With Italian, Mexican and Chinese restaurants populating nearly every town in America, most people know what kind of food to expect in those respective countries.
Germany is another story. Although German cuisine has influenced a lot of American cooking (Hamburg is to thank for hamburgers), it is not as widely recognized.
I wasn’t even sure what to expect before coming to Germany, apart from schnitzel and strudel.
As a vegetarian, I knew my challenge would be particularly hard. But, to my delight, the food offerings have been quite a bit more (and, I’m sure, quite a bit better) than simply wurst and Leberkäse.
My introduction to real German cuisine started off on a high note with this Gemüse Strudel in Berlin. It was a lot like the chicken pot pie I used to love, minus the chicken and plus a bit more flavor.
The crust was browned and just barely thick enough to contain all the vegetables. It set a pretty high standard for all the food to follow…
My first weekend back in Holzkirchen, I was invited to go hiking with Rebecca and her host-family. We worked up a good sweat and even better appetite during our trek, so stopping at the restaurants at the base was a must.
I wasn’t sure what to order when looking at the menu, but Rebecca’s host-mom encouraged me to try Schupfnudel, which is basically German-style gnocchi.
The Schupfnudel rested atop a bed of sauerkraut, which was actually my first time to try. The whole dish tasted like a good version of French fries, with just the right amount of saltiness from the sauerkraut.
Rebecca and I had the foresight to split the Schupfnudel so that we could also try some dessert. I am a sucker for apple strudel, but I was in the mood to try something different, so I went for dampfnudeln.
It tasted just like the elephant ears from festivals should. In this case, though, I wasn’t disappointed.
It wasn’t healthy by any stretch of the imagination, with white flour, butter, sugar, cream and a little bit of fried-action. But, darn it, it was good.
Just as I expected, some restaurants had very slim-pickings on the vegetarian front. Fortunately, most of them offered meat-less salads.
This one was probably the highlight of the trip. It was loaded with tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and mushrooms. Although I like to show equal levels of love to all my veggies, I was really loving the mushrooms.
While in America mushrooms are most often the low-on-flavor button tops, there is a great amount of variety in the German mushrooms. Some are woodier, some are sweet, some are meaty… It all makes for a really pleasant balance.
My sister’s visit was great for many reasons, and not least among them was that it gave me the excuse to split a Spaghetti Eis with someone.
Eis, similar to Italian gelato, is really popular in Germany. Even on the chilly days we were in Berlin and Köln, there were always people walking around with ice cream cones. I thought they were out of their minds, until I actually tried it and realized how tasty it is.
The “Spaghetti Eis” concept is also really popular. It is made by pressing the Eis through a little spaghetti machine, and then topped with a sauce and sprinkle of chocolate. The traditional Spaghetti Eis is with vanilla and strawberries, so it actually looks a lot like pasta. But, I’m never one to forego chocolate, so I chose the double chocolate version, with absolutely no regrets.
It is virtually impossible to walk down the street without passing a bakery or Imbiss that sells freshly made pretzels. Although I’ve always been a big fan of pretzels (there was a time when I ate nothing but Jumbo Soft Pretzels for about two months), I never had anything quite as delicious as real Bavarian Bretz’n.
In the north, pretzels are often topped with sunflower or sesame seeds. Bavarian pretzels are just salt, or in the case of real ambition, a little bit of butter.
I’m sure I’ve averaged at least a pretzel a day, and that’s probably the main cause of my shrinking pants. Oh well.
(Thanks to Skye for modeling the Bretz’n for me!)
After spending two great days hiking in the Alps, I was happy, but about to eat my arm off. We stopped for lunch at the “Panoramic Restaurant,” which overlooked miles and miles of countryside.
I didn’t spend too much time gawking at the scenery, though. My food was just as much of a masterpiece.
My professor made the suggestion that we try “Kaiserschmarrn,” which is a unique Bavarian delicacy. I would liken it to a sugared-up hybrid of pancakes and French Toast. It came with a side of applesauce and cranberries, for good measure.
I was in Heaven, but I didn’t want to eat any sugar for about three days afterward.
Ok, so this one is a bit misleading, since it is neither German nor food. But, it was just too good to leave off this list.
I’ve actually heard about Kombucha, a fermented tea drink, for a while now. I was just always too cheap or too hesitant to actually try it.
However, in Austria, the company that makes Red Bull (which I am proud to say I’ve never tried) also makes “Carpe Diem,” a Kombucha drink. Since it was local, it was really pretty cheap. With no excuses left, I decided to give it a shot.
With one sip, I was hooked. It has the sweetness of tea, but with a slight wine undertone. It wasn’t something to gulp down, but it was wonderfully refreshing on a really hot day.
Once again, this is a little misleading, considering I had it while in Austria. But, since it was the best breakfast of my life, it was just too good to leave out.
On the last day of my long-weekend in Austria, Rebecca’s friend took us to breakfast at her favorite place in town. I was immediately impressed by all the dishes I saw people eating: Warm bread, fresh fruit, cool yogurt. I knew it was going to be good…
I had a hard time choosing something off the expansive menu, but ultimately settled on the “Vitality Teller” (translation: vitality plate). This gave me the best of all worlds with a sample of coffee, fruit salad, an olive tapanade with whole-grain bread and a shot of vegetable juice. Star of the show was the maple-glazed tofu and apple compote.
I would have licked the plate clean, if only that was socially acceptable.
Whew. What a lot of highlights… I’m definitely going to return home with a long list of must-recreates. That’s ok, though. I’m looking forward to some good time in the kitchen. Anyone up for taste testing?
Question: Which of these dishes looks best to you? Do you have a favorite German dish?