Wissembourg, Schirmeck, Obersteinbach, Kaysersberg.
These picturesque villages nestled in the verdant, gently sloping
hills of the Vosges mountains with the decidedly Teutonic ring to
their names are actually French, part of Alsace, a region which
graces the eastern shoulder of Gallic territory. A lovely
fertile area fed by the powerful Rhine River which snakes along
the French-German border before majestically emptying into the
North Sea near Rotterdam, Alsace has long been coveted by both
Germany and France. Monasteries and old castles look down
from high on vineyards on the lower slopes. Along with
neighboring Lorraine, it has changed hands countless times over
the centuries in a dizzying game of territorial back-and-forth.
Hearty Alsatian food is a marvelous melding of France’s
refined cooking and more robust German fare, a wonderful instance
of culinary syncretism -- a savory, satisfying option as winter
approaches and the thermometer begins its seasonal plummet.
While Alsatian cuisine has seafood dishes such as rollmops
(marinated herring in cream sauce) and trout almondine, it
is le seigneur cochon (the noble pig) that rules! And
the famed Choucroute Garnie is the quintessential Alsatian
meal. This rich, winter dish has a lush bedding of
sauerkraut flavored with garlic, juniper and any number of spices
(cumin, caraway, coriander, celery seeds) generously heaped with
ham and sausages such as bratwurst, knockwurst, or traditional
on the Upper East Side does a superb choucroute, as it is
referred to colloquially in French: the sauerkraut is gently
braised in Riesling with juniper berries and accompanied by smoked
pork breast, sausages and potatoes. You can also déguster
a good choucroute at
Les Halles, that downtown purveyor of all things carnivorous, or at the more
uptown, whose Choucroute Royale Alsacienne includes smoked
ham hocks as an option.
Vineyards decorate many of Alsace’s valleys, producing some
excellent white Gewurztraminer and Rieslings, but
the region also produces several hundred artisanal beers: one can
happily marry either beer or wine to a warm choucroute.
The New York Times says that
the fetishism and free-association usually reserved for wine to
the exaltation of beer. It has more than 110 kinds.”
also prepares the wonderfully over-vowelled tongue-twister
baeckeoffe, a traditional Alsatian beef stew slowly cooked in
wine with a variety of seasonal vegetables: this one a
particularly rich version of the dish made from lamb, oxtail and
pork braised in a Pinot Noir with onions and thyme.
In midtown at
head chef Gabriel Kreuther has updated traditional baeckeoffe,
taking the dish a creative step forward with an unlikely and
intriguing trio of base ingredients: lamb, tripe, and conch!
The Strasbourg-born Kreuther also uses Gewurztraminer to
advantage in steaming loup de Mer or seabass, which he
accompanies with spaghetti squash and a caramelized jus made with
shallots. Part of the fun of dining at
is in identifying where Kreuther's Alsatian touches pop up on the
menu (and in knowing that one could walk off the food in MoMA’s
sculpture garden or the galleries above!)
Curiously enough, it was an Alsatian from Colmar, Frédéric Auguste
Bartholdi, who designed the Statue of Liberty. So we
recommend trying at least one choucroute garnie this winter
and making a toast to freedom, perhaps with an Alsatian wine!
in Riesling, via gourmet.com