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Published: Sunday, 3/31/2013

Trip offered an education on mustard

Oh for a bowl of golden mustard soup followed by mustard sour cream sauce draping grilled salmon. Add a mustard honey dressing to a salad of greens and spread a tart mustard sauce over parsley root patties.

Too much mustard? The heavily endowed mustard menu would be overkill in America, but it was just what we needed in Monschau, Germany. In fact, I became so enamored with mustard soup on the recent European trip I ordered it often and quickly learned that each preparation is a little different. The soup was either thin, heavily creamed, or enhanced with fresh herbs.

The mustard was left to stand on its own, without the addition of vegetables, rice or noodles. In the many variations the intense flavor was very much present and so was the golden color it delivered.

It’s quite possible that we would not have been so excited about the soup and several other dishes featuring mustard of tje the weather in Germany hadn't handed us such a lemon. Eleanor, my travel pal from St. Paul, Minn, and I may be retired newspaper food editors but we will never retire from exploring regional foods around the world. When we spooned into the first bowl of delectable mustard soup, after being cooped up in a timeshare watching movies because of heavy snow and ice, we called it our lemonade.

National news reported that Germany suffered the harshest winter in 100 years. I believe it as I remember the heavy snowfalls day after day, our rental car getting stuck in the snow, and my legs aching from stressful walking on slippery brick walks. It was definitely not the ideal time for a European holiday, but we made the best of it and have memories to treasure.

As we drove from Brussels through National Park Eifel to the reserved timeshare near Germunder, Germany, the snowfall was postcard perfect as it coated the giant pine trees that lined either side of the curving, mountainous roads. Eifel, covering 10,700 hectares, is said to be one of the most beautiful regions in Europe

The weather caused us to miss the historic points of interest in Cologne and several villages we had circled on the Eifel map, but none could possibly be more charming and intriguing than Monschau, which was only 45 minutes away.

It rightfully is referred to in the national park brochure as a picturesque gem. Fascinating historic buildings hug the streets that are so narrow two passing cars barely miss. I would like to return to Monschau in good weather for a long stay in a downtown hotel.

Being a frequent European visitor Eleanor spotted a sign that said "Moutarde de Monschau" with an arrow. “That’s mustard, let’s see what it is,” she said.

What it is and has been since 1882 is a mustard mill, museum, store, and restaurant. The mill was closed, but we spent a long time in the store tasting several mustards that are made by hand by Guido Breuer, the mustard miller, and his daughter, Ruth Breuer.

According to the tasting displays there’s a flavored mustard for every purpose. The orange and curry mustards got high scores from the traveling foodies and the honey and poppy seed was a close second. The garlic mustard is recommended for salad dressings, the fiery chili mustard for meat salads, horseradish mustard for fish, and a sweet blend for

German wursts. Tomato, currant, fig, ginger-pineapple, and Riesling mustards are also in the collection made by the father-daughter team.

Because Eleanor and I both believe in the old adage to eat dessert first because life is too short, we didn’t pass up a chocolate bar flavored with red currant mustard. Then we walked next door to Restaurant Schnabuleum for a full mustard menu beginning with what has become my favorite soup.



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