[Rothenburg, Bavaria, Germany] Burgerkeller – No Burgers Here, Just Great German Cuisine

28 11 2013

More than midway into my exchange program in Germany, the German towns that have left the greatest impressions so far are the little towns dotted along the Romantic Road (a German invention of the post-war 1950s when the country was eager to rebuild its tourism industry) that stretches from Fussen in the South to Wurzburg in the North. This was also where I had my most memorable German meal to date, in a medieval-looking little town called Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

While the cuisine in Rothenburg is marketed as Fraconian (an independent region before it merged with Bavaria), I found it pretty similar to Bavarian cuisine, with staples such as Potato Dumplings instead of rice or potato mash.

Translated to mean Burger Cellar, I was initially highly skeptical about Burgerkeller’s abiliy to serve up authentic German dishes. We later found out that Burgerkeller was a slight misnomer. The restaurant was located in a cellar but no burgers were served here. The dim lighting and small-scale of about 10 tables added to the intimacy of the restaurant. Floor operations were handled by just 1 captain, which he did excellently. He patiently took our orders, never rushed nor gave us any dirty looks despite our incessant flow of questions regarding the dishes on the menu and still found time to go around the restaurant checking in on guests to ensure that everything was going smoothly. Kudos to the service!

Food here was exceptional as well. We took an adventurous leap and ordered the Bavarian Liver Dumpling Soup (3.80 Euros), which came as a liver meatball over a savory base. I didn’t take too much to the soup base but the liver meatball was pretty tasty and really delicate.

Our favourite main came rather unexpected – the Smoked Blood and Liver Sausages and Roast Sausages on Sauerkraut and Potatoes (9.30 Euros). I have had blood sausages before and thought I had a pretty good idea of how they should taste like but the ones here were really mind-blowing. Just when I thought that was it, I took a bite of the liver sausages and realized that it was even tastier, with a more mousse-like texture compared to the chunky texture of the blood sausages.

Coming in a close second was the Pork Knuckle on Sauerkraut and Potato Dumplings (12 Euros). I’m guessing the pork knuckle was boiled and perhaps baked given that the meat was awfully tender but with a light charred (but still moist) exterior. The taste reminded me much of canned stewed pork, just that the meat was much more tender and less fats had dissolved upon cooking (which I imagine was due to well-timed cooking).

I would have been more impressed by the Roast Pork in Dark Beer Sauce with Potato Dumplings and Red Cabbage (9 Euros) had it not been for the pork knuckle. It was pleasant initially but the meat became tougher after being left alone for some time.

Possibly the most uncharacteristically German (and least impressive) item we had was the Fried Pork Steak covered in Basil, Tomatoes and Melted Swiss Cheese on Potato Wedges (10.50 Euros). It felt like something we could have gotten at a Hong Kong Café. The only saving grace was the Wedges, which is definitely in the top 5 percentile from what I’m used to having.

Although we were stuffed and had initially agreed to skip desserts due to our heavy late lunch, we had enjoyed the food so much that we couldn’t possibly leave without at least sharing their dessert so we ordered the only dessert item on their menu which was the Fresh Warm Apple Strudel with Vanilla Ice Cream and Whipped Cream (4.50 Euros). Again, it was one of the better apple strudels we have tried so far in Germany.

For beverages, I ordered the Untereisenheimer Sonnenberg Kerner von leichter Sube (4.20 Euros), a semi-sweet wine. It really suited my tastes, so much so that I ordered a 2nd glass and will actively attempt to look out for it in Singapore.

My initial view on German cuisine was that it is unsophisticated and haphazard. Burgerkeller did much to change my perception and I’m truly grateful for the experience. Do take the chance to drop by if you are around the area.

PS: Later found out from a German friend that Burger actually means citizen. So, Burgerkeller should be translated to mean Citizen Cellar rather than Burger Cellar which I mentioned erroneously above.

Burgerkeller

Herrngasse 24, 91541 Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bavaria, Germany

Tel: +49 9861 2126

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[Bad Durkheim, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany] Wurstmarkt Bad Durkheim – Largest Wine Festival in the World

25 09 2013

While most of us are familiar with Oktoberfest, the largest beer festival in the world, much less attention is paid to its lesser cousin Wurstmarkt, the largest wine festival in the world. It’s held on the 2nd and 3rd weekend of September in a small town called Bad Durkheim, drawing a crowd of over 600,000 visitors annually, many of whom are repeat visitors who come by every year to participate in the festivities. I was lucky to be just an hour’s tram ride away from this festival and decided to drop by…twice.

Contrary to popular belief, the highlight of the festival isn’t solely to get pissed drunk. There’s an entire traveling carnival that surrounds the wine tents, promising a day of fun for the whole family. I was quite amazed at the scale and intensity of some of the rides, many of which are comparable to those found in permanent theme parks.

I took a ferris wheel to get a birds eye view of the scale of the festival and as you can see, it’s quite massive.

There are 3 main options where you can purchase and enjoy the wines; at the small wine tents that only sells wine (but you can bring in food from the various food stalls around), at the large wine tents that sells both food and wines and provides live entertainment, and at the classy wine tents which are a little less rowdy where you get your own table rather than sharing a bench with others.

On my first visit there, I only spent time in the small wine tents but I believe that’s where you get the most interaction with locals since the benches are quite cramped and you will inevitably start talking to nearby patrons. I spotted a guy with a huge wine glass and wanted to get one for myself too for cheap thrills and photo opportunities but found out later that he was a glass maker and custom-made his own gigantic wine glass for occasions like this.

Bigger is better for most Germans it seems, as almost everyone drinks their wines out of 500ml glasses within the festival. Instead of having it pure, I noticed that it’s quite popular to opt for Spritzers (or Schorle as referred to by Germans) instead which are half wine and half sparkling water. For the Singaporean in me, in my mind I was going “siao! pay the same price, might as well have the wine pure.”.

I have always thought of myself as an above average drinker so as I was going on to my 3rd 250ml glass, I asked an elderly couple sitting next to me how much do they usually drink at these festivals. Their answer: 5 glasses of 500ml (though I believe they might have been having spritzers).

What I love about this wine festival is that prices of the wines are incredibly affordable, starting from about 3 Euros for a 250ml glass to about 5-6 Euros for a 500ml glass.

Surrounding the small wine tents are food stalls, selling an array of German “pasar malam” foods. Surprisingly, I didn’t manage to try any remarkable roasted pork knuckles there but I did stumble across the boiled ones which in my view, taste way better and are much more tender. Other notable foods that I tried but didn’t take photos of are a German-variant of the 生煎包 with an accompanying Vanilla Sauce dip which was really awesome (I bought it again on my second visit), the Flammkuchen which is a German-style pizza that uses crème fraîche instead of cheese and of course the German Sausages.

Boiled Pork Knuckle

Roasted Pork Knuckle

Potato Cakes with Garlic Sauce

During my second visit to the festival, I decided to check out the large wine tents as well, which comes with live music. Different large wine tents play different music genres and I settled with one that played retro English and German music. Unsurprisingly, this was more popular with the older generation and my group seemed to be the youngest one there. Still the atmostphere was lively and when a popular German song was played, the dance floor still ended up packed.

Whether or not you are an avid wine drinker, I would strongly encourage you to visit this festival if you have the chance. I had an amazing time and seriously considered heading back for a 3rd time in that week. It was a perfect prelude to Oktoberfest (which I’m heading to this weekend, excited max!) and the Stuttgart Beer Festival (the 2nd largest beer festival in the world which I’m considering heading to in the 2nd week of October). More updates then!





Paulaner Brauhaus – Singapore’s Longest Standing Microbrewery and 2 Affordable Ways to Get Smashed

11 10 2012

The concept of microbreweries was first conceived in Singapore in the early 1990s, by a small brewery called Orang Utan Brewery, located where Zouk now resides. The market just wasn’t matured enough then and it winded down shortly after. Next came Paulaner Brauhaus in 1996, currently Singapore’s longest standing microbrewery. Brewerkz was another early player which opened in 1997. Over the years, names such as Pump Room, Archipelago Brewery, Level33, Reddot Brewhouse and Tawandang have also jumped on the microbrewery bandwagon and added vibrancy to our domestic beer market.

I first visited Paulaner slightly over 2 years back for a friend’s birthday. We had the Sunday Brunch Buffet, which is still ongoing and comes with either free flow soft drinks or free flow beer at $48++/$58++ respectively. This time however, I was back  for an Oktoberfest dinner event organized by the SMU Gourmet Club.

In light of the Oktoberfest festivities, a German band was playing what I guess were German drinking songs and going around dancing with selected audience members. The party was still pretty mild at this time, especially since the night was young and few had had their fill of food and drink.

I started off the meal with the Caesar Salad with Air-dried Pancetta Ham and Garlic Croutons ($14++). I would say its not worth the money as there’s better alternatives on the menu. Come on, you are in a German Restaurant! Act like it and order some MEAT!

It’s weird that there’s Sauteed Escargots with Herb Garlic Butter ($16.50++) on the menu, since snails are more of a French dish. Still, it’s prepared rather legitimately here and the snails are plump and juicy, with a savoury garlic butter sauce that I didn’t hesitate to soak my garlic bread in.

Someone took our preordered meatloaf by mistake, so being the magnanimous individuals we like to think we are, we swapped for their Munich’s Famous White Sausages with Freshly Baked Pretzel ($13.50++) instead. The pretzel is not worth mention but the sausages and dipping sauce are. The sausages are on the salty side but is toned down by the tangy mild BBQ-like sauce.

I’m still on the fence about the Potato Rosti with dry Smoked Ham Gratin with Gruyere Cheese ($13.50++). It’s nothing to shout about really, and the fried potato strips weren’t even crispy when the dish was served but there’s something about rosti that one finds it hard to complain about. You know that feeling too, it’s akin to complaining about hash browns and you just don’t!

Never leave Paulaner without having their Paulaner’s Famous Grilled Pork Knuckle on Sauerkraut with Gravy and Bread Dumpling ($29.50++). It’s one of the better grilled pork knuckles I have tried so far and for some reason, it came conveniently deboned. The meat is suitably moist with a nice layer of crackling and the portion was indeed generous enough for 2 to 3 people to share comfortably while allowing for stomach room for other dishes. The only thing I didn’t like in this dish was the Bread Dumpling, which tasted like a dry savoury muffin with random bits of vegetables inside.

The biggest surprise today came from the Sirloin Steak 250g with Sauteed Mushrooms, Roasted Potatoes & Seasonal Vegetables. It was done as per request of medium rare, well marinated and tender. I had no qualms eating it without any condiments. The Roasted Potatoes are great too, lightly charred on the edges for that crisp texture and light smoky flavour.

Paulaner offers 2 types of fresh brews on a regular basis, the Munich Lager and Munich Dark. Seasonal beers are offered at special times of the year so instead of the regular brews, only Oktoberfest Beer was available today. Beer girls were also going around with German Pear Schnapps. I tried a shot and it’s rather potent, the beer girl said it’s stronger than tequila but it definitely tastes better with a refreshing fruity aftertaste.

At the end of the meal, the band came out for a second set and fuelled with food, Oktoberfest Beer and Pear Schnapps, the crowd was really participative, standing on chairs while following the lead of the lead singer with his hand gestures, truly uncharacteristic of typical Singaporeans. I loved the spontaneity of it all and would return just to soak in the atmosphere again.

PS: Don’t tell mommy you heard it from me but for the love of booze, I have 2 suggestions on how to get smashed whilst on a budget. While it’s not cool anymore to buy booze off the shelf, especially when there’s fresh beer from all the microbreweries around, canned beer is definitely the cheapest way to get smashed. Specifically, Baron’s Strong Brew. At 8.8% alcohol, it’s one of the stronger brews around and three 500ml cans will translate to roughly 11 shot of vodka, all for the price of $19.50 (assuming $6.50 per 500ml can).

If you have slightly deeper pockets, I would suggest Bar on 5 @ Mandarin Orchard. I know you must be thinking I’m mad for suggesting a hotel bar as a cheap way to get smashed but with their current promotion for non-premium hard liquor (ie.Jack Daniels, Johnny Walker Black Label, Smirnoff) at $250++ for 3 bottles, which comes with mixers and some generic bar snacks, you can get smashed on approximately 9 vodka shots with just $35 bucks. Did I mention you can store your bottles there up to 2 months if you can’t finish? Awesome Possum 😀

Paulaner Brauhaus

9 Raffles Boulevard, #01-01 Millenia Walk

Tel: +65 6883 2572








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