Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Being of German heritage and since it's the end of Oktoberfest I felt a deep urge to represent, but being me, I just couldn't serve a straightforward dish, now could I? Instead I wanted to create something that not only reflects me but some traditions of my family as well.

When I was growing up we didn't have too many classic German dishes served; dinner was more of a typical southern style with some Cajun influence here and there, but what we did do, we did well. One of my favorites was Bratwurst, a white pork sausage that we poached in a mixture of beer and sliced onions before tossing on the grill. There was only one way to serve it: stuffed into a long bun and topped with mustard and the leftover onions cooked in beer. Period.

Breaking from tradition I went with a burger variation of my childhood favorite for this special. I used a recipe from an amazing book called Charcuterie that I picked up a couple of years ago to make my own fresh bratwurst by hand-grinding pork and mixing it with ginger, nutmeg, egg and heavy cream that I formed into patties (instead of links) and allowed to rest while I prepared the rest of the dish.

I love pretzels. Even though I didn't really grow up eating them it kind of makes me wonder if there's a hidden cultural force behind it. To me, the only way that I could make a bratwurst burger was to forgo the roll and make my own pretzel bun. After a bit of research and trial and error I finally ended up with a great likeness by adding celery seed to a standard bread dough. I formed and proofed the rolls and then dunked them in a mixture of boiling water with sugar and baking soda to help give them the expected chewy crust that pretzels have. Before baking I brushed them with egg white and sprinkled on Maldon sea salt for a classic look.

I had to have a few things to accompany the burger. The onions were a must, so I cooked down sliced yellow onions with Alaskan Amber (the same beer that I use to make my cheese sauce for happy hour) until all of the liquid is reduced. Another must is mustard, so I again used the Alaskan Amber (hey, it's Oktoberfest...) to make a fresh mustard with crushed caraway seeds, ground mustard powder, vinegar, honey and egg yolks that I cooked over a double boiler until thick. The result was a rich, malty condiment that was a little sweet and a little spicy - a perfect balance.

Then there's the wild card. A couple of years ago on the 4th of July I was at a party who's host I told that I was bringing bratwurst to cook and when I showed up he gave me some cream cheese to serve with it, saying that he had it once down by Safeco Field. My first though: BLASPHEMY!!! But being a guy who likes to try new things I gave it a chance, and all I could say was WOW!! I've never had a brat without it since.

Instead of the usual mundane "burger 'n' fries" combo I wanted add something a little closer to my heart. Once I made the decision to go to culinary school thirteen years ago my father decided it was time that I learn the family recipe for German potato salad, and while I won't give you the recipe I will tell you that it is vinegar based as opposed to the more common mayo based version, with bacon and raw onions. My menu already has may references to what I consider comfort food, like the Henry Baine sauce on the ribs, the Parker House rolls for the 219 Sloppy Joe Sliders and even twists on my personal favorites of corndogs and donuts, but there is one hidden gem that isn't so apparent - the dressing on the BLT Salad, which is a professional take on what my father taught me that day. So to mimic my family's potato salad recipe I simmered large diced potatoes in water until just cooked and air-cooled them before marinading in the same bacon vinaigrette that I use for the salad.

Kostlich!! (Delicious!!)

In my opinion the best alcoholic drinks that come from Germany are beer (duh) and white wine, in particular Riesling and Gerwurztraminer (my favs), but cocktails made from beer and wine haven't caught on yet, so I went in a completely different direction instead.

Stacey, one of the owners, requested that for our next menu change we use St. Germain for one of our cocktails, and I couldn't agree more. It has one of those floral flavors that you can't put your finger on; it just tastes... magical.

I'm not saying that this is the one, but it's a solid start. It's a simple cocktail, similar to a Cosmo but more elegant. It says "I enjoy a drink that is smooth and with a kick, but I also prefer something that sets me apart - something that shows my individuality." (Have I been watching too much Mad Men??)

Anyways, I came up with an interesting mix of Absolut vodka shaken with cranberry juice, a splash of St. Germain elderflower liqueur and garnished with an orange twist to accent both the cranberry and the elderflower.

Mit Liebe,