There is simply no denying it; in the Cultural Heart of Germany, we love our food and drink. From traditional meat dishes to sweet delicacies, from aromatic beers to fine wines – we are confident that travellers on the foodie trail will not be disappointed. Here’s your exclusive menu, including veggie and, not least, locally sourced and organic choices:
Traditional German food is meat-heavy but never boring as every region has their own specialities and a new generation of chefs has infused classics with a touch of innovation. Both Saxony and Thuringia are a heaven for sausages and cold cuts, offering a wide range of artisan, air-dried, smoked or cooked products, best bought directly from the producers on local farm markets.
In Thuringia, try the local version of the classic beef roulade with red cabbage and Thuringian dumplings (delicious!) or a “Mutz” roast, a cut of pork in a herb marinade prepared on a spit over an open birch-wood fire, best enjoyed in a beer garden or at a Christmas market. We must, of course, also mention the famous Thuringian “Rostbratwurst”, a grilled sausage of meat and herbs which is actually quite light, with 100g coming in at only 270 kcal. Speaking of sausages, the Thuringian Eichsfeld region is known for its air-dried sausage varities. Sample them in one of the traditional inns, such as “Klausenhof” in Bornhagen. A typical dish of the Saxon Switzerland region near Dresden is called “Krautwickel”, consisting of minced meat wrapped in cabbage, while further west in the Vogtland they do great marinated pot roasts.
Vegetarians will find lots to like in Saxony and Thuringia and there is also an increasing number of restaurants and markets for vegans. A typical Thuringian veggie specialty is the Weimar onion cake. Think a kind of pizza with a layer of onions, caraway seed on top and an egg-milk layer. Try it at the annual Weimar Onion Market in October together with “Federweißer”, the first wine of the season. Local to the Ore Mountains in Saxony is “Buttermilchgetzen”, made of potatoes and buttermilk, or the very lovely “Bambes” potato pancakes. In Leipzig, you should try the special mixed vegetables dish “Allerlei”.
Sweet tooth: cakes and chocolate
Now we’re talking … tray-baked cakes are typical for the region and, luckily, they come in many local varieties. Try the poppy seed cakes in East Saxony or the “Dresden Eierschecke”, a delicious layered curd cheese-raisin-egg cream composition, perfect with a cup of coffee. In Leipzig, the “Leipzig Lark” is a local speciality. The shortcrust-marzipan pastry with strawberry jam filling is actually a symbol for conservation and was invented in the late 1800s to save the skylarks (popular as a filling for meat pies) around Leipzig from extinction.
In Thuringia, traditional baking trays are often not rectangular but big and round. Since this requires special ovens, they have become rare. Hunt them out in countryside bakeries or at the Leuchtenburg castle inn. Thuringian farmers’ cakes are usually made of yeast dough with seasonal fruits and crumbles on top. Great with whipped cream!
For some seasonal bakes, look no further than Dresden where the famous Christmas stollen cake was born. Only around 130 bakers in and around Dresden are allowed to produce and sell the “original stollen” but you could join a special baking course in Dresden to learn how to make your own for Christmas. Great British Bake Off calling … If gingerbread is your thing, then head to Pulsnitz where they have been baking the special Christmas cookie variety “Pfefferkuchen” since 1558. Visit a the gingerbread museum for all the details (and, obviously, some of the bakeries producing the local gingerbreads).
Cheers: wine and beer
Both beer and wine lovers will find lots to like in Saxony and Thuringia, including some real insider tips:
Saxony has a gorgeous wine route just outside Dresden with charming towns such as Radebeul and Meissen at its centre. Vineyards along the way, including beautiful “Schloss Wackerbarth” famous for its sparkling wines, offer many options to sample regional varieties from one of Germany’s smallest wine-growing region where wine has been produced for more than 850 years. Tip: Time your visit with the wine festivals in early autumn to get a real feel of the local wine culture.
Moving on to beer, you will have to re-think what you have so far been told about Bavarian “beer leadership”: In Thuringia, they can proudly claim a beer purity law dating back to 1433/34 which makes it older than the Bavarian one (1516). Even more depressing for Bavarians, the oldest wheat beer also comes from Thuringia. For Germany’s best known and most popular dark beer, head to Bad Köstritz in Saxony, and if you like the Pilsner variety, put Radeberg on your list where the first ever German Pilsner was brewed. Visitors can join brewery tours to learn all about the history of “Radeberger Exportbierbrauerei” and how “Radeberger Pilsener” is brewed, tasting, of course, included. Also highly recommended is a tour of „Landskron Brau-Manufaktur” in Görlitz, a beautiful “brewing manufactory”, dating back to 1869, where beer is brewed with traditional procedures and open, hand-operated fermentation. The factory is a listed building and a great example for lovingly kept industrial architecture.