You absolutely MUST eat in at least one winstub. This should not be a problem, given the sheer preponderance of them in the towns of the region. I think we would have been hard pressed to eat three meals in Strasbourg without at least one of them being in a winstub.
We found ourselves ensconced in the cozy warmth of Chez Yvonneon Sunday night. In business since 1873, the place was touted by our guidebook as a “classic among classics.” Since we were looking for an authentic taste of Alsace, that sounded just about right. Chez Yvonne is located at the end of a cute little side street (if the town seems to consist mainly of tiny side streets, do they cease to be side streets?), and, like many of the establishments we visited in Strasbourg, has a heavy curtain inside the door to keep out the cold.
As we stepped in the door, I said something to Nick about how I hoped they had red-checked tablecloths (that being one of Alec Lobrano’s barometer readings indicating a good restaurant, and this seemed like the sort of place where they would be right at home). They didn’t, but I think the brightly colored, ornately patterned linens were even better. Upon being seated, the smiling waitress brought us a small dish of head cheese cubes. They somehow managed to be both toothsome and tender enough to melt in your mouth. Another hint that we would be dining well that night. We ordered a couple of glasses of crémant d’Alsace (the local sparkling wine) as our apéritif, and toasted the meal to come.
When I saw foie gras crème brûlée on the menu, there was no question as to what I would be ordering for my first course.
It was served with a thick slice of fig and hazelnut bread, which complemented the rich, savory-sweet cream perfectly. Nick went for the herring, which came napped in a delicate cream sauce.
He cleaned his plate and we eagerly anticipated our main courses, accompanied by a bottle of Sylvaner, a dry Alsatian white wine. I couldn’t pass up the choucroute garnie, and my plate arrived piled high with some of the tastiest sauerkraut I’ve ever had, surrounded by half a dozen different pork products. (They take their charcuterie seriously in Alsace.)
The ham was my favorite – smoky, meaty, tender, and matched to a T with the fermented cabbage. The rest was no slouch, but I’d be lying if I said I finished everything on the plate. That’s a lot of pig for one meal. While reading the menu, I had noticed that they served Coq au Vin. I thought that was a bit odd, seeing as it’s a dish so closely linked with Burgundy. But in Alsace, they make it with Riesling! And serve it with spaëtzle! It was a done deal for Nick.
The meat was rich and flavorful, and balanced nicely with the creamy white wine sauce. Spaëtzle, in case you’re unfamiliar, are little dumplings made by drizzling batter into simmering liquid. The resulting morsels are then sautéed in browned butter and served alongside meats or stews. These were delicious, especially when swiped through the remains of the riesling sauce.
After such a satiating meal, we weren’t sure if we would have room for dessert, but we looked at the menu anyway. We were both tempted by the pinot noir-poached prunes with pain d’épices ice cream, so we asked for one, with two spoons.
It was delectable. The ruby-red poaching liquid was redolent with star anise and cinnamon, which perfumed the pleasantly moelleux prunes. Perched atop, the gingerbread ice cream offered a beautiful contrast in color and temperature as it melted slowly into the sauce to form a smooth and heady elixir.
So when I tell you that you must eat in a winstub in Alsace, I don’t think there’s any reason to argue, do you?
Originally published on Croque-Camille.