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October 27, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments


This post is two weeks overdue. I’ll be brief, the details having faded, but I did want to mention our dinner two weeks ago at Szmania’s.

Szmania’s has been a fixture in the Seattle neighborhood of Magnolia for over two decades and is one of the best German restaurants in the city. (There aren’t many.) Magnolia is sufficiently far away that we don’t tend to drive there just to eat. And when we do find ourselves there, we head to El Ranchon, the Mexican restaurant where Gail dined on a weekly basis when she worked in Magnolia years ago. We drive down the main street, park, I stare longingly at Szmania’s, and off we go to El Ranchon.

That changed three Thanksgiving weekends ago, though not by choice. It was Thanksgiving Friday, we weren’t far, so Gail suggested we swing by El Ranchon, which we did. Only thing is, they were closed for the weekend for a kitchen renovation. We had no choice but to go elsewhere. Szmania’s at last. Joel was with us and we had an excellent meal. Almost three years later—two weeks ago—we ate at Szmania’s again, this time with Tricia, Dwight, and their daughters plus Laura and Bill to celebrate the life of Tricia’s late mother.

Before leaving my office that afternoon to get Gail at home and drive over, I learned from Rose that Szmania’s was no longer a German restaurant. It had become a steakhouse. That was disappointing. And also, as it turns out, not quite true, at least not during October. All month long, they have a special Oktoberfest menu. From the website:


Celebration of all things Germany!

It’s Chef Ludger’s favorite time of year to prepare all his favorite dishes from his homeland– Sauerbraten, Schnitzel, Schweinshaxe, Sauerkraut, Suppe, Salat and Wursts galore. Two liter bottles of Altenmünster Festbier are available–perfect to split with Ludger’s Haus Platte dinners. Half liters of Radeburger on tap along with many Bavarian beers are in stock to raise the German spirit!

Friday, Oct. 11th & 25th
Two special three-course Bierfest Dinners are scheduled with traditional Bavarian delights including Dortmunder Beet Salat, Münchener Gulash, Wiener Schnitzel, Rinderrouladen, and Black Forest Cake—optional wine or beer pairings.
Make your reservations early!
Fun guaranteed… lederhosen welcome.

Embrace your inner German.

And we were there on the 11th, so we had not just the full Oktoberfest menu from which to choose but also the three-course dinner with beer pairing. I should have ordered it. I was scared off by the appetizer choice, two soups that I didn’t think I would want, even though I did want the offered Wiener Schnitzel and Black Forest Cake. Big mistake on my part, especially as I got to watch Laura—sitting immediately to my left—enjoying her Bierfest dinner.

But before we got to that, the table shared two appetizers: the Westfalischer Schinken (westphalian prosciutto, soft pretzel, gruyère fondue, house–pickled vegetables) and the Reibekuchen mit frischem Apfelmus (traditional potato pancakes, fresh apple sauce). Boy were they good. That’s as fine a soft pretzel as I ever ate. As for the potato pancakes, well, I’ll never eat any that compare to those my father used to make, but for restaurant pancakes, these were among the best.

When I decided not to go with the three-course dinner, I was choosing the Autumn Field Greens (roasted pear, caramelized walnuts, goat cheese and merlot vinaigrette) over the sauerkraut soup, in the belief that I’m not a sauerkraut fan. Maybe not, but Laura’s soup looked far more interesting than my salad. Then came the Wiener Schnitzel (pasture–raised veal cutlet with fresh lemon and capers, sautéed potatoes and fall vegetables), which was everything I hoped for.

Dessert was another mistake. I had assumed that the black forest cake on the Bierfest menu was also on the regular menu. It isn’t. Instead, there’s Black Forest Trifle (Chocolate Mousse with Kirsch-macerated Cherries, Chocolate Cake & Chantilly Cream). Pretty darn good, maybe even better than the black forest cake, but I really wanted the cake.

What did Gail have? Let’s see. She had a salad too. It must have been the Ruby Beet Salad (marinated with sweet onions, served on field greens with feta cheese), though I don’t remember any feta. And then the Schweinshaxe (braised pork shank in red wine, roasted root vegetables and fingerling potatoes). She was happy.

All in all, a fine meal, with great company. I hope we don’t have to wait years to go again.

Oh, I forgot one thing. The spätzle. No way I’m going to a German restaurant and not eating spätzle. My dish came with potatoes. Superb potatoes as it turned out. But not spätzle. I ordered a side dish for us to share. It seems I did most of the sharing.

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