4.05.2016

Dispatch from Hamburg: Salads Made from Sausage

I'm in Germany this week for work, which mostly consists of standing around on a trade show floor with aching feet, encouraging reporters to write nice things about my company, but occasionally also means crispy pork, shimmering lakes, decadent desserts, and inky canals. Hamburg is a large city in Northern Germany that grasps the shore of the Elbe River, which in turn sends tendrils of its waters throughout the the city to form more canals than either Amsterdam or Venice has.


On my two previous trips to this waterfront metropolis, it was all work, no play, and while there is just as much work to go around this time, I'm trying to be better about seeing a smidge of the city infamous for bad weather and eel soup. BTW, the Germans call bad weather, "schmuddelwetter." Put that in your pipe and smoke it.


The first thing I ate after arriving, resting for a bit, and taking what may have been the best shower ever (Ok, to be fair, every shower after a long plane trip is best one ever), was a sausage salad at a really lovely, light-filled, canalside brasserie called Johannes Albrecht Brauhaus. The menu was mostly in German, which I do not speak, so I wasn't completely sure what a sausage salad would entail. Well, gird your loins, because:


It was literally a bowlfull of thinly sliced ring Bologna with pickled onions, capers and gerkins, topped with two pats of butter and served with three slices of brown bread. Ladies and gentlemen, this is my kind of salad! 

The sausage was mild and finely ground, like an Italian mortadella without the pistachios, and the brine of the various pickles with it cut through the fattiness of the pork. We were dubious about the butter, but when in Hamburg, right? So we smeared that right on those slabs of bread before piling them with sausage. This is savory, tangy, slightly sour and pleasantly salty MAN food. I'm not a man, but the approving grunts of the two male colleagues with which I supped proved this point succinctly.

And how doth one follow up a sausage salad? How about a roasted, then deep-fried pork shank, bacon sauerkraut, and a potato dumpling the size of a baseball? Welcome to Deutschland, folks! 


This beast was the most tender, succulent pork roast encased in a fresh pork rind so crunchy it was actually a bit difficult to pierce. With every bite, soft meat and crispy skin leant textural pleasure to the savory flavors flooding the tastebuds. The potato dumpling was bland in and of itself, but very light, and the small cup of brown gravy, never touched by a mix, made yummy work of it. The saurkraut was very fresh, with leeks in the piquant mix with the cabbage, and a small dice of mild bacon throughout. 

Perhaps less old school, but just as delightful, was dinner on my second night here, at a tiny restaurant just two blocks from the hotel I'm staying in, called Kasse Croute. We didn't mess around with any appetizers here, because who would want to wait to get to a stuffed oxtail nestled in a blanket of black truffle slices?


Yeah, baby. I don't even know what the oxtail was stuffed with, truth be told. Again, I don't speak or read the language here, and while I've found the people nicer this time around about trying to speak English, I'm not sure the word "forcemeat," or its details really translate. The oxtail was stuffed with meat, for sure, and it was mild, possibly pork. But with the shower of thinly sliced truffle over the top, I honestly wasn't all that concerned with identifying its source animal. This dish came with a side of very solid mashed potatoes that weren't overly creamy or buttery - just very potato-y and smooth. I also added on some roasted mushrooms, which complimented the truffles and meat beautifully, and were woodsy and buttery. 


This meal was already absolutely hearty and wonderfully tasty, but I just had to add dessert into the mix. Enter: mascarpone grantinee with strawberry rhubarb compote and almond ice cream. They brûléed the creamy, sweetened mascarpone cheese so that it smelled and tasted like a less-sweet toasted marshmallow. I think there was even some vanilla caviar mixed in with the cheese to up the flavor ante. The sharp, bright fruit played off the richness of the cheese gorgeously, and the almond ice cream anchored the flavors with its depth of nutty creaminess.


No joke, I might go back tomorrow night and get that dessert again. It was sinful and light and sweet and comforting, all at the same time. 

In our journeys Sunday, we also visited the ruins of a cathedral that was bombed during WWII:


With this special monument honoring the victims of the concentration camps, which is partially built out of bricks from the camps. It was touching to see this tribute here:


And then, to add levity to that weight, we returned to this perfectly idyllic European cobblestone street lined with cafes and enjoyed a beer outside:


So I'm enjoying this trip a bit more this year than usual. Have you ever visited Hamburg? Any tips for me that I can enjoy after 6 pm in the next two days? Let me know, because if not, I may just have that mascarpone dessert twice more. My personality is big; my hunger is bigger! 



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