Food love in Germany.
Many of us in the UK are guilty of thinking German food is all bratwurst and sauerkraut and that the country’s wine is merely an homogenous offering of sticky Rieslings. Of course this is bunk, isn’t it? Well for starters Germany is always in the top three for Michelen-starred restaurants; and I know that doesn’t mean that much to the average punter, but it does prove German standards are improving.
And it's not only the restaurants, artisan producers are banging out immense wines for all palates and the meats, especially the world-renowned Black Forest hams, are among the best cured produce on Earth. Check out our Danny’s blog on cooking this Bavarian delicacy up for the troops when you have a sec.
But before I take flight, let’s just have one last taste of Blighty prior to the incredibly alluring delights of Westphalia embracing me; fish and chips in the Ibis Heathrow. Erm, I know, not exactly, well you know. But hang on, what’s this? They serve it with Jme tartare sauce – well there you go.
This is a wine tasting tour, aka Press Trip and the German Tourist Board is obviously keen to get the English adventurer closer to its rural, lesser-known regions. And apparently the restaurant and hotel we are staying in for the first night is Two-starred and rather bloomin’ special…..we’ll see. Although I can’t imagine the Ibis Heathrow will be getting a ‘Michelin’ anytime soon.
Day One – 24 Hours in Trier - Find everything you need on the region and the rest of the delights of Germany athttp://www.germany.travel/.
Welcomed by the Porta Nigra, Emperor Augustus Caesar’s 1st Century gate into this beautiful city, it felt more like an Italian town with dozens of ice-cream shops and Roman buildings – some complete. Close to Luxembourg the street food is eclectic; I had a big old pretzel, salty twang from a hand-sized plait of chewy bread. Yeah there was some bratwurst, and everything was really quite cheap, but I was saving myself for the main event – dinner at Becker’s.
But first a wine tasting in Oeschlers, a specialist wine bar showcasing the best of the region. I was informed that wine bars in Westphalia and Northern Rhine aren’t like ones we frequent at home. Punters don’t go in them to get larruped, they go in for the culture, the atmosphere and believe it or not, just wine; no steins of frothy pilsner in sight and certainly no oompah brass bands.
It was predominantly white and, disappointingly, predominantly Riesling, so Daniel our ruddy-cheeked sommelier, brought us an alternative.
There was an Elbling – Germany’s oldest grape – which has had a renaissance of late thanks to the cultivation techniques of the new generation of wine producers. It was lovely, tingly and citrusy; the only well-known wine I could compare it to would be a Muscadet, cracking with seafood and cheese.
Then onto the ubiquitous Riesling. We kicked off with a sparkly – or sekt – better than any of that mass-produced Prosecco doing the rounds at dinner parties. Really, really good.
I learnt about the mineral values of Riesling, how the balance between acidity and sugar is controlled after pressing, but never through adding sugar. It works, especially the drier ones. In fact, if I can be candid, the wines being heralded as the best all seemed a bit cheesy compared to the fruity beauties, table wines. But I guess that’s a red wine drinker in Germany for you!
But I am a sucker for dessert wines, I know this is a love/hate thing back home, but in Germany they go bonkers for them. And they are very good and can be very, very expensive – we’re talking up to £300 a bottle. If you aren’t a fan then this will mean nothing, but for those of you craving an amazing Sauternes or Tokaji, it has that amazing pear aroma that makes your cheeks tingle and your grin wide. And this was a bottle costing £11.
Right, I was ready for Becker’s and its 2 Michelen Stars, whatever that means these days. Dropped off in what felt like a housing estate, but actually a well-regarded foodie district of Trier, there was no sign, just a huge door in a timber clad, modernist cube. Warm welcome, lovely bar, nice!
Sparkling Riesling – what else – was poured and we were off!
Yes it’s poncey, fussy food and most of the clients wore those white-framed architect’s glasses and sported ironic moustaches, but chef Wolfgang Becker and his wife, maître d’ Christine know what they are doing with some incredible local produce, top-notch seafood and an awful lot of imagination.
First up the canapés – tiny smoked salmon cubes covered in a secret crust – I reckon cob nuts, then sashimi tuna and an amazing gazpacho amuse bouche of cucumber and prawn.
We were then seated and the wine poured – I can only remember the red, a Luxembourg Pinot Noir with lovely strawberry flavours, in a sea of white.
I must warn you, there were eight further courses to come so I will list them to avoid repetition of the word ‘awesome’.
Beetroot done three ways (including a meringue) with an oyster in dill jelly.
Grilled scallop with teeny tiny chanterelles mushrooms and peas.
Goose liver, quail and dandelion.
Crisp roasted sea bass, octopus and artichokes – I’m coming back to this later, boy am I!
Glazed turbot with beluga lentils and calf’s head.
Merino lamb three ways with aubergine and black garlic.
A walk in the woods of a dessert with all sorts of pumpkin, carrot, chocolate and meringues going on.
Chocolates and bits and pieces.
It was blooming gorgeous, just as a treat, let’s face it, no-one in the universe is going to cook this at home. But let’s just say the sea bass dish was the single most delicious thing I have eaten this year, and perhaps ever. And that’s praise indeed because I eat every day – sometimes three times!
These guys are visionaries, when art meets food and when impeccable service meets the highest of standards they deserve everything they get – and it’s not that crushingly expensive either.
And back to the hotel…..ready for another adventure into German food tomorrow.
Oh, heavens...............where would one begin?