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Choucroute feast at Chez Panisse

Joan Kureczka | Jan 25, 200508:42 AM

While we've visited Alsace regularly for the last several years and our trips (to a major mineral show) are always in late June. As a result, the thought of digging into a veritable mountain of pork and cabbage in the summer evening has never appealed and we never tasted one of the region's most famous dishes.

When I saw last month that one of Chez Panisse's Monday night dinners would be choucroute, we decided to go for it and use it as an excuse to open one of our older Alsatian wines.

Dinner started with a delicious and light salad of grilled chanterelles, leeks and artichokes with frisee and a delicate black truffle vinagrette. The chanterelles were lovely large specimens and the combination very good. It is truffle week at Chez Panisse, hence the truffed vinagrette which was tasty but the black truffles were superfluous to the salad overall. I don't know the origin of those used, but they were not very noticable overall.

The choucroute included two types of sausage (including a delicate chicken and pork, some bacon and pork shoulder -- all cooked to tender perfection. I grew up hating pork, having had to many chops cooked to cardboard, but properly treated it really is wonderful meat.

The meats buried a small mound of the kraut itself -- which unfortunately didn't have quite the flavor of its Alsatian parent (we haven't eaten the MEAT choucroutes, but have had fish choucroute on our trips). It could have been a bit more sour.

Dinner ended with a Sierra Beauty apple puff pastry tart with a warm caramel sauce that was quite light and a perfect ending to the meal.

So... what was the wine we brought? A 1993 Zind-Humbrecht Goldert Gewurtztraminer, which smelled of roses and spice. The wine was actually best on its own (as Gewurtzs tend to be) but definitely a treat that we shared with a couple of the waiters. We also shared a single glass of a Zind-Humbrecht riesling that the restaurant was pouring, and were brought glasses of a muscat baum de venise with the targets, which was a lovely match.

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