Friday, December 28, 2007

Spice up your New Year’s party with Glühwein, a warm and traditional taste of Europe that everybody will enjoy.


This is a perennial favorite in our household and a sure sign that the holidays have arrived. Glühwein also tastes great after a long day on the slopes or even following a cold rainy hike, (though we don’t have any of those on our hiking tours).

Glühwein, pronounced [glooh-vein], is the German word for hot-spiced wine and literally means, “glow wine” in reference to the pleasant warming effect that follows from drinking it. The French call it vin chaud, and many English speakers know it simply as mulled wine. In fact, many European traditions feature hot-spiced wine in one form or another.

Germans and Swiss in particular typically enjoy Glühwein in large quantities around Christmas and New Year's Day. A favorite place to sip a warming glass is outside at the Weihnachtsmarkt, (the Christmas market). The markets open in mid-December and sell ornaments, handmade toys, gifts and all sorts of Christmas items. Christmas markets across Germany are generally open from late November to just before Christmas Eve. Every city and town has its own Weinachtsmarkt and it’s always a treat to see people shopping for goodies in a medieval-style outdoor market while keeping their spirits bright with roasted chestnuts, gingerbread cookies, grilled sausages and warm glasses of Glühwein.

Preparing Glühwein is an extremely simple affair and open to much improvisation. You really only need five ingredients; wine, sugar, cinnamon, clove and lemon peel. Family recipes vary from house to house and part of the fun is developing your own family tradition. Use my recipe as a starting point and then have fun on your own.

Ingredients:
1. 1 bottle (750 ml) inexpensive dry red table wine. Claret works great but just about any red wine will do.
2. 4-5 Tablespoons granulated sugar, or to taste.
3. 1 cinnamon stick, broken into 4-5 pieces.
4. 6-15 whole cloves, depending on taste.
5. 2 star anise. (Optional)
6. 6-8 whole peppercorns. (Optional)
7. 4 cardamom pods. (Optional)
8. Washed rind of a lemon and or orange, cut in a continuous spiral strip. Use only half of each if you use both lemon and orange.
9. A splash of rum, brandy or schnapps. (Optional).

Directions: Combine all of the ingredients in saucepot over medium-low heat. My guests prefer less sugar so I only add 1-2 Tablespoons initially and then let them add sugar to taste after serving.

Heat anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour, covered, and do not allow to boil. I usually heat for around 30 minutes. Longer heating brings out a warmer, more cinnamon flavor. Taste and adjust sugar. Strain through a sieve and serve in preheated glasses. Guests can also add another shot of rum, brandy or schnapps to their glasses upon serving.

If you have Glühwein left over then remove the spices and rinds from the saucepot, reduce heat to low and cover. Leaving the rind will result in a bitter flavor if left to warm too long.

Many German specialty stores offer prepackaged "tea bags" of spices under the brand name Glühfix. I made my own Glühfix at home and it makes Glühwein preparation really fast when I need it for a party or a quick Europe fix. I just throw some wine and lemon rind in a saucepot and add a pre made sachet or two of spices. The sachets also eliminate the need for straining the spices when I’m ready to serve.

To make your own Glühfix, good for one or two cups of spiced wine:
Put half a cinnamon stick, 1 star anise, two whole peppercorns, two cardamom pods and two whole cloves into a circle of cheese cloth about 3 inches in diameter. Use two layers of cheesecloth to hold in the spices. Fold up the edges to form a little bag and tie off with twine. Store in a cool place until you need to make Glühwein. You can also use the sachets to make a wonderful hot cider during the fall or even a warm spiced beer with rum, (more on that later).

Finally, here’s a non-alcoholic version called Kinderglühwein.

Pour 1 liter of red grape-juice into a saucepot. Add honey to taste, (about 150 grams works well), 1 cinnamon stick, 3 cloves and peels of half a lemon and half an orange. Heat, but do not boil. Strain into preheated glasses as above.

Ein glückliches neues Jahr! (A very Happy New Year to all of you!)


(Top Glühwein photo from winemonger.com)


Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays from all of us at Ryder-Walker!


Fröhliches Weihnachten!
Joyeux Noël!
Buon Natale!
Feliz Navidad!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Last minute stocking stuffer: "One Man's Wilderness."


Still searching for something?

I just finished a book titled One Man's Wilderness. It's the story of a man named Richard Proenneke who retired at age 50 in 1967 and decided to build his own log cabin on the shores of Twin Lakes, Alaska. The first summer he scouted for the best cabin site and cut and peeled by hand, the logs he would need for his cabin. Dick Proenneke returned the next summer to finish the cabin where he lived for more than 30 years. He built the cabin using only hand tools, many of which Proenneke himself had fashioned. Throughout the thirty years that he lived at the cabin, Proenneke created homemade furniture and implements that reflected his woodworking genius. Proenneke also wrote voraciously and filled volumes with his copious journal entries. One Man's Wilderness offers a highlight of the first year's journal entries as edited by Proenneke's friend Sam Keith. Proenneke wanted readers of his journal entries to find enough information that they could build their own cabin with nothing but hand tools. One Man's Wilderness delivers on that promise.

Rather than give an in depth review of the book, I'll just say that it's a nice escape from the fast pace of today's world. It's not a difficult read, but it's a good story all the same. If you've ever dreamed of building your own cabin by hand, on the shores of a quiet lake surrounded by majestic peaks, then this book is for you.

Richard Proenneke also filmed his adventures with a 16 mm Bolex camera. Bob Swerer productions later edited the film and produced three movies. I had an opportunity to watch the first film, Alone in the Wilderness, which is basically the audio-visual companion of the aforementioned book. It was a real treat to watch Richard Proenneke craft a really beautiful home entirely by hand. Most major book stores carry the book, but you can order both the book and the movie at www.dickproenneke.com.


This story doesn't have anything to do with Europe or with hiking the Alps, but it does appeal to mountain enthusiasts. A passage from the book reminded me of the many reasons that we enjoy guiding people in the mountainous regions of the world.

"I had taken a long look into the heart of the high places and felt like a man inspired by a sermon that came to me firsthand, that came out of the sky and the many moods of the mountains."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

This is just bizarre.

But it's fun.

Follow this link http://downloads.raileurope.com/holidayCard/06_christmas_card.html (or paste into your browser).

Be sure to choose your destination. (I went through all of them).

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Contact us for your free tour proposal.


Don't wait until spring. Contact us today for a fully customized hiking itinerary in Europe. You give us your dates, tell us what you'd like to see and do, and we'll develop a fully customized itinerary and proposal based on your particular needs and concerns. Why waste your time pouring through guidebooks? We've been organizing tours for more than 20 years. We invite you to solicit our experience.

What could be better?
We'll refine your proposal until we arrive at the perfect fit at no cost to you. You only pay when you're satisfied with the proposed itinerary.

A few of the things that we provide:
1. Detailed written hike descriptions.
2. Accompanying four-color topographical maps with highlighted hiking routes.
3. Accommodations based on your requirements. We can arrange everything from five star luxury retreats to simple mountain huts.
4. European railpasses.
5. Taxi services in Europe.
6. Exquisite meals.
7. Sightseeing excursions and more.

Some of the best accommodations fill quickly so don't delay. Give us a call. Our trained staff will help you design the perfect trip. In the U.S. 800.586.8365 or 970.728.6481

A life worth living.


I'm reminded of our friend and fellow guide Mark Davis who once exclaimed,
"I want to be a mountaineer!"

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The 2008 Ryder-Walker catalog is here.


Just in time for Christmas. We upgraded to a larger size this year in order to accommodate more detailed itineraries and delicious information. We also added a few new trips. Please contact us if you haven't received your copy.

Don't forget that hiking tours slide easily down the chimney. Gift certificates also make great stocking stuffers and we can sell them in any amount that you wish. Avoid the mall and give a gift that will be the envy of all your neighbors. Give the gift of an alpine hiking tour and you'll give the gift of memories that will last a lifetime.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The "correct" way to enjoy your espresso.


The caffè corretto is one of my favorite coffee drinks to enjoy while hiking through the Italian Alps. It's a truly authentic Italian coffee drink that consists of a shot of espresso "corrected" with a shot of liquor, usually grappa, brandy or sambuca. This drink is usually taken after lunch or dinner and tastes great on a cold day. Ask for a caffè corretto grappa, corretto cognac, or corretto sambuca, depending on your choice of alcohol.

You can make this drink at home or find a restaurant/coffee shop that serves warm, alcoholic beverages. If you choose to go out, then ask your favorite bartender for this truly authentic, and tasty, coffee treat. Warning! You won't find this at Starbuck's.

Ingredients:
1. Your favorite barista, or a method for making espresso at home. (Use only freshly ground beans for the best flavor).
2. One shot of espresso.
3. Your favorite grappa, brandy or sambuca. (I prefer grappa but don't be afraid to experiment).
Optional: Sugar
Optional: Orange or lemon rinds.

Directions: Some Italians like to prepare an espresso with a third less water. Once poured in the cup, they replenish the missing volume of water by pouring in alcohol. This makes a strong tasting drink. I like to simply prepare the espresso and then add the liquor to taste. That's it.

Tasty twists: Add a bit of sugar to taste. A tiny slice of lemon or orange, though not traditional in a standard caffè, also adds a personal and delicious touch.

Salute!