Easter Bonfires in Dusseldorf

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Easter is just around the corner and with it the great traditions I love.  When I was younger, Easter was one of the most exciting holidays to me.  I couldn’t wait for my dad saying “the Easter bunny was here, let’s see if he left some chocolate eggs!”  I would run out into the garden to gather as many eggs as I possibly could.  And while I no longer look for chocolate eggs, I still look forward to Easter celebrations!

rsz_easterToday, my favorite Easter activity are the bonfires.  Maybe you have already heard about the Easter bonfires  in Germany, a tradition where huge piles of wood are burned in the countryside?  There are different stories about this tradition but I’ll tell you the story I like most.  Usually, in Dusseldorf we celebrate the Easter bonfire the Saturday before Easter Sunday.  Large bonfires are erected and music is can be heard throughout the countryside.  I’ve heard that this tradition stems from the 16th century and is meant to dispel the winter.  In the past, the resulting ash was then used as fertilizer for the crops.  It feels very cozy and peaceful to watch the fire glomming with people you love, your family or friends.  Grabbing a cool drink, sitting next to the fire laughing, talking and listening to the music – this is the perfect way to usher in Easter.

It is hard to describe the amazing atmosphere while you are sitting next to an Easter bonfire, so I think you should come to Dusseldorf for Easter one day to experience it yourself.  Just ask the Breidenbacher Hof Personal Assistants to show you the best bonfire places during Easter to make sure that you will never forget these Easter holidays for the rest of your life!

Chef Rurik Salazar’s Tamales Nejos

tamales-capella-ixtapa

February 2nd marked a very popular holiday in Mexico, Candlemas day, or Día de la Candelaria.  At Capella Ixtapa we honored Mexican traditions by serving tamales.  But these weren’t just any tamales!  These were Executive Chef Rurik Salazar’s special Tamales Nejos!

They were absolutely delicious and, while I had never made tamales before, I simply had to learn how.  Chef Rurik agreed to teach me, ensuring me the process was simpler than I thought.  Indeed he was right and now I am sharing the recipe with you:

 tamales nejos

Tamales Nejos Recipe

Masa or Tamal dough

  • 8 Tbsp of Corn Flour
  • 1 Tbsp of Vegetable Shortening
  • 1 pinch of Salt
  • N/A Water
  • Ashes of a tortilla

Mix the corn flour with the vegetable shortening, add water slowly and whisk it up until gets spongy, seasoning with the salt and the tortilla ashes.

Duck Tamales Nejos

  • 1 square of a plantain leaf (15 cm x15 cm)
  • 1 Tbsp of shredded duck breast
  • 1 date

Heat up the plantain leaf until it gets soft in a pan on a low flame.  In the middle of the leaf put the tamal dough and stuff it with the shredded duck and the date.  Wrap it like a candy, and steam for 18 minutes.  Garnish with some green mole or any kind of salsa.

 

Buen provecho!

El Chef Rurik Salazar Nos Comparte Su Receta Para Tamales Nejos

tamales-capella-ixtapa

Febrero 2 marca una de las fiestas mexicanas más populares, el Día de la Candelaria. En Capella Ixtapa hicimos honor a esta tradicional fiesta mexicana sirviendo tamales. Pero estos no eran tamales ordinarios! Eran Tamales Nejos, especialidad de nuestro Chef Ejecutivo Rurik Salazar!

Estaban deliciosos, y mientras que nunca he cocinado tamales antes, tenía que aprender como. El Chef Rurik accedió a enseñarme, asegurándome primero, que el proceso era más simple de lo que creía. Y de hecho tuvo razón, por lo cual aquí les comparto la receta a ustedes:

tamales-capella-ixtapa

Receta para preparar Tamales Nejos

Masa para tamales o nixtamal

  • 8 cucharadas soperas de harina de maíz
  • 1 cucharada de manteca vegetal o
  • 1 pizca de sal
  • Agua
  • Cenizas de tortillas

Mezclar el harina con la manteca, añadir agua lentamente y batir hasta que quede una masa esponjosa, sazonar con la sal y las cenizas de tortilla.

Tamales Nejos rellenos de pato

  • 1 cuadrado de hoja de plátano (15 cm x15 cm)
  • 1 cucharada de pechuga de pato deshebrada
  • 1 dátil

Calentar en un sartén a flama baja la hoja de plátano hasta que suavize. Al centro de la hoja poner la masa de tamal y rellenarla con el pato deshebrado y el dátil. Envolverla como si fuera un dulce, y cocinarla al vapor durante 18 minutos. Se puede agregar mole verde o cualquier tipo de salsa como guarnición.

 

Buen provecho!

Valentine’s Day at Breidenbacher Hof

Valentinstag 2

I love our Personal Assistants here at Breidenbacher Hof, A Capella Hotel.  There is nothing they can’t do!  If you need help with shopping, they can be your shopping assistants,  if you are looking for some action,  they will be your event managers and create unforgettable exciting experiences.  And if you are in Düsseldorf for romance then our PA’s will be your Cupid!  Need proof?  Then allow me to share a real romantic story of a couple that has spent the last four Valentine’s with us.

The story begins four years ago.  As is customary, our Personal Assistant team contacted the guests before arrival to check if there was anything they could arrange for them.  The husband assured the Personal Assistant that there was nothing special needed as he and his wife “were just planning to celebrate Valentine’s Day.”  Well, there is no “just” in our Personal Assistants vocabulary and immediately they began planning how to create a memorable Valentine’s Day at Breidenbacher Hof.

Valentine's Day At Breidenbacher Hof

The plan was perfect:  The Personal Assistants decided to create the perfect romantic retreat in the couple’s room.  Rose petals were spread throughout the room—from the floor to the bathtub.  Champagne, chocolate covered strawberries and cake were set up for the couple. And romantic music played on the room’s sound system.  It was the perfect set up for a romantic Valentine’s Day.

Needless to say the couple was amazed upon arrival.  So much so that they now return every year to celebrate Valentine’s Day at Breidenbacher Hof.  And each year, the Personal Assistants look for a new way to surprise and delight them.

Capella Singapore’s Peranakan Experience

Traditional Peranakan beading work.

Last week I had the opportunity to accompany one of the Capella Singapore Personal Assistants on a trip to the Peranakan museum as part of the new Peranakan Experience that we have created for guests who would like to explore the local Singapore culture.

Part of the tour took us to the Peranakan Museum, which showcased decades of age-old Peranakan culture and history.  For those unfamiliar, the Peranakan culture evolved from the early Chinese and Malay settlers in colonial Singapore and Malaysia who intermarried resulting in an exotic blend of cultures.

One thing I found particularly interesting was the strong matriarchal tendencies among the Peranakan.  While the men were the sole breadwinners for the family, the women, known as Nonyas, stayed home and ran the household.  As a result, one of the unique traits of Nonya women is that they are skilled in the culinary arts and crafts that distinguish the culture.  Luckily for me, I had the opportunity to experience both these luxuries.

Following our tour of the Peranakan Museum, we headed to a near by Peranakan restaurant.  The cuisine, while employing many traditional Chinese preparations, is extremely unique in its flavor profile.  We tried everything from a Fish Head Curry (not nearly as mad as the name suggests!) to Kueh Pie Tee, which featured shredded bamboo shoots and shrimp inside mini pie shells.  The flavors were exotic and bold and the dishes beautifully presented.

Traditional Peranakan beading work.

Traditional Peranakan beading work.

From there we headed to a shop run by a Peranakan woman, who still creates the traditional beaded shoes as well as selling beautiful kebayas.  Like the food the clothing was also brightly colored and rich in ornate detail.  We were told that some of the shoes could take several months to make as each bead was sewn on individually.  The same held true for the blouses and sarongs, as even the most “casual” kebaya was intricately decked out in skilled embroidery. Truly an art form!

The Peranakan culture is truly a significant part of the Singapore culture and something you really must experience for your self.  The next time you are at Capella Singapore be sure to ask your Personal Assistant for the Peranakan Experience.  I am sure you will love to learn about the history, culture and food just as much as I did!

The Legend Of Tequila

Celso Flores El Jimador

There are as many legends of Mexico as there are Mexicans and lovers of this beautiful and rich country.  There is one legend though, that Capella Pedregal’s sommelier Ernesto Mendoza loves to share the most: the legend of tequila.

Celso Flores El Jimador

During a recent tour of the Capella Pedregal wine cave and spirit room, Ernesto shared the story with me:

Many centuries ago, there was a big thunderstorm in Mexico and a lightning bolt hit an agave field, completely destroying the plants.  Once the storm had passed, the farmers went to survey the damage.  They discovered a syrupy liquid remaining at the core of the plants.  One of the farmers tasted it, and finding it sweet, decided to collect the liquid from the plants’ charred remains.

Time passed and the farmer went to check out his agave liquid stash.  Foam had formed atop the liquid, which the farmer discarded.  He then tasted the fluid again and discovered it now possessed a richer and stronger flavor.  The farmer found it so delicious that he drank some more.

Legend says it changed his personality, which led others to believe that it was a gift from the goddess Mayahuel, a symbol of ancient fertility and drunkenness.  This drink was then reserved for the lords and priests for use in different religious events and festivities.  As the drink grew in popularity it began to be known as Tequila, the town where this gift was first bestowed.

Don’t you just like this legend of tequila?  I have already marked my calendar for my next meeting with Ernesto, on which he promises to explain me all about the tequila varieties and other important elements of savoring this popular Mexican drink.

 

“El Jimador” – a man at the agave field: by Celso Flores via Flickr