Friday, April 14, 2006
The only time I was in Alsace-Lorraine was an overnight stay in Nancy nearly 10 years ago. I didn't get much of a feel for it (I'm not even sure how I ended up there, to be honest) but I remember the meal. I found my way to a stylish looking brasserie and ordered Choucroute garnie. "Eat local, Bill," I said to myself. "Where else are you going to get something like this?" There were several options available, and they were all priced reasonably, so I chose the one that seemed to have the most variety-- in retrospect, a terrible plan. When it came to the table, I was staggered-- I'd apparently ordered the Babe Ruth Special. Choucroute is just sauerkraut, but this was about a pound of it, accompanied by four different kinds of sausage-- including one that was the closest thing to a hot dog I've ever seen in Europe. As I recall, there was a slice of ham, too, and maybe a rasher of bacon. It was a monumental pile of food. I don't know that I've ever been brought a plate piled that high in a restaurant before or since, and as I think about it seems to me that the thing was probably intended for sharing. I swear, it looked like a Green Bay Packers tailgate party. Probably the waiter reckoned that since I was an American I really wanted the family platter all for myself. I did the best I could, washing it down with copious amounts of (excellent) Alsatian beer and wishing there was a ballgame to watch, but in the end it was too much for me to do more than make a dent. It remains to this day the most hilarious thing I've ever had brought to me in a restaurant, but I wouldn't mind having it again in a more manageable portion. Frank Bruni reports that I may be able to the next time I'm in the vicinity of 2nd Avenue and 88th Street. Sounds like it might be worth it just for the beer.