HEAT WAVE IN THE ALPS

HEAT WAVE IN THE ALPS 

Aschau im Chiemgau, Germany

July 2007

We were doing another road trip and needed a stopping point between Milan and Vienna. Ok, so maybe it wasn’t a direct shoot between Milan and Vienna but when we travel, stopping points inevitably revolve around what famous chef we can visit. Although on the map Aschau im Chiemgau looked to be very near the German lake of Chiemsee, it was really a small farm town in the middle of nowhere.  It was also a mecca for foodies wanting to visit Heinz Winkler’s three star restaurant and “Residenz” hotel.

It was a very pretty day but hot and humid and thanks to global warming, the kind of heat one didn’t use to experience in Germany.  Uh oh.  Hot and humid in Germany means no A/C!  After all, we were in the middle of the mountains and it’s supposed to be cooler in the mountains, right?  Wrong.

The “Residenz” part of this establishment was a little dowdy looking but the staff was young and friendly and quickly led us up to our room.  For reasons known only to them, we had been upgraded to a duplex suite. (It’s moments like this that I sometimes like to believe they think we’re food critics.)  So we had a medium-sized bedroom and bath on one floor and a downstairs living area with French doors that opened onto a patio with a lovely view of the mountains.  They had left us a welcoming gift of a plate of strawberries which we devoured.  There was neither a fan nor A/C in the room and the upstairs bedroom only had three small windows looking out at the cool green mountains.  Except the mountains weren’t that cool; I didn’t see even the slightest leaf sway on any of the trees.  We were trapped in the mountains and there wasn’t even a breeze! 

Then we heard the bells. I went into the bathroom, looked out the window and realized our room was right next door to a very quaint baroque church.  One of our first apartments in Munich in the 1970’s had been next door to a baroque church.  Back then the bells would ring with German punctuality every 15 minutes, starting at 6 a.m. and ringing right through until midnight.  The church next to Chef Winkler’s would prove to be no different.

At this point I think I should mention Lynn hates being in the “country.”  He actually is scared.  If he finds himself around too many trees in the middle of nowhere, he’ll usually start laughing and then begin to hum the theme from “Deliverance.” 

So we listen to the bells for a few seconds and then decide to head down to the air conditioned bar and cool off with a drink.  We stumble across a small wedding in progress in the courtyard of the hotel where a make-up less bride, looking around the age of our son (nearly 18), is wearing a simple off-white dress and carrying a beautiful bouquet of red roses.  Where was the limo?  The DJ?  The bridal party?  Even at their young age (they were probably older than they looked), I thought this bride and groom had their priorities straight.  Surrounded by a few family members, they would celebrate their new life together with a fabulous meal in a great restaurant with a stunning mountain view.  We quickly finished our cocktails and went upstairs to dress for dinner – jackets required at this three-star eatery.

Tuxedos, Please!

I’ve come to realize men of a certain age (my husband being one of them) like to be served their meals by people their own age (or older) and want those servers to be men.  Men in tuxedos to be precise.  I’m not sure what this is about but I think it goes back to “old school” French cuisine where being a waiter is not a stopping point for someone thinking about doing something else.  It’s a career.  A serious career at that.  I don’t mind servers who are not male and a certain age but I do have a problem with teenagers serving three star meals.

At Winkler, the wait staff was very young.  Ok, so maybe they weren’t teenagers but the oldest among them looked around 20 ½.  Lynn wasn’t impressed.

“I hate teenagers,” he said.

I reminded him we had two of our own.

“I don’t like teenagers serving me,” he insisted.

I didn’t either but tried to placate him.

“But they’re multi-lingual,” I said.

I guess he still would have preferred the old guy in the tux who brought him his food without comment.   Maybe that’s what this was really about.  All these young guys, albeit in tuxes, but insistent on describing every ingredient we were about to put in our mouths.  I always wondered if there was an ingredient you as a diner didn’t recognize would you not eat the dish, thinking maybe it was poison?

Since we had ordered the tasting menu, there was going to be a lot of eating going on as well as descriptive commentary.  We listened.  There were only a few ingredients we didn’t recognize.  We ate the dishes anyway.  They didn’t poison us.  

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