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From Quiche to Choucroute – French Foods Gone Global – belgium gastronomy
Alsace-Lorraine, France’s Northeast region, conjures up images of sumptuous culinary delights- tarts, wine-cooked meats and fabulous desserts. Bordering Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Germany, this fairy-tale region boasts a rich history, rolling hills and garden-like settings, charming villages and world-renowned cuisine. Thrown together by a mere hyphen and a dramatic past, the 2 regions are notably distinct. To the east, Alsatian towns border Germany, their former fatherland. To the west, Lorraine climbs from Champagne’s gentle plains to meet Alsace in the Vosges Mountains.
STRASBOURG – WHERE FRENCH AND GERMAN TASTES MEET
On the edge of Alsace and just across the German border, Strasbourg, the center of European dialogue and reconstruction, maintains a mix of French and German cultural bearings. Strasbourg is the capital of choucroute, a savory white cabbage-based specialty made with Alsatian wine and heaped with sausages, pork chops, bacon and ham, and the occasional bit of partridge, crayfish or truffle. In the vielle ville (Old town) winstubs – Alsatian restaurants- and patisseries rest amicably side by side. Alsace, renowned throughout Europe for its cuisine, serves up its ever-delightful and diverse specialties. Visitors coming to this area especially on gastronomy tours enjoy the ubiquitous choucroute. Ham, sausages and pork are part and parcel of the classic “assiette Alsacienne”, but fois gras holds pride of place. Created in 1778 by a local young chef, this prototype of liver pate en croute (wrapped in crust) today has over 40 variations to its theme sold in local delis. This is the region that also invented the brasserie, and wherever you eat in France, a dish an l’Alsacienne will undoubtedly include choucroute.
Food in Alsace tends to be unique to the region. Fish and fowl are stewed in the regions’ Riesling wine and include such dishes as matelote (a river fish stew) and coq au vin (wine-cooked hens). The perfect way to polish off an Alsacian meal is with a Munster or Gerome cheese, freshly made by local farmers and typical to the area. Local patisseries offer as many different tarts and cakes as there are fruits to make them. A perfect Kugelopf, a wonderful puff of flour, butter, eggs, sweet raisins and almonds, is the pride of any chef here. Beer breweries abound in Alsace as well, and Stenay is home to a popular Beer Museum.
LORRAINE‘S PASTRY SPECIALTIES
Lorraine, Alsace’s counterpart, complements the region’s cuisine with its own specialties. Metz is the thriving capital of Lorraine, where local patissiers add mirabelles (regional yellow plums) into everything from tarts to preserves. The world-famous fare, quiche Lorraine, a creamy tart made with beaten eggs, thick cream and bacon, originated here. Tarte Flambe, a pastry filled with cheese, mushrooms and bacon, and its vegetarian counterpart, onion tart, had their beginnings here as well. Specialty desserts include almond marons de Boulay, madelaines and gaufres (waffles), traditionally made at carnival time in irons with unique designs. Hot waffles sprinkled with sugar and dripping with chocolate are still a popular treat but the old-fashioned irons are now only a collector’s item.
Alsace-Lorraine’s cuisine – classic dishes such as choucroute – celebrates the fusion of French and German gastronomy. Think of French excellence and German portion size and you’re not far off the mark.