I said in my last article about Allgaeu, Bavaria that I think both the area and the food from the area are massively underrated by international tourists, so I want to give it the attention it deserves. Eating in Bavaria is an absolute pleasure. Everywhere I went the food was excellent, the service was great and the whole experience was just utterly lovely. Add to that some live traditional music to accompany your meal, and you really couldn’t ask for more.
Simple, well-executed meals are always promising, but when the ingredients used to make them are as good as they are in this part of Germany, you’re on to a real winner. And if you’re looking for full on comfort food, this is about as good as it gets…
Ok. Weisswurst isn’t the most aesthetically stimulating dish in the world. Two or three pallid sausages floating in water in a pot, with bread on the side… fair enough, it’s not the stuff that Instagram #foodporn pictures are made of. But don’t be put off by its simplicity – those white sausages, made from fresh minced veal and pork and flavoured delicately with onion and fresh parsley – taste really good. The sweet Bavarian mustard that you eat with it is something I would just eat with a spoon on its own. I tried it in the Lila Haus in Fuessen, right after touring Neuschwanstein castle. There used to be a rule that you had to eat your weisswurst before 12pm, but that was a rule from the days before we had fridges to keep food cold and fresh – it was to avoid eating sausages that had been sitting around too long. There are fridges now, so you can now eat weisswurst throughout the day. Hurrah! Oh, and peel before you eat.
This is mountain food. Spend a morning on ski lifts, riding down mountains and eating snow and tell me that a big plate of hot goulash soup isn’t exactly what you need to refuel and warm up, from the inside out. It’s a big, filling, delicious hug for your stomach is what it is. We had it at Edmund Probst Haus, part of the way up Nebelhorn where it was cheap and perfectly cooked. If you’re there and you’ve tried goulash already and fancy something different, these guys make really incredible burgers too. Just so you know.
The Allgaeu is a big dairy producer. They used to produce a lot of flax and cotton there, but farmers realised that dairy and cheese production was a good way to make a living, which means that Bavarian food includes lots of cheese, and lots of cheese-based meals. Like cheese soup. Soup made of cheese. It sounds a little weird, yes? Well you won’t be saying that when you try it. Because you’ll be too busy shovelling it into your face. It’s gorgeous.
Now. If you thought cheese soup was cheesy, follow it with kase spaetzle and prepare to be absolutely cheesed out of your mind. that’s exactly what we did at the Alpe Oberstdorf restaurant when we had our cheese-fest. Think of the soup starter as a kind of cheesy warm-up with this as the main event. This was probably my favourite Bavarian food – kase spaetzle is a dish of little pasta-style dumplings made from eggs, flour and salt, boiled and drenched in cheese sauce. It usually comes as a side dish with meat, I ate it with ludicrously tender roast pork medallions. Like goulash suppe, kase spaetzle is pure unadulterated comfort food and you will want to eat a lot of it, so prepare for a lovely self-induced food coma.
Or, as it translates in English, roasted pork knuckle. Mmmmmm, pork knuckle! Yeah the English translation of this meal doesn’t do it nearly the justice it deserves, but a pork knuckle is actually a ham hock. See? Not so scary – they put that in fancy M&S sandwiches! Schweinshaxn, cooked well, is pork so tender that you can shred it from the bone with a fork and minimal effort. That gorgeous soft meat is encased in crispy, salty crackling and served with a lovely stodgy dumpling, red cabbage, and gravy. It’s often huge to the point of being intimidating, and it looks somewhat… gnarled. But it’s incredible. To get the most from your Schweinshaxn, I suggest spending a day outdoors, going up mountains and then sliding down them, really fast. If you’re eating this in Oberstdorf, go and eat it in the Hotel Traube. It’s huge, reasonably priced, and some charming men in lederhosen will play Bavarian music on an accordion and a bass while you eat.
Kaiserschmarrn (‘Emperor’s Mess’) is basically a pancake, but a quite thick and slightly caramelised one that has been baked rather than fried, and then shredded into pieces. The pieces are dusted with a generous blizzard of powdered sugar and served warm with apple sauce, plum compote, or any number of accompaniments from whipped cream and blueberries to nuts and dried fruit. I ate this in Salober Alm, after a long hike up a mountain in a snowstorm. Let me tell you, a plate of this with a glass of hazelnut schnapps is a glorious thing.
Schneeballen (ten points if you guessed that this means ‘snowballs’) are big round pastries filled with marzipan or flavoured cream/ganache and dusted with sugar. Originally from Rothenburg When I bought a sweet lemon flavoured one at Schneeballen Diller in Fuessen, my guide gave me two pieces of advice about eating it:
I have this thing with food where I treat warnings like that as a challenge, like life is my own personal eating competition. But she was right. These are delicious but they’re huge and they’re very sweet, and the pastry is drier than normal so that the texture is more biscuity than cakey. Well, well worth trying.
Strudel made the list of things to eat in Salzburg, but it’s a dessert that transcends borders. Its flaky pastry, apple-and-cinnamon sweetness, and vanilla sauce drownability is every bit as delicious across the border in Bavaria as it is in Austria.
Enzian, or Gentian schnapps, is a spicy little number that’ll put a fire in your belly and hairs on your chest. It’s made from the roots of the Gentian violet, it boozy and quite bitter, and in Bavaria they drink it straight up. Part of me thinks they offer it to visitors just to watch our faces after we take a sip. In addition to giving you a warm and fuzzy tingle in your insides, they say that Enzian is good for digestion. Which is a good thing in a place where dumplings, cheese and pork feature so heavily on menus.
The hazelnut schnapps I tried was made by the guy who owns Salober Alm, and it was glorious. I wasn’t sure whether or not that was because I had just come into a warm mountain hut after an uphill hike in the snow, so in the name of science I purchased a bottle for further testing. My findings were that the schnapps is equally delicious in all tasting situations, and I fully endorse having a few when you’re in Bavaria.
Real, proper gluhwein. Gluhwein that’s been heated over a real fire, outside in the snow and sub zero temperatures, so that the crisp Alpine air and the fire’s smoke become as much part of its flavour as the spices thrown in the mix. You can get this at Alpe Oberstdorf. One caveat – if you drink it outside, it will go cold very quickly so you need to drink it quickly. Well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.