Monday, November 23, 2009
Chicken Night at the Gasthaus
Nearly every week I go out for chicken and I usually go alone. This is my time. I not only love the chicken, but over one of my favourite wines, I think, listen to and watch what is going on around me. I love this quiet hour or two, although at times the Gasthaus is not especially quiet. It always is for me though. I know the family well and always feel very welcome.
Some early evenings, wanderers arrive after a 15-kilometer or more walk through the forest or along meadow pathways. Those walking groups are often in their 70s and most remain spry and full of fun and continue to enjoy life. The conversation never ceases. They enjoy their food, and a glass or two of beer or wine. Other times, a family comes in to celebrate a special occasion, including grandma, grandpa and the children and often other relatives as well. Kids in our area are used to going out to a regular eating place, though of course they go to places like McDonald's also. But when it's a family affair, it will be to a Gasthaus.
Nearly everyone who gathers at the Linde in Wallburg orders their well-known deep-fried chicken, including me. They have been serving this for over 40 years. Many Canadian service men and women and their families who were stationed in Lahr knew it well. Recently a write-up in the Lahr paper mentioned the Gasthaus and said that Canadians came often and nearly all ordered chicken and specified, "Lots of sauce, bitte!" The owner still laughs about that and those nostalgic days.
When I was at the Linde a few weeks back I decided over a glass of my favourite wine to start my blog. Sipping on my Weissherbst and thinking about it, my blog name came to mind. I posted my first one the next day.
After sitting down at my table I order a viertele (1/4 liter) of Weissherbst. Not that I really need to order it as Waltraud and her staff all know what I have each week. They usually just ask, "As always, Janet?" Weissherbst is rose in colour but isn't actually a rose wine in the usual sense. It is made from the Spaetburgunder red grape (Pinot Noir). The skin is left on for a very short time and then removed, unlike the process when making a true red wine where the skins are left on much longer. Once made and bottled, the Weissherbst colour can range from a pale pink to almost red. The longer the skin is left on, the redder the wine. The taste is also affected. I like it somewhere in between the pink and the red, but better lighter than too dark. Each Weissherbst, from one vintner to another, will taste somewhat differently, just as all wines do from vintner to vintner and area to area.
After a short period, my salad arrives. It is one of the most delicious around. The cook makes the dressing and it is light and refreshing. It is basically made with mild vinegar, oil, a little sugar, salt and pepper and some minced onion. A little Maggi might be added as well. I prefer a plain green salad, though a tomato or other bit of decoration will be added to it. Mixed salad is preferred by others.
Of course, the chicken is what everyone waits for. It is a deep-fried small half chicken with skin so crispy and flavourful that you want to eat every morsel, especially all the skin! Forget the dieting! To go with it, I order a half portion of pommes frites as I love the French fries but can never eat all they normally serve. Looking around, just about everyone is eating exactly the same meal, though there are other dishes on the menu which are also good.
Years ago, when I was here in the 1970s, my favourite "chicken" Gasthaus was the West End outside Lahr. I didn't know about the Linde at that time. Ilse's chicken was superb, very similar to Waltraud's at the Linde. In fact, everything Ilse served was excellent. She was a great cook. Nothing fancy was offered, but all of it was good, "comforting" food one might have called it. Her salad was similar to Waltraud's; both told me their recipe, which is similar to what I mentioned above. Ilse is no longer with us and neither is her husband, August, but those memories of her food linger on. We went there so often--also every week--that when we left in 1974, she gave us a gift, an unusual and thoughtful gesture, and one I still have--along with the memories.