Every year, the wintertime brings about a sparkle of festive magic, as cities across the globe welcome the holiday season in with their beloved, unique holiday markets. Visitors enjoy exploring through a pop-up winter wonderland full of handmade gifts, local artisanal crafts, music, entertainment, and of course one-of-a-kind culinary experiences. Every holiday market offers up their own takes on local delicacies that are sure to delight visitors this winter season.
In Denmark, holiday markets abound with delectable sweets and pastries. A particular holiday favorite is the classic dessert, Æbleskiver. Æbleskiver is a spherical Danish snack -- a sweet, fluffy pancake ball -- made in a special cast-iron pan that resembles an egg poacher. While the name literally means apple slices, most modern-day æbleskiver is not made with any apples. The treat is typically topped with powdered sugar, syrup, or a tart jam, and served with a warm cup of Gløgg. Gløgg, a type of mulled wine, is a beloved beverage in Scandinavian wintertime markets. The drink, typically alcoholic, simmers with lots of spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, as well as orange peel. Often the comforting drink is also served mixed with raisins and slivered almonds -- which have been soaking in the fruity wine -- for added texture and even more flavor. Stop by the Tivoli Gardens Christmas Market in Copenhagen and cozy up with some gløgg and a full plate of delightful æbleskiver as you stroll through the variety of eclectic retail shops.
In Hungary, a holiday market favorite includes the Kürtőskalács. Known as a Hungarian “chimney cake,” the hollow, sweet treat gets its name for its spiraled shape. Made from raised dough that has been spun around a cone-shaped baking spit, it is then rolled in butter and sugar and roasted over an open flame until golden brown. As the cake grills, it forms a caramelized, crispy crust, which is then finished off with toppings such as cinnamon sugar, chocolate and ground walnuts, and sometimes filled with whipped cream. The cylindrical pastry is a major crowd pleaser during the winter season, and can be found at holiday markets such as the Budapest Christmas Fair and Winter Festival.
Street foods like Lángos are also quite popular at fairs and markets across Hungary. Lángos is a deep-fried flatbread made from yeasted dough. Some varieties incorporate boiled mashed potatoes and flour into the mix, referred to as potato lángos. The snack can be topped with an array of savory options, usually including garlic, sour cream, grated cheese, and butter.
In Strasbourg, deemed the “Capital of Christmas,” the winter season is a festive time full of traditions that are deeply rooted in Alsatian culture. Holiday market vendors at the world-renowned Christkindelsmärik serve up lots of local specialties such as a huge variety of Bredele, or Christmas biscuits, as well as Bretzel, a French take on the German pretzel. Made from brioche dough, the bretzel can be savory or sweet, and is topped with such ingredients like emmental cheese and tiny pork strips called lardons.
Other typical Alsatian fare include dishes such Choucroute, grated cabbage pickled in wine served with slow-cooked pork and sausages, and Flammekueche. Flammekueche is a wood-fired pizza made from thinly rolled-out bread dough, usually in ovular or rectangular shape. The pizza is then covered in crème fraîche or fromage blanc, bacon and sliced white onion.
One of the most famous holiday markets in Germany takes place in Nuremberg. Known for its beautiful decorations, seasonal crafts, gifts, and winter festivities, the holiday market also goes all out on the culinary options. Visitors enjoy massive mugs of mulled wine and Nuremberg Lebkuchen, the city’s famous spicy gingerbread. Whether plain, sugar-coated or cloaked in chocolate, the delicacy is a must-have. While munching on gingerbread, visitors should also experience the world’s largest “Feuerzangenbowle.” This giant-sized bowl of punch combines a mixture of red wine and rum. The name, which literally translates to “fire tong punch,” comes from the tongs, which hold a flaming, rum-soaked sugar cone over a special punch bowl. As the caramelized sugar melts, it drips down into the bowl, giving this legendary punch an extra splash of flavor.
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - Old Town Square
In Prague, there’s no shortage of enticing holiday markets. But a fan favorite takes place in Old Town Square. Visitors enjoy wandering through the stalls of jewelry, handmade crafts and souvenirs while sipping a cup of traditional Medovina, otherwise known as mead or honey wine. The sweet liquor is served hot and is perfect on a chilly evening walking through Old Town Square’s market vendors or while watching the annual lighting of the Prague Christmas tree.
While visiting the market, shoppers must also treat themselves to some delicious street food such as Prague Ham roasting over an open flame or Pražská Klobása, a slightly spiced, bright red sausage fresh off the grill. Or try some Bryndzové Halušky. The national Slovakian dish consists of soft, boiled potato dumplings - similar to gnocchi - smothered in a Bryndza, a sharp and creamy cheese made from sheep's milk.
If you’re looking for more winter flavor inspiration but are unable to take a trip outside the United States this winter season, have no fear. Plenty of holiday markets in cities across the country are serving up their takes on these global specialties, too. Be sure to check out well known holiday spots like the Winter Village at Bryant Park in New York City, German-style Christkindlemarket in Chicago, The Christmas Village in Philadelphia, The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco, and many more. No matter where you are located this winter season, there are plenty of incredible culinary offerings to spark some product and flavor inspirations for your brands.
This series is backed by our Seasonality Initiative where we help our customers develop pipelines of new concepts and flavor ideas for the seasons and major occasions like the Winter Holidays.
When most folks think of seasonality it’s normally in preparation of Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall; but when consumers, more specifically foodies, think of seasonality it is usually in anticipation of pumpkin spice lattes or breast cancer pink cookies. At Symrise we are constantly looking for ways to innovate and that means going beyond the scope of normal. It also means not only looking for inspiration within, but outside of the box — our box being the food and beverage space.
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