A Christmas Market Favorite: Roasted Almonds

Winter is my favorite time of the year, which is why I try to cherish each moment as much as I can. Christmas time brings back so many childhood memories, involving both friends and family in Dusseldorf and around the globe. My absolute favorite winter activity is a visit to the Christmas Markets.rsz_collage_blog_post_mandeln

Just in Dusseldorf, we have 12 Christmas markets spread throughout the entire city center  which are open from November 19th until December 23rd. I have visited various markets around Germany and I must admit that every single one is beautiful in its own way. Nevertheless, there is one attribute that differentiates a good market from an outstanding Christmas market: the quality of roasted almonds being sold in the festive booths.

Did you know that the production of roasted almonds has a tradition of over one hundred years? Even today, each almond roaster has his or her own recipe and production preferences, which varies only in minor details, but can seriously impact the final taste of the almonds.

In an old cookbook from 1870, I found a rather simple recipe, that makes quite irresistible roasted almonds.  The recipe calls for 500g of sugar disolved in water, to which 500g of almonds are added. The almonds get cooked and roasted, while cinnamon is sprinkled on top of the warm almonds. At the end, in order to achieve a shine, the almonds are toasted in a hot oven.

If you enjoy the delicious taste and typical smell of warm, freshly roasted almonds as much as I do, then join me at one of the Christmas markets in and around Dusseldorf during the next few weeks. Of course, our Personal Assistants at the Breidenbacher Hof, a Capella Hotel would be pleased to support you in finding your “perfect” Christmas market.

Furthermore, if you also love to enjoy roasted almonds outside of the Christmas season, I can recommend the Dusseldorf almond roasting shop to you. Here you can enjoy the taste of Christmas 365 days a year!

Das Beste am Weihnachtsmarkt: Gebrannte Mandeln

Der Winter ist mir die liebste Zeit im Jahr, weshalb ich versuche jeden Moment so gut wie möglich auszukosten. Die Weihnachtszeit bringt so viele Kindheitserinnerungen zurück – mit Freunden und Familie in Düsseldorf und auf der ganzen Welt. Meine absolute Lieblingsbeschäftigung ist das Besuchen der Weihnachtsmärkte.


Allein in Düsseldorf haben wir 12 verschiedene Christkindlmärkte in der Stadt verteilt, die vom 19. November bis zum 23. Dezember geöffnet sind. Ich habe schon viele Märkte in Deutschland besucht und muss sagen, dass jeder einzelne auf eine andere Art besonders ist. Dennoch gibt es ein Merkmal, welches einen guten von einem überragenden Weihnachtsmarkt unterscheidet: Die Qualität der gebrannten Mandeln, welche an den kleinen Verkaufshäuschen angeboten werden.

Wusstet Ihr, dass die Herstellung von gebrannten Mandeln seit mehr als hundert Jahren Tradition hat? Auch heute noch hat jeder Mandelröster sein eigenes Rezept und Produktionsgeheimnis. Vielleicht sind dies nur kleine Unterschiede, dennoch können sie den endgültigen Geschmack der Mandeln beeinflussen.

In einem alten Kochbuch von 1870 habe ich ein sehr einfaches Rezept gefunden, bei dem man einfach nicht anders kann, als es auszuprobieren. Für das Rezept benötigt man nur 500g Zucker in Wasser gelöst, worin 500g Mandeln gekocht und gebraten werden. Danach werden die Mandeln mit Zimt bestreut und im heißen Ofen noch einmal geröstet, sodass sie ihren typischen Glanz bekommen.

Wenn Ihr den leckeren Geschmack und den unverkennbaren Duft von frisch gerösteten Mandeln genau so mögt wie ich, dann besucht doch in den nächsten Wochen mit mir gemeinsam die Weihnachtsmärkte in und um Düsseldorf. Natürlich helfen die Persönlichen Assistenten vom Breidenbacher Hof, a Capella Hotel auch gerne bei der Suche nach Eurem persönlichen Lieblings-Weihnachtsmarkt.

Wenn Ihr gerne gebrannte Mandeln außerhalb der Weihnachtszeit genießen möchtet, kann ich Euch die Düsseldorfer Mandelrösterei empfehlen. Hier könnt Ihr den Geschmack von Weihnachten ganze 365 Tage im Jahr erleben!

Best-Kept Auriga Spa Beauty Secrets

Singapore really comes to life during the festive season – with dawn-to-dusk feasting, dusk-to-dawn parties, and lots of shopping and gatherings in between.  That said, the festive frenzy sometimes sends me (and my skin) into over-drive.

This past month, back-to-back late nights were starting to take their toll.  So, with the party season coming up, I really needed a beauty reboot.  Fortunately, Auriga Spa’s Regional Director of Spa Alsu Abdulina read my mind, and invited me for a restorative experience.

The Ultimate Healing Journey

I’m personally not a fan of the new breed of ‘in-and-out’ express spa treatments.  So Auriga Spa’s back-to-classics and back-to-nature approach was just my cup of tea.  Instead of newfangled ideas and short-term quick-fixes, I embarked on the ultimate healing journey.

Vitality Pool

Vitality Pool

The moment I stepped into Auriga Spa, I felt removed from the fluster of the world.  Shrugging off my worries and slipping into my spa robe, I relaxed in the cinnamon-infused steam room, cooled myself down with the ice fountain, and then stilled my mind and body with the warm massaging jets of the vitality pool.  I was teleported to a secret universe where time stood still.

Rejuvenating Lunar Rituals

Since city life causes us to feel estranged from nature and our bodies, Auriga Spa’s treatments are designed to put us in tune with nature again.  The spa’s signature moon phase treatments are uniquely synced with the lunar cycle, and tap into its restorative energies.  My spa day happened to correspond with the new moon, so I was offered the New Moon Treatment for festive detoxification and renewal.

Unhurriedly, my therapist began by anointing and massaging my foot with a clarifying blend of juniper, rosemary and fennel oil.  Then, she treated me to an aromatic seaweed and eucalyptus salt scrub.  After I rinsed off the salt, dead skin cells and impurities, she slathered on a purifying seaweed mud wrap to purge out toxins.

Auriga Spa (Clay Back)-2

While being cocooned in this warm soporific wrap, my face was thoroughly cleansed and massaged with an organic honey jasmine mask that smelled good enough to eat.  And to end the treatment on a high note, I enjoyed a soothing body and scalp massage.  My therapist had an uncanny knack for finding and easing every ache in my body so that I emerged from this treatment feeling as good as new.

Best-Kept Spa Secrets

Alsu Abdulina, Regional Director of Spa

Alsu Abdulina, Regional Director of Spa

To retain my post-spa glow for as long as possible, I quickly caught up with Regional Spa Director Alsu for her wellness tips.  Here are her four secrets to youth and beauty:

#1 Eat Your Way To Glowing Skin

True beauty comes from within, so the first step to inner radiance is eating right.  Cut down on sugar, which cause glycation and damages the collagen and elastin in your skin.  Also, consume carbohydrates moderately, especially refined carbohydrates which are depleted of nutrients.

Instead, trade these for superfoods such as antioxidant-packed goji berries and acai berries, nutrient-dense avocado and omega-3 rich chia seed.

#2 Nature Is The Best Healing Balm

Don’t overwhelm your skin – many modern skincare products contain harsh and strong ingredients that may deliver flash results, but also tend to over-stimulate your skin.  This causes inflammation and premature ageing over time.

Organic and natural products on the other hand may take longer to deliver results, but they nourish your skin from within, and won’t strip or irritate your skin.  Some wonderful natural skin-savers to try are aloe vera, seaweed and marine collagen.

#3 Exercise Is The Key To Youth

Exercise not only helps your body flush out toxins through sweat; it also boosts microcirculation, and delivers oxygen and nutrients to each of your skin cells for speedy cellular rejuvenation.

Regular exercise also shapes your body up, and keeps your muscles toned.  Alsu personally enjoys a mix of cardiovascular workouts such as cycling, high-impact exercises such as gym classes, and relaxing and toning exercises such as yoga.

#4 Stress Ages Your Skin At Record Speed

It’s no secret that stress damages skin cells and accelerates ageing.  So in today’s fast-paced urban environment, spa-time is no longer a luxury but a necessity.  Scheduling spa-time regularly has immense stress-relieving and anti-ageing benefits!

The best way to benefit from a spa treatment is not to zip in and out of the spa in a great hurry.  Make it a point to arrive early, take your time to enjoy the spa facilities such as the steam room and vitality pool, and prepare your body well for the treatment ahead.  Don’t forget that our skin repairs itself best when we are completely relaxed.

Embark on your own wellness journey at Auriga Spa.  For more details, call 6591 5023 or email spa.singapore@capellahotels.com.

Christmas At Breidenbacher Hof, A Capella Hotel

Waiting for Christmas – I love it! My day starts with a walk to my Advent calendar to open the next window with great excitement.  The anticipation for Christmas grows every day.  But if you ask me, the best part of the day is, when I walk through the lobby of the Breidenbacher Hof, A Capella Hotel.  Our great pianist Ulli plays the most beautiful Christmas songs, the hotel gleams in its ceremonial brightness everywhere you look.  A wonderful Christmas tree with a mountain of presents under it welcomes every guest, client, deliveryman and employee entering the hotel lobby.

Christmast at Breidenbacher Hof

One of my favorite elements this year is our Christmas wonderland display featuring giant Steiff stuffed animals.  Provided by our neighbors Kaufhof an der Kö, this wintery display delights not only children, but adults as well!

I love to watch as the people enter the hotel.  At first, they may seem overwhelmed by their day or the bustling of the city outside.  But, then there is this moment: they look up, and suddenly are enveloped by the season’s good cheer.  Next thing you know, a smile stretches across their faces.  It doesn’t matter how exhausting the journey has been or how many people are rushing through the city – in this moment the Christmas season has overtaken them.  You can’t imagine what kind of privilege it is to welcome a guest at Christmas time!

Will you be visiting Breidenbacher Hof this holiday season?  Christmas at Breidenbacher Hof truly is a special experience.  If you are in Dusseldorf do come by for a cup of hot cocoa and some holiday cheer—you won’t be disappointed!

Weihnachten Im Breidenbacher Hof, A Capella Hotel

Auf Weihnachten warten – ich liebe es! Mein Tag beginnt mit einem Gang zum Adventskalender,  um mit großer Spannung das nächste Türchen zu öffnen.  Und die Vorfreude auf Weihnachten wächst mit jedem Tag.  Aber wenn ihr mich fragt,  ist meine tägliche Runde durch die Lobby Lounge unseres Breidenbacher Hof, A Capella Hotel der beste Part.  Unser wunderbarer Pianist Ulli spielt die schönsten Weihnachtslieder, die Dekorationen im Haus erstrahlen in feierlichem Glanz und ein prachtvoller Weihnachtsbaum mit vielen bunten Geschenken erfreut unsere Gäste, Kunden, Lieferanten und Mitarbeiter in der Hotellobby.

Christmast at Breidenbacher Hof

Eines meiner Lieblingselemente dieses Jahr ist allerdings die Winterlandschaft mit Steiff Plüschtieren in unserer Lobby Lounge.  Unser Nachbar Kaufhof an der Kö, hat uns diese als Weihnachtsüberraschung für unsere kleinen – und großen – Gäste freundlicherweise zur Verfügung gestellt!

Das Beste ist, wenn man beobachtet, wie unsere Gäste das Haus betreten.  Im ersten Moment könnte man meinen, dass sie vom Trubel auf den Straßen gestresst sind.  Aber in dem Augenblick, in dem sie das Hotel betreten und aufschauen, scheint all dies Dank der weihnachtlichen Stimmung vergessen.  Innerhalb von Sekunden blitzt ein Lächeln in ihrem Gesicht auf, egal wie anstrengend die Anreise oder wie groß das Gedränge in der Stadt war.  Genau in diesem Moment steht nur noch der weihnachtliche Gedanke im Mittelpunkt.  Ihr könnt Euch gar nicht vorstellen, wie schön das Gefühl ist, unsere Gäste zu dieser Jahreszeit zu empfangen!

Werdet ihr auch während der Feiertage im Breidenbacher Hof sein?  Wenn ihr in Düsseldorf seid, dann kommt auf eine heiße Schokolade vorbei—ihr werdet es nicht bereuen!

Capella Singapore’s Foie Gras Terrine

December is probably my favourite month in the year, simply because the air is just full of festivities and good cheer.

One of the things that I always look forward to is the scrumptious, mouthwatering Christmas meals.  Capella Singapore’s Executive Chef David Senia, was kind enough to share with me a recipe for a very festive appetizer which The Knolls will be serving this festive season – a Foie Gras Terrine with Apple Chutney and Brioche.

I love the simple preparation that impresses with its beautiful flavours.

Foie Gras Terrine

Terrine of Goose Liver, Vanilla Apple Chutney and Brioche Toast

Foie Gras Terrine

1kg  Foie Gras

10g  Salt

3g  Pepper

4g  Sugar

  • Marinate the Foie Gras with salt pepper and sugar and place it in a terrine
  • Put the terrine in a hot water bath and cook it at 55 degrees Celsius for an hour
  • Allow it to cool and set for one day
  • Remove the foie gras from the terrine and slice it evenly

Apple Chutney

500g  Sugar

1.5kg  Granny Smith apple (peeled and cored)

5pcs  Cardamom

5  Vanilla Pods

  • Dice the Granny Smith apple into fine pieces.
  • Combine all the ingredients, including the diced apples into a large saucepan and cook
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally
  • Reduce the heat and continue allowing the mixture to simmer while stirring occasionally until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  • Remove from heat and allow it to cool.

Assembling the dish:

  • Place the sliced foie gras terrine in between two slices of toasted brioche and smear a generous helping of apple chutney across the plate.
  • To garnish, chop some nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, pistachios) and gooseberries in a bowl toss it with vanilla olive oil

Additional festive garnishing tips from Chef David: you can add some micro herbs, such as coriander leaves, which not only add a decorative touch to the dish but also enhance the taste.

Bon Appétit!