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Posts from the ‘German/Swiss/Austrian’ Category

Shovel Time: The Rheinlander

twoshovelI know no one gives a shit about Rheinlander other than me. Portland is strangely void of history and nostalgia, and well, I’m not sure the food is even good anymore (or if it even ever was). Oh, I guess one person does. It would never even occur to me to pitch a missive from the closing of the Rheinlander to The Awl, but there it is. I’m pretty sure I was there the same night as the author too. That’s why I’m a blogger.

rheinlander-dining-roomI went Christmas week, desperate to see the German restaurant that served as special occasion marker in my family into my early 20s one last time. It was brighter than I remembered, though that may have something to do with the Alpine room (I think it was called) right off the lobby, less labyrinthine and hidden. The food was brought out in quick succession, no waiting for appetizers to be eaten before mains. You could have a three-course meal and be out in an hour (my family who have no patience would probably love that).


There were two accordionists, no Victor Meindl, not in lederhosen. (I recently looked him up as he permanently seemed middle-aged when I was young and could’ve been anywhere from 50-65, so it’s possible he’s still alive. There is an gentleman with his name in West Linn, so I’m holding out hope that he’s still around.)  The fondue is served in a microwavable bowl rather than a cast iron crock.


But…I don’t know…the food was pretty solid. Maybe not so pretty, but delicious. I never order sauerbraten since the last time years ago at Schnitzel Haus it was dry and stringy. Here, it was not, and I could eat the lightly browned, buttered spaetzle for ever. I love red cabbage sauerkraut too.


The local boyfriend who I’d dragged along (I made a reservation for 4 but couldn’t find two other takers!) seemed mystified by the menu and ordered a chicken schnitzel with mushroom sauce, which took me back at least 20 years ago when I attended Christmas dinner with my dad’s new family, and Jody, the methy step-sister who I always imagine in over-sized Loony Toons shirts ordered that very dish. She liked it so much she asked, “Could I get more mushrooms?” and I suffered humiliation by proxy. You ask for seconds at restaurants? She got an extra helping, served in a little side dish, by the way.


Apple streudel, which I’m so-so on, but it was the only German dessert on the menu. I don’t even remember the other three, though I totally wouldn’t be surprised if there was a chocolate lava cake.


We both grew up in the Portland area, so I reminisced how Horst Mager was the original celebrity chef (ok, James Beard, whatever) and appeared on AM Northwest all the time and he had no idea who I was talking about. Times change. Mager was quoted in a press release, “This decision didn’t happen overnight; we’ve been discussing it for a long time. I have bittersweet feelings about it, of course. But I feel it’s the right thing to do, especially considering today’s Portland food scene. It has been evolving, and so must we.” Self-aware, yet I’m not sure what evolution even means for Portland’s food scene. Food trucks and pop-ups can’t be the be all to end all.


I look ok here, maybe a little sweaty, but I had to find and go straight to after-hours urgent care after this meal because I couldn’t swallow or hear and couldn’t stop coughing. I only point this out because Portland makes me crazy but it’s so goddamn easy. (I would consider moving back if the average rents now were less than my NYC mortgage and maintenance.) It was like a 12-minute drive to a different quadrant of the city (NE to NW), we were able to park right in front of the clinic, I was seen right away and in and out in 20 minutes, including the filling of two prescriptions, and it was $65. (I had an ear infection.) I haven’t been so impressed since I had to go to the hospital in Singapore and it was posh and $35.

Previously, on The Rheinlander. 

The Rheinlander * 5035 NE Sandy Blvd., Portland, OR 

Shovel Time: Bâtard

threeshovelBâtard doesn’t seem radical on the surface. It’s a nice restaurant in Tribeca. But thinking back to my experience in the same space over four years ago, it feels like twice as long in restaurant years. Gone are the tablecloths, much of the hush (though this was two days after the great muffling) and pretense, no biggie if you want white burgundy but aren’t willing to spend three figures. Unlike at Corton, no one would’ve given a shit if I took out my purse-sized SLR instead of leaving it at home, a more frequent occurrence lately because who cares about blogs anymore? Bâtard has an active Instagram account.

batard bread

No amuses. There is still bread, though.

batard chilled pea soup, fluke, salsify crumble, sweet shallots, mint

Anyone who ate at Bâtard in the early days–you know, a month ago–recommends the pea soup with sweetbreads. It has since given way to a more summery version, chilled and minted, and containing ribbons of raw fluke. The crisped salsify that looks like bacon is still present, as is the tableside pour.

batard octopus pastrami, braised ham hock, pommery mustard, new potatoes

Octopus “pastrami” might be the breakout hit. In fact, the spice-crusted cephalopod terrine, garnished incongruously but deliciously with grainy mustard, capers, ham, and potato, appeared on Good Day New York the following morning. Oddly, it was the almost sweet rye croutons that really brought this dish together.

I slunk into mild martyrdom because I don’t have fine dining friends (I have plenty of brunch friends, bbq friends, beer and burger friends, and Neverending Pasta Bowl friends, thanks) and was starting to spazz over not getting the birthday dinner I truly wanted. A well-meaning question from the loosening vegetarian almost made me say and do regrettable things. “Is there chicken on the menu?” With the exception of the schnitzel special, there’s not only no chicken on the menu, but no poultry whatsoever.

batard veal tenderlon tramezzini, sugar snap peas, sweetbreads, sauce diable

I may have opted for the veal out of misplaced defiance. It’s a serious entree, described playfully as “tramezzini,” a nod to the breading wrapped around the rare tenderloin that’s more like a wellington than an Italian sandwich. The crunchy snap peas added just enough freshness to the rich jus, chanterelles and sweetbread cube.

batard black forest, chocolate sablé, kirsch chantilly, bing cherries

The black forest dessert, incorporating straightforward chocolate, cherries, and cream, was the most overtly Germanic. Sweet and pleasing, it just made sense.

Keeping with the more accessible theme, the relatively low point of entry ($55 for two courses) is nice, but you’d have to crazy to not find the extra $20 for two more dishes.

Bâtard * 239 W. Broadway, New York, NY

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Schnitzel, Hot Pot, $1 Oysters

zum stamtisch trio

Zum Stamtisch might not serve the best German food in NYC, but you have to appreciate its longevity. (The first thing I ever wrote for money in NYC–and was paid 7 to 14 times more than what I’ve been offered for blog posts in modern day–was about German bars in Glendale. Zum Stamtisch is the only one of four still standing in its 2002 form.) And commitment to Bavarian kitsch. This is not a young person’s restaurant, especially not on an early Sunday evening. Everything could use a few shakes of salt (perhaps the clientele is watching their sodium intake). The schnitzel, available in pork only, is a stellar specimen, though, with a super crisp-and-craggy breading that’s not oily in the least. The mustardy vinegar-based potato salad is also well done; the starchy chunks have a few browned edges that add a little character. There is an impressive list of after dinner digestifs that does include Jaeger and Bailey’s but also gets a little more esoteric. Forget Fernet, this is Underberg and Escorial Grün.

little sheep

Little Lamb. I’ve said this before but I’m still not sure who’s ripping of whom. Little Lamb Happy Family, which has sat on Flushing’s Main Street for some time, is a blatant counterfeit.  But Little Sheep, which opened last year and Little Lamb, which recently appeared in the SkyView Center, are cut from the same cloth, complete with flat screen TVs showing videos of the Mongolia-based chain’s origin story. Little Sheep is bigger and has a liquor license (though Lamb serve what appears to be cola in wine carafes). Little Lamb has a view of the Applebee’s, its neighbor, and was still doing a 10% off promo when I visited (both pros, if you ask me). Bizarrely, the entire seafood section had an X through it on the order form (a con). The spicy side of the half-and-half broth contained an unusual amount of cumin–I’ve never had a hot pot where cumin seeds stick to everything, and the greens in the mixed vegetable platter were kind of strange and included lettuce (I find cooked lettuce grotesque) as well as weird frilly leaved weeds I’d never seen before. Everything was pleasant enough, though if this were a competition Little Sheep would win by a (wooly) hair.

extra fancy trio

Extra Fancy has always struck me as more of a drinking establishment even though both times I’ve eaten there in the past it has been fine (if not full of loud drunken people encroaching on my space). Apparently, they are trying to get fancier with the addition of a new chef. That seemed to translate to a $35 steak special, lobster pie and more charcuterie. I didn’t even realize they did a $1 oyster happy hour, practically a requirement in Williamsburg, but it was appreciated. A chicken pate topped with a layer of cider jelly and a big dose of toasted pistachios was one of the better I’ve had of late, bone marrow with barbecue-sauced brisket and Texas toast was also fun and now makes two restaurants in a six-block radius serving bone marrow with Texas toast (see Brooklyn Star). I stuck to the shared plates, but will most likely return in the very near future because I sometimes Lent dine to appease others and live down the street.




I had no idea that open-faced sandwiches were a
thing in Austria. (Denmark, sure.) They are part of the draw at Zum Schwarzen
Kameel's lauded bar
, which I didn't have time to visit. With minutes to spare
at the train station, I picked up the chain version from Trzesniewski, a fine
enough stand in.

Trzesniewski duo

Choosing based on looks alone, I ended with chopped salmon,
paprika (in the Hungarian sense where paprika is the spice and the red pepper,
itself), mushrooms and pickles, bolstered by cream cheese and hard boiled eggs,
all on thin dark bread. More like canapes than fast food, the dainty wedges
classed up the train trip back to Budapest.

Trzesniewski * Multiple Locations, Vienna, Austria

Gasthaus zur Oper

There is only so much you can do, i.e. eat, while in
Vienna for 24 hours. There is no question, though, that wiener schnitzel must
make an appearance. It’s in the name, right?

Gasthaus zur Oper, airy and modern and nearly Scandinavian
in feel with its blonde wood and  white
on white color scheme, is not necessarily where you’d expect to find fried
cutlets. Or where I would, at least, having imagined the traditional dish in
homey but dowdier surroundings.

Gasthaus zur oper schnitzel

And their version is top notch: a wrinkly golden-crisp
exterior with no trace of grease, pan-fried in clarified butter. Though pork is
popular in the US and veal is traditional in Vienna, and definitely the
most-ordered thing at Gasthaus zur Oper, this specimen happened to contain
thinly pounded liver. Yep, liver. The schnitzel treatment works well for the
strongly flavored organ meat; it can take the breading without disguising its
true nature (I was originally given the veal ordered at my table and there was
no mixing up the two after first bite.)

Gasthaus zur oper table

The cold potato salad was in a light, refreshing
style, tart with lemon juice and creamy without the use of mayonnaise with
minced red onion for a little more bite. I’ve never eaten schnitzel in its
natural habitat (Berlin being the closest) so the accompaniments were
surprising: lingonberry jam for sweetness (I thought that was more Nordic) and
a glass bottle containing a mysterious sauce that turned out to be concentrated
pan drippings, beef, I’m guessing. Gravy and berries work just as well for
schnitzel as for Swedish meatballs.

Gasthaus zur Oper * Walfischgasse 5-7, 1010, Vienna,


More smitten with Asia than Europe (and unaware of the now-gone NYC location) I'll admit that
I had never heard of Demel (or Demel's, as Americans like to say, oh, and even literary Czechs) the 226-year-old
Austrian coffeehouse, until it came up a few years ago when the Franks name-dropped
it in describing then new Cafe Pedlar.
And because I'm a crank it felt
ludicrous to suggest a Court Street cafe could be anything like a Viennese
stalwart, though unsurprising in its Brooklyn-ness.

And because I have an unshakable grade-schooler devotion
to the color green (do adults care about best friends and favorite colors?) the
most important piece of this Demel discovery was that that there was a place in
the world serving a bright green cake shaped like a dome and that one day it
would have to be eaten by me (and that there are no copyright-free photos
demonstrating this amazing pasty case with the green cake on Flickr–not that
that has ever stopped anyone from using my photos without even an attribution).

Demel cake  case

Unfortunately, on my last-minute visit to Vienna
(Budapest was already a spur of the moment idea with little research, and I
hadn't realized Vienna was less than three hour away by train) the green cake
was not on display. I don't imagine it's a greatest hit, especially when competing with more famous sachertorte or dobostorte.

Demel cabinet

Instead of
a glorious whole confection in the case, there were just a few errant slices
and a dummy cake up on a high shelf in a dark glare-proudcing glass cabinet.

Demel cake selection

I had heard nightmarish stories about being seated
upstairs after a very long wait in line, having to fight your way back down to
the main entrance to pick out your slices and have them written down for you to
bring up to your waitress (they are all women) and then wait for the sweets to

Demel chocolate cake

There was a poorly organized line that was being cut
with no consequence, however, the wait wasn't more than five minutes and there
is a young woman with a selection of cakes in an annex on the second floor (in
the American sense–I can't call something up stairs the first floor) so it's
not that much trouble. There would've been trouble if a green slice was absent,

Demel cake list-001

I could make out the very un-German, casatta, and
still can't determine the name of the browner, cookie-adorned and gianduja-fillled slice I also
picked out (above). Who cares? It's not green.

Demel casatta slice

Ok, casatta? That green slice is totally Italian, or more
specifically Sicilian, and a staple of many NYC bakeries, often as mini
cherry-topped single serves. There's nothing Viennese about the fluffy sweet
ricotta center suspending candied fruit and surrounded by a layer of liqueur-soaked
sponge and a smooth blanket of  almondy
marzipan. I traveled blank miles for something I could've gotten in Carroll
Gardens? (Or at Ikea, sort of. Princesstårta has a different flavor profile,
but also is a bulbous torte covered in green marzipan.)

Demel dome

Maybe the casatta has been adopted as an ode to the oxidized
domes of the Hofburg Palace across Michaelerplatz from Demel.

I guess the non-Austrian nature of this cake
shouldn't have been so surprising. Wienerschnitzel, the most iconic dish in
town, is essentially scaloppine. Now that I know the green cake is Italian, I want
the best casatta (green-only) in NYC. Villabate? Where else? Now may be the
rare instance where I regret moving out of an Italian-American neighborhood.

Demel * Kohlmarkt 14, Vienna, Austria

Photo of Demel sign via bestbig&tucker on Flickr

Prime Meats

1/2 It's not really fair to judge things based on outdated notions. My first and last visit to Prime Meats was when the menu and space was a fraction of its current size. It's one of the closest (probably the closest after Frankies) restaurants to my apartment but I avoid venues that tend to have people waiting/loitering outside the door.

Maybe I give off this impression wordlessly too? I always thought I did a good job of masking my internal old and cranky self. At 7:30pm on a Wednesday (playing hooky from Spanish class–I hope no one there reads this) the dining room was less than a quarter full, and we were given a free-standing table for two instead of being fitted into the row of tables along the wall.

Prime meats applejack sazaracAn applejack sazarac, sweetened lightly with maple syrup is a nice way to start. The cocktail, along with the stewy, braised, Germanic-leaning menu, also reinforced the disconnect between the season and the weather. Fortifying food makes sense in late January; less so as temperatures soar above 60 degrees.

Prime meats new brunswick oysters

A half-dozen savory oysters from New Brunswick (I zoned out on the name) seemed better suited for a bare-legged winter evening.

Prime meats vesper brett

Ok, and a meat board, the so-called Vesper Brett. The selection included ham, calves' tongue, bacon, landjager (like a softer, fatter pepperoni), and chicken liver pate with assorted pickles and a milder "health bread" than the darker, denser stuff packaged into tight rectangles at certain grocery stores. Speaking of German-style bread, I'm kind of excited for Landbrot to open.

Prime meats sürkrüt garnie

Somehow the sürkrüt garnie (no Frenchie choucroute here) managed to be light despite containing three meats: a small amount of pork belly, a bratruwurst, and a substantial slices of calves' tongue (yes, again) that I mistook for brisket in its pleasantly fatty, chewy texture.  When I say light, I only mean that in comparison to the version experienced recently at Renger Patzsch in Berlin. Unlike in Germany, though, I felt no strangeness in taking my leftovers home for dinner the following night.

Prime meats herb & gruyere cheese spätzle

Why not a shared side of gruyere-infused spätzle too?

You don't have to order German food (weird that I also ordered the exact same dish in 2009–I really like pork and fermented cabbage). That's just what I happen to like about Prime Meats and I wasn't up for paying nearly double for the goat special ($32 vs $18 sürkrüt garnie) even if it is my favorite underrated meat.  I could see myself going back on a weeknight, though I'll probably continue to stay clear of the  patrons spilling out onto the sidewalk brunch.

Prime Meats * 465 Court St., Brooklyn, NY

Schwarzwaldstuben & Renger-Patzsch

Schwarzwaldstuben and Renger-Patzsch are both solid neighborhood restaurants in opposite corners of Berlin. Neither are secrets with locals nor tourists. Schwarzwaldstuben, the more Williamsburgy of the two (though it’s hard to tell where the rampant displays of antlers diverges from tradition into irony in Berlin) in Mitte (which I’d characterize as more of a Carroll Gardens) wasn’t exactly a snap to get into.

Unlike, say, a Prime Meats, though, they do take reservations because Germans are reservations crazy, yet calling Monday while at JFK still couldn’t snag us a seat any sooner than that Thursday. I think part of the issue is that unlike in NYC where tables constantly turnover and it’s expected that you’ll promptly vacate after eating, in Berlin, like much of Europe, you’ve essentially booked a table for the night. People get up, smoke, come back, take breaks between courses, order a round of drinks after eating, smoke some more, another round of drinks, no rush.

So, first we ate at the slightly less hectic, but reservations-needed Renger-Patzsch in Schoenenberg, a neighborhood I can’t really peg because the walk from the S-Bahn was dark and kind of desolate with most businesses closed for the evening, everyone tucked into their apartments.

Renger patzsch alsatian blood sausage, bacon & lentils

Gebratene Elsässer Blutwurst mit krossem Speck und Rahmsauerkraut. I love blood sausage from all cuisines, but this version was particularly good. Sliced into three pieces, there was more surface area to crisp up and caramelize. I just noticed that my copy and paste from their menu has creamed sauerkraut instead of the lentils I was served. I love pickled cabbage, but the more French leaning legumes were a solid pairing, especially with the bacon. 

Renger patzsch bleu d’auvergne, leek, walnut tarte flambée

Tarte flambée végétarienne: mit Lauch, Walnüssen und Bleu d´Auvergne. The menu has Alsatian touches like the extensive list of flammekueche a.k.a. tarte flambée. I love these thin, crackly pizzas but a whole square tart for one person is kind of too much with an appetizer even if the waitress says otherwise. I succumbed to this vegetarian one with sauteed leeks, walnuts, and Bleu d’Auvergne because I can never not order something that contains that soft Brie-like blue cheese. If it’s in the house, I’ll pick at the wedge until it disappears (usually, three days later). The American in me wanted to take my remainders for later, but that isn’t done.

Renger patzsch alsatian sauerkraut with pork shoulder, pork knuckle, salt pork & smoked sausage

Elsässer Sauerkraut mit Schäufele, Eisbein, Kassler und Rauchwurst. An Alsatian pork platter with knuckle, smoked sausage, salt pork, and shoulder. Plus, boiled potatoes, sauerkraut, and sharp mustard on the side. This was not listed as charcroute garni, but isn’t it?

Schwartzwaldstube interior

Schwarzwaldstuben also served flammekueche, but the cuisine is supposedly more Swabian with pasta dishes like maultaschen, a ravioli-like dumpling, and spaetzle. The menu is not huge (and not online, so no German here) with no real appetizer/main convention, and revolved around a lot of bacon-studded potatoes, gravy, cabbage, sautéed mushrooms, and braised meats. And not particularly lightened-up nor downsized, which is not a complaint.

Schwartzwaldstube pork schnitzel

Schnitzels are also served, of course. I am still getting the variations straight and if I’m correct this pan-fried pork cutlet would be schweineschnitzel or maybe schnitzel wiener art (Vienna-style schnitzel).

I didn’t mean to eat roast venison twice in a week; it just happened.

Schwartzwaldstube venison

This was a special that was verbally described to me as “deer,” (of course our server could speak pretty good English–and French in addition to German) after miming at the faux taxidermy (there were also real antlers, no heads). Stewed meat and cabbage might not sounds so alluring on paper, but with rich gravy and buttery spinach spaetzle, it’s the best kind of cold weather food.

Partyhaus interior

By the way, the other venison dish, the first thing we ate after landing, was at the Party Haus in the Alexanderplatz Christmas market. Late night, it’s like the German version of a Jersey Shore club: bouncers, screaming, stumbling, fueled by Jägermeister.

Partyhaus cheesy beef skillet

At 6pm, it was groups of senior sipping Glühwein and us just pointing to something on the English-free menu: wildbraten, gefüllt mit Pilzen wurzigem kase, überbacken mit Preiselbeeren, Pfännchen, serviert. It turned out be a pan filled with venison chunks, mushrooms, peppers, corn kernels, bound by melted cheese with a blob of cranberry jelly, like the long lost brother of an Applebee’s Sizzling Entree.

Schwarzwaldstuben * Tucholskystraße 48, Berlin, Germany
Renger-Patzsch * Wartburgstraße 54, Berlin, Germany


There are so many un-American things about Nordsee, the German fast food chain (though its mascot is very Spongebob). I can't see a fish restaurant not exclusively devoted to the battered and fried doing so well. Plus, real plates, glasses, and beer in a mall food court?

Nordsee pickled fish sandwich

To be fair, there are plenty of fried options at Nordsee; the woman in line ahead of me was getting a very Brooklyn Chinese takeout combo of fried shrimp and fries. I was trying to not fill up so I could squeeze in a second lunch later, hence the petite sweet-and-sourish pickled herring, cucumber, and onions on a roll. I would totally buy this instead of those sad still-hungry-afterward half-baguette sandwiches from Pret a Manger that I occasionally get sucked into ordering.

More American was Papa Asada, the Tex-Mex restaurant, selling something that looked suspiciously like a Crunchwrap. In fact, it was called a Crunchwrap. It's also suspiciously absent from its website. Perhaps Taco Bell should look into a German expansion.

Nordsee * ALEXA, Am Alexanderplatz Grunerstraße 20, Berlin, Germany


Hofbräu Berlin

After reading about the Berlin arrival of Hofbräuhaus, a beer garden franchise from Munich that has outlets in Dubai and Las Vegas (maybe I’ll pop in this weekend), I knew I had to pay a visit. If only because Bavarian kitsch in the capital might be akin to a Cracker Barrel in Manhattan (no one seems to realize that you can reach the country chain if you head west for an hour–no need to cross the Mason-Dixon Line).

Hofbrauhaus berlin interior

The giant space designed to hold 2,500 wasn’t even close to capacity on a dark, blustery Friday afternoon, but there was an oompah band (they had just left the stage). We were the only ones who didn’t know the words to the songs.

The real reason I wanted to go to the Hofbräuhaus was because I needed a schweinshaxe fix. Berlin is known more for eisbein, a boiled pork knuckle, but I wanted a massive dose of lechon-like crispy skin and fat.

But I didn’t want to seem like a total glutton. Even though I knew I was ordering something embarrassingly massive, I played it off like I was a naive American unwittingly picking random things. And oddly, this was the only restaurant I dined at that didn’t have English menus or translations below dishes, and it was the most touristy place by far, right off Alexanderplatz, the metaphorical Time’s Square of Berlin.

Hofbrauhaus berlin pork shank

When it arrived and drew the attention of the neighboring group of German tourists who’d commandeered two big tables, I pretended like I was surprised. I may have even opened my eyes wider and held out my hands as if I were air-measuring the knuckle’s girth.

Of course, I couldn’t eat it all myself. There was no way the crackled hunk of meat was going to be to even be tackled fully by two people, and I didn’t get the impressions that Germans, like most Europeans, engaged in doggie bagging. We did the best we could. I have to tamp down my food-wasting guilt on vacations.

Hofbrauhaus berlin sausages

I did not order the sausages and potatoes.

Hofbräu Berlin * Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 30, Berlin, Germany