The cuisine of Alsace is quite distinct from that of other regions of France. The classic dish is choucroute, the aromatic pickled cabbage known in German as sauerkraut. The extra ingredient here is the inclusion of juniper berries in the pickling stage and the addition of goose grease or lard. Traditionally it’s served with large helpings of smoked pork, ham and sausages, but some restaurants offer a succulent variant replacing the meat with fish (choucroute aux poissons), usually salmon and monkfish. The qualification à l’alsacienne after the name of a dish means “with choucroute”. Baeckoffe, a three-meat hotpot, comprising layers of potato, pork, mutton and beef marinated in wine and baked for several hours, is a speciality. Onions, too, crop up frequently on menus, either in the guise of a tart (tarte à l’oignon), made with a béchamel sauce, or as flammeküche (tarte flambée), a mixture of onion, cream and pieces of chopped smoked pork breast, baked on a thin, pizza-like base.
Alsatians are fond of their pastries. In almost every patisserie, you’ll find a mouthwatering array of fruit tarts made with rhubarb (topped with meringue), wild blueberries, red cherries or yellow mirabelle plums. Cake-lovers should try kugelhopf, a dome-shaped cake with a hollow in the middle made with raisins and almonds.
For the classic Alsatian eating experience, you should go to a winstub, loosely translated as a “wine bar”, a cosy establishment with bare beams, wood wall panels and benches and a convivial atmosphere. The food revolves around Alsatian classics, such as choucroute, all accompanied by local wines (or, in a bierstub, beer).