Christmas in Colmar ?
Four years ago I spent a few days at the Christmas market in Colmar and loved this little town. I found it to be very charming and friendly. If you want to have a nice meal, I had a wonderful lunch at a place called Jules, I believe, run by a charming young man named Julien Spiegel, don't know if he and the restaurant are still around. I stayed at the hotel La Maison des Têtes and didn't try their restaurant, but it was full to bursting every night with both tourists and locals. I agree with Longroadahead's statement that you don't need to do a lot of research, I just wandered around and followed my nose, so to speak, and had only good food and memories. Enjoy!
Hello G.A! I see that Strasbourg and the area around it does not get much attention from the bloggers. Even though the area is famous for its history and gastronomy, it does not get frequently visited by American tourists who travel mostly to the central part of France, Normandy, and Burgundy. The two most commonly spoken languages in Alsace are French and German. Locals are very friendly and will accommodate any food related request you may have.
There are plenty of little shops, grocery stores, and bakeries. There is also a famous covered market in Colmar that should be open in the winter. If you are looking for an inexpensive lunch, there is no better place than the market, which has plenty of food stalls and variety of choices. Having a mid size town feel, Colmar has plenty of little winstubs. Le Petite Venise is one that is recommended and the setting is very lovely, especially in the summer, but I have not had food there.
I wouldn't recommend doing much research as it's very easy to spot a good winstub or an authentic place to eat in Colmar. The menu is usually displayed outside and most of the Alsatian specialty dishes are more-or-less equally priced at all the different places.
The rule of thumb is to spot a busy place (not necessarily noisy) that looks appealing to you in terms of the menu, prices, and decor; march right in! The ‘good’ places will have local winstub goers, happily enjoying a hearty meal at a local establishment.
It is very easy to eat on a budget in Alsace. Tarte flambée is a delicious take on pizza (try it with onions or fromage blanc) and alsatian choucroute with fish (my favourite) or meats. Of course, for a finer taste there is plenty of foie gras and local cured meats. You can find them at almost any specialty shop. Look for little boucheries that sell meat specialty products and fresh salads ‘to go’. They can even warm a selected item up for you if you ask. There is plenty for every taste.
If you want to have a great meal in the area, head to La Vieille Tour in Selestat. The food is great, the atmosphere is slightly formal but still very warm and very laid back. Be prepared for slow but attentive service. They have prix fixe menus to choose from as well as a la carte. The prices are moderate. Try selected cheeses to finish off your meal.
The Munster cheese has a very strong and pronounced taste to it but there is a great selection of cheeses that will be offered at a restaurant if you are also looking for milder tasting cheeses.
What else to mention? Great beer that accompanies choucroute and all the wonderful winter fare so well. Some of the best locally brewed is in Riquewhir but you can find good beer on tap at any bars in the area.
If you like Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, or Pino Gris, there are plenty of places that are open for tasting. They are literary everywhere and if you have time, drop by and talk to the owners of the smaller wineries. They will tell you stories, educate you on wines, and give you several wines to taste without charging for it. Arguably the best ones come from Dambach-la-Ville and Barr wineries but we found that it is hard to taste wines without actually buying a bottle. The prices are usually displayed and range from 3 to 30 Euros. I am sure you can buy more expensive grands crus but unless you are an expert on the wines from the area, there are some of the better and less expensive wines available to purchase. I must say that they are very different from the wines available at our wine shops here. You will be pleasantly surprised when sipping dry Rieslings that are very refreshing. So, be sure to try some!
I am positive you will have a great time with your family and friends. This region is a great choice for a Christmas celebration. Bon voyage!
We didn't self-cater on our recent trip but here are a couple of places that might be of interest.
- Patisserie Gilg is good but trendy and probably a little pricier than the norm.
- The Covered Market on rue des Tanneurs is open from Tuesday to Saturday - it's rather sanitised but well worth a visit. Good natural yoghurt as well as various baked goods, wine and cheese, produce stalls, meat (raw and cured) and seafood and a couple of cafes. Coffee there is OK but nothing to shout about.
- The Fromagerie Saint-Nicolas is very good and supplies various Michelin-starred restaurants in the region. It has a branch in the Covered Market.
Cafe/restaurant-wise, I was warned to be wary of tourist traps, so be suspicious of anywhere with a particular good vista e.g. near Petite Venise area. The Michelin guide's pretty useful and accurate here, so try Aux Trois Poissons (15, Quai de la Poissonnerie; amazingly fresh and well-cooked seafood) and Chez Hansi (23 rue Marchands, very traditional, rib-sticking dishes) for more economic options. At Poissons, three courses go for 20E and upwards, Hansi from 19 euros.
The French are normally pretty good with kids, although I can't vouch for how these places handle them. When we were there, we seemed to be the only ones under 55!