I’m not REALLY on a German food kick, honest, but it so happens I went to another German restaurant last night, The Red Lion Tavern in Silver Lake. It’s been there since 1959 and claims on its website to be “the oldest German bar and restaurant in the City of Los Angeles that's still in operation” which seems unarguable, and the site goes on to say, “This L.A. landmark continues to serve up traditional German food and a wide selection of German beer in a cozy Old World atmosphere.” Well, if you think having a bouncer on the door who checks your ID to make sure you’re over 21 before he’ll let you in is cozy and Old World, then that’s true too.
To be fair, the place is as authentic as any German restaurant in LA is likely to be: dark, lots of wood, decorative steins, the back of the bar lined with faux barrels, waitresses in vaguely national costume.
There was however some slightly inauthentic live music when I was there; a man with a keyboard, and I was expecting a bit of oomph music, but in fact he played instrumental versions of hits by Lorde and then Robin Thicke.
The food in fact was probably the least interesting things about the place. It being a Wednesday I ordered the Mittwoch special: “3 German-Style Wieners made of pork, beef, and veal resembling a dense hot dog, served with German potato salad, sauerkraut, and mustard.”
They didn’t lie. The wieners were just fine, and the sauerkraut was very good, but somehow I wanted something more, something intense, more Germanic. I was left wishing I’d ordered the Sauerbraten slices of marinated beef smothered in gravy sauce, with red cabbage and dumplings. I do like my beef smothered. If I’d wanted to get really authentic I should perhaps have had the pea soup with a wiener in it, (Everything tastes better with a wiener in it: Discuss):
Or perhaps I should have drunk German beer from a glass boot. But I didn’t.
Returning to the Psychogourmet Research Facility, I dug out The Cooking Of Germany published by Time Life in 1969. The cover is kind of scary – nothing good ever happens in a gingerbread house, does it?
And some of the contents are just a little unsettling, these boot-positive military types for instance:
The caption says these are “university students in Munster, clad in the uniform of their student associations” – but for some reason I don’t find that especially reassuring.
The book’s index has citations for udder, preserved beaver legs and Katerfruhstuck, or “hangover breakfast,” which (wouldn’t you know it) they say consists of sausage, ham and goulash, along with a hair of the dog from the night before. But the most curious thing I found in there was this, Sauerkraut mit Ananas:
You take two pounds of fresh sauerkraut, boil it in 5 cups of canned pineapple juice till most of the liquid is absorbed, then you mix sauerkraut in with the scooped out and chopped contents of the fresh pineapple, and stuff it back in. Apparently it’s traditionally served with roasted smoked pork and game birds though I’m sure it would be a meal in itself. Who knew? Well, millions of Germans, I suppose.
And here’s a German swastika cake being served to children to celebrate Hitler’s birthday. The secret ingredient may be love or it may be sauerkraut, but I’m guessing it’s neither.