This past weekend a close friend who lives in Herrenberg invited us out for lunch and a short food tour of her favorite places in town. Having never been before, we were excited to take her up on her offer and spend some time exploring a new place.
Herrenberg is a rather small town just to the south of Stuttgart. It's very easy to get to via the S1 from the Hauptbahnhof, though we've never been because it is about 40 minutes away. That said, the view from the train pulling into the city was stunning, as the town is nestled in a little valley, framed by the onion-domed Stiftskirche (church) in the background. I only wish I'd have had enough sense to take a picture.
Tip: There are several different kinds of train passes in Stuttgart. I have a TicketPlus which allows me and a guest to travel anywhere in the Stuttgart train network for free on weekends and holidays. It really has been a money saver for our trips to Ludwigsburg, Esslingen, and around.
We met my Herrenberg friend and a group of others from work at the station, and from there walked about five minutes into the old center of town. Along the way, we passed by several little bronze plaques in the cobblestone street directing the path to the Glockenmuseum (bell museum). We didn't make it there on our visit, but I was rather impressed by the half-timbered houses and the stunning church in the city center. I was also impressed by how friendly everyone was in the town. My friend would frequently pass by acquaintances and they would wave and say "Hello" by name.
The Christmas markets are in full swing, and so we first spent some time walking around the market around the Rathaus (town hall). The normal Saturday market also seemed set up, so there were the usual fresh fruits and vegetable stands, along with a mobile bakery, fish truck, meat truck, and grill truck.
From there, we made our way to my friend's favorite tea shop, Herrenberger Teehaus on Stuttgarter Straße 13. The inside of the shop was gorgeous and lined with tons of different flavors of loose teas, and surrounded by stacks of teapots and other nibbles. They even had a few matcha sets in the corner for a reasonable price. We, however, spent most of our time in the back sampling liqeuers. The shop owner was extremely nice and all too happy to let us sample the various liqeuers. We then chose a glass bottle and filled it for a Christmas gift.
Our next stop was Bonilla Chocolat, a chocolate shop. My friend said this award-winning shop has the best chocolate in town. However, I refrained from buying anything as I'm a little chocolated-out what with my advent calendar and all the sweets that come with the holiday season at work. Still, I was very intrigued by some basil-lime truffles that I saw in the case. Definitely next time.
After that, we turned back and traveled down another narrow alley towards a very busy cheese shop called Fromagerie Holzapel. They must have had almost a hundred different kinds of cheese, in addition to walls lined with artisanal chocolate, sea salt, vinegars, cookies, and more. My friend suggested the Bergkäse (mountain cheese). I was in luck because they had some little glass dishes with samples. The Bergkäse was mild, with a firmer texture and a slightly salty, nutty finish. I also got to try a tasty Toma Biellese, which was whiter and softer with holes, very creamy, and had a taste that was slightly tart. Each cheese was so yummy that I decided to take home a chunk of both for further tasting.
Our group then crossed the street to Weinhaus Alte Brennerei, a little wine and liquor shop where we sampled a bottle of Prosseco. Growing up, I always though there was just Champagne, and that was it. After moving to Germany, I've been thrilled to taste other regional sparkling wines, like the German Sekt and Italian Prosseco. Inside the shop we sampled a few more red wines and perused the large selection of whiskeys and gins. I was impressed to see the two varietals of Monkey 47 (my new favorite gin from the Schwarzwald region), along with a bottle of Yamazaki whiskey from Japan, which recently won an award for best taste in the world. In the end, we walked away with a bottle of Snow White from Switzerland that came highly recommended. (I'm not much of a whiskey drinker, though I'll definitely try it for Christmas.)
By now, it was half past noon and we were all ready for a complete meal, and so we moved next door to Gasthaus Lamm on Schulstraße 3 for a meal. I'd never been to this restaurant before, but it comes very highly recommended by my friend. The menu is rather simple with mostly Sweineschnitzel (fried pork steak) or Zwiebelrostbraten (beef roasted with onions) with various combinations of potatoes or Spätzle (a kind of soft egg noodle or dumpling popular in this region).
My friend very highly recommended the beef and Käsespätzle, which Matt decided on, while I decided to go for the venison special. Both dishes came with a salad. I don't usual mention the salads with my meals, but this one was really excellent -- simple greens, cabbage, and cucumbers in a delicious, light mustard vinaigrette.
I don't often eat venison, but if I was going to have it anywhere, this seemed the place to get it. The meet was tender, gamey, and covered in a rich, but light juniper berry and cream sauce. On the side was some cranberry sauce, which paired perfectly with the meat. The Spätzle was clearly homemade and some of the best I've had.
That said, as much as I enjoyed my meal, Matt was the winner. HIs beef was tender and juicy, topped with delicious, crispy fried onions and served on top of probably the best Käsespätzle (basically German mac'n'cheese) I've ever had. My friend wasn't lying when she said it was the best in Germany! This might be explained by the fact that they use four different kinds of cheese. I've been dreaming about that Käsespätzle ever since.
I'd probably be remiss if I didn't mention the beer I had. I tried the special Weizenbock on tap. It was a bit like a strong Hefeweizen, tasting rich, malty, and spicy. I liked it a lot, because it was a bit like some of the delicious IPAs that I enjoy from the States.
I didn't really have room for dessert, but Matt insisted. We were going to share, but then my friend also insisted that we should each have our own. Matt ordered the Lebkuchen Panna Cotta (gingerbread panna cotta) and the Nougatcreme (chocolate-hazelnut cream) with oranges and pineapple. The Nougatcreme with fruit at first seemed like an odd combination, but it somehow worked as the flavors very lightly complemented each other. My favorite, though, was the Lebkuchen Panna Cotta. It was spicy, gingerbready, and topped with whole, fresh, delicious cherries on top of the creamy panna cotta.
At this point, we were all firmly in a food coma. So we sipped on our coffee and espresso, giving us just enough energy to roll back to the S-bahn station. I would have liked to have stayed longer to visit the church and see more of the town, but as it was already late in the afternoon, we decided to make our way home. We thanked my friend who'd been a fantastic hostess throughout the day, and decided we'd have to return again in the future to see more of the lovely little town of Herrenberg.