Gugelhupf Dinner Review (Durham, NC)
So the lady and I decided to go to Gugelhupf before a performance in downtown Durham recently. While we were hoping for something a little different than what we would find at lunch, we wound up with nice atmosphere, pleasant service, but overall mediocre food.
Alsation Potato/Leek Torte - This was probably the best item of the evening. It was a pretty sizable chunk of torte (instead of mini personal torte). The crust was very flaky and the torte didn't fall to pieces when you cut into it.
The kaseplatte (cheese plate) - I wish I could remember what four cheeses were represented here. One was a cheddar and one was a soft sweet cows milk cheese (looked like brie but was not). Those two were our favorites as the others were pretty strong. I liked the strong cheeses but as whole preferred the other two. One of the stronger cheeses was a blue cheese. The figs and spread were good as was the bread (of course).
The restaurant was running a white fish special with risotto. The lady said the dish was only okay and that it was all around bland. She had hoped it would have more seasoning. It wasn't bad as she ate most of it (she was pretty hungry), but she was definitely left underwhelmed.
I had the Maultaschen. These are 3 huge (almost empanada sized) noodles made in house and filled with blue cheese, walnuts and sweet potato. The flavor was different for me and I liked it. The sauce that the noodles, which were toothsome (a plus), were sitting in didn't really add much to the dish that I could tell. Now my ignorance may show on the next comment, but this dish was room temp. So I'm not sure if it was suppose to be hot or even warm at least, but it was not and that left me a bit bothered. I did finish the dish as it tasted good, but in the future, I hope they will mind the temps of the dishes they send out.
Before hand we had time to go to the bakery and picked out a huge linzer cookie to share for afterward. The lady stated this was probably the best part of the whole meal and that she just left feeling meh. The dessert "cart" looked nice but we'll save that for any potential return trips.
I would have to say that Gugelhupf has its heart in the right place. I'd like to see more German (or twist on such) offerings if that is what they are trying to present (something akin to that was stated in the local paper). However, our first experience was a bit underwhelming with too many hits and misses. While we won't give up on it, it may not be our first choice in the near future.
We attended the Wine Authorities Austrian wine dinner last night and really enjoyed it. (I don't have the menu with me, so I may miss some of the details.)
Starter was fromage blanc and salmon on rye toast served with a pinot noir frizzante. Really delicious wine, okay starter. The toast should have been straight bread, or toastier toast.
First course was scallop with slaw. The two scallops were perfectly cooked and served with a vinegar-ish slaw that needed a little more acid. Paired with a Gruner Veltliner blend that was pretty fruity. (I think it was Steininger, Gruner Veltliner Young)
Second course was a slow roasted pork loin with lingonberry compote and herb salad. They paired it with Gruner Veltliner "T26" Tegernseerhof - not a blend. The pork was fork tender and nicely smokey. It went very well with the lingonberries. My dining partners wished they could put it on biscuitville biscuits, though.
Third course was potato dumplings with beef short ribs and foraged mushrooms. The beef was good, but not the best I've had, but the broth was delicious. The dish was kind of skimpy on the mushrooms. The dumplings were to die for -slightly crisp on the outside, tender on the inside. Delicious! This was paired with a red that I think was a blend of Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot , but don't quote me on it.
Dessert was sacher torte with candied kumquats paired with a dessert wine, Steindorfer, Cuvée Seewinkel Beerenauslese. The sacher torte was exquisite.
Dinner was really very good, especially at $45/pp. They do have some logistical things to work out though. It was family style seating, first come, first serve and they didn't tell people ahead of time (or at least they didn't tell us). The hostess and wait staff was accommodating and helped shift some people around so our party could sit together, but it was a pain in the butt to the other diners. The hostess and our waitress told us that they don't like the family style seating and need to be better organized next time. I explained that Lantern did family style seating at their last wine dinner and that they still assigned seats and seated parties. They seemed to take that to heart, so we'll see how it works next time. Service was great. The Wine Authorities made a presentation, but since the dinner was upstairs and the presentation was on the opposite side of the room, it was hard to hear. Overall, we were impressed and we will definitely eat there for dinner again soon.
I've tried them for brunch and dinner, and I look forward to a return. I like it for several reasons. 1, it's a little funky. It's a weird space, has an interesting unfussy, casual vibe to it. 2. I'm appreciating German influenced food more and more. Sometimes I want to be wowed and enjoy something creative, but a lot of times I just want a good meal and something hearty. Zee Germans deliver in this category. 3. Pricewise, they're in that upper teens sweet spot, where I expect something pretty good, but I'm not looking for perfection either.
For dinner we went with the Granny Smith apple salad, Alsatian torte, a chicken dish, and ...I believe it was a salmon special on the menu. All were pretty good. We finished up with a golden apple croustade that was delicious. I also like that they have a number of Austrian wines on their list - I'm infatuated with Austrian wines right now.
I have enjoyed brunch and I do think the space is unusual and that they utilize it well. I've always enjoyed German influenced food. I wasn't expecting a wow, but I was hoping it was going to be better than what we experienced. Maybe my expectations were a bit high and given that it got 4 stars in the N/O (though that is only one persons opinion). It just wasn't flavorful for one of us and I got a lukewarm to cold dish though the flavors in it were good. I'm not a wine drinker and can't speak to that area.
I will agree that the price is good as I think most things are between 7-18 dollars.
Everything is relative. I went in without expectations - I'd only seen a few brief mentions of it here - so, I was happy with it. Had I seen glowing ebullient review and received a cold dish, then I would have been disappointed too. Hopefully my future visits will mirror my initial visits.