Biergarten Putsch (or: Bodies taken over by beer)
Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
14Trip End Oct 08, 2009
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The beer gardens are serviced and run by the various big breweries in town and carry the brewery’s name on them. We were at an Augustiner beer garden, Augustiner-Keller (80335 Maxvorstadt, Munchen), but had made the mistake of going to a different Augustiner beer establishment after getting off the train (in the complete opposite direction, of course). Considering the sheer number of Augustiner establishments it is an easy mistake to make. This one, though, is the one to visit. It’s a beautiful outdoor park environment and even has a separate kids’ park area. When we arrived it was early and there were plenty of seats to be had.
We hadn’t planned on it, but we ended up hanging out at the beer garden for four hours. Four hours of drinking big glassed beers. Clearly, damage was going to be done. To hell with it, we’re in Munich and drinking unreasonable amounts of beer was a goal. There was some food involved – Marisa got a spit roasted half chicken that had been basted in butter and parsley and was a greasy, great tasting mess. I had a meat called meat loaf, but it isn’t like at home. It’s a mystery meat product pressed into a loaf and eaten with mustards. Properly named, I guess, and straight up bar food. We also had a sugary pastry that is a local favorite and is basically a dough pulled apart into a roundish shape, fried and doused with powdered sugar. It’s another of those items that deposits directly into the blood stream. I didn’t get the chance, but wanted to try the Stickelfisch that was cooking over the coals of a large barbecue. It’s a local fish stuck whole on a skewer, cut open along its side and cooked over the coals until the outside is crispy and the inside is ready to eat (see picture, it looked really good, but, of course, we had some serious beer goggles on at that point.)
We highly recommend this particular beer garden as the environment was fantastic and had real local feel to it. Beer drinking age is 16 in Germany, so the range of drinkers is vast. Baby faced younglings were drinking at a table next to octogenarians, all with big glass steins and smiles. Early on nobody would sit at our table – wary, we think, of the American tourists with the big bags. By the end, though, it didn’t matter and we were surrounded by locals who were engaging. It really was an extremely happy place. It was difficult to leave the tree canopy as the cooling evening was cranking up the energy level of the beer garden.
Katja’s place was less than a five minute walk from the beer garden, but considering how inebriated we were, it is still a surprise we got there at all. First off, it should be known that Katja is a gracious and fun host and had wine, aperitifs and tasty snacks at the ready when we arrived (obviously later than we had planned.)
The name of the place is Zauberberg (www.restaurant-zauberberg.de) and if you’re ever in Munich – go. It’s an attractive local restaurant in an attractive neighborhood (Munich was heavily bombed in WWII, so much of the city center is made up of more modern buildings - this area still has a lot of old charming ones) and they do food right. And lucky for us we had a German translator or we would have been utterly lost. They have no menu and you can choose from a three, four or six course meal in which the chef first finds out what you don’t like/don’t eat and then gets creative with the ingredients. True food artistry. We chose the four course option and each course is paired with wine to match. The first course was a melon dish with olives and white wine reduction for Marisa and a super thinly sliced veal tongue in a tuna puree (with a caper berry) for Katja and me. Definitely my first veal tongue and (sorry, vegan and non-adventurous food friends) it was absolutely delectable with the tuna sauce. This was followed with a goat cheese and olive crispy spring roll, wasabi/soy drizzle and a fennel based salad. This was further followed by halibut on kale with chanterelle mushrooms (which were to be found everywhere at the nearby outdoor markets) and a reduction of some sort sided with a fried lentil cake and baby water crest. Then a mid course palette cleanser addition of basil sorbet. It was absolutely fantastic. Many days later and I'm still thinking about it. I know it sounds odd, but it still haunts me how good it was and that I may never come across it again. They froze it with a basil leaf on top so the shape and color so mimicked it that I thought it really was a basil leaf when it arrived. The flavor was a revelation. Surprise of the night for me. Next course: a game hen with baby carrots, snap peas, sprouts and other items I have forgotten. I'm pretty sure Katja has better notes than we do. The desert course was a buttermilk mousse on a chocolate/nutmeg spiced cake. A raspberry/mango puree drizzled the plate along with some stewed plums with a cinnamon/white chocolate stick. A matching muscato desert wine topped it off. If you haven't had muscato, try it. I don't normally go for desert wines (too sweet), but this Italian lovely has a strong floral/citrus smell and flavor and is a perfect meal finisher. Simply awesome. We were forced indoors at one point because there was a pretty good thunderstorm over head that dumped a lot of rain and, thankfully, cooled down the city. It was quite the Wagnerian dramatic end to an illuminating feast.
Katja chose an absolute top notch place and she is as much a food nerd as ourselves. We thoroughly enjoyed the evening and hope someday to return the favor in Portland for her.
The next day we decided to leave late for Salzburg because we hadn't seen much of Munich yet thanks to the power of Augustiner brewery. We headed down to Marienplatz, the big local square where there is the new rathaus (town hall) featuring a monsterous animated clock (Glockenspiel) replete with whirling dancers and jousting knights (one even loses when knocked off his horse) when it struck 11 am, noon and 5 pm. I learned the dancers are performing the Schlaffertanz - originally performed to commemorate the end of the plague in 1517. (I think dances should be created as such for all big crappy events, so I've vowed to work on one to commemorate the end of the current financial crisis. Whenever that happens. Feel free to send suggestions.)
Funny thing is, the new rathaus looks much older than the old rathaus nearby. That's because the new rathaus was mostly built in the late 19th century while the 15th century old town hall was completely destroyed in WWII, but rebuilt to the same specifications in the 1950s. Yet it is still considered the old town hall. That's history just messing with you. Happens around here.
Nearby there is a great market area with fresh produce, fruit, meat, cheese and bread stores. If I lived nearby I'd be here nearly every day before cooking.
As has often been the case we wish we'd had more time to get a better look at the city, but we enjoyed our short stay, even if I didn't get a chance to see Bayern Munich (the soccer team that the city is mad about) play (although I did snag a Bayern shirt).That's a must next time. (Oh, and another shot at that beer garden. I think next time maybe we can take it one on one with the aid of the stickelfisch. Maybe.)
Where I stayed
Katja's Most Excellent Apartment