On a trip last week I was fortunate to experience both the two star Restaurant Bareiss and the three Michelin star Schwarzwaldstube in the Black Forest. For those on this board who are not familiar this is a Swiss type setting with an idyllic town, five thousand feet or so about sea level, with 150 foot tall pine trees and topography similar to the White Mountains of Vermont. Five hundred + year old villages and vineyards in the foothills add to the fantastic charm and romance of this area which is heavily frequented by the German middle and upper classes.
At the Bareiss, an Inn at Little Washington clone (opened BEFORE the Inn), there is not a BMW smaller than a 700 series nor an Audi less than an A8. A few Lamborghinis and Ferraris round out the mix along with couples most of whom are north of 50.
Both restaurants feature 16+ course dinners that last over three hours for even a single diner. Prix fixe is E 119 at Bareiss and E 125 at Schwarzwaldstube, prices which are approximately half or less of a comparable Michelin two or three star dinner in, say, Paris. Also comparably much less than the $158 prix fixe for four courses + two amuse + pre dessert for a total of eight courses at The Inn.
At Bareiss, especially, the srvice is nt only impeccable but absolutely perfect. Even for a single diner on a Saturday night. Frankly, in 57 years of dining in the D. C. area, I have never found this level of service here. For eight tables with a total of 32 seats there were four servers and three assistants. Michelin correct service flowed smoothly throughout the meal with all staff fluent in English. Several of the courses were what I would call a "great dish."
The restuarant most similar to Bareiss is The Inn. However The Inn is almost double the cost for the meal (including wine) and the rooms at Bareiss which are, yes, definitely on par with The Inn, approximately one third the cost. Both have extensive Wine Spectator Grand Award winning wine lists ranging north of 50 pages. However Bareiss has less than a 100% markup. The Inn, with much of the cellar remaining from Yannick's Le Pavillion in the late '80's and early to mid '90's, has a 200% plus markup.
I actively thought of The Inn during this meal and the other at Schwarzwaldstube. Both had a style and flair along with intensely delicious and creative dishes unparalled in Washington, Virginia. As The Inn has a beautiful setting in the foothills of the Blueridge mountains so does Bareiss and Schwarzwalstube-except much more so. This part of the Black Forest, unpublicized perhaps unheard of in the United States, is simply one of the most beautiful places on earth, borrow ing more from Montreaux and less from Berlin.
Last Saturday night every one of the 8 tables had males in suits. Not sportcoats but suits. There was a formality that I found truly refreshing after D. C. restaurants like Citronelle and 1789 where people underdress. Germans still have a respect for this type of indulgence. It lends credence to the experience and emphasizes the maturity and level of the meal.
The German Black Forest is not an area that has been widely noted in D. C. or even New York. But even the best in Paris, at double or more the cost, could learn from these idyllic, storybook little towns less than 50 miles from the Swiss border.