on this story
(out of five)
German food is very, very, very beige.
11831 Kingston Pike
by Ally Carte
If blame must be laid for the beige-ness of German food, I suppose it must be laid upon Germany's climate and/or soil. Not much wanted to grow there, it would seem, back when the country's cuisine was evolving, at least, nothing that was colorful. Potatoes thrive in Germany's rocky heart, as well as cabbages, mushrooms, and pigs.
Fortunately, I'm fond of beigeas well as ecru and eggshell. And light off-brown in all of its forms is a wonderful foil for the occasional flashes of red that grace the German plate, like beets and some cabbage varieties. German food, in terms of appearance, is minimalism at its best.
In terms of taste, however, it can run a wide, frightening gamut. Potato dumplings and flour-based dumplings called spatzletwo staples of the dietcan be leaden, better used as ammunition than nourishment. Pork can be the wurst (sorry) when it comes to flavor. Cook pig poorly and you've got greasy shoe-leather, which, while it would match well with cannonball-esque dumplings, can be worse on the stomach than nothing at all.
German food done well, however, makes you want to leap right up and invade Poland. The food's subtle appearance lends itself to subtler variations of taste that are a joy to savor. And Restaurant Linderhoflocated in the Farragutian wilds next to the Ingles on Kingston Pikeis a textbook example.
But you wouldn't guess that from the decor. Upon first glanceactually, upon all of the glances you could havethe lavender and red interior, with its crystal and bronze chandeliers and cut-glass accouterments, look like the stage set for a rather creepy production of The Magic Flute. On the walls are portraits of what has to be a mad German king, flanked by the odd animal skull. Opera fills the air, as does the sound of flesh being pounded. One hopes it is the chef smoothing out his schnitzel and not beating a waiter who misbehaved. If you were to happen upon this place out in the Bavarian wilds, you'd be leery. In way West Knox, though, it's strange fun.
Unless you are a vegetarian, that is. Meatless dishes are downright singular on the Linderhof menu. A "Vegetarian Delight," which is comprised of red cabbage, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, spatzle, and a salad platter, is offered for $11.75, but all of the other dishes revolve around animal flesh. Fortunately for omnivores, the Linderhof chef really knows what to do with various cuts of pig, chicken, lamb, and beef.
Essentially, there are only a couple of categories to choose fromwurst, schnitzel, and specialtiesall of which are served with the soup of the day (a rich, gently peppered bean the day we visited), bread (thin slices of hearty brown), and a salad platter (pickled cabbages and green beans, vinegared potato salad, and a cucumber and shaved onion concoction). Wurst-wise, all of the major sausage groups are represented. Bratwurst, knackwurst, bauernwurst, and various permutations thereof make an appearance and range in price from $9.25-$16.50. Since I spent the better part of my childhood helping Granny Carte make sausage and can now never eat them, I moved right on the schnitzel.
Schnitzel describes a cutlet of meatusually veal but it can also be porkpounded into submission, breaded, and lightly pan-fried to a golden beige. A variety of sauces are then made from the drippings by deglazing the pan and adding whichever odds and ends are lying about. Jager Schnitzel ($14.25) is a prime example; huge, tender button mushrooms top the cutlet and the whole thing is swimming in a wine sauce. German fried potatoes, with their crunchy brown crust and flecks of onion, flank the schnitzel and bites from the delightfully tangy salads add a counterpoint to this rich, hearty dish.
The meat-loving spouse"God bless the Germans," he mumbled at some point right before his eyes rolled up into the back of his head in carnivorous nirvanatackled the Schweinshaxe ($16.50), an oven-roasted pork shank that quite literally fell off of the bone. Served alongside this tender, slightly sweet meat were more fried potatoes, spatzle, and a dish full of brown gravy, presumably made from the pork juices. While this elixir turned every last item on the plate the same shade of brown, its smooth texture and slight spiciness made this the ultimate in comfort food. And, despite his best efforts to consume it all at one sitting, the reheated pork made a satisfying sandwich the next afternoon.
Linderhof's desserts, however, do fall short of the expectations that the well-prepared entrees set up. The apple strudel, which was buried under an unpleasantly- pudding-like off-white vanilla sauce, was somewhat soggy and strangely spiced. Notes of cinnamon and nutmeg, instead of being evenly distributed throughout the apple and raisin filling, overwhelmed some bites and were lacking in others. Most likely though, the main dishes at Linderhofin all of their glorious beige-nesswill leave you too full to even ponder the post-meal sweets.
March 1, 2001 * Vol. 11, No. 9
© 2001 Metro Pulse