Germany’s food reminded me of Vienna. Meaning, if you like meat, bread and drink, you’ll love it. If you’re into light salads and nouvelle cuisine, look elsewhere. This is hearty food.
Gustation In The Rhineland
I started off in Bonn, the birthplace of Beethoven. What fine food could I find there that fed the greatest of composers? How about beer and ice cream?
For example, one day I walked the city and had a cone with a scoop of rich dark chocolate.
And, what the heck, I’m on vacation. More sweets, please. I hit a little coffee shop another day and found that a berry pie that would do just fine.
Of course, later, I needed my coffee (I am from Seattle, after all). I saw this place and had to stop. Coffee to go, indeed.
And, of course, beer. Germany? Beer. Am I right? I am right.
Every city has their own, so I felt it was my duty to check them out. For instance, in Cologne, or Köln, they have kölsch.
In Aachen, I had an unfiltered and unpasteurised zwickelbier.
And in Bonn I went to a heavy metal bar called Tresor and had a nice dark beer to match the atmosphere.
But really, what’s beer without meat? I was able to sample a German classic of meat and potatoes in Bonn’s Market Square: Sauerbraten with Kartoffelklöße (with beer, of course).
Sauerbraten (“sour meat”) is a pot roast that is marinated for days with red vinegar and spices, which then becomes its sauce. The vinegar, as we have seen before, is acidic and tenderizes the meat. It traditionally is used with horse meat, but this restaurant used beef. This was in fact Rheinischer Sauerbraten, a version which includes sugar beet syrup and raisins as well – a sweet and sour combo. It was served with Kartoffelklöße, two huge starchy dumpling globes made of potatoes, eggs, flour and spices. And a side of applesauce. I would describe it as very filling.
Do Your Wurst
I also had the most popular fast food in Germany: currywurst. Currywurst is cut up pork sausage covered in curry ketchup with a side of fries. My girlfriend took me to a place called Currywurst Forever. They have five different levels of spiciness for their currywurst. ‘Old School’ is the mildest, while ‘Highway To Hell’ is the hottest. How to decide? I think the menu describes it perfectly.
The last two on the menu, ‘Trouble Maker’ and ‘Highway To Hell’ require identification to prove you’re 18 or over. Why? Well, since they’re rated at 500,000 and 1,000,000 SHU (Scoville heat units) each, I suppose they’re trying to avoid lawsuits. I decided on ‘The Twilight Zone’.
It brought me right to the edge of my tolerance. My eyes watered. I sneezed repeatedly. I coughed and sweated. I was good, but did I even taste the currywurst? Hard to say. Luckily in Cologne, I had a chance to try another version.
It wasn’t even cut up – a gourmet version. It was delicious. The pizza behind it called a Flammkuchen. It has a very thin crust and was topped with white cheese, onions and pork fat. Frickin’ killer, man!
I döner Wanna Stop
Another German fast food obsession: döner kebab. Even though it is Turkish, it has been completely adopted in Germany, much like Mexican food in the US. I think I know why they like it. Even though it is filled with veal and wrapped in bread, they sneak a salad in there too – lettuce, cabbage, onions, cucumber, and tomatoes. I knew they had to get their greens somehow.
Do Drink The Water
In the ancient city of Aachen, Germany, they have sulfur hot springs that have been channeled into baths since the time of the Romans. It is the main reason Charlemagne spent his winters there. They have places where the waters pours out where people can dip their feet in it.
It is clearly marked that you’re not supposed to drink it. The elderly, however, often come up and fill plastic bottles with it, thinking it has medicinal properties. I, of course, cupped my hands and had a slurp. It tasted like eggs. I liked it. My companions thought I was crazy. This is not new to me.
A SEASON FOR ONIONS
I was visiting in early autumn, and the local seasonal specialty was being offered all around: zwiebelkuchen. Translated, it means “onion cake”, and that’s what it is. It is traditionally served with a glass of new wine - “neuer wein”. It is made of freshly pressed grape juice that has just begun fermenting, so it is fizzy. I decided to go with tradition.
It was simple and very good. Tradition has its charms. No need to be modern fancy all the time, am I right? I am right.