Friday, March 2, 2012

Game Dinner, German-Style

A five course dinner featuring game hunted by our neighbor Gavin and cooked by his lovely wife Susanne.  Now THAT sounded interesting, and we had the good fortune to be invited.

The hostess, who hails from Munich, smashed all of my negative stereotypes about German cooking.  She offered a variety of dishes which she said would have been typically served at any restaurant in her native land.  When all was said and done, I was ready to book a flight.

We started with consomme of wild pheasant with semolina nocherl.  This mimicked the best version of matzoh ball soup imaginable.  The nocherl was a light, doughy dumpling floating in a rich, flavorful broth, generously laden with chunks of pheasant and vegetables.  A wonderful way to start the meal.

We then proceeded on to a salad--butter lettuce with walnuts, cranberries and gruyere cheese.  Sublime.

The third course moved meat-ward again:  fetuccine with venison sausage and pear ragu.  This was a Marc Vetri recipe from his book Il Viaggo de Vetri which the hostess assured us was simple.   Simple or not, it was absolutely delicious; the perfect interplay between the robust sausage and the sweet pear with the cheese providing the ideal salty counterpoint.

When Susanne served the main course, filets of venison with spaetzle and red cabbage, she told us that virtually every restaurant in Munich had this on its menu.  I bet they're not as good as hers.   She also told us an interesting linguistic fact:  in German, 'red' cabbage is translated as 'blue' cabbage.    Technically, I guess it's purple, so we're both half accurate.  As to the spaetzle, those tiny nuggets of light, doughy carbohydrate heaven set a new standard for noodles.  

And just when I thought it could get no better,  dessert arrived.  Susanne presented a stunning rendition of her grandmother's recipe for millirahmstrudel with vanilla sauce.  This apple strudel was staggeringly good--the pastry was paper-thin, light and crispy, the apples a perfect sweet/tart foil, soft from cooking but with sufficient crunch left to evoke their natural form, topped with fresh, homemade whipped cream and doused with vanilla sauce.  Oh, the sauce.  Picture the best creme anglaise you've ever had, then make it 5 times better, and you'll create an image of Susanne's vanilla sauce.  That type of sauce is tricky; often it has an unfortunate eggy viscosity that is downright repulsive, resulting from a lack of skill on the part of the cook.  This version, thankfully, suffered no such woeful fate, nor did we.   I really had to restrain myself from licking the plate.

We really love our neighbors!  Have you been to any FAB dinner parties lately?   Do tell....

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