A Bavarian Welcome

Imagine that you’re in a country that you don’t know well, and in a city that you know even less, where they speak a language that you don’t understand any better than your dog understands your random musings.  Imagine that someone invites you home to dinner.  An eight course dinner.  Imagine that you accept.

Last night, because they asked and we accepted, we dined chez Heinz and Christine.  You met them for the first time here, which is when we also met them for the first time, and which is when I told you that next time it would be Heinz’s turn to cook.  I didn’t really know then if there would be a next time, but I definitely knew he could cook.  I knew he’d won big cooking contests, but that knowledge was abstract.  No longer.

As we sat around a candle-filled coffee table and sorted out the fact that Christine doesn’t speak English and we don’t speak German, Heinz served us an excellent Champagne and a delightful little bite of foie gras. “Okay,” I thought, “that was very nice,” but at that moment I was more intent on trying to dredge up the remains of my single year of high school German than on the meal that might follow.  Christine was similarly trying to resurrect her school girl English, but unlike me she knew what lay ahead.  In her case, it was dishes, tons of dishes, a whole evening of doing dishes so that we might indeed have an eight course dinner in a state of stunned culinary nirvana.

So let’s begin at the beginning, shall we?  Heinz served this trio as an amuse bouche, although it could well have been the meal itself.  Slices of rosy venison cooked sous vide, little meatballs called frikadellar served with tiny shrimp-like creatures and beets, and lamb in a coffee crust accompanied by potatoes and apples.  The lamb was actually a little joke for me, since it was the first recipe Heinz shared with me many years ago, and when I tried it myself I used so much coffee that I couldn’t sleep for a day and a half afterwards.   I had no trouble at all sleeping last night, and I think I was dreaming of that lamb at least part of the night.

The soft intimate lighting didn’t do justice to the beauty of the plates, but next came a delightful paté of guinea hen with a heart of foie gras, paired with figs stuffed with fig chutney.  And you know what?  I’m not going to enthuse about every dish as I present it, because there just aren’t enough food-related adjectives in the English language and there are only so many times that I can reasonably expect you to read “beautiful, fabulous, delicious” and so on.  So, are we agreed?  For the moment, it’ll be just the facts.

Next was one of the big surprises of the evening, a pea and peppermint soup with little crayfish swimming under the velvety green blanket.  I’ll admit that it sounds rather peculiar as a combination, but I can’t wait to get my hands on the recipe and make it again myself.

Then came an adorable little cheese cannelloni, wrapped in a homemade dough and served on a bed of tiny vegetables with a sprinkle of toasted polenta,

followed by a sweet little bite of quail resting in its nest of salsify purée.  By this point we were starting to doubt the wisdom of having eaten lunch before this dinner.

Then came dorade on a bed of fennel, with purées of celery root and purple carrot.  And now we were definitely regretting lunch, and even heretically discussed whether we should just skip the next course.  Reason, fortunately, prevailed, and we forged boldly ahead.

Venison with a little stuffed cabbage roll and beet purée were the reward for our perseverance.  One bite and we knew we’d made the right choice.

And finally, a light yogurt mousse with berries and berry coulis managed to fit itself snugly into any tiny spaces left in our rounded bellies.

And of course there was a wine for each course, each one perfectly chosen to highlight Heinz’s remarkable cooking.  I don’t often say things like this, but I have to be honest with you.  Heinz is a WAY better cook than I am. Hands down, flat out, he can cook circles around most of us and barely break a sweat.

The warm hospitality, the unexpected pleasure of feeling at home in a strange country, the often hilarious conversation carried out in a cobbled together language, all of those were beyond wonderful.  But what I can’t get over is the sheer unmitigated expertise of the cooking, done with love, in a small home kitchen, just for us.

And I’m definitely going to take you back to Strasbourg very soon, but this dinner was too good to let get cold.

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12 Comments on “A Bavarian Welcome”

  1. lee Says:

    Wow! What an exquisite evening, and beautiful pictures. I kept thinking French Laundry. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful experience!

    xxoo, Lee

  2. Cindy Says:

    My mouth is actually watering! Yum, and how beautiful!!

  3. John DePaula Says:

    Ditto, what an exquisite evening! The hospitality in Europe can be quite extraordinary.

  4. sue Says:

    looks to be a fabulous evening and how great to have news of Heinz and Christine

    I’m not sure that I could have stopped eating long enough to take the pictures. At times I’ve read his descriptions of his dishes, but seeing them was so great!

    Happy New Year!

  5. zuleme Says:

    wow. I’ve had little parts of dinners that good but nothing ever like that.

  6. geri Says:

    Can you tell me more about the Canneloni dish…very interesting to look at and I like the ‘construction’ creativity. What cheese is inside? What are the veggies…looks like there’s a purple one that might be fruit or? And the one sliced in the foreground that’s white is?
    Happy New Year to you and Shel..thanks for all your shared journeys…I’m totally hooked.

  7. Heinz Says:

    Hi geri, let me answer your questions.
    The filling is a combination of cheeses and herbs. The basic ingredient is quark mixed up with gorgonzola and a German “Bergkäse” like the Swiss Gruyere seasoned with salt white pepper and italian herbs. The veggies are just braised leeks. These purple dots are red wine butter made of “Blaufränkisch” wine, an Austrian variety . The one white slice in the foreground is an almond slice a little bit toasted . If you are interested in the recipe, I’ll ask Abra if she allows me to post it here.

  8. Abra Bennett Says:

    Oh, please do post the recipe, I think lots of people would love to make them.

  9. Heinz Says:

    I hope the recipe is ok with you, the pictures in the links are helpful to show how preparation works and I apologize to all of you about the advertising coming with the pictures. I couldn’t wipe it out.

    Cheesecannelloni with braised Leeks, sliced Almonds and Red Wine Butter
    Serves four (three cannellonis each)
    See:http://www.bilder-hochladen.net/files/8tju-e-jpg.html 

    Ingredients

    For the dough
    250 g wheat flour
    2 Eggyolks
    2 Eggs
    1 Tbs Oliveoil
    For the filling
    100 g dry quark (or soft ricotta)
    100 g gruyere, grated
    50 g Gorgonzola picante, pressed
    1 Tbs italian herbs (thyme,salvia,romarin)
    1 Egg
    For the leeks
    100 g leek, (white and light green parts only)
    1 Tbs butter
    salt
    White Pepper, freshly grind
    For the red wine butter:
    100 g butter
    1 Tbs Shallots, finely chopped
    4 Tbs red Port
    125 ml dark red wine
    100 ml chicken stock
    some arrow root flour
    black pepper freshly grind
    1/4 tsp salt
    For the polenta
    1 Tbs polenta semolina
    The serving garniture
    2 Tbs almond slices, slightly toasted
    2 Tbs Parmesan, freshly grind

    Zubereitung
    1. Combine the ingredients for the dough and knead until smooth. wrap it into a cling film. Let rest for an hour.
    2. Combine the ingredient for the filling and mix well.
    3. Cut leek in fine rings and braise with a little butter and water until mellow. Sason with salt and pepper.
    4. Braise chopped shallots in Butter until lucent, deglace with port and Red Wine. Pour in the chicken stock. Reduce liquid by the half. Mix up a little water and arrow root flour to thicken the sauce a little bit. Fold in the rest of the butter (monter au beurre) and season with pepper.
    5. Toast polenta semolina in a pan until it starts to smell. Remove from the hot plate and let cool down.
    6. Roll noodle dough out thinly and cut into 8 by 15 cm pieces. Throw filling into a piping bag and pipe out ribbons 3/4 cm thick along the longer site of the noodle squares.
    See: http://www.bilder-hochladen.net/files/8tju-h-jpg.html 
    Coat the edges of the noodle squares with water and roll up to a roll until a small upper margin overlaps.
    See: http://www.bilder-hochladen.net/files/8tju-g-jpg.html 
    Than coat the outer surface of the roll with eggwhite and turn round to form a spiral where the overlapping edge presents quasi the leaves of a rose.
    See:  http://www.bilder-hochladen.net/files/8tju-f-jpg.html 
    7. Cook canneloni in salted water for 4 minutes..
    8. Serving: Spread braised leeks in the middle of a warmed plate. Place cannelonies on it, sprinkle with toasted almond slices and drizzle with red wine butter. Sprinkle with toasted polenta seminola and grind parmigano.
    See: http://www.bilder-hochladen.net/files/8tju-e-jpg.html 

  10. Abra Bennett Says:

    Wow, thanks Heinz, that makes it look pretty easy!

  11. Mikki Says:

    Man, you know how to eat and enjoy food. I just love reading about your adventures. This menu is total ecstasy.


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