We spent last weekend in Leavenworth, Washington, to celebrate my dad’s birthday.
Do you know about the “Bavarian” village nestled in the Cascade mountains? Well you should, because they are the only place that I know of around here where it’s totally acceptable to have Christmas lights still up in March and where grown men wear lederhosen unironically. That enough should make you want to go.
Downtown Leavenworth is pretty solid in terms of it’s Bavarian style, architecture, and “charm.” Don’t get me wrong, the place is, well… kitschy. But because it’s kitschy in a very committed, across-the-board kind of way, it’s pretty fun and enjoyable. There are stores devoted only to gingerbread, nutcrackers, and Danishes – so what’s not to like? And then the gorgeous mountain backdrop helps make the entire scene believable.
But the thing that I really appreciate about Leavenworth are it’s frayed edges. The city has regulations about the style of the buildings and the lettering that businesses use (i.e., must be in “Old World Bavarian-Alpine” theme).
The farther you get away from the downtown, things start to look a little less professional-Alpine-style and a little more haphazard-Alpine-style. It’s like you can imagine that there is an elite set of specialized Bavarian builders and the painters in town, and then there are the more affordable contractors. Some businesses simply just do the minimum Alpine theme they can get away with while still adhering to Leavenworth’s city codes.
I just sort of love the attitude of, well, I’ll give it the old college try, but if it turns out that my Bavarian-themed hotel doesn’t go with the 20-foot knight standing in the courtyard, I guess that’s the reality I’ll need to accept.
I also went along with the Bavarian theme and tried out my new “Classic German Baking” book by the awesome Luisa Weiss. I went straight for the most classic cake recipe I could find in the book: the Sachertorte.
I remembered that I had tried Sachertorte in Salzburg, Austria (after spending a day enjoying a Sound of Music tour, which was a little rough because Aaron kept asking me pestering questions like, “Is this where the Jets and the Sharks had a rumble?”)
Anyway, I recall eating this glorious piece of cake with a shot of espresso topped with the BIGGEST mound of whipped cream. We were in one of those adorable sidewalk cafes at the center of town. It is one of those wonderful food memories that encompasses both a memorable setting and special meal.
When I thought about what I wanted to make for my dad from the German baking book, Sachertorte was the obvious choice.
I have to say that the cake itself was actually quite complicated (it required about five bowls, whipping egg whites, using a double-boiler to melt chocolate and European butter together), but it was well worth it. The results were incredible.
I’ve never had a cake with a crumb so tender that it almost mirrored cheesecake. It was dense and rich, but light at the same time.
And then you cover the layers with an apricot-rum glaze AND a thin chocolate ganache. It is supreme.
So simple to look at and pure wonder to eat.
Beyond eating Sachertorte, we went out to dinner on Saturday night and had fondue and other yummy fare and then went on a little nature hike on Sunday morning.
And on our drive back from Leavenworth, we stopped by Snoqualmie Falls! I could not help having the Twin Peaks theme song running through my head the entire time.
We also made an unplanned stop at a train museum in Snoqualmie.
I have been totally baffled at the level of interest Ansel and other – mostly male – toddlers have in trains. I mean, sure I like a train. But what is it about large moving things that makes little people freak out?
Ansel is always saying, “Lo-co-MO-Tive” and demanding that we draw train tracks over and over again when we color with him. It’s an obsession that I will never understand.
And he has this book called, “The Big Book of Trains,” and he’s memorized every type of god-loving train in there. “Hong Kong Tram!” and “Pendolino!” and “orange coal train!”
He might not be able to talk about his feelings yet, but he can tell you about “British timber trains!” and “Switching engines!”
The train museum was in an old train station and there was a train set to play with in the old men’s waiting room (a beautiful all-wood room with lots of natural light). These pictures were taken before Ansel was told that we needed to leave and had a pure and utter full-fledged meltdown that lasted from Snoqualmie to Puyallup on the ride home. The irony here is that my new mantra of dealing with Ansel’s meltdowns comes from one of his train books, The Little Engine that Could.
He’ll be wailing emotionally about a train getting off track or one of his crackers falling down, and I’ll self-soothe by mentally repeating, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”
Let that take you into this week, to help you face whatever you have going on!