Strasbourg’s picturesque Old Town is located on an island.
From time to time, a friend who is an art market insider and I avail ourselves of France’s wonderful and hugely subsidized high-speed trains to go and see an exhibition in a French provincial capital. We’ve been to Lyon, Reims and Lille, for example, and we recently traveled on the year-old TGV Est line to Strasbourg for the day – a feat the five-hour pre-TGV train ride precluded.
Our excuse for a nice lunch in Strasbourg was an exhibition on Strasbourg’s contribution to the International Gothic style around the year 1400 at the Musée de l’Œuvre Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, and I can report that it is a cracking show (running until July 6), very intelligently put together – except for the often knee-level labeling.
But I’m here to talk about the food, and not the gorgeous paintings and sculpture and whatnot on show.
Zum Strissel, suggested by a friend of a friend, is something of a popular institution in Strasbourg, serving traditional Alsatian food and wine. The décor is all cozy wood paneling, with a view of the kitchens at the back and portraits of earlier generations of owners on the wall. The servers are efficient, but they recognize an out-of-towner immediately, and show it a little too much – I shouldn’t be so picky, however, because otherwise the service was well-meaning. There are tables outside for the summer, and an upstairs room that is said to be spectacular, but was closed on the Saturday we were there.
We started by ordering glasses of late-harvested Kaefferkopf Gewurztraminer by Léon Heitzman (one of several Heitzmans in Ammerschwir, a village in the center of the Kaefferkopf area). We decided that this would go very nicely with a serving of the house foie gras, which it did, since both the wine and the foie gras were sterling exemplars of their kind.
The day being mostly overcast and none too warm, we agreed that high calorie counts were in order, and so requested a Maennerstolz sausage served with choucroute, and Schiffele, also with choucroute and steamed potatoes. A jug of more basic, but still delicious Kaefferkopf from the same source was ordered to keep our spirits up.
The saucily named Maennerstolz – loosely translated, it means “manly pride” – was, as you would expect, a long, meaty smoked sausage. The Schiffele was a slice of smoked shoulder of pork that could have been thicker: it lost out to the sausage in the juiciness stakes by being too thinly sliced. The choucroute itself was almost creamy in texture and taste.
We obviously couldn’t resist ordering desserts drenched in the fruit brandies that Alsace is rightly famed for. Alsatian apple pie à la mode came with a dousing of Marc de Gewurztraminer (again), while my iced Kugelhopf had been given a generous shake of a bottle of Mirabelle plum brandy. So self-indulgent, but oh, so satisfying.
Our return visit to the exhibition in the afternoon was only undertaken after a serious constitutional around the streets of this lovely city, with its Old Town (a Unesco world heritage site) set on an island formed by branches of the river Ill. We should have made a weekend of it.
Zum Strissel: 5, Place de la Grande Boucherie, 67000 Strasbourg. Tel.: 03 88 32 14 73. Closed Sunday and Monday. A la carte: €25-30. Fixed-price menus from €12. www.strissel.fr/
© 2008 Paris Update
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