“A Christmas market, also known as Christkindlmarkt (literally: Baby Jesus Market), Christkindlesmarkt, Christkindlmarket, Christkindlimarkt, and Weihnachtsmarkt, is a street market associated with the celebration of Christmas during the four weeks of Advent. These markets originated in Germany, but are now being held in many other countries. The history of Christmas markets goes back to the Late Middle Ages in the German-speaking part of Europe, and in many parts of the former Holy Roman Empire that includes many eastern regions of France. The Christmas markets of Bautzen were first held in 1384.Dresden‘s Striezelmarkt was first held in 1434. Frankfurt was first mentioned in 1393, Munich in 1310, and Augsburg in 1498. In Austria, Vienna’s “December market” can be considered a forerunner of Christmas markets and dates back to 1298.
I remember the exact moment when I first tried kombucha. I was in the passenger seat of the car in the parking lot of a Whole Foods in Long Island New York. My ex-husband had bought a rather expensive (something like $3) green carbonated drink, which he said was supposed to be really healthy.
I took a sip and was like, “uck, that’s disgusting!”
It was super sour and the base flavor was not that great. It would be my first taste of G.T.’s, one of the the biggest kombucha brewers in the US.
Since it was supposed to be good for me, when we went back to Whole Foods the next weekend, I tried it again, this time the Passionberry Bliss flavor. My second try went much better, and I was soon hooked!
Since I was on a limited budget (damn law school loans), spending $3 a bottle a day on kombucha (x2 people), was just not in the budget. I was seriously bummed out. However, after doing some research online, I was delighted to discover that I could brew ‘buch at home for a fraction of the price!
Since I have some extra kombucha vinegar laying around, I decided to get creative. Eric and Jessica Childs (founders of Kombucha Brooklyn in New York City) in their book Kombucha! had a really interesting recipe for kombucha mustard. I like mustard, so I decided to give it a shot.
1. Kohr’s Frozen Custard. If you like icecream, you will love Kohr’s. It is so thick and creamy. The best flavor by far is the orange / vanilla twist. You can find it at the Pt. Pleasant Beach boardwalk, down by Jenkinsons.
2. Mueller’s Bakery. Around since the late 1800’s, this place is great for baked goods. It used to have much better coffee (when it was brewed fresh). I guess due to supply and demand issues, the coffee is brewed and put into “self-service” pots against the back wall of the bakery. If you don’t come just when it was brewed, you could be disappointed.
3. Martell’s Tiki Bar. This place is super fun during the summer months. On the weekends they usually have live bands. There is a bar conveniently located at the end of the pier, so you can enjoy a drink and watch the waves crash against the shore.
4. Jenkinson’s Sweet Shop. This sweet shop is open year round, and is a great place to get homemade fudge and New Jersey saltwater taffy.
Ask for a taste test of the homemade fudge. My favorite is the peanut butter chocolate.
Taffy comes in all sorts of flavors and makes a great gift!
Salt water taffy
5. Jenkinson’s Aquarium. Located at the end of the commercial portion of the boardwalk, this place is really fun for kids (and even if you are an adult). The animals are really nice to see, and there are shows (like feeding the Penguins) that you can watch. We would always take my niece and nephew here on the weekends–especially if it was a rainy day.
6. Running on the Boardwalk. The boardwalk is about 1 mile long, and is a great place to run (in the off season). Since it is super croweded during the on-season, I cannot recommend this as a good place to run, unless you come either really early in the morning or really late.
7. Bayhead. Bayhead is a cute little town near to Pt. Pleasant Beach. It has quaint little shops (e.g. Coffee at Noon) and is an overall good place just to walk around and see the sights.
8. Sushi. Living in Austria, American style sushi is hard to come by, so whenever I am in town I love to go out for sushi. My favorite place is a small restaurant in Normandy Beach called Blue Sushi. The food is fresh and tasty. The restaurant is BYOB. Price for Amazing Roll was $17, and 3 pieces of sashimi was $6. A normal roll like Spicy Tuna was about $7. If sushi is not your thing, they also had typical Japanese restaurant food, like Udon noodle soup and teryaki.
9. Spikes: My family and I have been going to spikes for decades. It is a small fish market and restaurant with wooden tables and benches. The food is always fresh and consistently good. If you go in the summer time, expect to wait up to an hour for an available table as they do not take reservations.
10. Local Urban Kitchen. This little restaurant has great food (vegan and gluten free options available), great coffee, and homebrewed teas. I meant to take a picture of the blackbean burger on gluten free bread, with raw kale chips, but I was so hungry and it looked so good that I totally forgot. After lunch, I had a non-fat latte. My tastebuds thanked me. Being a kombucha homebrewer and general kombucha enthusiast, I had to try the kombucha on tap. It was lavender-mint flavored, and was very crisp and refreshing. Kulture Kombucha is a local NJ brewery.
My mom and I had just finished our 5k run / walk at the boardwalk, and we decided to go for lunch. Local Urban Kitchen opened at the Pt. Pleasant location in 2014. In the last four years, I think that I have only been here a couple of times — this was definetely my huge loss!
Everything in the restaurant is locally sourced and is just absolutely fresh and delicious. There are tons of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options, which for me is a huge PLUS! Their website also mentions that the tables and benches are handbuilt and “upcycled” by a local contractor, and the plates are made by a local potter.
Craving good coffee? This place hits the spot. If you are feeling adventurous, you could even try fall inspired flavors like vanilla maple or pumpkin.
What can I say about kombucha that isn’t positive? As a homebrewer and general kombucha lover, I have tried many different flavors and breweries. On tap at the Local Urban Kitchen is Kulture Kombucha‘s lavender mint. They also sell a variety of flavors in bottles. Definetely worth a try!
Coffee at Noon is a cute little shop in Bayhead that not only has a coffee bar, but also sells American handmade jewelry, soap, and other home goods. The cold brew coffee was really good (and something I needed after drinking nothing but Keurig coffee since coming back to the US). It was a little pricey however, at a 2-for-1 price of $2.50 each cold brew. If you are in Bayhead, this would be a nice little shop to visit, even just to browse the unique handcrafted goods.
When I first visited Bratislava 18 years ago, it was not yet part of the European Union. I had traveled to Europe with my High School German class during winter break. After visiting Vienna, Austria (see post My First Austrian Encounter), our bus traveled to Slovakia. Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is about a 30 minute drive from Vienna. There isn’t much to distinguish the two countries, especially now that there is no border control to speak of, except for the Soviet Era architecture of the buildings.
Back in 2000, however, it wasn’t so simple. I wrote in my diary that our bus was boarded by boarder guards, who collected a passport and $20 from each person. Reflecting on it now, it was probably the fee for the Visa to enter the country. In my diary I remarked that lunch was cheap, only about $4. I didn’t write the name of the restaurant in my diary, but I can report that lunch is no longer as cheap (but it is in no way expensive).
Having returned to Bratislava in February, 2018, I can highly recommend it for a weekend trip. According to Google Maps, the drive from Linz to Bratislava takes about 2 hours and 28 minutes. We left on a Saturday morning and arrived in Bratislava around early afternoon. We stayed at the Falkensteiner. The hotel room was decent, and the price we paid was about €60 per night. If you want to eat breakfast at the hotel, there would be an additional fee. We did not chose this option.
Interestingly, the Falkensteiner rooms were designed to have a window between the bathroom and the bedroom. In the photo below, I am in the bathroom, and my boyfriend is looking in at me from the bed. Needless to say, this feature was fun, if not also slightly creepy.
After checking in and playing Peeping Tom, we went for a walk in Old Town, which is only about a 10-15 minute walk from the hotel. On the way we found cute little shops like the one pictured below.
We had not pre-selected a place to eat lunch and we figured that we would just walk around and find something. Since Old Town is a very touristy spot, we were expecting many tourist places. We were surprised to find a cute cafe on the main street called Enjoy Coffee. This place sold its own blends of tea (both to enjoy at the table and to take home).
As a person who is both vegetarian and gluten intolerant, I was able to find several options on the menu. I had the mushroom buckwheat risotto with feta cheese. My boyfriend, who is not vegetarian, had the duck sandwich. If one has kids, this place was also extremely kid friendly, with a small play area in the back.
After lunch, we walked around Old Town. Since the town is rather small, it is possible to see all the tourist sites within one afternoon. To see some good suggestions on what to do, check out this article from The Huffpost.
We had no itinerary, and found that walking around had its advantages. Along we way we spotted:
Statue of the Man at Work.
Old Town Hall. When we were in Bratislava, we tried to purchase tickets to walk up to the top of the tower, but it was closed. If you would like to do the same, go through the archway (bottom right hand of below picture). On the other side you will find a small square. To the right are glass doors. You purchase the tickets inside from a very unfriendly woman who doesn’t speak any English whatsoever. Don’t worry, there will be signs posted in English if the tower is closed.
In the square by the Old Town Hall, we found (purely by chance) an awesome wine bar called Wine Not. They have literally hundreds of different wines from all over the world, including from Slovakia. One in particular that we absolutely loved was called Vulcanica. It was a white wine that was self carbonated due to the fermentation process. As lovers of all things fermented, we just had to try and we were not disappointed. Price per bottle was around €26. We loved it so much we ended up taking a bottle home with us.
This place is cool not only for its enormous selection, but also due to its ambiance. It was warm and inviting, and the staff was super friendly. They answered all of our questions regarding the wine. If you visit on a weekend night, it is advisable to make a reservation, especially if you want to sit in the front room looking out on the square.
For dinner, we walked from our hotel to Lemon Tree, a Thai fusion place. Unlike the other places we had been to, Lemon Tree was a little on the expensive side. It is located next to the American Embassy on the top floor of the building. We stopped to take pictures in front of the American flag (because MURICKA!)–the guards with the automatic rifles were watching us closely from the other side of the fence.
The view from the restaurant (in the background of the picture below) was of the St. Martin’s Cathedral, which I visited in 2000, but did not have the chance to again in the 2018 trip. My fruity Prosecco drink pictured below is topped with cotton candy. It was very tasty.
The St. Martin’s Cathedral can also been seen from the Bratislava Castle. In my diary from 2000, I wrote that the inside of the cathedral was much plainer than the cathedrals of Austria, but more decorative than the ones in America. I also wrote that “the wooden pews were so rigid that when you sat in them, you were forced to sit straight up.” I remarked that I was not allowed to take photos of the inside, but purchased a post card (which has been since lost to time). Had I remembered I had visited the Cathedral back in 2000, I would have made a point to go inside for comparison. Next time.
If you like dancing to Latin music, drinking cocktails, or even smoking cigars, the place to visit in Bratislava is Cuba Libre. This place was packed with what appeared to be locals as well as tourists. I even observed some high local drama, as a man escorted the scantily clad woman he had been closely dancing with out of the bar. 10 minutes later he reappeared with a more demurely dressed, plainer woman, who could only have been his girlfriend. Crisis avoided(?) People watching is hilarious.
The next day before heading back to Linz, we ate brunch at Ranno Ptacka. The food was good, but the service was horrendous. The waitress forgot to put my order in. After finally noticing that I had not gotten my food (as everyone else’s food was dropped off by another waitress), she asked me “if I still wanted my food”. To which I answered, “Of course!”
Finally, after everyone had finished eating, I received my food. It was good, but I am not sure it was worth a 30 minute wait to receive it. In any event, if I even find myself in Bratislava again, I would still go back there.
Lastly, on the way out of town, we visited Bratislava Castle. We didn’t go inside, as we were tired from our previous night out.
All in all, Bratislava is a great weekend trip, and one that I would recommend to anyone.