The Latest European Heist: German Thieves Steal $20,710 Of Nutella

You may think you’re addicted to Nutella, but would you commit a crime to get some?

This week in central Germany a group of thieves made off with over $20,000 of Nutella. How much is $20,710 of chocolate hazelnut spread? It’s the equivalent of about 5.5 tons. Enough to make at least 11,000 Nutella baguette sandwiches. The Nutella was stolen from a parked trailer, begging the question: what was a trailer doing with 5.5 tons of chocolate spread?

Nutella pirates either know that they can sell the stuff on the black market – the spread is addictive as you know – or they’ll just be content to have a good stock on hand for when they invite their friends over for crepe night.

Either way, you can go ahead and add that to the list of odd global heists.

[Photo credit: Allison.hare]

Gifts From Estonia

gifts from Estonia
When you ditch your wife and kid for a week to go off to Estonia in the middle of the winter, you better bring some cool stuff back. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to find interesting gifts from Estonia. I managed to get a variety of low-cost presents that gave them a taste of what the country is like.

And I mean “taste” literally. As you can see, I mostly brought back food. Estonian cuisine has its own distinct twist. One thing that really stands out is that the Estonians like to confuse their taste buds. That bottle on the left is Vana Tallinn, a rum-based drink mixed with various contrasting flavors to creature a sweet, syrupy drink with a taste I’ve never experienced before. That honey is mixed with pollen, the chocolate is mixed with locally gathered berries and that cheese is some of the smokiest I’ve ever had.

Two gifts were specifically for my kid. One is a book called “The Retribution of Jack Frost,” which includes two Estonian folk tales of the familiar theme of the poor stranger being refused help by a rich person and aided by a poor one. Guess who gets punished and who gets rewarded at the end! I didn’t see much of a choice in English-language titles, but he liked this one and the drawings really catch the Estonian countryside in winter.

He also wanted a cup with a castle on it, so here it is, complete with a picture of Toompea Castle and Pikk Hermann Tower in Tallinn’s medieval Old Town.

Last but not least is an odd wooden refrigerator magnet I found in a retro vinyl shop. Some weird Tom Waits-like figure dancing with crows. It isn’t actually from Estonia but rather handmade by a Lithuanian artist. Hey, you can never have enough refrigerator magnets.

Not going to Estonia? Check out what ended up in our home from Japan and Greece.

Read the rest of my series: “Exploring Estonia: The Northern Baltics In Wintertime.”

[Photo by Sean McLachlan]

A European Culinary Essential: 5 Recipes To Celebrate World Nutella Day On February 5

There was a time when Nutella was merely a memory of European backpacking trips. The stuff was bought as you tried to keep your daily budget to $20 a day and would be spread on slices of bread from a local baker as you trekked through the old world.

But the hazelnut chocolate spread rose in popularity, and soon began to spread around the world, and now it’s as easy to find in an American grocery store as it is in a crepe stand in Paris.

February 5 is World Nutella Day, and for a product that has become synonymous with European breakfasts it’s only appropriate that the product gets its own international celebration. In fact, World Nutella Day is in its seventh year, and because of it, the website has a collection of over 700 recipes.

The earliest form of Nutella was created in the 1940s in Italy. Since then it has spread to global proportions. In fact, the amount of Nutella produced worldwide in one day is equivalent to nearly three times the weight of the Statue of Liberty.

To evoke travel dreams, here are five recipes perfect for celebrating World Nutella Day.

Make Your Own Nutella

It’s hard to go wrong with hazelnuts, chocolate and sugar, and Nutella is surprisingly easy to make at home.

Nutella Stuffed French Toast

The ultimate breakfast just might be French toast with a layer of creamy Nutella inside.

Nutella Cake

Infused with a little Frangelico, this cake is easy to make and shockingly addictive.

Hot Nutella and Cream Cheese Sandwich

A dessert sandwich? Yes. Combine Nutella with the savory flavor of a grilled cheese sandwich and you get this delectable item.

Chicken Enchiladas with Nutella Mole Poblano

Who said you had to stick to sweet dishes? Nutella makes an excellent addition to the classic chocolate mole sauce of Mexican dishes.

[Photo Credit: janineomg, Istelleinad]

A Day On Santa Fe’s Canyon Road

canyon roadI’m not what could be described as a patron of the arts, yet for some reason, I seem to have a knack for living in cities famed for their galleries and arts and culture scene: Vail. Lahaina. Santa Barbara. Calistoga. Telluride. Could I be a latent art groupie?

Nah. I’m just attracted to scenic places. I also spent many years waiting tables to support my writing habit, and it’s always been my belief that if I’m going to suffer for my art, then I’m sure as hell going to live someplace beautiful … where I can also make mad tips.

I’ve never lived in Santa Fe, but I’ve spent a lot of time in what’s best described as the arts epicenter of the Southwest. I’ve written of my obsession with the city’s restaurants, but my fondness for Canyon Road is more about visual, rather than prandial, pleasures. According to its official website, “within a few short blocks, visitors to Canyon Road can experience more than two centuries of the historic adobe architecture for which Santa Fe is famous…”

Located within walking distance of downtown and the Plaza, this 3/4-mile stretch of galleries, boutiques, cafes, restaurants, and artists’ studios is world-renown amongst art collectors, particularly those attracted to Southwestern and Native American themes.

For me, Canyon Road is less about the art, and more about people watching, architecture, and cultural immersion. And let’s face it: with my writer’s salary, I’m hardly in the market for “investment pieces.” The great thing about Canyon Road, however, is you don’t need money or an interest in art to enjoy it.canyon roadOver the years, I’ve spent many peaceful hours, in all four seasons, wandering Canyon Road. I especially love the enchanting adobe homes that line the side streets and far eastern end.

There’s no bad time of day to visit, but I prefer early morning, before the galleries open, when the only signs of life are dog walkers and the odd sidewalk washer. A late afternoon or evening stroll or run is my other favorite way to experience Canyon Road. The hoards of tourists are gone, and I can pop in and out of galleries as I get in some much-needed exercise (eating, as I’ve mentioned, being my other favorite activity in Santa Fe).

See
What galleries you choose to visit of course depends upon your interests. For what it’s worth, I love Pachamama, a lovely shop specializing in Spanish Colonial antiques and Latin American folk art – both passions of mine. The owner, Martha Egan, is a renown scholar of Latin folk art, and has written some excellent books on the subject. One of the reasons I enjoy this storesanta fe is that it’s full of affordable treasures. I also love Curiosa, a quirky boutique selling milagros, folk art, jewelry and other trinkets.

Eat/Drink
Canyon Road is home to some of Santa Fe’s most famous (and expensive) restaurants, including Geronimo, The Compound, and the venerable El Farol. Personally, I suggest you save your money and fuel up with breakfast at The Teahouse, located at the eastern end. In addition to things like steel-cut oatmeal and house-made granola, they make absolutely insane, gluten-free “scones (more like muffins)” topped with a mantle of crusty melted cheese, green chiles and a soft-boiled egg.

If you’re jonesing to start your day with authentic New Mexican food, you can do no better than the pork or chicken tamales at Johnnie’s Cash Store (above), less than a ten-minute walk from the galleries, on Camino Don Miguel. Go early, and as the name implies, bring cash. Five dollars will fill you up.
inn on the alameda
While you may want to skip the more spendy places for a meal, the patio of El Farol is a favorite spot for an afternoon glass of wine or beer, or happy hour cocktail. The Tea House also serves beer, wine and coffee drinks.

For an afternoon pick-me-up, head down Canyon Road, and turn left onto Acequia Madre, which has some of the area’s most beautiful adobes. Make a right on Paseo de Peralta, cross the street, and you’ll see Kakawa Chocolate House. Revive with a hot or cold sipping chocolate (“elixirs”) and a sweet treat; the red chile caramel coated in dark chocolate is outstanding.

Stay
My favorite hotel in Santa Fe just happens to be located around the corner from Canyon Road. The Inn on the Alameda (right) is an attractive Pueblo-style property with 72 spacious, comfortable rooms, many with French doors and balconies. It’s not the hippest spot in town, as it’s popular with older travelers. I suspect it has something to do with the elaborate full breakfasts and the daily wine and cheese happy hour, both of which are gratis for guests. And really, who in their right mind wouldn’t love a deal like that?

Don’t let the median age dissuade you if you’re a bright young thing. The hotel has stellar service, an outdoor hot tub, free parking, allows pets and is close to all of Santa Fe’s attractions. It’s also across the street from a bucolic creekside running path, and offers killer packages (especially if you’re a food-lover) in conjunction with the Santa Fe School of Cooking, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the farmers market. A stay here always feels like coming home to me, but then, Santa Fe just has that way about it.

P.S. Canyon Road on Christmas Eve is a vision of fairy lights and farolitos.

[Photo credits: gallery, Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau; gallery, Flickr user xnergy; Johnnie’s Cash Store, Laurel Miller; Inn on the Alameda; Alice Marshall Public Relations]

Two Men Detained At US Border For Carrying Chocolate Eggs

kinder egg In the past year, there have been stories of travelers getting in trouble for painting their nails on flights, telling jokes on Twitter and traveling with baked goods. The most recent scandal in the world of surprising travel crimes, involves two men trying to cross the border from Canada to the United States with chocolate eggs.

During a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Brandon Loo and Christopher Sweeney decided they wanted to bring treats back home to friends and family in Seattle, Washington. They decided on Kinder Eggs, chocolate eggs containing small toys inside. Unfortunately, the surprises ended up getting the men detained at the border.

According to CBC News, because children can choke on the toys inside the eggs, they are illegal to bring into the U.S. Moreover, travelers who decide to attempt to bring them into the country could incur a hefty fine. In 2011, there were over 60,000 Kinder Eggs seized from travelers’ luggage and international mail shipments.

In the end, the men were only detained for a few hours, getting off with a simple warning.

Will you be traveling on an airplane, and want to know what you shouldn’t bring? Check out these strange items prohibited by the TSA.

[Image via Matanya]