Gute Reisen, Gute Speisen


Who'd have believed the Germans would win when it came to providing the best eating on trains in Europe? Once upon a time, the quality of French dining on the rails was legendary, and Italian trains had wonderful dining carriages where surprisingly good pasta and veal scallops were served on white tablecloths. But now both of these food-proud countries have gone over to industrially made sandwiches and microwavable entrees, the worst in the Old World being the precooked penne in a Styrofoam cup served on French TGVs. Sadly, it's been years, too, since having a proper tea—sandwiches, biscuits, scones, and tea in a metal pot—was part of the fun of first-class train travel in England. There's hope for hungry train hounds, however. The impeccable German ICE (intercity express) trains (they're so clean, the janitors must have used Q-tips) not only continue to serve hot food at tables with tablecloths, but have even gone gastronomic.

On a recent trip from Frankfurt to Berlin, the lunch menu surprised with a seasonal dish—venison in red-wine sauce with red cabbage, apples, and Serviettenknodel (dumplings cooked in a napkin)—and a superb regional main course of organic Schwabisher Sauerbrauten, and also proposed a superb "Slow Food" offering, Ostheimer Leberkas (terrine of pork and pig's liver with onion jam), "from an original 1870 recipe." Starters included a delicious duck consomme, and there were four different imaginatively garnished salads and a vegetarian plate, too. Though I sampled all of these excellent new items, in the end I couldn't resist having my favorite German rail meal—small grilled Nurnberger sausages with chive-flecked potato salad and sliced marinated cucumbers, followed by Kaiserschmarren mit Pruimencompote (sliced crepes with plum compote). And as the tidy German countryside streaked by, I wondered why the rest of Europe can't do as well as Germany when it comes to eats on the move.

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