Gastronomy - Culinary specialties of Alsace
Alsace is the most highly starred region in the Michelin Guide. The richness of the region comes from the mix of two cultures, German and Latin.
- Munster (AOC) : Of course, the most typical cheese of Alsace is Munster cheese. Munster originated in the valley that gave it its name. Legend has it that it was invented by the monks of the Benedictine Abbey of Munster (the Monastery). This cheese was one of the contributions that farmers had to provide to the Munster convent or to other lords of the land. Munster is a round cheese; soft inside, with an orange skin. Its odour is distinctive and its taste sharp, without being strong. It can be eaten in different ways: simply sprinkled with cumin seeds or with bibelasskäs. Bibelasskäs is a white-cheese dish that is eaten with Munster and hot potatoes.
Pair with Alsatian Gewürztraminer, or also nice with Rieslings and Muscats, also a great beer cheese.
You will a lot of information on Alsatian cheeses if you visit http://www.fromi.com/ and http://www.msselection.com/
- Tomme d’Alsace : This is a pungent, semi-soft, washed-rind cow’s milk cheese made in the Alsace region of France. The practice of washing the cheese with wine as it matures helps it to develop fruity notes with hints of mushrooms, grass, and butter.
This famous cake’s name means “risen ball”. Legend has it that the recipe for this brioche and the shape of the mould were given to a potter of Ribeauvillé by the name of Kugel, by the Three Kings, whom he welcomed with hospitality. At any rate, the current shape of the Kugelhopf (a circular, bulging mould with ribs that make it easy to share out into portions) is rather recent.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the tarte flambée was made in the Kochersberg region for the lunchtime meal. This rectangle of bread dough, topped with cream, onions and bacon, is very popular today. But for a long time, this Alsatian dish was not well known, because it was only made by people who had bread ovens. In the olden days, the first flames that burned when the oven was started up were used for making the tart. This is where the name “flame tart” comes from, becoming “tarte flambée” in French.
Some say that pretzels, which are truly emblematic of traditional Alsatian baking, were invented by a baker from Ingwiller. Some say that this baker, who was much loved by the villagers, had a weakness that landed him in prison: swearing repeatedly against the lord. In exchange for his freedom, the lord asked him to invent a cake in which he would be able to see the shape of the sun three times. And thus the pretzel was born. Another explanation attributes the shape of the pretzel to very ancient sun worship: according to this theory, pretzels originally consisted of a cross with a ring around it. In any case, this crunchy biscuit, made from dough poached in water, is very popular.
Amongst the regional specialities that have made Alsatian cooking famous, sauerkraut is, without a doubt, the most well-known. Finely chopped, sour and crunchy, sauerkraut is one of the favourite dishes of Alsatians. In the olden days, Alsatian families used to make their own sauerkraut, fermenting it in wooden barrels. Its high vitamin C content and easy preparation made it a popular dish: you simply grate white cabbage and put it in sealed containers. The cabbage is fermented with salt, with no water or additives, apart from seasonings. It can be served after 3 weeks of fermentation, and it keeps for several months. It can be eaten in many ways: in quiches, with fish, pickled, with Riesling poured over it, and more.
Alsace is one of the most famous French regions for the variety and quality of its cold meat. One of the most typical specialities of Alsatian cold meat is, without a doubt, the “knack”: a pinkish-orange cooked sausage. Its name comes from an onomatopoeia deriving from the German term “knacken”, whose sound evokes that of a sausage breaking or crunching in your mouth. But there are loads of other cold meat products in Alsace: beer, ham and blood sausages, not to forget smoked meats and liver sausage.
Foie gras is the most refined dish of Alsatian gastronomy. It would seem that it was the European Jewish community that unveiled the secret, because for a long time, they were the only ones to force feed geese in order to eat their livers. Alsatian foie gras owes its reputation to the foie gras pâté created in 1778 by Jean Pierre Clause, the cook of Marshal Contades, who was the military governor of Strasbourg at that time. Foie gras can either be served in a terrine, or hot, in different ways: one of the most popular recipes is foie gras steak, fried with potatoes.
Where can I taste Alsatian food in NYC?
Numerous of the most starred restaurant in New York have an Alsatian as Executive Chef, or Chefs who were trained in Alsace.
Besides Jean Georges Vongerichten, there is also Pierre Schaedelin, executive Chef of Le Cirque or Gabriel Kreuther, executive chef of The Modern to quote only a few.
Here is a list of Alsace-related restaurants in New York and in the US.
Three star restaurants in Alsace are listed here : www.etoiles-alsace.com.
Traditionnal Alsatian recipes: http://www.tourisme-alsace.com /dn_gastronomy_recipe_alsace _france