Genuss! SouthWest Germany Celebrates a Year of Culinary
Enjoyment and All that Goes with It in 2018
SouthWest Germany is preparing for a year of good eating drinking and everything that goes with it in 2018. With 85 Michelin stars, this third largest state in Germany has much to show off. Yet, it’s not just the gourmet meals that create a heavenly universe for oeniphiles, beer lovers and gourmands. Every day restaurants, charming pensions, farmers, vintners and cooks take pride in creating delicious meals, traditional dishes, growing just the right fruit and herbs, producing just the right grapes and growing the perfect white asparagus that find their way to the plates of admiring guests.
SouthWest Germany, officially the state of Baden-Württemberg, is Germany’s third largest state that stretches from the palaces of Mannheim and Heidelberg in the north to garden island of Mainau in Lake Constance in the south. It is home to the Black Forest, the car city of Stuttgart where Porsche and Mercedes are based, the hills and countryside of Swabia speckled with Rococo churches and splendid palaces and the asparagus route near Hohenlohe. Extraordinary kitchens proliferate as does the production of local products and ingredients that go into the meals.
The year of “Genuss,” or culinary enjoyment, in 2018 is spread throughout the state. Towns and chefs from all corners will be celebrating their local and traditional dishes and products. The wine and beer industries comprised of many excellent, small wineries and microbreweries support the delicious meals. Meeting the locals and having fun at a brewery or one of the family-owned wineries or festivals is a natural way to experience SouthWest Germany. Handcrafted gin and Schnapps are also found in many of the local restaurants. Monkey 47, a popular dry gin, is made in the Black Forest of 47 different ingredients. Rustic schnapps and refined brandies are also local favorites from the Black Forest. Still today, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of approved distilleries in the Black Forest producing small and sometimes the tiniest amounts of schnapps, ranging from the simple fruit schnapps made from apples or pears to the distillates of local plums, Zwetschgen, right up to Kirsch, the queen of all fruit brandies.
Michelin starred restaurants dot the landscapes of the country and the cities offering all sorts of sophisticated plates. Always popular however are also the traditional dishes that comprise part of many meals, including pretzels (of course), Spätzle (egg noodles), Kässpätzle (noodles with cheese); Fellchen (a white lake fish from Lake Constance), Flammkuchen (a quiche-like onion and bacon tart), Maultaschen (Swabian ravioli, filled with minced meat, onions, spinach); Ofenschlupfer (bread pudding); Rostbraten (steak and onions, with a red wine sauce); Schwarzwälder Schinken (cured, smoked ham) and, of course, the Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest cake comprising chocolate cake, jam, cherries, Kirsch and lots of whipped cream). These delicious dishes you can find in almost every restaurant but they are only the starters for many chefs who take these basics to the next level with creativity and ingenuity comprising local ingredients and great training.
The best place to start and end your trip is in the capital city of Stuttgart. Whether you come by train or plane, Stuttgart is easily accessible and bookends the trip in a perfect way with a relaxed urban experience that blends well with the village adventures in the countryside. Baden-Württemberg’s state capital has a wide range of culinary highlights on offer: from gourmet cuisine and down-to-earth favourites to exquisite wines and refreshing beers, an informative walk round the Museum of Viniculture or fascinating guided brewery tours – there’s guaranteed to be something to suit every taste. Surrounded by the Württemberg wine hills, Stuttgart also is a great spot for a day trip to the half-timbered village of Esslingen that is renowned also for its centuries old sparkling wine cellar, Kessler, which sells out rapidly each year. In 2018, Stuttgart will be celebrating 200 years of the annual Cannstatter Volksfest (it was not held every year consecutively) and 100 years of the annual agricultural festival. In addition to these two great milestones in Stuttgart’s history, the historical Volksfest (folk festival) will take place in the city’s main square.
There are no fewer than 24 starred restaurants in the Stuttgart Region, eight of them in the state capital itself. You’ll find everything from traditional and classic dishes to haute cuisine and creative, innovative gastronomy. At the Wielandshöhe, the emphasis is on organic ingredients and species-appropriate livestock husbandry; Yosh scores with its wine cellar and cigar lounge, while the Speisemeisterei, located in the Palace Hohenheim, offers a special baroque ambience and matching menus. All together there are eight restaurants with stars: are eight: Délice, Olivo, Speisemeisterei, Restaurant Top Air, Wielandshöhe, Zirbelstube, Yosh, 5. For visitors travelling by air, the first culinary highlight can be found immediately on arrival at Stuttgart Airport. The Top Air itself has been starred since 1991 and it’s Europe’s only Michelin-starred airport restaurant.
Beer made in Baden-Württemberg is an unforgettable experience for all your senses and is part of the year of Genuss in 2018. With 189 breweries, Baden-Württemberg is the second most important beer region in Germany after Bavaria. Many breweries offer tours and special behind-the-scene looks at their expert brewing processes. In fact, the world’s very first beer charter was bestowed in the year 776 in Geisingen an der Donau, a small village in the Württemberg region.
More recently, the small town of Ehingen (Donau) was named “Beer Culture City,” as it is home to four breweries that, together, brew more than 40 beer varieties. Surrounded by breathtaking landscapes between the rolling hills of the Swabian Alb and the shores of Lake Constance, this charming little town has the most breweries per capita in all of Baden-Württemberg. Especially fun times to visit Ehingen (Donau) in 2018 are the celebration of the beer purity laws on April 20 when the Bergbrauerei and the Schwanen Brewery open their doors until late into the night and offer a colorful program of live music, craft beer and open tours. From July 6 to 9, the celebration of St. Ulrich’s Festival goes on throughout the town; and on August 31, everyone enjoys the tapping of the special “autumn gold” beer.
Another tiny town with a big reputation and outstanding food production is culinary town of Baiersbronn. Surrounded by lush green forests, Baiersbronn is a culinary pilgrimage worth taking. With just 14,500 residents and eight Michelin stars it has the highest density of Michelin stars in all of Europe. Baiersbronn is an impeccable combination of startlingly beautiful nature and delicious gourmet food everywhere from restaurants and inns and even to picnic baskets filled with “Baiersbronn Treasures.” This tiny town nestled in the beautiful northern Black Forest has started a revolution of gourmet excellence that has been pervasive enough to spread to other cities in the region. Nearby in the Murg Valley, Eberstein Castle is continuing to flourish after being renovated by the Overlack family in 2005. The castle’s main restaurant, led by by Bernd and Roswitha Werner, now holds its own Michelin star. The Eberstein Winery’s vineyards have been replanted and are led by Jürgen Decker and Ernst Möschle who produce the highest quality wines.
SouthWest Germany also has two major wine-making regions. The Baden vineyards run north-south for 250 miles/400 km along the eastern bank of the River Rhine. The climate is similar to the famous French wine-making areas of Alsace, Champagne, and the Loire. The other wine-making region, Württemberg, is farther east, running to the north and south of Stuttgart. This is the only German region where red wine is the specialty. Both of these wine regions have their own scenic tours where visitors can drive, walk or take a car and explore the individual vintners and their vineyards.
About three-quarters of the vineyards are tended by farmers, and the same families have done so for over 100 years. Many families open their homes or have “Besens” and “Straussen,” special seasonal wine pubs or taverns, where you can drink the wine grown at the door, and eat homemade local dishes. The name Besen actually means broom – and a broom at the door is a sign that the pub is open for business. The Besens are in the Württemberg vineyards and the Straussen are in Baden. Either way, they are great places for good wine, good food and good company. It is yet another wonderful way to meet the locals and get a taste of SouthWest Germany.