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Friday, December 18, 2020

France's Christmas Markets for Foodies


               France's Alsace region features Hansel & Gretel villages reflecting its Germanic past 

Last week Wine-Knows' 2022 trip to the Christmas Markets of Germany was featured on this Blog.  But, on the 2022 tour Wine-Knows will also be visiting two French Marchés de Noëin Alsace, France.  Alsace is a small district in eastern France which borders Germany, as well as Switzerland.  This unique region has passed back and forth between France and Germany many times over the last several centuries, and the Alsatian Christmas markets reflect this duality.  In many ways, the marchérepresent the best of both countries in a prettily packaged German yuletide gift with an exquisite French culinary bow.

                                         Wine-Knows will dine at a Michelin star restaurant

Alsace is an often overlooked area of France, but foodies-in-the-know flock to this  gastronomic powerhouse.  Other than the center of Paris, Alsace has more Michelin star restaurants per square kilometer than any other country in Europe.  This northeast corner of France is a capital for foie gras.  Moreover, Alsace is a treasure trove for beautifully crafted wines.  Its Rieslings, Gewurztraminers and Pinot Gris are dry, unlike their German neighbors (although styles in Germany are shifting to drier wines).

                             Christmas markets in France have charmed locals for nearly 500 years           

Strasbourg, the capitol of Alsace, is the site of one of Europe’s oldest Christmas markets.  Operating since 1570, Strasbourg’s market is regarded as one of the very best in Europe.  It’s not just one big market but eleven different smaller markets spread out over the entire historical center of this extraordinary town.  (One of these markets is just for children.)  The Christmas tree in front of city hall is >100 feet tall and all ten stories of it are decked out in full regalia.  There’s a mind-boggling assortment of handcrafted items for the holiday season including everything one could ever dream of to decorate a Christmas tree or to deck the halls.  For the food-lover, however, it’s nirvana.

                         Why not splurge with a decadent slice of foie gras from this vendor at the market?

Santa’s elves could seriously eat their way across Strasbourg through the Christmas markets.  No doubt they would begin their culinary journey with foie gras, one of the culinary treasures of Alsace.  The Christmas marchés of Strasbourg are filled with beaucoup vendors selling foie gras.  Truly decadent elves might want to indulge in truffle studded foie gras, or purchase a magnificently wrapped basket containing both goose and duck foie gras, caviar, and a bottle of a luscious Alsatian wine.

                 Light-as-air Kougelhofts come in varying sizes, but all are made in the same shape

All of the Christmas markets in Strasbourg sell Alsace’s iconic Kougelhoft, an ethereal yeast-based cake baked in a tall decorative bundt-type mold.  A traditional Germanic recipe, Kougelhoft is featured in miniature single servings, as well as gigantic ones that could feed a family of 20 for Christmas dinner.  The markets also feature vendors selling brightly colored Kougelhoft molds that are hand-painted.

                 Bring an extra suitcase to take home some of these one of a kind decorations

The second Marché de Noël Wine-Knows will visit in 2022 is located in the charming Hansel and Gretel village of Colmar.   While Strasbourg is a huge city, Alsace's Colmar is just the right size for strolling.  Its six small marches, spread out over a half of a mile walk along a meandering river, are like a Christmas dream. 

                An Alsatian specialty called Flammekeuche marries the best of France & Germany

Flammekeuche is sold by several vendors at Colmar's Christmas market.  An Alsatian version of pizza without the tomatoes, this one has a paper thin crust.  The top reflects the French DNA and France’s love affair with cheese.  In this case it’s topped with the area’s famous Muenster cheese (in another world from the insipid  mass-produced muenster cheese sold in the USA).   For the other chromosome of its German past, flammekeuche is topped with ham or bacon.

                              Gingerbread cookies feature a multitude of yummy spices

One can find plenty of Christmas stalls in Colmar selling homemade pain d’epices, spice bread.  A classical dessert of Germanic culinary roots, pain d’epices is Alsace’s rendition of gingerbread.  At the Christmas market this bread is also made as a cookie in all shapes of the yuletide season.  The cookies pair perfectly with Alsace’s Christmas market hot spiced wine drink, vin chaud.

                  Colmar's Christmas markets meander through the historic town center

For more information on Wine-Knows’ 2022 trip to the Christmas markets of France and Germany, the trip is showcased on our website:

 Joyeux Noël

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