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!

Die 5 kulinarischen Highlights der Rheinkirmes

Düsseldorfs größtes Sommerfest ist die Rheinkirmes. Zum 115. mal, wird das Rheinufer von Düsseldorf in einen einzigartigen Freizeitpark verwandelt. Ein riesiges Sommerfest mit traditionellen Bierzelten, spektakulären Fahrattraktionen, live Bands, herzhaften Leckereien, Süßigkeiten und über vier Millionen Besucher aller Altersgruppen. Es ist großartig!
Die 9-Tage andauernde Kirmes vereint Traditionen und kulinarische Köstlichkeiten mit Unterhaltung. Da es so viel zu entdecken gibt, fühlt man sich leicht überwältigt. Das beste an der Kirmes ist das Essen! Daher teile ich heute mit Euch meine 5 kulinarischen Highlights der Rheinkirmes.


Tradition / Brauchtum - Kirmes Skyline

Tradition / Brauchtum – Kirmes Skyline

# 1 Backfisch
Falls Ihr frittierten Fisch mögt, werdet Ihr den Backfisch lieben. Als Beilage könnt Ihr zwischen einem Backfisch im Brötchen oder frischen Pommes Frites entscheiden. Ihr müsst unbedingt die Remoularde probieren – Sie passt perfekt. Ihr solltest Euch dieses Gericht nicht entgehen lassen!
#2 Bratwurst
Ein Ausflug zur Kirmes ohne Bratwurst, ist kein richtiger Kirmesausflug.
Die Bratwurst wird in einem knusprigen Brötchen serviert, mit Sauerkraut als traditioneller Beilage. Den Senf nicht vergessen! Dieser ist erhältlich in den verschiedensten Geschmacksrichtungen von würzig und grob bis hin zu süß und scharf ist für jeden Geschmack etwas dabei.
#3 Kartoffelpuffer
Es gibt nichts Besseres als einen frisch zubereiteten Kartoffelpuffer mit Apfelmus. Er ist der perfekte Mix zwischen süß und herzhaft und schmeckt am besten mit der #4!
Düsseldorf liegt im Zentrum einer der interessantesten Bierregionen in Deutschland. Also führt kein Weg an einem Düsseldorfer Altbier vorbei. Es sind drei klassische Brauereien auf der Kirmes vertreten Füchschen, Uerige und Schuhmacher. Jeder Düsseldorfer hat seinen persönlichen Favoriten, Ihr solltet alles probieren um auch Euren Favoriten auswählen zu können!

#5 Gebratene Mandeln
Ihr solltet Euch direkt zwei Packungen kaufen, denn diese Mandeln schmecken köstlich. Der perfekte Mix zwischen knusprig und süß, Ihr könnt sie snacken während Ihr die Fahrattraktionen erlebt.

Ich freue mich schon über Eurer Feedback bezüglich meiner Top 5. Außerdem, gibt es nicht nur Essen zu entdecken! Eine Rheinschifffahrt während des Feuerwerks ist meine absolute Krönung und ein definitives Muss. Wenn Ihr das nächste Mal zu Gast im Breidenbacher Hof seid, fragt unsere Persönlichen Assistenten und sie werden sich um alle Gegebenheiten kümmern.

Dragon Boat Festival

Chinese history and culture fascinates me. Behind every holiday, every celebration is more than a thousand years of history and mythology.

On 2 June 2014, we celebrated Dragon Boat Festival. Locals in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong enjoyed a few days off to cheer for their Dragon Boat teams and feast with their families. While it is not officially a holiday in Singapore, it is still widely celebrated here in Singapore by local Chinese.

Dragon Boat Racers

Dragon Boat Racers

Contrary to what you may imagine, the story behind the Dragon Boat Festival is one of great tragedy. According to legend, in the third century B.C, Qu Yuan, a scholar and councillor to the King warned his king, Lord Huai, of an ominous threat from the northern Qing kingdom. Instead of listening to his advisor, the king banished him to the countryside. The king then took counsel from corrupt and scrupulous statesmen that cared not for the king and country but for money. Qu Yuan took to writing beautiful soulful poetry about the plight of the nation which inspired many countryfolk. In 278 B.C, the Qing armies conquered his kingdom and destroyed the imperial palace. Distraught, Qu Yuan threw himself into the Mi-Luo River, killing himself.

When the villagers saw Qu Yuan jump into the river, they attempted to save him, to no avail. They then tried to appease his spirit by throwing rice stuffed in bamboo stems into the river to prevent the fish from eating his body. The villagers all went out in dragon boats trying to look for his body but they could not find it. Thus, began the practice of eating rice dumplings and racing dragon boats. Isn’t it interesting how a tragic event in the past can lead to a colourful vibrant festival today?

One of the reasons I personally love Dragon Boat Festival is because I have an excuse to eat deliciously sweet rice dumplings. In my opinion, one of the best dumplings in Singapore is made and sold by Kim Choo’s Kitchen. Kim Choo’s kitchen, nestled in the heart of Singapore’s East Coast, Joo Chiat, is a true delight for the senses. Here, you can buy a colourful assortment of local confectionary, cakes and dumplings. As the dumplings and cakes are so popular, I suggest you come early during the day to be able to even get your hands on them.

Rice dumplings with tea

Rice dumplings with tea

Kim Choo’s Kitchen is an easy 25-minute drive from Capella Singapore. You may wish to spend a whole day wandering the historical streets of Joo Chiat, stopping for lunch at Kim Choo’s Kitchen. Our Personal Assistants will be able to assist you with planning your visit to Joo Chiat and share more about the Dragon Boat Festival. You can reach them at pa.singapore@capellahotels.com / +65 6591 5035.

Finding Romance In Chinese Astrology

On 31 January, Singapore celebrated the Lunar New Year – this is one of the most important holidays in the Chinese calendar as it symbolizes the coming of spring.  I personally love the Lunar New Year celebrations because it is a wonderful opportunity to get together and celebrate with the family.

chinese astrology

The Chinese culture has its own zodiac or astrological signs, which rotate each Lunar New Year.   The different signs are named after 12 different animals, (see my post HERE for more information on the animals and the story behind them). This year marks the year of the horse.

Like the western astrological signs, each character in the Chinese zodiac has unique characteristics and personality traits.   As a result, different signs are more compatible as friends, companions and lovers than other.  Because we are approaching western culture’s Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be fun to share a chart outlining compatibility.  You may be surprised to learn that many people still rely on these charts when determining if a mate is suitable for them!

Chinese Astrology

If you are in Singapore and would like to know more about your zodiac sign, you can always approach a Capella Singapore Personal Assistant who can arrange you meeting with a Chinese Astrology expert to teach you more about your sign and the significance of the Chinese zodiac.

Romantic Mexican Traditions

Valentine’s day is around the corner, and it perfectly fits the loving and festive nature that defines Mexicans.  We use this sweet excuse to pamper our loved ones, friends and family.  Throughout history, love has always been very important to Mexicans and as a result, we have many romantic Mexican traditions.

Our ancient civilization Mexica had two gods, that personified Love: Xochipilli and Xochiquetzal.  Xochipilli was like the Apollo of the Mexica.  He was the god of Love, games, beauty, dance, flowers, corn and songs.  His name means “the prince of the flowers” and he had a twin sister, the goddess of love, Xochiquetzal, meaning “precious flower or ornate bird.”  In honor of this pair of gods and their representation of love, Mexica used to celebrate with a four day festival.  During this time the people would make offerings of bread and corn, pierce their tongues with maguey thorns and dance to the beat of drums called teponaztli.

Mariachi-LA76-Photography (1)

Today, Mexico’s Valentine’s Day celebrations are similar to celebrations around the world.  Red roses are given, romantic cards written and chocolates enjoyed.  But we do have some traditions that remain our own.

In smaller towns, young people often meet in town squares; the girls stand on one side, the boys on the other.  Then, they walk around the perimeter in opposite directions, so they can face and look at each other.  On the second round the boys offer a flower to the girl that they like.  On the third round, if the girl has retained the flower, it means that she has agreed to go out with her suitor.  If she doesn’t keep the flower, it means she has rejected him and the boy must pick another girl.

My absolute favorite way of expressing the love in Mexico are “las serenatas” (serenades).  They are just so romantic!  You have probably seen the act of playing a serenade in some movie.  Usually, the boyfriend gathers a group of mariachi, or a trio, and visits the girlfriend’s house after the sunset.  On the street, under his loved one’s window, they all start to sing the most romantic and heartfelt songs.  The intention is to wake her up with songs that will touch the heart.  When the girl appears at her window, it means that she is pleased and approves of the serenade (I can’t imagine a girl could resist such a sweet and romantic gesture from her loved one!).  However the family may be a different story- if they approve of the suitor he may be invited in to visit, but if the family does not they may toss the water on him!

At Capella Ixtapa we have prepared a special Valentine’s Day package and are organizing many romantic activities and sweet attentions during this most romantic month.  Who knows, we might even get to play a serenade for some of our lucky guests!



Photo: LA76 Photography

How To Make A Pinata

In Mexico, pinatas are a central part of every celebration.  They are especially popular during Las Posadas, the traditional processions, which take place during the nine days before Christmas.

Here at Capella Ixtapa, a pinata making class is being offered to guests interested in learning about this Mexican tradition.  But for those of you unable to attend, I have put together the instructions for you.

Pinata Fest

-A Clay Pot or A Balloon (traditionally in Mexico a clay pot is used)
-2 Bowls
-Colored Tissue Paper
-Masking Tape
-Candies (or other small items to fill the piñata)

1. Take one bowl and fill it up with flour.  Add water until you create a smooth paste (tip: the final paste should have the consistency of the pancake batter).  Use the second bowl as your base to hold the pot or balloon.

2. Cut the rest of the newspaper into 2-3 inch wide strips.  Start dipping one paper strip after the other into the bowl of flour paste and placing it tightly over the balloon or clay pot.  Cover the entire balloon at least three times over to make a sturdy pinata base (if you are using a clay pot as a base, cover the pot with ten layers of paper – when pinata brakes these layers will hold the pot shards and protect them from flying around).  Allow the base to dry over night checking to make sure that the bowl doesn’t adhere to the piñata base.

3. Next, use a box cutter to cut a small hole at the top right and top left side of the dried pinata.  Cut a softball-sized hole in the top of the pinata— don’t throw the cut out section away, you will need it later!  Pull the balloon out from the inside.

4. Stick the rope into the small hole you made on the top right side of the pinata.  With the help of the bigger hole, guide the rope out the small upper-left hole.  You’ll use this rope to hang the pinata.  Cover and reinforce the small holes with masking tape.  These holes will bear a lot of weight when the pinata is hanging, so they need to be sturdy.  Fill the pinata with all the goodies.  Tape the softball-sized cutout section back onto the pinata.

5. The most traditional style pinata has seven cones in a star shape.  To create the cones  (or any other shape!) fold and glue cardboard to the pinata form.  Your pinata is now ready to be decorated!

6. Take your tissue paper and cut it in three-inch strips.  Glue the paper strips on the pinata.  You can for example have a colorful ‘body’ of the pinata, and then make each cone its own color.


Have a wonderful Christmas celebration! If you make your own piñata, please don’t forget to share it with me on Twitter or Facebook.

And if you are able to join us at Capella Ixtapa for the holidays, then be sure to contact your Personal Assistant for information and dates of our Christmas events and celebrations at pa.ixtapa@capellahotels.com!


Image via Flickr by Joey Parsons