What's for Suppenküche?
March 6, 2005

Man, it's been such a long time since I upated -- what? Over two months? That's just sad.

What have I been up to? Well, work, mainly, but the less said about that the better. Also, Enterprise got cancelled, so they won't be back for a fifth season and it was that announcement that made me rip off Don McLean here. We'll see what next season's sea of new shows flings up at me to gut and scale. As it is, I am now happily on a six-week break before Enterprise come back with the final episodes.

I have been getting in some writing over at KQED's new food blog called "Bay Area Bites." It's a pretty cool site and I've written about an excess of endive, Blue Bottle Coffee, canned wine, and the medicinal uses of alcohol as dictated by my dubious and highly unscientific research. Check it out -- there are some awesome writers over there.

As many of you know, watching Sandra Lee goes beyond the trainwreck analogy. It's more like watching a trainwreck then watching the wounded crawl out and vomit everywhere.

It's for that reason I have 25 episodes backlogged on my TiVo. Today, I watched with horrified fascination as she massacred potato pancakes two different ways. In the episode "French Foods" she makes them with red bell peppers. I don't see where the Potato-Pepper latkes are French, but maybe I missed something in my intensive culinary study of every region of France, their products, cooking methods, and signature dishes. Oh, wait, it's the randomly added "Herbs de PRO-VAHnce" that make them French. I see. No, no -- I'm sorry, it's the French-themed plates from Williams-Sonoma that make them French. Wait -- I've got it now -- it's the strange Bistro sign over her sink that make them French. Yes, that's it. Clearly.

The second massacre of potato pancakes I watched was in "Rose Garden." Here, she nauseatingly combines thawed pre-shredded hashbrowns with powdered buttermilk pancake mix, powdered leek-chive soup mix, egg, scallions, and ROSE WATER? I've had rose water in lots of savory dishes, but that? Was just disgusting.

She's such a freakshow.

Because of all this, I had a burning desire to expunge my assaulted pallet with a little visit to our neighborhood German haven, Suppenküche. I didn't think I'd be a German food fan since it's so heavy and -- I always thought -- over-boiled. I am so happy to be utterly and completely wrong. This adorable chalet-like restaurant sits on the corner of Hayes and Laguna like a big piece of yellow Bavarian cheese. It's warm and inviting and it's become the place of choice to take visiting TWoPers. Inside, you sit family style at long dark wood tables and benches, and while it can get a bit loud and hot, it's always, always amazing.

First of all, we worship one of the bartenders there, Craig. He knows everything about beer and makes incredible recommendations. One uncharacteristically quiet night, we sampled a bit of the last of the Leffe Brown of the season and listened to him tell us all about smoked beer. However, after discovering a clove-laden beer called Aventinus, we now almost always have to order that. Craig is a master at the pouring of this beer. It's like a dance. A beer dance. He upends the large bottle of beer into a tall, thin glass and gradually pulls it up, letting the beer swirl and undulate around the mouth of the bottle. As the glass fills up, he pulls the bottle completely out, rubs it between his hands and dollops the last bit of fermented yeast on top of the caramel-colored foam. Although their Black Forrest Cake is all kinds of dark deliciousness, sometimes all I want for dessert is more Aventinus.

Back to the reason for this post: potato pancakes. Golden-crispy on the outside and lusciously mealy on the inside, these little suckers are so thick and huge, I could make a meal of them and their homemade cinnamony-applesauce alone. But I usually don't. No, in addition to the potato pancakes, I almost always have to order Jägerschnitzel. Jägerschnitzel is sautéed porkloin smothered in a fragrant, creamy, brown mushroom sauce. And as if that weren't enough, you also get a green salad with a really amazing garlicky dressing, and spätzle.

Oh, that spätzle! It was a bad, gluttonous night the Friday we discovered the cheese spätzle with their special onion-butter sauce. Dr. Mathra started calling it German macaroni and cheese, and you all know how much I love my macaroni and cheese. Sitting down to a big bowl of this cheese spätzle is like wrapping yourself in a fleece blanket with a cat purring on your stomach and a good movie in the DVD player on a rainy Saturday night. It could cure any blues and comfort any broken heart. Of course, the beer helps. The beer always helps. That was also the same night we discovered the delectable german ravioli filled with pork and vegetables and topped with mushroom sauce. Uhhhhhnnnngggghhh.

Dr. Mathra's favorite dish at Suppenküche is one he always feels the need to apologize for when ordering it in the presence of guests: pickled herring. The dark fish comes with thick sour cream, earthy pickled beets, thinly-sliced red onions, and cold boiled potatoes. While I prefer my cold fish to be wrapped in nori and topped with ginger, I still appreciate almost everything else on that plate. And I still kiss him after he eats it. Another perfect dish is the Bratwurst with sourkraut and mashed potatoes. It's a classic and I've never tasted better anywhere.

Although we got a break the last two days with sunny, blue skies and temps in the high sixties, I love San Francisco's rainy season because nothing else puts me more in the mood for potato pancakes and stuff with mushroom sauce. Except maybe Sandra Lee's "cooking."

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