The Best of the Wurst


I'm partial to a good wurst. It's in my genes. A brat, a Hefeweizen, and a side of kraut make for a very happy me. So when I went to Germany last weekend to visit an old friend, I brought my appetite.  In Wurtzburg, we ate at Backofele. The restaurant (originally a coffin factory built in the 1500s) could belong to a Brothers Grimm tale. Low, dark-wood-inlayed ceilings give the room an old-world feel. I would have felt unadventurous ordering the wursts with sauerkraut and a Hefeweizen, but there wasn't much else on the menu. One sip into the beer, I had forgotten every new-world version I'd ever had. It was overflowing with apples, yeast, grass, caramel, and citrus flavors. Its honey-gold hue had never seen the inside of a bottle or a can.

And the kraut…oohhh, the kraut. That stuff they slop on top of New York street-vended cart dogs is the dregs of the barrel in comparison. This kraut instantly becomes sweet-and-sour silk on your tongue; this kraut is top-shelf in the fermented-food world. This kraut is perfect in itself and the perfect partner for the bratwurst. A real-deal, no-joke bratwurst, literally bursting through its skin, exploding with the juices of pork, veal, herbs, and onions each time it's cut into. The meal in a word: gestalt. I'd like to tell you that Backofele's food and beer stand out, but they're very average. Average, that is, for Bavaria. The Germans do German food better than anyone else in the world. The real thing has no doppelganger. Prost.

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