When in Alsace…

23 02 2009

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.

The sign outside Chez Yvonne

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.

Brains or brawn?  I choose brawn.

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.

Two of my very favorite things - foie gras and crème brûlée

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.

Another classic of the Alsatian repertoire

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.)

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Worthwhile French Beers: Strasbourg Edition

22 02 2009

One of the four "Carré d'Or" streets in Strasbourg

Like I mentioned last week, Nick and I spent a weekend in Strasbourg, the largest city in Alsace.  Alsace is France’s most important beer-producing region, and by “important” I mean that in terms of volume.  Kronenbourg and Fischer, two of the country’s largest breweries, are based in Alsace, the former being the biggest-selling brewer in France.  We tried unsuccessfully to get a tour of the Kronenbourg brewery, located just outside Strasbourg, but we were probably better off hunting down the local microbreweries anyway.

The bar at La Lanterne

Copper tanks at La Lanterne

Finding La Lanterne was a bit of a challenge.  The place is tucked away on a side street of a side street, and from the outside looks like a complete dive.  Inside, though, it’s inviting, and the beer is freshly brewed on the premises.  It was a real treat to sit in a brewpub and sip a tasty beer while enjoying the ambiance.

The Kohler-Rehm Brewery, on the other hand, is centrally located with a grandiose façade that belies the generic interior.

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