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I happened to be walking down Johannisstr, and noticed that what used to be the Russian restaurant Maxim is now a Korean restaurant Gu Xiang. Derek and I stopped in for dinner last week, and we were the only ones there. They started us out with a complimentary bowl of seaweed salad, bean sprout salad, and kimchi. It was reasonably tasty.

There are only three vegetarian dishes on the menu — Bi Bim Bap, beansprout soup, and tofu teriyaki bento. I was in the mood for tofu so I ordered the teriyaki bento, spicy. It turned out that it was just a pretty typical Chinese-style greasy, salty stir-fry, without much spice or anything distinctively Korean about it.  We asked for something spicy to add to the food, and they brought us a bowl of Korean chili flakes that were both sweet and oily. They weren’t that hot, but they added flavor, improving the dish a lot. Still, I wouldn’t order it again.

I would go back to try the bi bim bap, and the owner said they can also make other dishes vegetarian, like the fried noodle dish. But I’m guessing any of the fried dishes are going to be similar to what I had — greasy, salty, and just not that flavorful.

Derek got one of the Korean stews (Eintöpfe), and he said it was okay, but pretty one-note. He liked it better with the Korean chili flakes added, but he said he wouldn’t get it again.

They’re open every day, 11 – 14:30 and 6pm – 1am.

Addres: Johannisstr. 27, 66111 Saarbruecken
Telephone: 0681 / 688 90 361

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With Deutsche Bahn striking so often these days, some students at work sent out some helpful links for determining whether your train is actually running. I’m posting the links here, along with their notes.

This is the traditional search tool, which lists all scheduled trains, including ones that are cancelled (due to strikes, accidents, or for any other reason): http://www.bahn.de/reiseauskunft

This is the “live search” tool, which lists only those trains that are actually running. It’s supposed to be accurate for around 12 hours into the future: http://www.bahn.de/liveauskunft

This is the live map tool, which shows actually running trains and their estimated position and delay as a Google maps overlay: http://www.bahn.de/zugradar

All three tools are also part of DB apps for iPhone and Android.

This (German) page says when they expect to know the actual schedule for the
strike days: https://www.bahn.de/p/view/home/info/streik_gdl_150519.shtml

These links should be accurate enough for the strike but be careful, last week when a freight train derailed between KL and Landstuhl the Live search only found connections from KL via Pirmasens to SB while in reality they had arranged for buses between KL and Landstuhl. Such information can be found at http://www.bahn.de/blitz/view/index.shtml

Note that the train that runs Saarbrücken Mainz Frankfurt is run by Vexx, and so far they have not participated in the DB strikes.

By the way, does anyone know what you’re supposed to do if your train has been cancelled due to the strike, and you have a non-transferrable ticket?

I’m always forgetting the opening / closing times of my favorite specialty grocery stores near my house, so I thought I’d start a post for reference. In the process of writing it up, I figured I might as well include information about the shops, along with the opening hours.

Note that there might be other great ethnic grocery stores in Saarbruecken, but these are the ones near my house, so they’re the ones I know best and go to most frequently. If you want to recommend another shop, or always buy a specific item at one of these shops, please post a comment!

City Basar

Mainzer Straße 133, 66121 Saarbrücken, Germany
At the Hellwigstr. Saarbahn stop (see a map)
Telephone: 681 684-837

Opening hours: weekdays 7 am – 7pm, Saturday 6am – 6pm. Note however that they start putting away the fresh produce around 30 to 45 minutes before closing time. Sometimes they will fetch something for you from the back but not always. So be warned—the closer you come to closing time, the emptier the produce shelves will be.

Description: This is a very popular Turkish grocery store. Since it’s so popular, they have very fast turnover and the produce is generally very fresh. The prices are also reasonable. The downside, however, is that it can be a madhouse on Saturdays, with packed aisles and long lines.

Although this is a Turkish market, they actually have a quite wide variety of international foods:

  • Middle eastern / Turkish: They have most of what you’d expect at a Turkish grocery, including things like olives, feta, pita bread, other flat breads, tahini, pomegranate molasses, date syrup, roasted chickpeas, and jars of chickpeas. They have several different kinds of Börek, of which the spinach/feta is our favorite. They sometimes have fresh figs or fresh kumquats. They have a large deli case with hummus baba ganouj, and various pickled and/or marinated veggies including artichoke hearts.
  • Central / South American and Mexican: They almost always have jalapeños and habanero peppers and (very fresh, well-priced) cilantro. They usually also have big bags of dried black beans, and I think I’ve seen bags of farofa. They have flour tortillas of three different sizes. They often carry orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.
  • Italian: They very occasionally have cime di rapa and Radicchio di Treviso. They often have bags of fresh basil, and pots of basil in the summertime.
  • Indian: they occasionally have fresh okra and they have a small section with various dals, besan (chickpea flour), and several brands of basmati rice. They occasionally have fresh turmeric. In the back are very big bags of cumin and a few other Indian spices.
  • Greek:  They have quite fresh, well-priced kalamata olives, large bunches of fresh dill and mint, and well-priced, tasty, good quality cooking olive oil from Greece in 1 liter and 5 liter tins. They also have halloumi cheese, although from a Turkish brand so I’m not sure how authentic it is.
  • East Asian: They often have fresh bean sprouts, lemongrass, and napa cabbage, and always have jasmine rice. In the back behind the cash register they have an “Asian” shelf with chili sauces, sambal olek, thai curry pastes, coconut milk, peanut butter, etc.
  • Russian / Eastern European: They have a small eastern european section, but I haven’t looked closely to see what is there.
  • Organic: They carry almost no organic produce, with the exception of organic lemons, and rarely organic oranges or bananas.
  • Miscellaneous: In addition to big bunches of fresh cilantro, dill, and parsley, they also carry bags of other fresh herbs like rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme, …. They have a large dried spice section. They have bulk nuts and dried fruit, as well as a large section of different sorts of dried beans and some grains.

ALA asiatische Lebensmittel aka Asia Markt aka “the Sri Lankan store”

Arndtstr. 1 66121 Saarbrücken
At the Uhlandstr. Saarbahn stop (see a map)
Phone: 0681 968-7046.

Opening hours: weekdays 8 am – 7pm, Saturday 8am – 6pm.

This shop is owned by a woman (Alageswaran Pavani) from Sri Lanka, and has lots of Indian ingredients including pantry items like various types of dal (including mung, chana, toovar, and urad dal) and Indian spices (like turmeric, ajwain seeds, whole cardamom, and asafoetida), as well as fresh items like curry leaves and paneer. She also carries a number of Asian groceries, like soy sauce and tempeh, plus good peanut butter and packaged tofu. Her prices are generally very good, but the store doesn’t have the highest turnover, and thus the produce is not always the freshest. I was recently there on a Tuesday afternoon and she was getting a delivery, so that might be a good time to drop by if you need produce.

Asia Shop aka Hary’s

Mainzer Straße 55, 66121 Saarbrücken, Germany
Closest Saarbahn stop is Uhlandstr.
Telephone: 0681 62900

Opening hours: weekdays 9:30 am – 7pm, Saturday 9:30 am – 5 pm.

This shop is owned by an older German gentleman (Andreas Hary), and he carries primarily East Asian products from Japan, Korea, China, Thailand, etc. He also carries a few Indian items, including dal, spices, and fresh paneer. Be warned though — the paneer is very expensive.

Personally, I go there most often to buy fresh bulk tofu, which is not organic, but is my favorite tofu in Saarbruecken, and costs only 1.50 euros for a 12 to 16 ounce block. It’s delivered on Thursday late afternoon, so I generally try to buy it between Thursday evening and Saturday evening. I also sometimes get bok choy, fresh thai basil or rau ram (which he has only occasionally) or a bag of bamboo slices. I’ve also heard that they make their own kimchi, but I’ve never tried it.

Other than tofu, prices are typically quite high, so I try not to buy things there that I can find at other shops. For certain specialty Japanese or Korean items, however, his shop is the only place I can find them, and the owner is such a friendly guy, I do like to support his shop.

Note that he doesn’t take debit or credit cards, but if you’re a regular customer and you forget to bring cash, he will put your items on your tab and you can come back and pay later.

Kim Asia Shop

Mainzer Straße 121, 66121 Saarbrücken, Germany
At the Hellwigstr. Saarbahn stop (see a map)
Telephone: 0681 9686 3570

Opening hours: weekdays and Saturdays 9 am – 7 pm

This shop is owned by a Vietnamese gentleman (anyone know his name?), and the shop carries primarily East Asian products from Vietnam, China, Thailand, etc. It’s smaller than Hary’s asian shop, and has fewer items from Japan and Korea. If Hary’s is out of tofu or I can’t get there before closing time, I sometimes buy tofu here, but it’s a bit firmer and more expensive than the tofu at Hary’s. I also occasionally buy thai basil or rau ram, but haven’t purchased much else there. They have huge bags of rice in the window.

Since the birth of my daughter, I’ve had less time for blogging. And the little time that I do have for blogging I have been using to write about baby-related but non-Saarbruecken-related topics. But I don’t want this blog to languish, so I’m actively recruiting guest bloggers, either for a single blog post or a series.

Do you have expert knowledge about some Saarbruecken-related topic? For example, do you know the best place to buy yerba mate, where to find a slackline group, how to get a spot in a local jazz choir, or the cheapest place to rent a moving truck? Any and all topics are welcome. Just post a comment here on this blog with your suggested topic, and I’ll email you back.

Don’t worry if your English isn’t perfect, or if you aren’t a very good writer. I am happy to help with copyediting, and even a bulleted list could be useful. What I need help with is finding people with useful expertise, that are willing to share their expertise with the readers of this blog.

As you all probably already know, Derek and I, being proper Americans, have an unhealthy peanut butter obsession. But of course, being proper foodies, we disparage the popular American peanut butters like Skippy and Jif in favor of the true natural peanut butters, of which Smucker’s is the creme de la creme (unless you like it chunky).

Smucker’s peanut butter has tons of great roasted peanut flavor, the consistency is neither too thin nor too thick nor too sticky, and it has just the right amount of salt added. So for years we begged any and all visitors from the U.S. to smuggle in jars of Smucker’s. Then we found an online source, and were paying through the nose for our obsession. But the online source dried up, our visitors stopped coming or else had better things to bring us than peanut butter, and we had to find an alternative source.

pindakaasFor a few years we had to resort to the Dutch peanut butter (pcd brand) that’s available in the Asian stores and at City Basar, which tastes kind of like cross between Jif and a natural peanut butter, but it’s definitely not natural, as it has added sugar, sunflower oil, and palm fat. It has a good roasted peanut flavor, but the texture is a bit too industrial tasting for my taste.

monkiThen one of Derek’s students introduced us to the Monki brand organic peanut butter (available at the Biofrischmarkt). Most organic peanut butters are made from raw (not roasted) peanuts, which is just wrong. But the Monki peanut is properly roasted. It has less salt than Smucker’s, and the texture is a bit stickier, but it’s a pretty close second. Whenever we manage to get to a Biofrischmarkt we totally clear our their Monki peanut butter stock.

peanutpasteBut the Biofrischmarkt isn’t so convenient, and so I was excited to find a jar of pcd-brand natural peanut butter yesterday at the Sri Lankan grocery at the Uhlandstrasse Saarbahn stop. The ingredients are 100% roasted peanuts, and it’s made from roasted (not raw) peanuts. It tastes a lot like Smucker’s without the salt, and at 2.10 euros per jar it’s significantly cheaper than the Monki brand (but not organic, of course).

Without a bit more time, I can’t say whether it will replace Monki in our pantry, but it’s nice to know that in an emergency we can find a decent natural peanut butter around the corner. I’ll report back on how we feel about the pcd peanut after we finish a jar or two (which at the rate we are going, will likely be in a day or two).

By the way, Derek’s tandem partner told us that in German natural peanut butter is called Erdnussmus, whereas the ones with added sugar and fats are called Erdnussbutter. Not sure if it’s true. And if it, how does Erdnusspaste fit in?

We’ve tried many other organic peanut butters, but as I said, most are made with raw peanuts, and are unsalted. Bleh. After Monki the best of the bunch was the Unueco peanut butter, which is organic and fair trade, but is made from Chinese peanuts and has 6% vegetable oils added.

Also, in case I haven’t mentioned it already, the Biofrischmarkt also carries other Monki-brand nut and seed butters, including … drum roll … sunflower seed butter. Finally! It’s not my favorite sunflower seed butter in the world, but it’s acceptable. We use it in smoothies quite frequently. They also have Monki almond butter, white almond butter, cashew butter, and even a dark green pumpkin seed butter.

Apero is a little Italian gourmet food shop in St. Arnual, selling various different high-end Italian products: cheese, wine, olive oil, etc.  It also happens to be Derek’s favorite Italian “restaurant” in SB. They serve lunch Mon-Sat, with an emphasis on slow food, organic, etc. I generally find the vegetarian dishes a tad boring, but at least the quality of the ingredients is very good (often organic and sometimes local).   The menu changes every day, but a weekly menu is usually posted on their website on Monday.

They now offer a selection of (mostly cold) antipasti, which are on display when you enter the restaurant. You can choose a meal with two or three antipasti and a pasta and/or a meat course.  It’s not at all cheap but it’s always a very lovely lunch. They start you off with complimentary bread and olive oil, both of which are excellent.

The restaurant is in a fairly scenic stretch of St. Arnual with easy parking (a few spots in Apero’s own lot, and plentiful street parking across the street). The interior of the restaurant has a cozy European feel.  It is recommended to call ahead (in the morning) to reserve a table, since they only have a few tables.

I’ve been there many times, and am not usually super excited about the antipasti and pasta, but the ambience is always pleasant and I love the bread and olive oil and desserts. Just recently they started serving an excellent bicerin (rivaling the best that we had when we visited Turin) and their chocolate cake is to die for. It’s made from an extremely high quality chocolate, and costs only 3.50 for a slice. It’s the best dessert I’ve had in Saarbruecken! We’ve also tried their lemon tart. The curd was nice and tart, but I don’t know why they felt the need to put a layer of chocolate underneath.

Both of the proprietors speak English. It’s pretty vegetarian friendly, as at least half (if not more) of the antipasti are usually vegetarian, and there is almost always a vegetarian pasta. On the rare days when both pastas have meat, they will make a vegetarian pasta for you even if it’s not on the menu.

The service is excellent, and usually everything comes quite fast. If you wanted to, you could be in and out in an hour. But why rush? Watching the (very minor amount) of grocery store hustle and bustle is part of the charm.

Warning: If you show up later in the day, often many of the antipasti are already sold out, so you have fewer choices.

March 2013:  I really enjoyed the mushroom ravioli covered in walnut sauce.  Rich but very flavorful.  My beet salad was okay.  The beets were a tad crisp for my taste, but I loved how the combination of green pistachio oil and red beet juice looked on the plate.  Gorgeous!

 

Here’s what Derek wrote after his first visit, in 2011.

I tried the 3-course menu (antipasto, pasta, main).  I liked the antipasto (endive salad with goat cheese and grapes) and the pasta (orecchiette with broccoli and sundried tomatoes) very much; in fact,

I would say the pasta was probably the best I’ve had so far in SB (in a restaurant), with a convincing rustic flavor.  The main course (calf’s liver with apples and onions) was just OK — the liver was rather tough, but the apples and onions were good.

The portions were quite large and the service was fast.

 

We haven’t really found a pizza place we love in Saarbruecken, but recently L’Osteria opened up near the Hauptbahnhof, and at the moment it’s our favorite place to get pizza in Saarbruecken.

Although it’s a chain restaurant, we like the pizza at L’Osteria better than at Pizza per Tutti or Il Mediteranio. The crust is neither too thin nor too thick, and is flavorful with a nice chew. We like the tomato sauce quite a bit, and the cheese is acceptable. The pizzas are huge, and very salty though. So it’s probably best to share one between two people. They’ll happily put different toppings on each half, though, so you don’t have to come to a consensus with your pizza-sharing party.

I first ordered the funghi pizza, which both Derek and I liked.  We asked them to add garlic, but couldn’t detect any on the pizza. Last time I had them add arugula to the funghi, which was a nice addition. They added a ton of arugula, and it was nice to have something fresh and green on my pizza. Derek got take-out pizza there once, and ordered the aubergine pizza, but we didn’t like it. The aubergine was greasy and not that tasty.

Other than pizzas, we’ve tried the antipasti plate, which I thought was okay, and Derek thought was very bad. The first time we went, Derek ordered a pasta of some sort, but it was terrible (overcooked and tasteless). The last time I was there with a friend, she started with a small salad, which I didn’t taste but it looked pretty good. It was overdressed, however, so it’s probably best to order the dressing on the side.

There is parking in a lot behind the restaurant. It’s free on weekdays after 5pm and all day on weekends.

I was at the restaurant on Friday, and even though the space is enormous, the entire restaurant was packed, and super loud. The service was pretty good. They even brought me a carafe of tap water after I had finished my glass of Schörle. That said, when I asked for a refill the waitress gave me some sort of lecture about how they can only give me a tiny glass of “Leitungswasser.” Luckily it was so loud I couldn’t hear any of the details of the lecture, and the waitress that delivered the lecture did help me carry Alma’s stroller down the many steps in the entryway on my way out.  So that (partially) made up for the ridiculous Leitungswasserlecture.

Pizza report:

  • BRACCIO DI FERRO (SPINAT, EI, KÄSE, KNOBLAUCH). Very good. Nice and garlicky. Last time also had a hard cheese like parmesan on top. Want to try it with mushrooms too.
  • FUNGHI: Good. Also good with extra arugula, but the arugula doesn’t reheat well.
  • PARMIGIANA (MOZZARELLA, AUBERGINEN, ITALIENISCHER HARTKÄSE, OREGANO): Good. Not as greasy as some eggplant pizzas. Maybe good with capers too?
  • RUSTICA: not very good

Other vegetarian pizzas I haven’t tried yet

  • RUCOLA (MOZZARELLA, RUCOLA, ITALIENISCHER HARTKÄSE, KNOBLAUCH):
  • VEGETARIANA (MOZZARELLA, GEGRILLTES GEMÜSE, FRISCHE EGERLINGE, KNOBLAUCH)
  • CAPRESE (ITALIENISCHE MOZZARELLAKUGEL, KIRSCHTOMATEN, BASILIKUM)
  • MARGHERITA (TOMATENSAUCE, MOZZARELLA, BASILIKUM): Haven’t tried yet
  • FOUR CHEESE
  • ERBACCIE (SPINAT, BROCCOLI, GORGONZOLA, KÄSE2)