Posts Tagged ‘Paying the bill in a German Restaurant’

Fastenzeit – Lent

Wolfach_FastnachtAs Germany quietens down after the raucous antics of Karneval those following the religious traditions are preparing themselves for Easter by observing the rules of Lent. Another German word for Karneval “Fastnacht” gives us a hint to its historical and religious background: Fast(ing) Night. The night or nights before the fast! It seems to be in human nature to indulge oneself in limitless debauchery and excess before restricting one’s lifestyle for a certain amount of time.

In general a fast is intended to draw one’s spirit closer to God and gain clearer insight and faith. Even though the term is mainly used in the Christian context, other faiths practice it too (Ramadan [Islam], Baha’I Faith [month of ‘Ala] and Judaism [on Yom Kippur day e.g.] to name a few).

Scrummy fasting meals

While all these religions have different rules for the fast, they have one thing in common: staying away from animal products, especially red meat. For some molluscs and fish are acceptable, but most will recommend vegetable and fruit based recipes. As Germany and the northern hemisphere are still in the grip of winter, most of the dishes are hearty, warming ones.

Rezept "Miesmuscheln Rheinische Art"But I remembered a well-loved classic that could be a nice one to try during summer time here: ‘Muscheln auf Rheinische Art’, mussles Rhine style. In Germany ‘Miesmuscheln’ are the preferred variety, due to their bite size. But I would guess any bite sized mussel or shellfish would do for this recipe.

For four adults as a main:


1kg fresh mussels ( less if Greenlipped ones are used)

1 leek (white part sliced in thin rings)

½ celeriac (diced, you can substitute celery if you can’t find celeriac)

1medium onion (finely diced)

2 medium carrots (finely diced)

1 garlic clove crushed

1 bay leaf

2 whole cloves

Salt and pepper to taste

1 bottle of dry Riesling or cab sav (alternatively use 700ml vegetable broth)


2 baguette sticks


Sautee carrot, onion, celeriac and leek in butter until soft.

Add fluid, bay leaf and cloves and let simmer for 5 minutes.

Bring to boil and add cleaned mussels. Mussels NEED to be closed before cooking, they should open during cooking. Discard any that haven’t.

Take of the boil once most are open. Serve with some of the broth and the vegetables and use the baguette to mop up all the yummy flavours!

This definitely qualifies as finger food and you should try using the first set of cleaned shells still attached to each other as a set of tongs for getting the flesh out of the others.

cremige_brokkolisuppe_mit_kaeseFor the vegetarian palate:

Creamed Broccoli Soup


For four adults as mains:

2 medium/ 1 large broccoli

6 medium potatoes

½ small onion diced

1/3 cup pine nuts

1 tbsp sour cream or ¼ cup of whole milk

Grated parmesan and salt&pepper to taste


Peel and slice potatoes, trim stems of dried up ends and cut into chunks, dice onion.

Place all in saucepan with enough salted (1tbsp) water to cover and bring to boil.

Cook until potatoes are falling apart and broccoli is softish. Don’t cook it too long, it will lose its colour.

Place the pine nuts with a bit of the stock and some veges in the blender and zap until smooth and silky. Decant into another saucepan and continue to blend the rest of the stock and veges. If you prefer the soup a bit more chunky, zap less. Add the sour cream OR milk and give a good stir and a quick reheat.

Serve with fresh bread, some grated parmesan and fresh ground pepper.

Hope you enjoy these little treats and if you’d like to find out more about Germany and its history and traditions join us on one of our tours. Let us know what you want to discover and we will put you on the right track.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens









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Do’s and Don’ts in German Restaurants and Cafés

One of the many pleasures while travelling is that you get to delve into a different culinary world.  No doubt you’ll want to try the various regional specialties, so we make sure you get plenty of opportunities to sample different foods on a Sidetracks Tour.  In the article below we have listed some differences to be aware of when it comes to food services etiquette between Down Under and Germany, so that you can just relax and enjoy the great German food.

On Arrival

Unless it is a fancy restaurant, you don’t usually have to wait to be seated once you arrive: just walk right in and pick the table of your choice. At bars, in cafés and in informal crowded restaurants, it’s also perfectly OK to sit down next to strangers, as long as you get an affirmative response to the question “Ist hier noch frei?” – “Is this seat vacant?”.  It’s also a great way to meet the locals! Many smaller restaurants, however, will have a table reserved for regular customers, such as those from a particular company or society.  These tables will usually be labelled with a sign stating “Stammtisch”.  Don’t sit at these tables without checking with a waiter/waitress first.

Bread and Water

Unlike Down Under, it’s not customary to serve or receive water upon arrival in any restaurant or café in Germany, so you won’t find jugs of water or a water fountain to help yourself to.  Instead, you’ll need to order and pay for water and are likely to be asked whether you would prefer sparkling or still mineral water (“mit oder ohne Kohlensäure”) when doing so.  Although it’s very uncommon to request tap water (“Leitungswasser”) as a drink, requesting a glass of tap water to be served with your coffee is becoming a more commonly accepted practice these days.  Also, if there is a basket of bread and/or pretzels (“Brezeln”) on the table, don’t be surprised if you are charged for what you eat.


When you are ready to order, close the menu or put it face down on the table, and if still no one comes to take your orders, just catch the eye of the waiter/waitress and say “Bestellen bitte!” in a friendly tone.


When eating or drinking together, people ususally say “Guten Appetit” before they start and you might come across people saying “Prost!” (“Cheers!”) or “Zum Wohl!” (“To your health!”) before they briefly clink glasses.  When you join in a toast with others, it’s polite to look the person you are clinking glasses with in the eye.

To Finish

As in Australia and New Zealand, if you cross your knife and fork on your plate, it means you are just pausing in your meal.  If you lay your knife and fork side by side, however, it means you are finished and the waiter/waitress may come and take your plate away.

Your Sidetracks tour guide is also never far away and is happy to help with any advice or translations that are needed.  So you can just relax and enjoy your culinary experiences in the heart of Europe.

And don’t forget to check out part 2 – Tipping & Paying the Bill.

“Guten Appetit” and “Prost” from the Sidetracks Team!



Author: Barbara Panettieri




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