The Palatinate: pure pleasure - Part 1
May 29th, 2019 | Landgänge
A model railway idyll, pretty half-timbered houses like a string of pearls, vineyards as far as the eye can see, here and there a castle, a climate like velvet and silk, culinary delicacies from hearty regional cuisine to fine dining, excellent wines and hospitality that is unparalleled… That‘s the Palatinate. We were there again.
In the middle of April, we decided very spontaneously to travel to the Palatinate. After our flying visit last year, this time we had planned seven days for our culinary tour. And again confirmed what we experienced on our winery tour in the previous year: We are “shock-infatuated” with the Palatinate and the Palatinate people. And that’s how the daily newspaper “Die Rheinpfalz” quoted us after an interview in Speyer. But one after anonther.
Neustadt an der Weinstrasse
Our first stop was Neustadt an der Weinstraße. We had booked a room in the hotel Steinhäuser Hof. The hotel, housed in a wonderful half-timbered ensemble in the heart of Neustadt, offers six simply furnished rooms with modern bathrooms. The oldest part of the ensemble dates back to the 13th (!) century. Due to its location right on the market square, the hotel is the ideal starting point to explore Neustadt and the surrounding area. By the way, the view from the room over the roofs and half-timbered houses is stunning. Just like the ringing of bells starting at 7 o’clock in the morning. Model railroad idyll, as I said! I like it a lot.
The gourmet restaurant Urgestein is located in the same building. It is a truly unique location in the former stables under the cross vaulted ceiling. The likable owner and chef Hedi Rink offers three different menus with the sonorous names “Urvertrauen” [basic trust], “Grundstein” [cornerstone] and Meilenstein (milestone], each preceded by several Amuse-Bouches. We decided for the basic trust menu – it turned out to be a perfect choice.
Hedi Rink twisted us around her little finger, or better, around her cooking spoon: gourmet cuisine of the highest standard, one course surpassed the next. A plate with an incredible number of almost playful components and flavors, each one a work of art. For me, the clear oxtail soup with Madeira, leek and fermented garlic was the best I’ve ever eaten from the oxtail (and I love Oxtail!).
The culinary final, a dessert in heart shape, was served by the chef personally. A delicious dessert and the opportunity to have a chat with the sorceress at the hearth. Unfortunately, I did not get a photo of the heart dessert, but you can see it on the Urgestein homepage!
The service in this restaurant is as sensational as the kitchen. Tanel Idil has been a restaurant manager in the Urgestein for more than ten years. We have rarely experienced such a gracious host! Charming and entertaining, he led us through the evening with a perfectly balanced wine accompaniment. One senses that the knowledgeable sommelier burns for his Palatinate wines – no wonder that all seven wines came from wineries in the immediate vicinity, none more than 14 kilometers away. As a matter of course we bought some bottles directly at the recommended wineries the other day.
Palatine almond blossom
Of course, on our agenda was hiking a part of the Palatinate almond path during flowering time. And of course, we did – alone we were missing the flowering… A pity, we were already too late in mid-April. There were only very isolated flowers to discover. How glorious it must look when everything is in bloom! Again a reason to come back again.
A nice little circular route leads from Edenkoben to the stop of the Rietburg train. A wonderfully old-fashioned cable car takes us up to the Rietburg ruin, from where you have a fantastic view over the largest contiguous wine-growing region in Germany up to the slopes of the Odenwald and the Black Forest.
Via Weyher we hike through endless vineyards to the picturesque wine village Rhodt unter Rietburg, probably one of the most beautiful places along the wine route, which we have discovered so far. The wine bar of the winery Grieß is perfect for a small break: on a glass of wine and for example a portion of “Fleeschknepp” (small meat dumplings) with horseradish sauce.
The next day our route led us from Maikammer to Kalmit, the highest mountain in the Palatinate Forest at 673 meters. You have to climb about 400 meters and of course you will be rewarded with a wonderful view. On the way you should make the detour to the Taubenkopf [pigeon head] (604 m). Sit down on the bench and simply enjoy.
On the summit of the Kalmit you will be rewarded with the great view and with a nice opportunity to stop. The Kalmit house is run since 1908 and offers good, hearty Palatine cuisine. The “Palatinate Trinity” (liver dumplings, Saumagen, bratwurst, sauerkraut and mostly brown sauce) must not be missing, as well as a wine spritzer. But beware: in the Palatinate, the wine spritzer is served in half liter (!) glasses. And the good regional wine is generously dosed…
Weisenheim am Berg
Our next stop is Weisenheim am Berg and we are here because we like to eat in the restaurant Admiral. The restaurant Admiral (unfortunately we forgot to find out where the name comes from) is housed in a former hunting lodge, in summer you can sit in the beautifully decorated garden.
The kitchen is absolutely recommended. Finely tuned components, very modern and rich in flavors. But the absolute highlight in the Admiral for sure was the dessert!
The owner and chef Holger Stehr is a trained pastry chef. And you realize that! A creation of rhubarb ice cream, white chocolate, Greek yoghurt and nut butter cake – tastes simply stunning and is beautifully presented. Rarely did a dessert inspire me so much!
The restaurant Admiral also rents out one (1!) guest room, which unfortunately was occupied that night. In the end that was lucky for us, otherwise we would not have discovered the Rothfuss Hotel and its friendly owner. Jens Rothfuß has created a real gem here in Weisenheim. He has carefully renovated an old winery with seven rooms furnished extremely tasteful and modern: reduced to the essentials with a harmonious color concept and Asian lightness.
The rooms and bathrooms are very large, the beds phenomenal. This is where our way will certainly lead us again when visiting the Palatinate next time, especially as the breakfast at the Rothfuss Hotel is really extraordinary. Jens Rothfuß welcomes his guests personally in the light-flooded breakfast room. A fireplace provides cozy warmth. Of course, the egg dishes are freshly prepared, and the small buffet offers only organic products and outstanding pastries. Although not being buffet fans, we are happy. This way the start of the day is fun! We feel well and at home!
Anyway, we feel well in the Palatinate. Maybe it’s the Palatinate way of life which is clearly different from ours in the north. In a convivial round with a glass of wine you quickly get into conversation, at the big table you never stay alone for long, you feel welcome. Likable Palatinate.
You will soon read here on my blog about our culinary journey in Speyer and Landau.
Further valuable information about the Palatinate wine, but also about culinary, excursions, hotels, hiking, cycling and much more, you can find on the very informative website of Pfalzwein e. V ..
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