Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Heart for Kartoffelpuffer, a.k.a. Bangers

I think I fell in love with potato pancakes (or latkes, as they were presented to me) at a Hanukkah feast some years back. Crisp and freshly fried, I immediately acquired a fondness for this treat, complemented perfectly with a smothering of applesauce.

Some years later, now living in Germany, I delighted to find out that the potato pancake has a degree of popularity here as well, in different forms.

Potato pancakes with applesauce at the Nürnberg Christmas Market

Experiencing a German Christmas Market for the first time late last year, in Nürnberg, my main treasure was to be found late at night, after exploring the stalls and passages for hours.

A plate of Kartoffelpuffer, with the complementary applesauce, before a train ride home. Fried up fresh at the stall, served simple and quick and devoured right there near St. Sebaldus Cathedral as the Christmas market revelry was reaching it's night peak, this for me was a perfect treat.

Night View on Bergstraße 19, Nürnberg in late January 2011

A couple of months later, I find myself in Nürnberg again. This time, en route towards an "exclusive" tour of the historic Nürnberg underground .

The meeting point, with a dear friend who had arranged the tour, was at the Hausbrauerei Altstadthof.

I could gather, from its' location on Google maps, that it was a very brief jaunt from St. Sebaldus Cathedral, where I had already been a few times- the fact of St. Sebaldus being the patron saint of the city now engraved in my mind.

I did not even bother trying to figure out the specific route to get to the street where I needed to be. I decided to leave things to on-the-spot navigation savvy (the slightly unplanned, "What the hell!" approach) as well as my current back up line now while travelling about Germany- "Sprechen Sie Englisch?"

What's fun about asking this question is that, roughly 50 percent of the time the respondent will sort of purse their lips apologetically and shake their head no, at which point I will proceed in broken or simply bad German, with hand gestures and sometimes visual props like maps I have drawn in my journal, to try to still ferret out some help. So far, so good.

Except for that one time at the S-Bahn in Berlin when the Bahn representative clearly spoke no English (or did not want to) and simply did not want to engage....leaving my husband and I feeling both mystified and extremely foreign on the platform of a train in East Berlin.

Anyway, back to the story.....

I found my way to the Hausbrauerei Altstadthof. I had to ferret out some help on a street around the St. Sebaldus Cathedral. The words the lady spoke are still a mystery to me but her hand gestures "towards that way" were clear enough, and my destination was not far.

En route there, I got distracted by all the lovely and interesting shops and stopped in one, Bohne & Kleid, to look around. The shop was great but it took only a few moments for me to realize that I had neither time nor money to shop, so hurried out of there, but not before confirming with the shopkeeper the whereabouts of my destination-- which were confirmed as a few buildings up.

I arrived at my destination point, thrilled to meet my Berlin based friend for the first time outside of the German capital city and now near the land of the Wolpertingers. I was ready for a beer and some dialogue and the ensuing tour of what I would soon see to be a very rich and layered underground sector of Nürnberg.

But I was simply not ready or willing to really deal with a menu. For me, dealing with menus and food choices is sometimes like shopping for clothes. If I don't figure out something in about 3 minutes, the situation is hopeless and I need to move on or have someone else decide for me. No patience whatsoever.

This is particularly the case when I am hungry.

In this case I was hungry. And I am well aware of the dangers of foregoing food and having a few rich beers.

So, I gave the menu a few minutes. Immediately my eyes fell on the "Bangers."

"What are bangers?" I asked my friend.

He did not know.

A few moments later, I repeated the question, insistent that perhaps the definition of bangers might hold the cure to my hunger as well as food choice for the eve.

I am happy to report that I believe my own foodie radar may be in a nascent, yet vital stage of development. Throughout the entirety of our preliminary beers and menu exploration, I was absolutely fixated on these mysterious "bangers." The rest of the menu was, in fact, a complete haze of non-options to me.

The waitress was lovely and also appeared quite happy and matter-of-fact with the whole business of speaking English. When asked, she promptly explained the bangers as potato pancakes.

Bangers it immediately was.

Bangers at Hausbrauerei Altstadthof

Served up with smoked salmon and horseradish. I ravished the plate of food. I will return....

...And spend some time exploring why the Kartoffelpuffer is called bangers at this lovely brewery, up past St. Sebaldus Cathedral, in the vicinity of the reconstructed Castle, there in Nürnberg.

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