Saturday, May 31, 2014

Taco Kidd, Kaiserslautern restaurant, English menu

This is a link to a PDF menu for Taco Kidd, a new Kaiserslautern restaurant that I reviewed here.

I had a bit of a time getting it set up, but it's finally done and the English menu can now be viewed.

Restaurant Review: Taco Kidd, Kaiserslautern

Taco Kidd
Merkurstrasse 13, Kaiserslautern
Hours: M-Fri 0530-2200; Sat. 1000-2300
Parking: a few spots are available on the street in front of the restaurant and there is a parking lot down the street
Reservations: though not a formal restaurant, TK offers them if desired
Link to the menu in English

Yet another restaurant has thrown its hat into the Mexican dining "arena" in the Kaiserslautern area: Taco Kidd, located in the Merkurstrasse shopping area on the west side of the city. To be accurate, though, one must say that Taco Kidd has thrown its hat into a subset of the Mexican arena, into the CaliMex style of food.

The restaurant is a pleasant mish-mash of everything, offering everything from a morning coffee hang-out spot with American and German breakfast possibilities, to a Qdoba style assembly line of food, and even a bar for after-work drinks!

Even the set-up of the restaurant allows for different dining experiences. For those on the go and in need of a quick take-away breakfast, there is a counter with muffins, breads, doughnuts, and other sweets. The next section is for the hot meals and it's where one would order the California-style Mexican food and hamburgers. Following that, there is a bar with several barstools for seating. The remainder of the restaurant offers either tables and chairs or a super cosy alcove with leather couches and coffee tables. Those wishing to enjoy some fresh air can even sit outside in the patio area.

The cozy alcove, a great spot for coffee!
The bar area, with some barstools.

The outdoor seating area
During my visit on the restaurant's opening day (31 May), I ordered the vegetarian burrito, which came with a side of tortilla chips and salsa. The chips came from a bag and were tasty enough. The salsa that accompanied them was interesting; it was finely blended and reminded me somewhat of taco sauce, perhaps with some smoked peppers, while not being overly spicy. The burrito was tasty, with a peppery, spicy bell pepper/vegetable mix that had a bite without biting my tongue off. Rice (which was meant to be lemon-cilantro but didn't have a bold flavor on its own), refried beans, diced tomatoes, and braised onions were included. I chose verde sauce to be added. While it definitely wasn't a Mexican burrito, the burrito was enjoyable as a flavorful, fresh concoction in a flour tortilla.

While I was standing in line for my burrito, staff offered me a sample of their sweet baked goods. I tried a brownie and really liked its perfect consistency and delicious chocolaty taste that wasn't overpowering.

I had the opportunity to speak to the restaurant's owner, David Massarik, who was kind enough to take some time to tell me more about his restaurant. His intention with Taco Kidd is to offer a stylish place for young people to hang out. The bar area certainly offers that. Of course, all ages are welcome; though Massarik did mention that he currently only has one child seat and his partner told him that he absolutely must get more, which he intends to do.

As far as the cuisine goes, Massarik was interested in offering California-style Mexican food that was not so heavy. His chef brings an extremely interesting culinary background, having lived in the US and having operated a Chinese restaurant and been exposed to Soul Food in Florida and Cajun food in the south. In spite of such an unusual culinary experience, or perhaps because of it, the food at Taco Kidd works and isn't completely off. In my burrito, I could definitely taste the restaurant's intent to offer fresh-tasting and not heavy food.

For breakfast, it is Massarik's intent to offer something that will appeal to both German and American palates. On the German side, there are bakery items and breads available. To appeal to the hungry American in search of something warm to eat, there are pancakes and breakfast burritos.

With so many options and a flexible setting that allows for many different dining experiences, Taco Kidd might just have something for everyone. It's a comfortable place to eat a burrito; to meet with friends; to study in the cozy seating area; enjoy a drink with friends after work; or to grab something to go.

Friday, May 30, 2014

A trip to Hamburg: Day 1

My friend C. (a different C. from the Macedonia trip) and I took a weekend trip to Hamburg. I found a deal from Deutsche Bahn for 188 euros per person for the high speed train and two overnights. Their Ameropa travel service often yields some decent enough deals, especially when one books as far in advance as possible. If not booking very far in advance, one will find that the hotels on offer are often sold out. I booked three weeks out and was able to secure a room at the A&O Hotel&Hostel.

Our train came in before 9 on Friday night. We walked to the A&O from the Hauptbahnhof; it was an easy 10 minute walk. It was jam-packed when we arrived, apparently with school groups, bachelor parties, and other travelers. What a mish-mash!

We dumped our luggage in our room and took the train to the Planten un Blomen Park. We picked our way carefully through the insufficiently lit and deliciously fragrant park to see a cheesy tourist attraction: the Wasserlichtorgel, or water light organ. It's a water fountain in the park's pond that is synchronized with light and organ music. It was sufficiently touristy and kitsch, but also very pleasant to stand among the wonderfully aromatic plants and enjoy the sight, which is free, and a good end to our first day's journey.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Roadside Candy Machines: Hamburg

We saw this machine in Hamburg. The prices are really low, at 20 cents per item. I was wondering what the "eye poppers" are -- apparently it's sour bubblegum.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Hamburg's Mannequin Scene

Continuing on my Tour d'Mannequin, I came across another interesting mannequin in knock-off Harley clothes. He was on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg.

I'm impressed because:
-he does not appear to be beaten up then subsequently patched up, as the French and Macedonian mannequins appear to have been;
-his facial hair appears to be factory-installed and not after market (à la Sharpie markers);
-and he seems to be genuinely thrilled with his (knock-off) clothing.

I'm concerned because:
-he has crazy long glue-on eyelashes;
-but if he didn't have eyelashes or if they were painted on that would be weird too;
-and I spend too much time pondering this.


 "Whoa, man! These knock-off Harley clothes are the bomb! I'm also glad that no one drew in my facial hair!"

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The mobile chef in Hamburg

We took a trip to Hamburg this past weekend. I saw the van below and thought it was super cute with a pot on the top of it. As I was grabbing my camera and giggling about the van, the driver came out and grinned at our goofiness. I think it would be awesome to drive a van around with a pot welded to the top of it!

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Zieht table - introducing a draft to the room

I was attending a meeting of an international group at a restaurant. I sat with the English speakers, which happened to be a table of expats. The meeting room was horribly stuffy and I was sweating just sitting there. Our group decided to open the window. We giggled among ourselves, bracing for the onslaught of "Es Zieht!," the exclamation that there's a draft.

See, many Germans are concerned about there being a draft. There is a thought that such a thing can make a person sick. I still haven't wrapped my head around that one because people are encouraged to throw their windows wide open for 5-15 minutes at a time in the winter to air out the house to prevent mold and doing this won't make one sick. However, a misplaced draft, even during the summer, is something to be concerned about, apparently.

I know, from having studied air quality and the like, that it's worse to have everything sealed up tight. I also was feeling a bit ill from the heat. I was so relieved when our renegade table opened the windows. Later, I did see some of the German ladies opening the window on their side so maybe the desire to not pass out from the heat overrode the possibility of the Zieht.

Friday, May 23, 2014

I prefer Tibia Air, myself

We smiled when we saw this travel agency, Fibula Air, in Skopje.

I wonder if it's especially popular with skeletons.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Mexican food at Cora Supermarket in France

I found more Mexican food (okay, TexMex) for sale at the Cora Supermarket in Sarreguemines, France. It was the Old El Paso brand, which is also available in the US.

The "gratinado" thing was interesting. It was almost like a Mexican-style lasagne bake. I love that it's marked "sans piment," without pepper. Maybe the French are like (many of) the Germans in that they don't like spicy food?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Choco kebabs?!

When I visited the Mannheim Maimarkt, I saw a choco(late) kebab booth. I had read about a store opening in Berlin that sold these a while back so it was curious to see it in person. The "chef" would shave off bits from a chocolate hunk and then they'd be served in something that looked like a tortilla. I can't say that this looked at all appetizing to me but it was certainly interesting!

Some Serious Spargel Cleaning!

It's Spragelzeit in Germay, but apparently Germany isn't the only country serious about Spargel, or white asparagus.

In April, I crossed the border into France and stopped at the Cora supermarket in Sarreguemines. Spargel was featured there, too, but the French took its care a step farther: they had this crazy machine that cleaned and peeled the Spargel!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The cats and dogs of Skopje

In Skopje, there are many loose cats and dogs wandering the streets. Some of the dogs have a yellow tag in their ear; this means that they are being monitored by the government and have received vaccinations.

Wild kitty

Talking to some locals, we found out that they have been bitten by the animals on the street. D said that he was walking along and a dog, unprovoked, ran up and bit him on the leg! I asked him if he had to get rabies shots afterward. He said no, because the dog was tested and didn't have rabies. I wondered how on earth he would know. After he was bitten, he captured the dog and took him to the vet! It was both funny and awful at the same time. I'm not sure that I personally would want to try to round up a feral dog who had just bitten me!

I asked why the animals weren't rounded up and taken to a shelter. I was told that it's an animals' rights issue and people are sensitive about such things happening. Instead, the government monitors some of the animals for sickness. They must fend for themselves in the food department.

Since I like to think about things from all angles, here are other thoughts about the situation:

-Is it "humane" for animals to wander around with no set food supply, and to get sick (not all of them were tagged as being immunized) and/or get hit by vehicles?
-Is it a matter of public health to worry about randomly being bitten/attacked by the feral animals? I heard from several people that they were bitten, unprovoked.
-What about the animals breeding and creating more feral animals?

Those are all tough questions, for sure.

Some animals receive basic care from residents. For example, in the Old Bazaar, one merchant had a sweet set-up for the street kitties to take a nap in front of his store:

Monday, May 19, 2014

Skopje: more weird mannequins!

On vacations, some people collect things. Maybe the vacationer picks up a magnet from the location or even worse, a t-shirt with the name of the location. In the past, I would buy a Christmas ornament from the places I visited. Then I was honest with myself and realized that as long as I had Moo (or any cat, for that matter), I would probably never have a Christmas tree because cats can be jerkfaces.

Instead, I find myself collecting memories and pictures of oddities on my trips. First it started with taking pictures of roadside candy machines, in all of their desolate, sugary solitary life. Then I started taking pictures of depictions of Church figures holding buildings. Now I'm also taking pictures of weird mannequins after a Strasbourg trip with my cousins.

During the Skopje (Macedonia) trip, I saw more weird mannequins. What's up with beaten-up mannequins with creepy facial "hair"? Do they get in fights at night when no one is looking, then try to fix it up by drawing on themselves with permanent markers?

Super alarming dude with Magic Markered facial hair!
Justin Bieber, in mannequin form, beaten up then with fake eyelashes added.

More creepy facial hair.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The tables are turned

Many of my local friends and I come from places with cold winters. I'm talking like anywhere from 0-40 degrees F in the winter. Therefore, we're accustomed to cold weather. Here in Kaiserslautern, it can get cold in the winter, but it's not as cold/snowy as home is.

The funny thing is that it can be 60 degrees F and the Germans are bundled up in heavy winter coats, scarves, and hats. My friend and I were in light sweatshirts and jeans. We are always surprised at how bundled up people were.

I got to hear the other side of it: after a sweaty hike, I was wearing a t-shirt and shorts. A resident of Germany was bundled up in (of course) a Jack Wolfskin coat. She shivered, looking at me, and wondered if I was cold. I actually wasn't, because of the hike. I laughed though, because here we always think they're dressed too warmly and they think we're not dressed warmly enough.

To be fair, this isn't just a thing here. I visited Las Vegas one April and it was about 80 degrees F, but with no humidity. There were people wearing jackets! I was completely floored. I guess that's what happens when one adapts to the environment.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

It's Biznis time in the Belgrade Airport

I saw this sign in the Nikola Tesla* Airport in Belgrade, Serbia and all I could think of was the Flight of the Conchords song.

*I was ridiculously excited to find out that the airport was named after him. He was such a fascinating inventor.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Macedonia trip: hiking to Mt. Vodno

Last weekend, my friend C and I took a flight after work to Skopje, Macedonia. It was a fantastic trip as Skopje is interesting in its own right, but even better because we were able to hang out with locals. C had studied in Skopje earlier in her academic career so we met up with her friends she made from the first trip, and even friends of her friends.

After our bleary (and somewhat scary) flight that brought us in at an alarmingly early time on Saturday morning, we woke up and prepared for a hike. C's friend had hooked us up with one of her own friends who would take us to Mount Vodno, located on the south side of Skopje. He drove us to a midpoint on the mountain (thank goodness! the mountain is 1,066 meters tall!) and we began our hike there. It was a nice area, complete with picnic areas, a snack stand, and the entrance to the gondola to ride up and down the mountain.

Even better yet? He gave me a trekking/hiking pole to borrow. I see Germans using them all the time, even on flat surfaces, but have never used one myself. I was wondering if it was just an elderly German lady thing (but kudos for them for rocking out at a good clip on the paths!). During this hike, I was introduced to how useful these poles (or pole, in this case) are. I wasn't really in prime hiking shape (or any shape at all) since I was restricted on physical activity in April. Mr. Hiking Pole definitely made the hike easier as I used him to help propel me up the mountain. I'm now on the lookout for a set of poles for myself.

The trek up the mountain was brisk, mostly because my counterparts were quite fit. I didn't lag too far behind but did need several breaks to catch my breath. We took the trail that our guide considered to be medium in difficulty. There were many bits where we had to trek up what could be washed out areas with loose rocks. I guess a weekend warrior (aka someone who's not super fit) could do the hike easily enough, but the trail is a little rough. Another option is to hike up the winding, paved road to the top.

Our scramble up the mountain was rewarded by a stop at hut at the summit. In the hut, one can buy drinks and snacks or even bring one's own, and sit at wooden tables and benches. The view is wonderful!

There is also a giant cross, named the Millennium Cross. I have heard that one can take an elevator to the top but we didn't take part in that. At the bottom of the cross, there's a cement pad that's painted to look like the Macedonian flag (red background, with a funky yellow sun).

At the base of the cross C played "Spot the German," which is easy enough. Basically, if anyone is wearing Jack Wolfskin clothing, it's highly likely the person is either German or lives there. The woman we met is actually Macedonian, but she lives and works somewhat near us in Germany. We had a nice chat in German as she doesn't speak English. I wish that I were in that situation more often, where the other person doesn't speak English, so I'd be forced to speak more German. Otherwise I'm so lazy about it. No wonder why my German isn't taking off like I'd like it to!

Soon after it was time to get back down the mountain. I suggested taking the gondolas. It was really inexpensive at about 100 denars per person (less than $2) and the view was great.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Creepy bunny head wants you to brush your teeth

During our Skopje trip, there was a marathon downtown. Various sponsors had booths and I found this booth particularly interesting and possibly frightening to small children.

It was a toothpaste booth with "dentists" (or those impersonating them) and a giant rabbit head glaring menacingly from the booth, all while possibly infringing copyright. Or, maybe the woman wearing the costume just removed the head for some fresh air. Maybe it's open to interpretation.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Prepared in a Mexican way

While dining at the restaurant in Macedonia, we noticed some cute ways of translating things into English.

For example, a Mexican-inspired dish was described as being "prepared in a Mexican way." I was imagining the cooks wearing sombreros and playing mariachi music; it made me smile.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The problems of reflexive verbs, as seen in Macedonia

This past weekend, a friend and I took a trip to Skopje, Macedonia for a whirlwind weekend trip. We left on Friday evening and by the time our final flight arrived in Skopje, we were both tired and a bit out of it after our full work day.

When I saw the sign below, I had to read it several times. I kept thinking that I was tired so I wasn't reading it correctly. I finally realized that the sign was wrong and had a fit of giggles. It highlights how difficult reflexive verbs and pronouns can be to get right!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Roadside Candy Machines: Wolfstein

Another machine with bars on the front of it. There are "stink bombs" inside, so maybe that's a good thing? See in Wolfstein.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Curiosity in Frankfurt

I saw this restaurant, the Zum Eichkatzerl, when I was in Frankfurt for the Fahrradmarkt and I must say that I am so curious about the place! I think squirrels are adorable and I want to figure out what exactly an "Eichkatzerl" would be. I'm guessing it's a Hessich term for squirrels based on context clues. I met a German who was from Hessen and she said she had never heard the term before so I'm even more intrigued. I totally want to try the restaurant, just based on the mural that depicts squirrels in suits. Cute, cute, cute!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Signs that I'm getting German-ized

I've now lived in Germany for almost a year and a half and I continue to assimilate and adjust to German life. I am totally enjoying living here, but that's not to say that weren't some adjustments to make and things to learn.

Here are some ways that I've gone "native," or that living in Germany has rubbed off on me.

1. I now love sparkling water/water with gas. I used to think it was nasty. Now, it's all that I seem to want to drink. I also have no problems drinking it at room temperature, which is often how it's served. No ice for me, baby!

2. I've made peace with the fact that many businesses don't take credit cards and that I will be paying with cash. Since I can use international ATMs with no fees, it is slightly cheaper to pay with cash anyway.

3. I have a hard time spelling -le words in English now because I've been writing -el German words.

4. I am a recycling-sorting pro and have chastised a friend for not recycling. When people don't sort recycling correctly, I tut tut.

5. I'm okay with stores being closed on Sundays. In fact, I find it peaceful (for the most part) and know that there are plenty of alternatives of things to do.

6. I know to plan for a big chunk of time when eating a meal at a restaurant. The one thing I'm still not cool with is if it takes forever to pay and the restaurant is not busy.

7. I firmly believe that there is no bad weather with the right clothing. I love, love, love that Germans still have festivals and outdoor activities even in the cold of winter.

8. I know that to get some of the tastiest things to eat, it might require visits to more than one store. For example, if I wanted the best bread, I'd need to go to the bakery. If I wanted the best vegetables, I'd need to go to the vegetable store. There are even stores devoted just to beverages (Getränkemärkt)! Sure, it's totally possible to buy all of these things at a regular grocery store, but believe me, it can be totally worth it to visit a specialty store instead.

9. I was reading an article about a woman living in Canada who received a ticket for drinking alcohol in a park and was super confused why she'd get a ticket for that. I've become accustomed to the permission to drink in public here. After all, why not enjoy some wine with friends in the park during a picnic?

10. I love bringing my own (reusable) bags to the grocery store. It's good for the environment and I don't have to pay for plastic bags that way.

11. I've made peace with canned corn showing up randomly in dishes. If it comes on pizza, I'm like, "oh, hello, you." I also understand the paradox that corn on the cob is somewhat hard to find.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Restaurant Review: IceRobot: Homemade Ice-Cream, Kaiserslautern


IceRobot: Homemade Ice-Cream
Am Altenhof 8
Hours: Monday-Sunday 11:00-20:00

A new player from an established restaurant has entered the ice cream scene in Kaiserslautern. IceRobot, an offshoot of Urban Vital restaurant (I reviewed it here and here), recently opened a few doors down from the original restaurant. It is a robotic ice cream store.

What exactly does that entail? The customer walks in on the right hand side of the store and approaches several touchscreen displays. The first choice is how the ice cream will arrive: Becher (in a cup) or waffelbecher (in a waffle cup).

Then one must choose the flavors. I remember seeing vanilla, chocolate, mango, strawberry, raspberry, peach, as well as other options, but the flavors change often. Touch the desired flavors on the screen, hit the green check mark, and a plastic card and a receipt pop out.


Proceed to the back of the store. There are three queues where one may approach and drop the card into a slot at the counter. The order is then processed and the ice cream proceeds down a conveyor belt to a small roll-up door at the queue. This takes a while as the belt is rather slow. Maybe the robot to the left will do a little dance for you while you wait.

Continue to the other side of the store and add any wanted toppings. After adding toppings, visit the cashier stand to pay. The ice cream is weighed and the price is calculated.

The ice cream is made by Urban Vital restaurant. It's delicious hard serve cream that has very fresh ingredients with brilliant flavors. For example, the mango and peach scoops I had tasted like eating the fresh fruit. I've never been disappointed with Urban's ice cream, having eaten it before at the original restaurant. I added a warm raspberry topping and that was delicious too. My concoction with two small scoops of ice cream and the topping was 2,80 euros, which is very much in line for ice cream prices.

There is also coffee to go. The machine is located at the front of the store on the left side.

The store is small and does not offer any seating at all. Outside are some tall tables where one may stand and eat the ice cream.

How did I find the experience? Well, I'll be honest: for an odd reason, I was feeling grumpy and impatient when I stopped by. It had nothing to do with the ice cream store itself; I was just flustered after running around, madly finishing errands after work. So, when it took forever to first pick the ice cream then wait for it to make its ridiculously slow arrival on the conveyor belt, I was just not feeling it. I think it would be far faster just to visit a regular ice cream shop, even if there is a line. I think that an employee scooping out ice cream is far faster and more efficient. However, if one enjoys novelties or has some patient kids who'd like to try something new, it could be a fun visit. The ice cream, after all, is just lovely.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Moo, with less hair

This spring has been really hard on those suffering from allergies; the trees and flowers are dumping pollen as fast as they can make it, or so it seems. Moo was also shedding his winter coat. The combination was making me miserable with allergic reactions so I had to do something about the part I could control: having Moo shaved.

Unfortunately, my clippers don't work well any more, as I wrote about last year. Enter the magic of the internet: I found someone who had clippers to shave Moo. She and her husband came over and shaved him as I held him down. They were amazed at how nice he was and that he put up with it. I'm relieved not to have cat hair tumbleweeds rolling around my apartment any more.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Mannheim Maimarkt: a must-see happening this weekend!

Do you know where you can shop 'til you drop; try food and wines from all over the world; and see so much more? All of this is possible at the Maimarkt Mannheim, which goes through the end of this weekend. Located near the SAP arena on the outskirts of Mannheim, it opens at 9 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to see as much as is possible; the Markt is huge!

The Maimarkt is almost 400 years old. Today, it's quite a sight to behold, with about 1,400 exhibitors. It is basically a trade show but is also so much more. Of course one can go shopping, visiting vendors who sell everything from kitchen gadgets to car insurance. If one is hungry, there is a huge international food court with wonderful things to eat and drink. Love horses? There is a show jumping and Dressage competition! There is even a neighborhood of houses at the edge of the fairgrounds. Does anyone live here? Nope; they're builders' model homes that are open for tours.

Adult tickets are 8,50 euros when bought at the Markt. Even better yet is to buy the ticket from a VRN ticket machine available at most train stations in the area; for only 50 cents more, one can also receive a roundtrip travel card in the VRN's service area (including Kaiserslautern) to use the train to get to the Maimarkt.

More information is available at:

American cookies at Cora in France

I saw these "American" cookies in Cora, a French supermarket. Having a backward American flag makes them authentic, right?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Maniacal French bunny

I saw this guy in Cora. I wonder if he's looking a bit crazy because he's jealous of the French Easter bells?*

*I highly recommend reading Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris. You'll laugh really hard and will gain a confused knowledge of what bells have to do with Easter in France.