by Greg Mayer
Jerry has been enjoying Bulgarian cuisine, and I’m he sure will continue his reporting, but I thought I’d report on a stateside culinary event. Southeastern Wisconsin is noted for its German heritage due to its large number of German immigrants. One of the traditions they brought with them is Oktoberfest, a fall celebration associated in the US with German beer and food. I’ve never been to an Oktoberfest in Germany, so I can,’t say how authentic the American versions are. In the particular place in southeastern Wisconsin where I am, the immigrant heritage is actually more strongly Danish and Italian than German, but there are plenty of Oktoberfest events, so I went with some companions to Ashling on the Lough, an Irish bar, to experience their Oktoberfest.
Most important of course is the beer. As I had tried some of the beers they were featuring for Oktoberfest on previous visits, I decided to have a blind tasting of the two I had liked most, Paulaner Marzen and Spaten Munchen. The bartender poured two small glasses of each while my back was turned, and I then tasted them. The winner, by a nose: Spaten!
We actually began with Bloody Marys, which are a house specialty. The vodka comes from a large bottle of hot peppers, where it becomes infused with the pepper flavors. They also add a quick pull of Guinness to the drink. The garnishes are string cheese, pickle, beef stick (a Wisconsin specialty), pimento-stuffed olives, lemon slice, and lime wedge. In addition, one of my companions brings marinated asparagus and bacon (pre-cooked, of course), which we add to the mix. On the side there is a chaser of Harp, a Canadian beer (which was once made in Ireland, hence its use in an Irish bar).
With the first drink having so much to eat in it, I did not require much more, but my companions ordered the “Munich burger”, a passable hamburger, made more German by having sweet German mustard and sauerkraut as the condiments. The sides, German potato salad (a common Wisconsin recipe– not sure how German it is) and potato pancakes (crispy, not the more traditional pancake-y kind) were good.
I went for something lighter than the full meal: German beer and cheese soup. The bartender gave us a taster, and it was quite good, so I went for the full bowl.
The beer was Hofbrau (not sure if it was the German original or made in US under license; there’s a mix of the two in the US, and most brewers with overseas operations try to make it hard to figure out exactly where the beer is coming from), and the cheese a mix of cheddar and Irish (naturally) white cheddar.
We had gotten there early, so the first of two bands, the Brewhaus Polka Kings, was setting up as we finished. The band members were wearing lederhosen. I had thought polka was more Polish than German, but one of my companions reminded me of the popular Liechtensteiner Polka with German lyrics, and Liechtenstein is a German-speaking principality. Perhaps a reader with more knowledge of the popular music of Mitteleuropa could enlighten us.