Franconian Travels: Nürnberg and Bayreuth
Day 1: Schnitzelria, 9 Irrer Straße, N'bg. We were jet-lagged, and this was the restaurant in the hotel where we were staying, Hotel Elch We found the hotel because it is the location of a restaurant call Irrer Elch, or "Crazy Moose" in English, which we'd wanted to visit as it's in a half-timbered building that is one of the few places in the city to escape war-crime firebombing in World War 2. Irrer Elch no more, the chef has a place dedicated to Schnitzel, the german "art" of the cutlet.
We ignored the selections like Hawaiian schnitzel, and went locavore. The menu promised "Frische Pfifferlinge," or fresh chanterelles (only for a short time!), so my wife went for pork schnitzel with mushroom cream sauce, and I had the schnitzel with provolone; we made the mistake of ordering the salad beforehand. There's an old joke: the problem with German food is that, after eating it, you're hungry again in 72 hours. So with Schnitzelria, and everywhere else we ate in Germany. Our salads, unremarkable but good, filled us up, so that we were not that hungry for dinner itself. Even so, the fresh chanterelles on pork cutlet proved appetizing, while the cutlet with provolone and prosciutto served as a reminder that there are worse things you can eat. Overall, service was efficient and friendly; I was not overwhelemed by the quality of food, nor was I disappointed. The atmosphere is the most intriguing thing about Schnitzelria, and if you're headed to N'bg and shut out of Essig Brätlein down the block, fear not to dine there; the building alone is worth a visit; we spent about 50 euroes for dinner with salad for two, with beer and mineral water.
Day 2 saw us a little more refreshed and walking around the city. We visited the Keller at the Nassauer Haus, across from the Lorenz Kirche, in N'bg with Franconian Specialties advertised. I was pleasantly surprised with the Fränkische Schäufele, or Franconian pork shoulder with Kloß (potato dumpling) and cabbage. This is a roasted shoulder with a crispy covering of pork fat: decadent, and delicious (and regional.) Service, however, was slow, inexplicably, as we were one of only three or four active tables; perhaps the shoulder takes long to prepare. I had the pork shoulder three times in the city, and this was not its pinnacle. As a tourist attraction, the beer here was good (had the Dunkles on tap), and the food delicious and filling; being in a dungeon with suits or armor is amusing while it lasts.
We went that night to Bayreuth and the Festspielhaus. We had reserved for dinner with the Los Angeles Wagner Society; take part if you got and get a chance. Dinner was unremarkable, but before Das Rheingold, I chanced to try the Cherry Pie served at the cafe at the Festspielhaus. This was simply the best commerical cherry pie I've ever had. 2.5 inches thick, studded with cherries, and refreshingly tart; I sought it out on the other three nights of the Ring Cycle, finding it again only on the first intermission of Goetterdämmerung; apparently others agree, because it disappeared quickly. At 4 Euroes a slice, a delicious induclgence.
This reminds that August is the month for Zwetschgenkuchen in south Germany, and N'bg was well served for the plum cake. Bakery "Beck" off the Hauptmarkt was the best location, but we also enjoyed bakery Pabst near Neutor; in both cases, try to get it without Streusel. The one time I had to wait for warm cake was not a problem at Pabst; I would award a blue ribbon!
Day 3 saw us visiting the Heilig Geist Spital, almost too-scenically perched on two arcades over the Pegnitz River. The building is a remarkable restoration of the one seen in the 1934 film Triumph of the Will; central Nürnberg was completely destroyed, but a number of the historic structures in the city center were rebuilt to match their early-Renaissance splendor. The Heilig Geist spital was the former dining room of a hospital in the city center, and now serves Franconian Specialties. We dined on Nürnberger Bratwurst and duck with kraut and potato dumpling. Both hearty, filling, but not something you'd ever call gourmet. It's worth a visit, but you will not find anything to rave or demerit about the place.
Day 4 was our first break from Bayreuth, and so we spent it about the city. We visited the Handwerkerhof, with handmade crafts in the shadow of the main gate near the railway station. We did buy some handmade glass items, and sat to lunch in the NW corner at the Franconian Specialties restaurant. Here the Franconian Pork Shoulder was about 13 euroes; service was slow, causing us to nearly leave before our entree was placed before us. What a mistake that would have been! This is the best location for Franconian Pork Shoulder in the city, and the bratwurst was not bad either. Dinner on the 22nd was with family at a restaurant outside the Altstadt, and not memorable for the food, but not bad either. Discovery: the "Helles" Landbier is better than either the Pils or the Weissbier; I believe the brewery was Tucher, the Nürnberg local champion.
The 23rd, Day 5, gave us the discovery that our car had been vandalized. Our plan to arrive in Bayreuth early and tour the city fell by the wayside; lunch was two 2-euro 3-bratwurst-in-a-roll sandwiches from the Bratwurst Hausle next to St. Sebaldus Kirche. I would rate these the most delicious bratwurst we had while in the city; of course, hunger and the circumstances may have clouded judgment. We drove to Bayreuth, much delayed, in a new car, and arrived toward the end of Act 1 of Siegfried. Famished, we went into the Festspielhaus restaurant and sat for the first course, offered during the first intermission. This consisted of chanterelles in cream sauce over spaetzle, and a salad. Both were delicious, and the dessert, split between the two of us afterwards (black forest cake, as I recall), likewise served as a nice accompaniment. Throw in mineral water, one beer, and two coffees, and the whole affair came to over $70, not budget by any means. I would have preferred a whole dinner for that price, but then the Metropolitan Opera in New York charges a similar amount, for similarly high-quality food. Judgment: good food, not worth the price.
Later that night, after the opera ended at 10:30, we made our way to the brewery restaurant of Weihenstephan in Bayreuth, on Bahnhofstrasse, the world's oldest brewery. I had two small glasses of their beer, again a Helles and a Pils, and both were excellent, fresh, with good legs on the glass. My wife ordered an "Italian" antipasto, served in German-size portions; it was her best meal in Germany. I had the wild goost breast in gravy; this also was my best meal in Germany, with simple dumpling accompaniment.