Monday, October 12, 2015

Kein Duck a l'Orange in Strasbourg

J went to Paris and Strasbourg for the weekend to see John and Sarah and Issac and Jonas, who are living in Paris for the year, and also to see Philipp and Maria, who came over from Stuttgart, and for the romance of Paris in the morning. 

But I went to escape the Trumpen Proletariat, and in search of Duck à l'Orange. Sure, we were warned that the traditional cliched dish is primarily served to tourists and old people (usually one and the same), and sure, it's absurd that in the U.S. we call it Duck a l'orange rather than Canard a l'orange or Orange Duck, and sure, John calls it a "pretty unattractive dish," but whatever, I've always liked the stuff.

John's duck confit with duck fat potatoes (better than my potatoes, I have to concede) only whetted the appetite.

And plus, maybe there's something to be said for chasing the classics in a city (Paris) that now serves this (read the sign above the bun).

Then again, at least the French are willing to embrace new things. Which brings me to ... European beer. That's right baby, we're back in business! Not wishing to start off on a disappointing beer foot (that came a couple nights later in Tuebingen), I decided I'd bring my own American beer for our arrival happy hour in Strasbourg. Then ensued an onslaught of IPAs -- a flight with as little variety as that found at a German restaurant. The Americans loved it, but unfortunately it was something of shock to Philipp, who went into something of a delirious hop coma (before he enthusiastically labeled a couple of the beers "fine").**

** There are some green shoots on the German hop farm. The latest hop market report from hop brokers the Barth-Haas Group reports, "Worldwide hop acreage surpasses 50.000 ha (123,500 acres) for the first time since 2010; continued shift towards aroma/flavour in the US and more varietal changes in Germany. . . . As promised, German growers have planted more of the three new varieties with “New World” aroma character that so many brewers (and presumably drinkers) want."

Strasbourg is well know for housing the European Parliament,

but it's mostly a Rick Steves-approved European play-land of half timber houses and canals and a beautiful cathedral.

For dinner we decided to embrace the Alsatian and went cheese-centric. Philipp and Maria and the boys had fondue, John and Sarah had an absurdly great cheese plate,

and J and I had raclette -- or, for those not familiar, cheese melted with a room heater so that it drips over potatoes, served with various kinds of pork and pickles.

I think we only scratched the surface of the cheese available to us this night.

Now, when you end up at a place called Académie de la Bière, you think you might be able to find a variety of beers. And you know, maybe they could label the taps. But this being Europe, we ended up with an unknown beer that, as Philipp pronounced it, "was just a beer." Of course we were all in cheese comas anyway, each of us vowing not to eat cheese for varying durations of time. I'm telling you, I could hardly walk by the restaurant's booth the next day at some festival, as much as I appreciated the mustache. 

Meanwhile, the search for Duck à l'Orange was proving fruitless. And it's not like Strasbourg doesn't embrace the authentic-meets-old-school. See the cheese above. And while I know a true French bakery is becoming harder to find, I'm pretty sure this place was the real deal. 

And check out the butter a bakery gave Philipp and Maria when they asked for "a little butter"  to bring to our apartment.

And yes, some French people really do still wear berets. And some 8-year-old Americans do, too. Isaac's thoughts on Foucault can wait for another entry ...

But in the end, the only ducks we saw were on the the Ill River, from the more-enjoyable-than-we-predicted boat tour. 

J and I are sure going to miss those perfectly behaved little Enfant Terribles, but on to Tuebingen. 

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