Frankfurt, Hessen

Dinner at Romantik Hotel Schloss Rettershof – Ihr Hotel bei Frankfurt…

Spring is coming, and I’m starting to feel like I should be end my self imposed winter hibernation. I do still worry about Arran, whose lymph nodes are getting big again, but I also know I can’t stay homebound forever. Saturday night, Bill decided to check OpenTable to see if there were any inviting and interesting restaurants to try yesterday. He noticed one we hadn’t yet tried, Restaurant Retter’s at the Romantik Hotel Schloss Rettershof. They had plenty of tables open for a 7:00pm reservation, so Bill booked us. As you can see from the featured photo, it’s a lovely, historic venue!

I didn’t know anything about the Schloss Rettershof before last night’s repast. My German friend, Susanne, decided to look up the castle’s history while we were enjoying dinner. It seems that before the Rettershof became a hotel and restaurant, it had a colorful history that included stints as the European headquarters for the Hare Krishnas, and, for a few years after World War II, a U.S. Army post. Prior to the 20th century, it was a farm. And before that– from the 12th century until 1559, it was a monastery, and home for nuns. On July 3 and 4, 2018, parts of the roof of the nearby riding stable burned down due to a major fire. I saw evidence last night that people still go riding in the area.

The property has had a very colorful past that is well worth reading about, even if it is beyond the scope of today’s blog post. I only wish we could have visited when the sun was out, as even in the darkness, I could see that the Rettershof offers beautiful views. It’s located in the Fischbachtal district of Kelkheim, and very close to Eppstein, which is one of my favorite areas up here near Wiesbaden. I wouldn’t have been at all distressed if we’d found a house in Eppstein, instead of in Breckenheim.

Anyway… on to our actual experiences. 😉

Bill overestimated the amount of time he’d need to get from our house to the Rettershof. Nevertheless, I was delighted that the GPS took us in a direction that, in four years of living up here, we’d never before ventured. I guess COVID lockdowns have a way of putting a damper on exploration. We ended up going through our village, up a hillside, and into a pretty, mountainous area. Or, it was mountainous for this area. Really, it was probably more hilly than mountainous, but it was still a nice change of landscape for us. We live in a valley.

I was pretty hungry when we got to the Rettershof, which was a good thing. We got plenty to eat last night. However, as we pulled up, about 25 minutes before our 7pm reservation, I almost wondered if the place was open. The generously sized parking lot was practically empty. No one was near the entrance of the hotel, although it was lit up. When we walked inside, there was a friendly young woman at the reception desk who greeted us and took our coats. I was immediately enchanted by the sitting area near the reception. I didn’t get a chance to linger, though, because we were immediately ushered to the dining room and invited to take a table. There was one other party there– a family of four, who had the one table near a charming bay window. We took a table for four on the other side of the small dining room, so it was rather private.

I did manage to get a couple of photos of the lobby area before we sat down… I loved the fireplace, and the cozy lighting of the area around it. Too bad this isn’t a dining room, because it was very charming and inviting.

At the top of the stairs are some bedrooms for rent. There is also an extension where newer rooms have been built. I have no idea if anyone was staying at the hotel last night. It didn’t appear to have any guests, but then, it’s not exactly the high season.

There were two very enthusiastic men waiting on us. We got the sense that one might have been from France, and the other seemed to be Spanish. Both spoke German and English, of course, and they were very friendly. The one from France, who had his long dark hair in a bun, thanked us profusely for coming. We sipped glasses of champagne while we looked at the menu, which was pretty limited last night. I got the sense that maybe they limit the menu when they are expecting few guests.

There was a set four course menu, which I didn’t go for because of the presence of truffles… A la carte, we had a choice of Ox with cheese, See Teufel (Angler fish), or Wiener Schnitzel. I didn’t see any vegan or vegetarian options on last night’s menu, but I’m sure they have something… perhaps it was in the regular menu, which I never had a chance to look at, as Bill was selecting a wine and the list was in the one permanent menu they gave us. There was also a choice of two starters– beef tartar with quail egg or beef consomme.

I decided to go with the Angler fish, which a dense fish that reminded me a little of catfish in terms of looks and texture, but tasted more like halibut. Bill went for the Schnitzel. I was surprised he didn’t want the ox, since he usually likes that kind of thing… but he did order the tartar as a starter. I had the consomme, which had sliced pancakes and carrots in it. We also had bread and butter from France, and a lovely and unique red wine that the waiter with the man bun said was “new” to them.

Both waiters were professional, but the one with the man bun was especially memorable. I got a kick out of him, especially when he pronounced the word “dynomite” like “deenomeete”. I think he might have learned new vocabulary last night.

Overall, we really enjoyed the food and the pleasant, yet quirky, wait staff, who were both clearly delighted that we came in for dinner last night. Yes, it would have been nice to have had more of a choice in entrees, but given that we and the other party of four appeared to be their only patrons last night, I can understand why they didn’t stock too much. This definitely wasn’t an inexpensive meal. The check came to 277 euros, which is a lot… and Bill delighted the wait staff by tipping like an American. They were practically bowing to us as we left. 😀

I would go back to the Retterhof for another meal. Next time, I’d like to do it during the daytime, so I can see how pretty it is. I also suspect that when the weather is warmer and more people patronize the restaurant, the menu expands a bit. But we did enjoy ourselves last night. The castle is a charming venue, and at least last night, the staff was very warm and friendly and were clearly glad to welcome us. We don’t live far away, either, so I could definitely see us venturing out there again.

A little clever marketing about the hotel and restaurant… I’m sure they live up to this if you give them plenty of warning.

I will offer a caveat to those who have mobility issues. The restrooms are located down a flight of stairs and I didn’t see an elevator. In the ladies room, there are several steps up to the toilets. I’m not sure if they have alternative accommodations for people who use wheelchairs.

A parting shot of the wine…

We got home at about 9pm. Arran and Noyzi were delighted to see us again. Arran, in particular, was really wound up and took off running around the house. I was relieved to see it, as two of his lymph nodes are large again. The vet decided to skip chemo last week, and the cancer has responded accordingly. But, in spite of the larger lymph nodes, Arran doesn’t appear to be feeling too badly right now. This is a sign, however, that the cancer is progressing, and we will probably be saying goodbye to him before too much longer.

I really hate this part of having dogs in my life, even though I know it’s necessary. However, I also know from experience that every time I have a dog who is very special and think no one can possibly equal him, I am proven wrong. Every dog we’ve had has been original and special in their own ways, and every one has been unforgettable and uniquely wonderful. So, as much as I hate the thought of saying goodbye to Arran, I also know that when he goes, another opportunity awaits us. And with that opportunity comes new and amazing experiences waiting to happen.


Our first visit to Landhaus Diedert… I give it an A+!

Yesterday, as I was considering where we might visit in Italy later this month, I realized that it had been awhile since our last nice meal. I asked Bill what he thought about going to one of our favorite restaurants, Villa Im Tal. He was up for it, but Villa Im Tal was closed this weekend. Then Bill noticed Landhaus Diedert, a restaurant and hotel located in the Kloster Klarenthal, which dates back to the 13th century. While I was searching for places to stay during our upcoming trip, Bill was reading up about this restaurant, which is family run and has a mention in the Michelin Guide. After today’s lunch, I can see why. We had an absolutely FANTASTIC experience.

The restaurant is located on the outskirts of Wiesbaden, in an area not far from nature. There’s free parking, and in the warm months, they offer a very nice outdoor area, complete with a little playhouse for the kids. But the food here is anything but kid stuff. It was more what I would call a mix of comfort food and haute cuisine.

The mask requirements in Hesse were dropped yesterday, and our vaccine statuses weren’t checked, but I noticed everyone wore masks in the lovely dining room at Landhaus Diedert. I don’t know if that was required; they didn’t have a sign up. I suspect people are just used to masking, and as time passes, more people will relax. The staff all wore masks, and there were two hand sanitizing stations in the restaurant, which is very beautiful. I do know that the health minister wants people to keep masking. Personally, I look forward to being done with the fucking things… but I did wear a mask today, since everyone else was doing it.

When we first arrived, we were taken for Germans. That always pleases me. One waiter delivered the specials in German. I understood most of what he said, but when he was finished he heard me say in English, “It’s asparagus season.” And indeed, they did have a number of asparagus specials available. He was kind enough to give us the specials in English, and brought us menus in English, too. I was grateful for the English menus, although they weren’t necessary. We enjoyed a round of Sekt and some fresh breads with hummus and butter, then perused the extensive wine menu. Bill chose a lovely Shiraz from South Africa.

To start, I had a delicious wild garlic soup with a won ton filled with smoked trout, and served with a side of wasabi mayonnaise. Bill had a cannelloni filled with goat cheese and served with greens and a walnut dressing. I tried the walnut dressing, though I’m not a goat cheese fan. Bill liked his starter very much, but I LOVED the wild garlic soup. It made my tastebuds sing from the first taste. Although it was a bit rich, I had to finish the whole thing. I exclaimed how good it was as one of the servers cleared the first course. I have a feeling it’s a popular offering.

For our main courses, Bill had a perfectly tender U.S. flank steak with prosciutto wrapped asparagus and pureed sweet potatoes, topped with chimchuree. I had a braised beef short rib with smoked roasted and mashed potatoes, leeks, roasted corn, and a sweet gravy with blueberries. It was very rich, but absolutely delicious and comforting. We had to take our time with the main courses, because they were substantial. I did end up bringing home some of the mashed potatoes.

Then, for dessert we decided to go with something different. Bill decided to have a flambeed pineapple slices, with ice cream. This was prepared at the table for us, and the gentleman who served us was kind enough to let me take a video, which I have posted at the bottom of this post. I had a rhubarb crumble with vanilla ice cream that was very extreme. I mean, I’ve had vanilla ice cream, but this was something very special.

Service was kind, competent, and expedient. The pacing of the meal was perfect, and we noticed that everyone seemed very jovial. It must have been the food and the friendly service. I wouldn’t say this restaurant is particularly kid friendly, but I did see some children there, and they seemed happy to be there. And, again, in the summer, they can play while the adults enjoy the food, which is really something to behold. Total bill was about 185 euros, before the tip, and we paid with a credit card.

Landhaus Diedert makes a great place to celebrate a special occasion, or just celebrate great, seasonal food. We really enjoyed ourselves today. This is one place I’m glad we didn’t miss.

I’m sure we will be back again… Below are some photos from today’s fabulous lunch!

Bill’s dessert. The waiter was kind enough to let me video. I’m sure I’m not the first.

And just to close out this post. I want to add a couple more photos… things I noticed on the drive to and from the restaurant.

What a great Sunday! I hope we can do this a lot more often now.


Our Heidelberger Birthday Holiday! Part five

As we were planning our weekend away, Bill and I discussed where my birthday dinner should be. I consulted my trusty Open Table app, which I’ve been using for about 19 years… Or, I’ve been using Open Table since 2002. The app hasn’t been around as long. Anyway, it’s helped us find some great restaurants. When we lived in Germany the first time, few places were using it, but now it’s pretty widespread here. I’ve found it especially useful for finding and making reservations at unique, fine dining restaurants.

In Heidelberg, one of the top restaurants on Open Table is Chambao, which is located within eyeshot of the Neckar River, as is its sister restaurant, Chambino. This restaurant’s concept is shared plates– kind of like tapas, but with more of an Asian and African flavor. When we arrived at the restaurant by taxi, the outdoor area was bustling. There was a table open, probably saved for us. We showed the waiter our vaccine certificates and said we were willing to sit inside, which was totally empty. He hadn’t seen the new certificates, as they’re pretty new. But once he saw that they came from the Wallau Apotheke and were in German, he welcomed us inside. Alternatively, those who have had a “Schnell Test” for COVID-19 can also dine indoors.

We sat next to the window to take advantage of the breeze. I looked around at the gorgeous decor– with blue and white tiles, an open kitchen, an impressive bar, and tiled lighting fixtures. From the first minute, we felt right at home, and we proceeded to have an absolutely delightful meal. Below is a photo of the menu offered on Saturday night. Our waiter said it changes weekly.

You can have five or seven dishes at 50 or 70 euros per person, respectively.

Since we were splurging, we went for the seven course deal, and paired with a local Riesling that had just arrived at the restaurant that day. Unlike Friday night’s wine, this one was relatively cheap, but also very good. Below are some photos from our dinner at Chambao.

The first three plates to come out were especially surprising. The first plate from the left in the photo with three selections is a melon tomato salad with basil and mint. It was very refreshing and, in fact, I think it was my favorite. I don’t usually like tomatoes by themselves, but these were cherry tomatoes that were sweet, and they went beautifully with the melon. Then the basil and mint made a refreshing sauce. I could have enjoyed that one all day.

The plate in the middle was tuna tatar (tartare) with green apple and tarragon. It was also refreshing and tasty, although not everyone goes for tatar (raw). I enjoyed it, as well as the third dish, which was a ceviche made with kingfish and shrimp, celery, and calamari with dill.

Next, we had a black tiger prawn with wasabi, mango, and Thai vinaigrette, followed by plate number five, “Fjord” trout with fennel salad, fermented milk and cucumbers. The trout was extremely tender and flavorful, and again, served cool. I was a little worried about the pork belly with plum wine, lemon grass, and green papaya. It turned out to be sinful.

Each plate was more interesting that anything we’ve eaten in the last year. On a couple of occasions, it felt like my tastebuds were exploding. I was very excited by the end, and so appreciative of the wait staff, kitchen workers, and creative chefs who made such a meal happen for us. And the dessert was a great top off. I love cheesecake, and this one was served with mango, coconut milk, and chocolate. It was just the right size. Bill loved his cheeses, which he got to enjoy alone, since I’m not a cheese person. Desserts were ten euros each.

Total damage for this meal was about 210 euros or so… This was more in line with what we usually spend on a really nice meal, and we thought it was worth every penny. I believe the other restaurant, Chambino, serves more casual fare. I wouldn’t mind trying it if we ever get back to Heidelberg and have the opportunity.

Taxi cabs were lined up outside of the restaurant, so we easily found our ride back to the hotel. If it hadn’t been so hot and we hadn’t dressed up, we could have easily enjoyed the walk back.

We stopped by the hotel bar to have a nightcap. The friendly barman was there again, and we chatted with him some more. He was telling us about gins from the Black Forest. He said Monkey 47, which was first made in the Black Forest is no longer made there. But there’s another gin, called Needles, that still comes from there. Bill had a martini made with that. I had a French 1975… and I think we probably need to detox, now.

Although my actual birthday was yesterday, June 20th– Juneteenth (June 19), for which Bill got a day off work Friday– was a great day for celebrating! I would definitely recommend Chambao. I hope we can visit again.


Our first foray to Frankfurt, lunch at Conrad’s, and Five Guys to go…

From 2002 until 2007, I lived in Northern Virginia, birthplace of Five Guys, the burger franchise that’s been taking the rest of the United States and parts of the world by storm.  When I tried my first Five Guys burger, they were strictly a Northern Virginia/Washington, DC enterprise, having been founded there in 1986 by Jerry and Janie Murrell and their then four sons (a fifth was later born and is involved in the business, too).  I remember being flabbergasted by how good and how messy they were.  We became fans.

The things we’ll go through for good burgers…

I was born and raised in Virginia, and lived in Northern Virginia for two years after my dad retired from the Air Force.  My parents lived in NoVA long before Five Guys existed, so I never got to try it when it was still brand new.  In 2002, I married my husband, Bill, and the following year, we moved to Fort Belvoir, Virginia.  We had several Five Guys locations near us.  I remember quite clearly at that time, the Murrells swore they would never franchise.  They wanted to maintain strict control of their product, which was always selling like gangbusters in their no frills locations scattered around the D.C. area.

In 2007, we moved to Germany the first time, and while we were gone, somehow the decision not to franchise was overturned.  By the time we came back in 2009, there were locations all over the place.  Back in 2016, Germany got its very first Five Guys location in the heart of Frankfurt.

I remember being excited to hear about the new Five Guys in Germany, especially since they announced plans to expand throughout the country.  As many of my fellow Americans may have discovered, despite giving the hamburger its name, Germans can’t seem to get them quite right.  I have noticed that some places are doing better, though.  I mean, having moved back to Germany in 2014, I notice that more places are offering better burgers made with real beef.  Still, I have been missing American style cheeseburgers.  Yes, we can make them at home, but there’s something special about a really juicy, messy burger that’s been squashed into a foil wrapper.

Until the end of last month, we were living near Stuttgart.  A road trip to Frankfurt from Stuttgart certainly isn’t out of the question.  On a good day, the drive is about three hours on the Autobahn.  Nevertheless, we never managed to get to the Five Guys when we were living in the Stuttgart area.  We did go to one in Glasgow, Scotland, and it was a little disappointing.  The burger tasted fine, but the cheese wasn’t melted.  That was a huge turnoff.  I can’t abide unmelted cheese on a burger!

Anyway, now that we live in Wiesbaden, we’re within striking distance of Frankfurt and its many restaurants and varied cuisines.  Today, since I’ve been cooped up in the house entirely too much this month, we decided to go to Frankfurt and hunt down some Five Guys burgers.

Originally, we planned to take my car, a 2009 Mini Cooper that we bought in Stuttgart as we were leaving the first time.  In nine years, I’ve managed to rack up a pitiful 35,000 miles on the odometer, so we try to drive it as much as we can on the weekends and trips that don’t involve bringing our dogs.  Unfortunately, the engine refused to turn over.  In nine years, we’ve also never changed the battery.  Guess fixing that’s on the agenda this week.

We took the other car, our 2006 Toyota RAV 4, which we hope to soon retire.  This was our very first trip within Frankfurt itself.  Prior to today, we’d been to the train station and the airport.  That’s it.

A fine landmark.  Just after we passed it, Bill tried to turn right into traffic going the opposite direction.  Fortunately, they were stopped at a light and he managed to correct his error before we got creamed.  Then we found a parking garage, where we were in good company with lots of others seeking parking today.  
The air was heavy with the aroma of curry wurst and the sounds of people rushing around, shopping at high end retail stores.  The weather was kind of grim and depressing, which didn’t really make me want to explore.  Frankfurt is the land of big business, banks, and people with lots of money.  I haven’t seen much of it, but it doesn’t appear to be a particularly picturesque town.
It definitely has a different feel than Stuttgart has.  I was reminded a little of Washington, D.C.

We spotted the big church located right next to the Five Guys, but still had to wander around a bit before we finally saw the magic sign.  It was about 1:30pm…
But it was packed, and there was nowhere to sit.  Actually, this was a lot less busy than it was a couple of hours later, when we decided to come back.

The Five Guys was full of people at 1:30pm.  I started inwardly berating myself for wanting to stand in line for burgers I’ve had a bunch of times.  I told Bill we should go look for another place to have lunch.  Bill had to pee like a racehorse, so he was eager to find a place quickly.
We walked out of the big Walkplatz where Five Guys in Frankfurt is.  This looked interesting, but we needed to find a place for Bill…
This mural was right next to an enticing place called Conrad’s Restaurant.

I wasn’t really wanting German food, but Bill was eager to relieve himself.  A friendly waiter beckoned us, so we went in.  The inside of Conrad’s is very small and rather poorly laid out.  There are several very large booths and the tables are close together.  There’s not much of an aisle for people to walk through, either.  At one point, Bill and another man had to get out of their seats to allow a woman and her stroller to pass.  
Conrad seems to specialize in Schnitzels, though they offer other stuff like steaks, sausages, and breakfast.  The restaurant has a full bar, video gambling, and flatscreen TVs tuned to sports.  There’s also really shitty pop music on blast.  Seriously, the music really got on my nerves.  
Bill looks at the menu…
He decided on a Paprika Schnitzel, which was a pork schnitzel with a pepper, tomato, and onion sauce.  It was served with fries, but you could also substitute country style or mashed potatoes.  You could also have veal or turkey schnitzel for a small upcharge.
I went with the Mozzarella Schnitzel.  It was a pork schnitzel with fresh tomatoes covered with mozzarella cheese and baked.  I don’t actually like schnitzels that much.  They’re usually too much for me to eat.  Today’s was no exception, although it tasted fine.  I only finished half of this one and its accompanying fries.  However, I did appreciate that Conrad’s offered several different kinds of schnitzel, which puts them ahead of any other place where I’ve seen them offered.

Conrad’s doesn’t exactly get the best reviews on Google or Trip Advisor.  I wouldn’t be as harsh as some other reviewers have been.  The schnitzels were hot, fresh, and served with a smile.  The fries weren’t that great, but they weren’t terrible.  I thought of Conrad’s as a perfectly average restaurant until it came time to use the restroom.  There, stationed on a little stool in the tiny area near the toilets was a woman with a plate.  She was collecting change from people wanting to use the bathroom.
At first, I thought maybe this was just for people coming in off the street.  I’ve seen some places put out plates for people who really need to use the bathroom but don’t want to eat.  That might have been the case at Conrad’s, too.  But I didn’t see a sign or anything indicating that the Klofrau was only charging people who weren’t eating or drinking.  I find being asked to pay a Klofrau very tacky in a restaurant.  I mind it only slightly less at truck stops.  On the other hand, I’m sure the Klofrau discourages people from taking advantage of the restaurant’s prime location.
Anyway… I don’t think we’ll go back to Conrad’s… but it wasn’t a disastrous meal.  The food wasn’t terrible or overpriced.  It was just profoundly mediocre.  You can make reservations on OpenTable, too.
The outside of Conrad’s.

While we were eating our schnitzels, it occurred to me that Five Guys will probably always be packed.  And I didn’t really want to come back to Frankfurt to do this again… at least not while the weather is so cold, damp, and depressing.  Maybe we’ll brave it again when the sun stays out longer than six or seven hours a day.  So, although we ate schnitzels and I wasn’t even able to finish mine, we decided to pick up a couple of burgers to go.

This was what it was looking like at about 3:00pm.  The second photo was taken about twenty minutes later.  People were actually standing outside the automated doors.  Good thing they don’t take a pause and are open every day.

Bill went in to get a couple of burgers, sans our usual fries.  I waited outside and played Evil Apples. About thirty minutes later, he came out with our burgers.  He said the music at Five Guys was a lot better than it was at Conrad’s.  They were playing awesome classic rock by Rush, the Outfield, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.  They also have free peanuts, just like the Five Guys restaurants in the States.
You can fill your bike tires with air while you eat burgers.

We made our way back to the car.  I took note of the energy in Frankfurt.
Teens were dancing in the square.
I notice there are even more signs in English in Frankfurt than there are in Stuttgart.  It’s a very international city.  Even our trash bins have directions in English on them.
And big ass buildings, too!  I’m sure Frankfurt has a charming area somewhere.  We’ll find it eventually.  As we passed through this intersection, we found ourselves on the gambling and sex street, very close to the train station.
They look like the American style Five Guys burgers.
Right down to being smashed into foil.

I did taste my burger before wrapping it up for later, when my schnitzel has been digested and I have more room to enjoy it.  I’m happy to report that it tastes almost just like it does in the States.  It’s juicy, and the beef is very flavorful.  The only difference I noticed are the pickles, which are a little bit sweeter than what we get in the U.S.  But then, Germans seem to like their pickles sweeter.  It would have been nice to eat it while it was piping hot, but I think it’ll be fine in awhile.  It wouldn’t be the first time we saved a Five Guys burger for later.

I’d go back, although not anytime soon.  I definitely don’t need a Five Guys location near me, but it’s nice to have one.  Do you need to drive here from another German city like Stuttgart?  I’d say it depends on how much you like Five Guys burgers.  Stuttgart has a few places that are getting pretty good at making decent burgers.  Your mileage may vary, of course.

Next stop…  Hooters?  Maybe not.


A magical meal at Der Zauberlehrling…

Last night, Bill and I had a dinner reservation at Der Zauberlehrling, a chic hotel/restaurant in downtown Stuttgart.  I was excited about our visit because we had eaten there in 2008, when Bill and I were here courtesy of the Army.  At the time, Der Zauberlehrling was the only Stuttgart area restaurant listed on OpenTable, an online restaurant reservation service we’ve been using for years.  Now OpenTable has hundreds of restaurants listed in Stuttgart.  I remembered that meal from 2008 fondly.  It was probably the fanciest dinner we ate in Germany before we came back in 2014.

“Der Zauberlehrling” is the German title of a famous poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  Americans may know it better by its English translation, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”.  The hotel and restaurant that shares the name certainly has some unexpected and whimsical elements to it.  Although we have not yet had the pleasure of staying the night at Der Zauberlehrling, we have done some reading up on it.  Each room has a quirky style of its own.  Der Zauberlehrling also offers cooking classes, but I don’t know if they are available in English.

Things had changed a bit at the hotel’s restaurant since our last visit.  For example, on Saturday nights, the restaurant now offers a candlelight theme night for 115 euros a person (although it says 105 on the hotel’s Web site, on OpenTable it was priced 115 euros and that was what we were charged last night).  On the first Saturday of every month, they have a “magic” candlelight dinner, which includes a show by magician, Stefan Handel.  That dinner starts at 6:30pm and costs a little bit more.  The price of the dinner includes an aperitif, snacks, and four course meal with wine pairings and espresso or coffee.

I was a little concerned about the “theme night”, because it’s not possible to order a la carte when they offer it and I don’t always have good luck with mystery menus.  I tend to be rather picky about some things, especially mushrooms and truffles.  Fortunately, there were no major issues last night.

We parked at a large garage downtown, maybe a few minute’s walk from the hotel and restaurant, although it seemed further in heels.  I enjoyed the charming neighborhood near Der Zauberlehrling.  The streets were cobblestone and tree lined; for a moment, I even forgot we were in Stuttgart.  We were warmly welcomed when we entered the hotel lobby, though we were one of maybe ten couples dining last night.  Regular theme nights always start at 7:15pm, so everyone shows up at about the same time.

Approaching the restaurant/hotel.  I was trying not to get a shot of the large trash bin.

A very professional and well-dressed lady showed us to our beautifully decorated corner table.  I took a look around and remembered how tiny the dining room is.  It has a very cool looking modern fireplace, though.  You can see its hood behind Bill’s head in the picture below.

Bill takes a look at what’s being offered.  The same lady who showed us to our table poured us a drink with house made gin, grape juice, and locally produced sparkling wine.

When we first sat down, the white thing in the finger bowl resembled a breath mint.  But then a server poured liquid on it and it expanded as if by magic.  We weren’t sure what it was at first, but then we discovered it was a moist towel.  I guess that was their way of getting patrons to wash up.

The menu.  I would imagine this changes weekly.

We started with tasty hors d’oeuvres.  There was a tiny piece of quiche, potato fritter, and a cracker with roast beef and horseradish.  We also had mixed nuts and sweet cocktail onions.


Next came crusty bread served with interesting butter and salt.  Our server explained the butter was laced with citrus…

And we could pair it with one of four types of salt.  There was Portuguese salt, that was much like what we’re used to, a black sea salt, and a “male” and “female” salt.  The male salt was infused with pepper, while the female sale was less assertively infused with ginger.  Although I’m not into salts, I have to admit it was interesting tasting them with the butter.

Next came salmon with cous cous, avocado creme, pickled vegetables, and enoki mushrooms, which Bill kindly removed for me.  This was the last of the snacks!

The first course was creamy risotto with peas, white asparagus, tomatoes, and dried ham (which they said was bacon).  Bill was marveling at how good the risotto was.  I also enjoyed it, although the ham was a little different for me and took some effort to chew.  This course was served with a 2016 Kirchner white wine from Pfalz.

I really liked the next course, a chilled gazpacho with tomato, basil ice cream, and a spicy piece of watermelon.  This soup was refreshing and interesting.  The basil ice cream was slightly sweet and offered an interesting contrast with the piece of watermelon imbrued with spicy heat.  It was very creative.  This course came with an exquisite 2016 Pfannebecker Goldmuskateller, also from Pfalz.

Next came the main course, olive crusted pork loin with artichoke hearts, snap peas, and tomato filled tortellinis.  The tortellinis were clearly housemade and very good.  The pork was tender and juicy and played well with the vegetables.  I especially loved the red wine with this course, a 2015 Karl Haidle Cuvee made with lemberger grapes.  We’ll be looking for that wine. 

Next, we had dessert.  This was a dark chocolate pear creation, with hazelnut ice cream packed with some kind of crunchy cereal that gave it sort of a whimsical effect.  There were fresh pears shaped into balls, molded atop a pear gelatin base with a layered cake.  This was paired with a small amount of very sweet 2008 Carme de Rieussec Sauternes from Bordeaux.  I also enjoyed a little more of the red wine with this, since sweet wines aren’t my thing.

And finally, we enjoyed an espresso, which was served with three kinds of sugars.  The dark brown one was the one I used.  It came from Mauritius and was not as sweet as regular white sugar.  Instead, it had more of a creamy caramel essence.  That was just the jolt we needed to get us all the way back to Unterjettingen!


I don’t always comment on the toilet facilities in restaurants, unless there is some reason to.  I am happy to report that not only are Der Zauberlehrling’s facilities sparkling clean and luxuriously appointed, but the ladies room has what appears to be a German style Japanese toilet.  Check out the video below.

When I opened the stall door, the lid came up and the inside of the bowl was lit, as if to welcome me!  

Here is the control panel for the fancy toilet.  Yes, you can get your private parts washed if you want. Bill reports that the men’s room had a more conventional toilet, although the seat had what appeared to be gold glitter on it (and no, not the kind that sticks with you for years).  He also said the men’s room had a flatscreen television mounted over the urinal.  


I’m not sure I would have ordered all of the courses we had last night had I been left to my own devices.  A couple of them were a little beyond my comfort zone.  However, I was very pleased with what we had and glad we had the chance to try something very new.  The food and service at Der Zauberlehrling were just as excellent as we remembered it.

This week, no one stared at us.  In fact, our waiter asked us where we were from and we had a brief discussion about politics.  I left the restaurant feeling welcome and among friends.  One lady, who showed up a little late and had green hair, even bid us a cheery farewell as we headed back to the car at about 10:45 pm.  All the way home, we talked about how much we enjoyed our evening.  The toilet in the ladies room alone will keep us talking for a long while.

I would definitely recommend Der Zauberlehrling for a date night.  Just be advised that on Saturday nights, you can’t order a la carte and they are not open on Sundays.  Also, I highly recommend making reservations because the dining room is very small and the restaurant is popular.  It’s been fully booked both times we’ve visited.

Dress is smart casual.  We saw a couple of people in jeans and others, like Bill and I, decided to dress up a bit.

I got to debut a new shawl!


Pushing beyond my comfort zone at Reiskorn in Stuttgart!

Calling all vegans, vegetarians, gluten free and Asian fusion lovers!  Are you finding it hard to find good restaurants in the Stuttgart area?  Well, this review is especially for you… although meat eaters may also appreciate it.  Today’s restaurant review is of Reiskorn, a restaurant Bill and I tried for the first time last night after I booked it on  I discovered Reiskorn a couple of weeks ago, while looking at the list of OpenTable restaurants in the Stuttgart area.

OpenTable is an online restaurant reservation service.  I started using it in 2002, months before Bill and I got married.  He wanted me to find a place for us to celebrate my 30th birthday in Washington, DC.  I ended up picking Kinkead’s, a famous but now defunct seafood restaurant downtown.  I’ve been using OpenTable ever since then.  I even used it when we lived in Germany the first time, though back then, Stuttgart only had two or three restaurants using the service.  I’m happy to say that there are now hundreds of OpenTable restaurants in Stuttgart, which makes getting reservations very easy.  Of course, it also leads to me finding new places to have dinner!  So far this week, we’ve used OpenTable three times to make dinner reservations.

I will admit that I chose Reiskorn in part because of reviews on OpenTable, as well as the photos of the food and their “Sommergarten” which, as far as I could tell, wasn’t open last night.  The place was described as serving “Asian fusion” food, as well as vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free dishes.  I was so intrigued by the beautiful photos that I showed them to Bill, who was definitely up for trying the place.  I made a reservation for 8:00pm last night, but somehow got the time wrong and we showed up at 7:00pm instead.

Reiskorn is located in downtown Stuttgart, very close to The Block House, another place we need to try.

The first thing to know about Reiskorn is that it’s a small restaurant.  The dining room consists of a single room with low tables and chairs.  There are several large tables that serve multiple parties and only a couple of tables for two.  When we arrived last night, the service was in full swing and it was pretty crowded, as well as very loud.  But a very cute and petite German lady with long brown hair very kindly found us a spot at a long table for four facing the street outside.  We shared it with two other ladies, who paid no attention to us.

Reiskorn specializes in Asian inspired cuisine, but Asia is a big continent and they put their own spin on their food.  So it’s not a Thai or Vietnamese restaurant per se, though you might find Thai or Vietnamese inspired dishes on the menu.  Likewise, you might find hummus or falafel, also foods from Asian countries.

When we sat down, our waitress asked us whether we wanted German or English menus.  We said we could read German, but she gave us English menus anyway.  Actually, I was okay with that, since there are a few foods that I really don’t like.  Mushrooms, which are often found in Asian foods, are at the top of that list!  Fortunately, we didn’t have any fungal surprises last night.

I also noticed that the restaurant’s drink menu was inspired by sustainable and “bio” friendly sources.  They had some very creative cocktails as well as non-alcoholic fruit and mint waters and juices.  Bill and I both drank natural hefeweizens made by Franziskaner, but I was tempted by some of the more unique choices.  I saw a lot of people drinking water with crushed oranges and mint.  I kind of wish I’d tried that last night.

We started off with this fabulous Thai inspired appetizer for two.  There were coconut chicken strips, chicken satay, shrimp rolls, vegetable rolls, and seafood “sacks” (tasted like shrimp).  The appetizer came with three housemade dips, including some killer peanut sauce.  


I loved our appetizer so much.  I was especially impressed by the chicken, which was very tender, juicy, and flavorful.  I could have ordered just this and been very happy.  Bill was reluctant to order it because he worried it was too big, but it turned out to be the perfect size for us.  But then, we came into the restaurant hungry.

A profile shot of Bill.  This was pretty much the only way I could do it because we were kind of cramped in our corner.


It was awhile before our main courses came.  I have read that service is rather leisurely at Reiskorn, though it was crowded enough last night that I didn’t get the sense the servers were slacking off.  In any case, I recommend relaxing and enjoying the vibe.  We also took the opportunity to use the restrooms, which are as tiny as the rest of the restaurant is.  I ended up having to wait for two ladies ahead of me, which killed some time.

I took a photo of the view from where we were sitting.  It was actually an interesting place to sit because you can easily watch life unfolding for passersby.  At one point, an ambulance showed up to help some elderly guy and we saw plenty of folks from every walk of life getting on with their day, some of whom stopped to check out the restaurant or gawk at us while we ate.  It was also fun watching groups of people enjoy the outside tables at the bar next door.  

My main course was a vegan, gluten free, low carb dish: falafel with a tomato coconut mango sauce.  It came with a seasonal salad that had a very tasty dressing.  I was almost able to finish the main course, though I only managed a little of the salad.  I’ve had a lot of falafel that I didn’t like much because it was too dry.  This falafel was excellent, especially with the delightful sauce and bits of mango.  It’s not often that I really enjoy something supposedly so good for me.  I’d like to try vegan food more often.

Bill had chicken strips in red curry with colorful seasonal vegetables, rice, and lemon grass.  His dish had some kick to it, though Bill described it as tangy and somewhat mild.  The dish was very “Thai” inspired, with coconut milk and lime juice.  I preferred my falafel and I think Bill did too.  He said next time, he’d order that, although he liked the chicken as well.  

As the sun set and it got dark outside, I was suddenly glad we got to the restaurant an hour early.  It was almost nine o’clock when we ordered dessert… yet another vegan creation…

Bill and I split this fabulous vegan, gluten free, and lactose free lemon pie.   The crust was made of chickpeas, but I never would have guessed it.  The pie was lemon and coconut creme, topped with a caramel creme.  I actually would not have guessed it was topped with caramel, but regardless, it was delicious.  And we didn’t feel stuffed when were finished.


Total bill for last night’s meal was about 56 euros.  Aside from being the most interesting of the three meals we ate this week, it was also by far the least expensive.

Bill and I really enjoyed the food at Reiskorn.  We also liked the funky decor, which looked like it was outfitted by Novica, one of my favorite cash drains.  One thing I didn’t like as much was the noise and the rather crowded dining room.  On the other hand, the fact that Reiskorn is so popular is a sign that it’s a good place.  I can see why people like Reiskorn and if we lived closer to Stuttgart, we’d probably end up being regulars, despite the crowds.

I think Reiskorn has something for everyone, but I would especially recommend it to people who have special dietary needs.  There are plenty of meat free, gluten free, and milk free options for those who require it.  And we thought the prices were very reasonable.  Needless to say, Reiskorn gets my vote!