“The best meals of 2014” seems to be a thing on all my favourite food blogs this year. I’m not one to leap wildly onto bandwagons, even culinary ones, but I did realise that a “best of” post made for the perfect opportunity to give a nod to some very good restaurants I ate at this year that I never got round to writing about (see: small baby, new job, etc etc).
It didn’t take me long to pick out my five favourite meals of the year. I was sad to have to omit the truly memorable dishes I enjoyed on my travels to France and Italy, but this blog is more Sauerkraut and Schnitzel than cassoulet or caponata. In any case, quite by very pleasing chance, my five favourite meals turned out to all involve traditional German food.
So in reverse order, including both the cheap and cheerful to more expensive dishes worth every extra penny, these were my favourite meals out in Germany from 2014.
5. Curry Kartell, Wiesbaden
In at number five, it’s the classic Currywurst and der Dude tomato sauce from Wiesbaden’s Curry Kartell.
A Currywurst. In my top 5 German meals of the year. I know. But this is no ordinary Currywurst; this is a locally-produced pork sausage, twice-cooked proper potato fries, a fresh tomato sauce developed by a Michelin-starred chef and a sprinkling of specially blended curry spices. Yes, it’s sausage and chips, but it’s a mighty good one.
Website: Curry Kartell (in German only)
4. Jordan’s Untermühle, Köngernheim, Rheinland-Pfalz
I’m going to be honest: there are a number of things about Jordan’s that I really don’t like. I find their branding tacky, their style kitsch and – worst of all – they’ve recently stuck a horrible great modern hotel block on the side of their beautiful, traditional, half timber mill. Plus they write embarrassing things on their menus, though I’ll not go into that here.
All that aside, however, Jordan’s do make very good food. And if you’re eating in the garden, you can turn your gaze away from the hideous new construction to look at green fields and happy horses; and once you’ve got your plate in food of you, you can almost forgive them for their descriptions and their terrible interior design.
I’ve been to Jordan’s twice in the last five years, and on this occasion, we visited only for a very brief, pre-wedding lunch. Between us, we sampled a small selection of starters: the Handkäse carpaccio (6,50€), a classic Fleischwurstsalat (8,90€), a seasonal salad with chanterelle mushrooms (9,50€, pictured) and the light and fluffy goat’s cheese gratin (14,50€, also pictured) were all beautifully presented and expertly executed, promising great things for main courses and desserts, and so I very much hope that at some point in 2014, we’ll be back for more. With blindfolds on.
Website: Jordan’s Untermühle (in English, German and Dutch)
3. Weingut Schreiner, Mainz
I’m afraid there won’t be many a “best of” list on this blog that doesn’t feature Weinhaus Schreiner in Mainz. In my book, Schreiner’s just get everything right: the service, the ambience and the food. Oh, the food. Until last night, I hadn’t visited my favourite fancy Weinstube well over a year, so I was thrilled to discover that they’re just as good as they were before. If not better.
Full of festive cheer after a quick mug of hot alcohol at the last night of the Christmas market in Mainz, I ordered a traditional German Christmas dinner of roast goose, braised red cabbage and potato dumplings. Every last mouthful was pure, unadulterated, Christmassy heaven. The care and love with which they plan and prepare the food at Schreiner’s is apparent in every dish I’ve had there; and I always leave satisfied and feeling a little warm and fuzzy inside. Huge round of applause to Weinhaus Schreiner for being, well, Weinhaus Schreiner. Back soon.
Website: Weinhaus Schreiner (in German only)
2. Kupferbergterassen at the Niersteiner Weinwanderung, Rheinland-Pfalz
At number two, well, I’ve sort of cheated. Though it’s long been top of my list of fancy restaurants to try as soon as opportunity (and the wallet) affords it, I’ve never actually visited Mainz’s Kupferbergterrassen. In June, however, I did at least get to try their food. On a leisurely wine walk through the vineyards of winemaker Roter Hang in Nierstein, a small and picturesque wine town on the Rhine, Restaurant Kupferbergterrassen was one of a number of purveyors of very good food and wine who had erected a small white tent on the winding path high up on the hillside.
I’m not usually a fan of strawberries in savoury dishes, however a white asparagus salad with in-season strawberries, crisp radiccio and a fresh basil dressing (9,50€) was a heady, irresistible mix of fresh summer flavours. The generous helping of barbecued ham (12,00€) may not have looked quite as striking, but it was cooked immaculately, its honey glaze perfectly complimented perfectly by the sweet-sour combination of Riesling cabbage and olive and potato mash. And thus the Kupferbergterrassen not only holds the position of my second favourite plate of food in 2014 (that ham), but it also hangs onto the first place on my list of local eateries to try in 2015.
Website: Restaurant Kupferberg Terrassen (in German only)
1. Weingut & Weinstube Kruger-Rumpf, Münster-Sarmsheim, Rheinland-Pfalz
Weingut & Weinstube Kruger-Rumpf, as I’ve mentioned briefly before, sits proudly on the main road that runs through the Mainz-Bingen village of Münster-Sarnsheim; a beautiful country house, built in 1830, with pale blue shutters and a carefully pruned collection of plants on its doorstep. It’s a shame you can’t stand back to admire it (because of the road), but then, there’s plenty to admire about Weingut & Weinstube Kruger-Rumpf on the inside, and plenty more to admire that’s placed in front of you to eat.
The words “regional dishes with fresh, seasonal ingredients” are always music to my ears, so I was very happy to discover this is not only the sort of food they offer at family-run Kruger-Rumpf, but food that they do very well indeed. Whilst we pondered the menu, we picked at cold, crunchy radishes dipped in salt flakes and creamy fresh cheese. And as for our mains, slithers of cold, pink roast beef with fried potatoes and a small bowl of fresh and zingy Frankfurt Green Sauce were a wonderful combination on a very hot summer’s day; and a hot beef stew was a modest but filling portion of tender meat, a dark, rich gravy and a helping of bouncy homemade Spätzle. Loving prepared, traditional German dishes as light and elegant as you can probably get.
As for afters, well, my creme brûlée was spot on, the burnt sugar on top broke with a satisfying crack, and the custard beneath was creamy and cool. A quenelle of chocolate mousse was rich and fluffy; and an elderberry soup summery and sweet. So, excellent German food enjoyed outside in a flower-filled courtyard and complemented by a selection of very good wines direct from the Kruger-Rumpf vineyard itself. What more could you want on a hot summer’s day? No wonder it’s at the top spot.
Website: Weingut & Weinstube Kruger Rumpf (in English and German)
So there we have it. My five favourite meals of 2014 – and all of them German. How about you? Have you eaten anything particularly memorable this year – for good reasons or bad?!