We were working at Hockenheim over the weekend, and The Michelin Guide, when consulted the week before, suggested a couple of restaurants nearby in Ketsch (about three miles away), so I booked one for Friday and one for Saturday. And a very good thing they proved to be too.
Friday we ate at the Restaurant Hirsch, conveniently located on the Hockenheimer Straße, which made it very easy to find. It was oddly empty for a Friday night, which suggests either the effects of the economic crisis or a very strange short-sightedness on the part of the locals.
It was, of course, asparagus season in the area (Schwetzingen is a major growing centre and during the season in this part of Germany and restaurant worthy of the name will have at least a couple of asparagus-based dishes on the menu, and will often have an entire separate Asparagus Menu) so there was a great temptation to just go for the little white spears - they grow them white here in the main rather than green; it's done by keeping the plants covered with earth so photosynthesis can't occur. However, the restaurant was also very big on game, and neither Lynne nor I can ever resist...
And so we launched into Asparagus soup (for Lynne):
The Scandinavian starter plate (smoked salmon, smoked trout fillet, sweet water prawns and rollmop herring) for Glyn and I:
HIRSCH, SCANDINAVIAN STARTER (SMOKED TROUT, SMOKED SALMON, SWEETWATER PRAWNS, ROLLMOP HERRING) 006
Originally uploaded by smtfhw
After that it was time for Aberdeen Angus Rumpsteak, with herb butter, salad and chips for Glyn:
HIRSCH, ARGENTINEAN ABERDEEN ANGUS RUMP STEAK WITH HERB BUTTER 007
Originally uploaded by smtfhw
While Lynne and I moved on to the venison medallions and wild mushrooms in Dornfelder sauce, with celeriac, green beans, cranberries and spätzle:
HIRSCH, VENISON WITH WILD MUSHROOMS, CELERIAC, GREEN BEANS AND CRANBERRIES 010
Originally uploaded by smtfhw
We drank some excellent locals wines, and managed to share two desserts between three of us, namely the excellent hot raspberries with vanilla ice cream:
And then we staggered back to the hotel, had a drink in the bar and then lurched off to bed.
On Saturday evening we headed back to Ketsch again, this time to find the Gasthaus Adler, where we were booked to eat at the Restaurant Stecker. This time we partly went for the asparagus menu - but only for starters. I had the wonderful asparagus with lobster, in a rich cream sauce, and very good it was too:
Lynne had the asparagus with tomatoes, basil and olive oil, which was a lot lighter.
To be honest, after that starter, I probably didn't really need a main course, but I had one anyway, in the shape of half of the rabbit with noodles and a rich sauce, and half of the duck with potato pancakes, both of which were excellent.
The wines weren't bad either!
And after that, dessert was fruit and ice cream:
And then we again headed back to the hotel for one last night before moving on.
Sunday we headed north, aiming for the Mosel (Moselle) valley and a brief but much needed break. The weather en route was horrible, with heaving downpours, gusty winds, and zero visibility interspersed by very short sunny outbreaks. We had booked into the Hotel Zeltinger Hof. Once we'd unpacked, and finished our work, the weather had improved substantially, so we took a stroll round the town, finding it to be much as we'd recalled, vine-covered, pretty, quiet, meandering along the banks of the river and surrounded by vineyards. Anyway, that evening we opted to dine in the hotel, the whole idea of going out anywhere seeming far too complicated and demanding. The hotel proved up to the job, serving a solid and well-cooked meal of home-cured and home-smoked hams, cut using their own historic Dutch ham slicing machine.
After that we moved on to venison in a cream sauce, with cranberries and quince slices.
The wine was again excellent, and we drank a local red as well as a superb local white, before surrendering and refusing dessert.
It just couldn't be done. Instead we headed back for the Ratsschaenke and an early-ish bed.
Monday evening we ate at the Hotel and Weinhaus Moselschild in Urzig. Oliver's Restaurant came highly recommended (and justifiably so as it turned out). It being a low season Monday evening the place was very quiet, but that was fine with us. We had a table overlooking the river and the terrace (indoors - it was raining by then). After some consideration we opted for the Krautermenu (the Herb Menu), and settled down to enjoy some local sekt with wild strawberries as an aperitif.
It was a good way to start, even if the berries weren't too cooprative when we tried to fish them out of the glasses to eat them. Some splendid breads were brought, including some made with turmeric, and some butter and quark and herbs to go with them. However, we restrained ourselves, because we knew there were a number of courses to come.
Matters commenced with "Greetings from the Kitchen", amuses bouches plates with a tomato cream soup, a horseradish mousse and a small piece of fried pike-perch (zander fish) on some cabbage. It was looking promising now.
Next up was a pancake and home-smoked salmon roulade, with a creme fraiche dressing and salad.
The soup course was a real revelation. It was a foamy herb soup, light but richly flavoured, with some fried eel that was crisp-coated and delicious. I've always liked eel (except when barbarically massacred by being jellied) and I assume this was the chef's take on the Flemish speciality of paling in 't groen as it's known in Belgium.
Next we were presented with a canteloupe melon sorbet as a trou. It cleared our palates beautifully ready for the main course.
And the main course was guinea fowl with a lemon thyme risotto, carrot and vanilla flan and mangetout. It was quite, quite wonderful, the guinea fowl full of flavour and the risotto with just the right amount of bite left to the grains. Beautiful!
And then they insisted we have dessert! Well, it would have been churlish not to. Dessert was a woodruff mousse in a chocolate tear, with lavender ice cream and a mango coulis. It was very pretty to look at and it tasted even better than it looked.
I wish I could tell you what wine we drank, but as we'd selected the wines to match option, and they weren't listed in detail anywhere, I can't. Suffice to say they were excellent, and we left the restaurant much later, full of food and very happy.