Taking It to the Haus

Germany

This weekend I met up with my friends Renee & Zack at the Augsburg Haus in Evans, GA for a bit of German fare. It’s located in a busy strip shopping center with 3 other restaurants and a cupcake shop. Odds are pretty good I’ll visit this stretch of real estate again. The parking lot looked full but there turned out to plenty of spots. The Augsburg Haus itself was not overly busy and had plenty of room for seating. We picked a spot near the back away from most of the rest of the folks so we could chat without raising out voices. This allowed us to enjoy the authentic German food that much better. As for German ambiance here’s a shot of the wall I was looking at.

I got there first and decided it wouldn’t be a good German meal without a beer so I went for a Kostritzer Black Lager. It was so smooth I could have chugged it with no problem. I didn’t.

After going over the menu and deciding there was nothing I wouldn’t like I just selected the first item, the Augsburg Special. The special consisted of schnitzel topped with sauerkraut and swiss cheese plus mashed potatoes and gravy. There was also a salad included to start.

When that plate was put in front of me the first thought I had was, “Dear Lord, that is a huge hunk of meat”. Second thought was “That’s a very pale plate.” I got over the lack of color though and dove in. I was uber happy with the results. The potatoes and gravy were nice but the schnitzel was great. It was thicker than I thought it would be with and well seasoned and breaded. The sauerkraut was tart but not too tangy like some you can find and the swiss cheese was a gooey, tasty topper that held it all together. I wound up bringing half of it home for dinner so while we paid dinner prices on Saturday the portions made it a two meal deal for me.

Renee got the Gulasch plate that was beef sirloin tips and gravy on a king sized bed of spaetzle and added a side of German potato salad.

By all reports it was delicious and worthy of a redo. Zack went for the wurst plate with some mashed potatoes and mac & cheese (substituted for the normal sauerkraut). We did appreciate the fact that the server was up front and let us know the mac & cheese was Kraft and not something house made.

Based on this trip I’ll most assuredly visit them again for my German food fix and would recommend it to others. I do have a caveat though, the lunch prices are available on the weekdays only so if you’re budget conscious take that into consideration.

While you’re considering things if you want a recipe, music and / or need to know a beer fact, check out the Tell Me More page.

Time to Make the Sausage

Since we’re all sitting at home avoiding a global pandemic and looking for stay at home things to do I thought I’d drag out the old meat grinder and make some bratwursts.

When I was out buying essential provisions to shelter in place I saw this big old hunk of pork shoulder on sale and this 7 lb slab of meat made the trip home.

Now cleanliness is very important and the first thing I did was sanitize all the work surfaces and the sink I’d be additionally sanitizing the various tools and parts in with a mild bleach solution. Then using the same one step sanitizer I use in brewing sanitized everything in the cleaned sink.

Once everything was clean and sanitary it was time to cut the meat into pieces that would fit in the grinder chute, about an inch or so. I had enough brat seasoning for 5 lbs of sausage and a 7 lb piece of meat so as I was slicing I grabbed a piece that happened to weigh in a 2.1 lbs and vacuum sealed it for later use in a pot, either Crock or Instant depending on what time of day inspiration strikes.

After getting the meat cut into manageable chunks they got to chill out in the freezer for a bit because firmer bits go through the grinder easier. This gave me some time to clean up the work area and get started on the casings.

I used natural hog casing. They came packed in salt so I had to rinse them off then soak them for a bit before running some water through them to make sure the insides were rinsed as well. Let me tell you if you think getting the plastic bags at the self check out to open up is a pain they have nothing on trying to get a slippery wet hog casing to open up. Once that was all done I could set it aside for later. And back to the meat.

The little meat grinder I have was a Christmas gift that I had only used a few times up to this point and with mixed success. This turned out to be the most successful usage to date. The meat was nice and firm and the flow was consistent so the job didn’t take very long. The next part was adding the spice mix and combining it with the meat.

I had premixed bratwurst spices so fortunately all I had to do was dump and blend. I didn’t have a bowl big enough initially to hold all the ground meat so I did two bowls and split the seasoning. The mixing reduces the volume so I was able to ultimately add the two together and do some more blending to get a reasonably uniform dispersal of the spice blend which is key. Now I was ready to stuff the sausage.

My meat grinder came with a sausage stuffing attachment but it didn’t work well for me the first time so I bought a dedicated apparatus for the situation. Upon reflection the issue was probably more inexperience rather that machine fault but that’s in the past now.

So after clamping the stuffer in place and filling the barrel came the lubing of the tube so the casings slide on nice and easy. This is actually more time consuming than you might imagine because you’re trying to keep it even and not tear the casing while carefully sliding it over the plastic tube. Once I had that done it was tie off the end and start cranking. You have to be careful and try to avoid air pockets and there is even a little pricker tool you can use to make small holes in the casing to let the air out. I wound up going through 3 casings and some hiccups that left me with a busted casing and some bulk sausage not to mention the uneven link sizes but overall not a bad haul.

If I had a bigger freezer I’d have probably made more but as it was this would be enough for this round of sausage making. It’s really not that hard to do and if you want to get started they have manual grinders that aren’t very expensive and little electric ones like mine that aren’t that bad and even attachments for some stand mixers that do the job. It’s an interesting way to control what goes in your sausage and maybe add some flavors you might not get just anywhere.

After a trip to procure some buns the end result was grilled, topped with a little spicy mustard and some homemade sauerkraut. Deee-lishus.

OMB

Germany

OMB could stand for Oh My! Beer or October Means Beer or Olde Mecklenburg Brewery  In this case it’s the last one.  Since it is October and the temperatures finally started acting like it’s Fall it felt like a weekend for some German food.

Although I’ve had some of their beer before I’d never been to the restaurant at the brewery.  I checked out the menu online to make sure they had German food on the menu and not just bar food. They did so off I went.

It was a relatively short jaunt up the interstate to find Olde Meck which happened to be within sight of a cider company I visited a while back.  OMB is really more of a complex of buildings and a huge biergarten.  The restaurant is large also with a bar area and at least two seating areas I saw.  One has regular tables and the other has several rows of tables butted up to one another making long community tables.  Outside there is a covered area with picnic style tables and the biergarten which has row upon row of picnic tables to accommodate at least a couple of hundred people.

I got there fairly early and they had the seat yourself sign out and it was easy to do since I was the only person inside.  I’d have opted for the biergarten had the sun been out.  Anyway the service inside was good and I had a menu and beer list in just a minute.  Since it was an option I got a flight of 4 different beers to go with the meal.  For the meal I selected the Teller plate that included two sausages, a roll and two sides.  From the options I went with a regular bratwurst and Nuremburger brats plus sauerkraut and potato salad.

The flight came first and included a handy key in case I couldn’t have picked out the beers on my own.  I started with the Captain Jack, a pilsner that was a perfect option for Bud drinkers.  The food arrived and I had the Mecktoberfest and the Copper with my meal.  The Mecktoberfest tasted a lot like a full bodied version of the pilsner which made it better in my opinion.  The Copper is reddish in color like the name suggests and has a hoppier flavor but not like the overdone IPAs.

Looking at the plate it occurred to me I probably could have used a little color on the plate but what was done was done.  The wursts were good quality sausages, the mustard was a good slightly coarse vinegary style, the sauerkraut was plain tangy kraut served warm.  The potato salad was good but not great and served cold.  I think it would have been better served warm.  The bread was warm though and a bit dense and chewy.  Nice meal that paired well with the beer.

I finished up with the Fat Boy Porter (don’t make the obvious joke, you’re better than that).  It was my favorite of the four having a bolder taste, slightly sweet with a hint of caramel and the higher alcohol content was noticeable.  Nice desert.

Based on the number of seats OMB must be popular at times and certainly has capacity to host large events and the food and beer were worth the drive.  One note for the true German beer aficionados OMB adheres to Reinheitsgebot so they have a few different types of beer but the ingredients are the limited to the 4 approved.

If you didn’t check out the Tell Me More the last time I posted for Germany check it out for a little extra content.

 

 








Say Cheese!

Pimento Cheese Festival

This weekend I happened to be near my sister who lives in Cary, NC and the town of Cary was hosting the Pimento Cheese Festival with lots of food trucks, local brews & music so how could I not go.  My sister joined me and we spent a warm spring afternoon perusing the offerings and sweating a little bit.

They had two or three blocks of a street cordoned off with food & beverage trucks and tents lining one side and seating interspersed as well as a couple of “beer gardens” that were clusters of tables near the alcohol sources.  Our plan coming in was to walk the length and see what was available and then pick a favorite.  Each of the food vendors was supposed to have at least one selection for the event that included pimento cheese.  Not a surprising requirement.

Almost immediately we upon arrival we heard some rumbling about the trucks being out of the pimento cheese options and we saw that confirmed with more than one erased / scratched out / covered up menu entry as we strolled the truck line.  There were a number of good sounding choices and while we didn’t choose either of these I snapped pics because one was a cool little Airstream looking trailer that was a bakery / cafe vendor and the other because, well BACON!  If the line for that truck hadn’t been so long it would have been a lock.

When we got to the end we decided a beverage would make line standing and waiting more palatable.  Our choice was really local being a Cary business, Fortnight Brewing and I like supporting local businesses even when it’s not my locality.  They’d sold out of their amber ale and I was in no mood for yet another IPA.  The one with kambucha sounded just too weird so the Off With Her Red, raspberry sour ale got the nod.

It was a good choice for the warm day being light, berry flavored and smooth in spite of the sour moniker.  We got to see the band warming up and met several dogs and their humans as we waited in line.

After securing the beverages we walked back to the truck of choice which was Baguettaboutit.  A truck that served locally sourced sausages in fresh baked baguettes.   The pimento cheese plan to a hit right from the outset as they came out and covered up two selections just as we got in line and of course one was the requisite PC option.  We decided to stay anyway in part because it reminded us of the hot dogs we got at school in Switzerland that were served in a baguette.  Nostalgia can be a powerful motivator.

One thing I thought was a nice touch and different from all the other trucks I’ve visited over the last few years is that instead of getting your name and yelling it out when your selection was ready they handed out playing cards with some advertising, a card number and suit and that’s what they called out when your food was ready.  I thought it was clever.

I got the U Betcha, which was a bratwurst with coarse ground beer garden mustard shoved in that baguette and Lynn got the It’s Greek Tu Me which was a chicken spinach sausage with tzatziki sauce.  Interestingly both sausages had some unadvertised spiciness as well which was fine with me but my sister didn’t enjoy it quite as much and didn’t finish her sausage.  So I can tell you definitively that both were good since there were not going to be any abandoned sausages on my watch.  Oh and the baguettes were absolutely great.

So while all I saw of actual pimento cheese was one guy guarding a sandwich like it was his “precious” and a pimento cheese roll from the Filipino truck on the ground that someone either dropped or abandoned, overall it was a nice meal.  Like several recent meals, made better by the company of family.  I don’t know if this is a regular annual event but if it is I’d recommend it for a drive for a delicious diversion.