herb spaetzle recipe
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We love holiday parties. But sometimes we feel “tradition” could use some help. Take Oktoberfest. We love drinking good beer and eating hearty grub with our friends when the weather turns cool. But we wanted to do something lighter and more complex than bratwursts and salty sides. So we created Moktoberfest: a feast with traditional ingredients like pork and spätzle, but put together in more interesting ways.

To create the menu (all the way back in 2006!), we tweaked classic dishes and cooked up new ones inspired by cuisines of German-speaking Europe.

Related Reading: German Recipes for Oktoberfest

Our onion tart with leeks and crème fraîche, for example, is a riff on flammenküche, a tart with cream, onions, and bacon found in the area around Alsace. The butter lettuce and pumpkin seed salad is a nod to the fact that the German-Austrian border produces the most pumpkin seeds of any European country. For dessert, we deconstructed traditional Black Forest cake into a creamy layered parfait with chocolate cookies. But rest assured: The spätzle, the side dish of comforting dumplings, is traditional. You don’t mess with spätzle.

modern Oktoberfest menu

Chowhound

We asked a beer sommelier for some interesting pairings: Phil Baxter of the LAX Four Points by Sheraton hotel in Los Angeles, which boasts more than 75 bottled beers from all over the world. For each course, there are two suggested brews: One is a complement, containing flavors that marry with the dish; the other is a contrast, to offset and show off flavors.

Related Reading: A Guide to Types of Beer Glass | The Best Beer Clubs & Subscription Boxes

With the Black Forest “Strata,” for example, we pair the complementary Lindemans Kriek Lambic, which we use to soak the dessert’s cherries. For the salad, we recommend Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout, dark and malty but more mellow than a traditional stout. The barley in the nose and the good malt flavor offset the tartness of the salad dressing. You don’t have to choose one or the other: We got both at Suppenküche, San Francisco’s modern yet homey German restaurant, and had fun sampling them all.

First Course: Butter Lettuce and Pumpkin Seed Salad + Savory Onion and Leek Tart

butter lettuce salad with pumpkin seeds

Chowhound

Our first course pairs our Savory Onion and Leek Tart recipe and our Butter Lettuce and Pumpkin Seed Salad recipe. There’s heavy fork-lifting required later in the meal; this is a lighter start—but not so light as to make the next course a shock.

The rich tart, with its crème fraîche filling of caramelized onions, leeks, and bacon in a buttery crust, is a good partner with the simple salad (and the roasted garlic and apple juice in the vinaigrette add dimension to the understated combo of greens and pumpkin seeds).

A crisp pilsner like Czechvar provides a subtle flavor of hops, which suits these dishes well. Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout is the contrasting beer. A British stout, this beer is mellower than its Irish counterparts. There is an almost malty sweetness to it that contrasts with the tartness of the salad’s vinaigrette.

Czechvar Premium Lager, $6.99+ on Drizly

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Samuel Smith Imperial Stout, $5.04+ on Drizly

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Second Course: Apple-Stuffed Pork Chops with Cider Sauce + Braised Red Cabbage with Bacon + Herbed Spätzle

herb spaetzle recipe

Chowhound

Now we really get into the Oktoberfest swing of things, with flavors tightly associated with Germany and Austria: cabbage, pork, and the little herbed dumplings called spätzle.

Duvel is a shoo-in here, as its dry edge and light effervescence complement the ingredients. Though it may seem a bit light on first impression, the beer has a high alcohol content that cuts through the fat in our Apple-Stuffed Pork Chops with Cider Sauce recipe, the buttery richness of our Herbed Spätzle recipe, and the acid in our Braised Red Cabbage with Bacon recipe (a great side dish that can be made ahead and gets even better with time).

The Stone Smoked Porter is our contrasting beer. Somewhere between a pale ale and a stout in color, the Stone porter has a heft that marries well with this hearty course. Despite the name, the smoke does not overwhelm the palate, and the hints of coffee in the beer contrast with the sweetness of the pork dish. Don’t go doubling up on your beers in this course: According to our beer sommelier, these beers together can be overwhelming.

Duvel Belgian Ale, $5.04+ on Drizly

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Stone Smoked Porter, $5.29+ on Drizly

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Third Course: Black Forest Strata

Chocolate Cherry Black Forest Cake recipe

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Black Forest is one of those cakes that you want to dig into in order to get all the flavors in each bite, so we decided to deconstruct it (with a little artistic leeway). In our Black Forest Strata recipe, we layered in lambic whipped cream, dried cherries, and chocolate crème anglaise for an indulgent but balanced dessert.

Since Lindemans Kriek Lambic is used in the dessert, it is only natural that this be served as the complementary beer. Though lambics are notorious for a cloying sweetness, there is a slight dry cherry flavor in this beer that works nicely with the chocolate, cherries, and cookies.

The contrasting beer, Old Rasputin Imperial Russian Stout, makes your taste buds stand to attention; it’s complex and chocolaty. If you are taking the indulgent route for this meal, then this is the perfect beer to end things with. And if you want to go all out and make our German Chocolate Cake recipe, both these beers still work wonderfully with it.

Lindemans Kriek Lambic, $5.69+ on Drizly

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Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, $9.98+ on Drizly

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Related Video: Oktoberfest 101

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