to 20 minutes. Cool before serving—if you can wait that long. Actually, hold off if you can — seriously, they were even better at room temperature.

Malaysian model, mother to be caned for drinking beer in public –

Malaysian model, mother to be caned for drinking beer in public –

Check that story out. This is why we haven’t visited and aren’t planning any trips to Indonesia, Malaysia (Truly Asia!), or similar places.

Too crazy!

Delicious Chickpea Soup

I’ve made this twice and loved it and totally forgotten to post it. The original is here and I don’t think I’ve made that many changes to it. A couple of notes, though: using dried chickpeas never works for me. I soaked those little bastards for about 18 hours and they were still hard when chopped up. When I made it again, I just went with canned and the texture benefited greatly. And use the fresh rosemary. It makes all the difference.

1/2 lb (250 g) dried chickpeas soaked overnight and then simmered for 2 hours until tender *or* 1 can of chickpeas, drained (I used two cans – I like lots of chickpeas)
2 T olive oil
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 stick of celery, finely diced
1 onion, finely diced
2 T tomato paste (one small can
1 sprig rosemary
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 c vegetable or chicken stock or water the chickpeas were cooked in, with more plain water added to make up the difference, if necessary
* optional* 500ml extra water or stock for if you cook the pasta in the soup
Parmesan rind
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lb small dried tubular pasta (ditali)
*optional* olive oil for on top
*optional* shredded Parmesan for on top

Heat the oil to medium-low in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the carrot, celery and onion to the oil and sautée until soft and translucent. Stir in tomato paste, rosemary and garlic, then add chickpeas.

Cover everything with stock or water and throw in Parmesan rind. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer for about 20 minutes.

Remove the rind and rosemary and pass everything through a food mill or give it a blast with the stick blender until you achieve the desired texture. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Now, two choices:

1. add some more water or stock to the soup, bring it to the boil and cook your pasta directly in the soup


2. cook your pasta separately, then add it to the soup, letting things rest for about 5 minutes so the flavors mingle. Serve drizzled with oil and some freshly grated Parmesan. – Special Offers – Special Offers.

Act quick!  Meetuppers from the North, this could be your ticket to Munich!  29€ one-way-per-person fares inside Germany and its neighbors; other deals also apply and some of them are bundled with hotel stays.

You gotta buy today or tomorrow and travel in September or October.  Click the link above for the details.

New Theme: Sénanque

We’ve been back from our France for some time now, but it hasn’t escaped our thoughts.  I’ve developed another WordPress theme based on my impressions from a trip to Provence.  I named this latest one after the abbey we visited.  It’s mostly ready for public consumption at this point, with some final touches necessary as I stumble across them.

If you’re not seeing a new look to the old Regensblog, click here to force your browser to show you the new design.  You can switch back to a familiar one anytime you like using the links in the navigation area labelled “Themey Stuff.”

WEBUM 2009 – Keeping it moist

It’s right around the corner! The Whiney Expat Blogger Unmissable Meetup is happening in Munich, September 4-6, 2009. If you want the details, go to the discussion board and sign up for an account or login if you already have an account and haven’t been there in a while. To get access you need to:

-be an expat blogger or
-know an expat blogger who will vouch for you.

These are measures to keep spammers and bots away. We’re not mean high school girls guarding our lunch table or anything. Last year’s event in Bremen was a lot of fun (thanks again, Claire!) and a great opportunity to discuss your discoveries with fellow expatriates. Cliff and I had a good time checking out an area of Germany in which we hadn’t spent much time, so if you need an excuse to come to Munich, this might be it!

Peach and Crème Fraîche Pie

Fruit pie success! We’ve had a spate of sloppy, overly juicy fruit pies in the past few weeks. Two factors contribute to this: 1) Summer fruit is looking and smelling so gorgeous of late and 2) Cliff is a pie-crust rolling fool. I’ve never been a huge pie nut or fruit fan, so I’m less than driven to perfect the process. However, we will be making this again because it was so lovely. And easy. I found it here and made a couple of small adjustments, plus we used our own pie crust recipe.

1/4 c confectioners’ sugar
1/4 t baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 to 6 T flour
1/4 c cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 1/2 lbs (4 to 5 medium) yellow peaches, ripe, pitted and sliced
4 T granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
5 T crème fraîche

First, put your sliced peaches, sugar and salt in a large bowl and stir to coat. Set aside to sit for about 10 minutes.

Next, make the streusel: combine all ingredients in a deep bowl and cut together with a pastry cutter or two knives. The mixture should be crumbly and coarse – if it isn’t crumbly enough, add more flour one tablespoon at a time. Once you get the right texture, set the streusel aside.

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Roll out your pie crust and place in a 9-inch pie dish (don’t use a deep dish!). Crimp the crust edges as you like and poke the bottom with a fork. At this point in the original recipe, you’re supposed to parbake the crust, but I skipped that step and don’t think it’s necessary. If you prefer to parbake, go look at the original recipe linked above for the instructions.

Take 2 tablespoons of your crème fraîche and spread it on the bottom of the pie crust, then sprinkle about 1/3 of your streusel on the crème fraîche. Arrange the peaches in the pie crust – don’t worry if it looks like there is too little, they will release some juice and fill it out. Now dot the peaches with the remainder of the crème fraîche and top with the rest of the streusel. Bake for about 50 minutes, remove from oven, allow to cool completely to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.