My first day was a long one – after leaving Domaine Beyer I checked out the crumbled and seriously ruined remains of Les Trois Chateaux at the top of the hill before heading back to Colmar. By the time I got back, uploaded photos, and had a call with my son, it was around 8:30pm before I ventured out for food.
The short return drive to Colmar from Eguisheim (ten minutes) was another confusing debacle. There is simply no rhyme or reason to the streets, and it is a very frustrating experience to navigate these streets. (At the time of writing this now, on day two, I’m slowly becoming able to visualize the town a bit more. So, it just takes a little time.) The tourists maps are inadequate and the streets do not have adequate signage. There are, thankfully, large signs for leaving town in the direction of another particular, and this is ultimately all you’ve got. Coming back into town though was another frustrating charade, missing turns and going in circles trying to find something familiar to point me home. And of course you have someone behind you cramping up on your ass at all times, so the pressure and tension in the car can reach a fever pitch. Somehow, eventually, I made it.
Exhausted, I entered my room to the sound of Facetime ringing on my computer. It was, coincidentally, the exact time of my usual call with my son – which I uncharacteristically overlooked, given the time difference and busy activities. Ethan is in a little school play tomorrow which I will miss as usual. I only learned of this a few weeks ago, so nothing I could do. After the long day and navigational woes, talking to Ethan was just the dose of adrenaline pick-me-up I needed, no matter how bored he might seem on our calls. The wi-fi was sporadic and though it was ringing, we could not connect. After about twenty minutes, it eventually connected. What a delight to get to talk to him after a long day on my own!
I had not really investigated dining options much, so unfortunately it was a matter of roaming around in a very hungry state, looking for anything suitable. The cuisine is mainly limited to typical Alsatian fare, though I did see a Japanese place. But hey, I’m here, and I want the local cuisine.
As I walked around, the relentless shrill of car horns and parading celebration indicated France must have won their World Cup match that day. The spirit was something to admire really, and yet I simultaneously imagined with befuddlement how it would feel to be screaming for France. As much as I seem to like something about this country, and appreciate the abundant patriotism, I simply could not relate. Perhaps true of anyone outside their own culture. It’s also a curious European tradition to blare car horns incessantly in the name of celebration.
As for food, I ended up at Chez Hansi, a seriously Germanic/Alsatian themed gingerbread house of a restaurant. Glancing at the menu I noticed foie gras and just said what the heck. Not so sure about the food overall really.
The regional cuisine is definitely unique and focused on a few basic themes. Stewed and braised meats, all the sauerkraut you could ever possibly want, boiled vegetables. Poached salmon, onion tart, mixed fish in wine sauce, duck magret in wine, veal kidneys with cream sauce (my personal favorite!), filet of beef with mushrooms and garlic butter, quiche Lorraine, escargots. You get the idea. However, when you add in a glass of Riesling or Pinot Blanc, strangely these items gain a certain unity which you learn to appreciate – if temporarily.
I love duck, so on the prix fixe menu I went with the foie gras de canard and magret de canard in a pinot noir sauce. The servers were older women in traditional dress, and they were quite cheerful and friendly. In fact, overall everyone here has been quite polite and welcoming. The stereotype of the rude French simply does not stand here.
(Above: I love whipped duck liver just as much as the next guy, but I don’t know, would you eat this?)
If I had one more bite of duck than the last bite of my dish, I might have puked, so for dessert I steered the ship back to the light and ordered sorbet. Though my jovial waitress insisted I try the sorbet with Eau de Vie – “Marc d’Alsace de Gewurtztraminer” – a Gewurtztraminer based liqueur that is sharp and burning. The sorbet hit the spot, and soaked in booze, it was all pretty good actually.
I joked that I had ordered two ducks for a starter and entree, she responded “Oui mais nous n’avons pas du dessert de canard!” – “Yes but we don’t have any duck dessert!”
“Ah no? Pourquoi pas?! Je suis decu!” – “No? But why not? Now I’m disappointed!” I replied, and she laughed heartily.
I’m not sure if this restaurant ranks among the better establishments in town, and at €42 for my prix fixe it was a bit pricey (All these restaurants are a bit pricey, and this is likely due to the touristic nature of Colmar.) There are a few five star hotel restaurants in town that would cost dearly yet certainly be rewarding. But overall this was a decent sampling. Though after only a day or two here, all I want now is some fruit for lunch and a pizza for dinner!