This past weekend we took a trip south to Tübingen. Our goal was twofold: to eat some delicious Swabian Maultaschen and to check out the Chocolate Festival for the first time. While it can usually take over an hour to get there by train from downtown Stuttgart, we were lucky to have a friend with a car who was willing to drive our small party.
We set out early(ish) on Saturday and zipped along the Autobahn. Just 45 minutes later, we made it to our destination. The town was absolutely packed for the chocolate festival, and though we hadn't planned on having to drive around for 20 minutes to find a parking spot, I'm glad we arrived early. We parked the car at at a garage near the center of town, and walked the quick 15 minutes through the old town to Hotel am Schloss next to the castle. We were scheduled to have lunch there, at Restaurant Mauganeschtle, at noon.
Though I've only been to this restaurant once, I've dreamed about going back ever since. They make the best homemade Maultaschen, a kind of rolled, stuffed pasta that's you'll only find in southern Germany. I've eaten at Restaurant Mauganeschtle only once before in the spring when the patio was open, but now during the winter, just the indoor portion was open. Once I saw the restaurant again, I realized why they had insisted we arrive early if possible: the single room fit just barely over a half dozen tables. Still, we were quickly seated and glad to have our spot despite the busy day.
We began our meal with a glass of Glühsekt, a sweet mixture of German sparkling wine and mulled-wine-flavored liqueur. After that, I settle down to my main libation: a glass of the Ravenswood Zinfandel. I was surprised to find this California wine so far from home. It's long been one of my favorites, and though the nose was a bit astringent, the mouthfeel had the same smoothness that I remember. True, the choice was odd for my rich meal, but I just couldn't resist the opportunity.
For my meal, I decided to order my favorite selection from our last visit: the Kalbsmaultaschen mit Trüffel-Sahne-Sauce (veal Swabian-style pasta with a truffle-cream-sauce). Though the dish looked small, each of the three Maultasche were almost a meal to themselves. The filling was light, but flavor-packed with meat, herbs, and tiny bits of onion. I could tell the pasta was homemade by the delicate thinness of it, and by the way it fell from the meat-filling (unlike store-bought Maultasche where the pasta clings to the filling like glue). The sauce was especially excellent: rich, creamy, and with just the right amount of shaved black truffles on top to complement, but not overwhelm, the delicate Maultaschen.
I have to admit, though, that Matt's Kalbsmaultaschen mit grünem Pfeffer und Cognac-Pfeffersauce (veal Swabian-style pasta with a green peppercorn and cognac sauce) came in as a very close second. The sauce had a nice richness to it from the cognac, and it was slightly smokey and meaty. And because we couldn't resist, we decided to order a dish of Käsespätzle. I remembered from our last visit that they make one of the richest, cheesiest Käsespätzles I've had in Germany, though it was definitely a dish to share as technically it was a meal to itself.
I'd also like to note that the menu features some pretty great examples of the Swabian dialect. For example, in the standard German that I've learned, the spelling and word is Käsespätzle, but in the Swabian dialect and on the menu the spelling was Kässpätzle. There were some other longer poems in Swabian on the menu, but I was having a real hard time understanding the non-standard word choice and spelling.
By the time we'd finished our meal, the restaurant was packed. We never felt rushed, though, and the waiter was happy to split our check for our group in true German fashion. After we paid, we walked around the courtyard a bit to ease our waistlines before heading back down the hill to ChocolArt, the 10th annual Tübingen chocolate festival.
The streets were lined from the Rathaus all the way to the Stiftskirche with row upon row of stalls selling chocolate from as close as Switzerland and Belgium and as far away as Colombia and Ghana. We saw chocolate truffles, chocolate bars and blocks, mugs of thick hot chocolate, chocolate sculptures, and even chocolate tools! There were also chocolate artists painting with chocolate, as well as chocolate cooking classes going on in several of the tents. Best of all, each stall around the square had samples out to try to get you to buy their chocolate.
I was especially ecstatic to see my new favorite chocolates on display: Goufrais. I first tried them a couple of months ago when I received a small box as a gift. They're shaped like tiny bundt cakes and covered in cocoa powder. Though they're solid, the texture once you bite into them is more like silky, bittersweet chocolate mousse. I love them so much, that I bought the largest box they sold (500 grams) and am trying my hardest not to open it until my mom gets here for Christmas so that she can try some. It's so tempting to open the box now, though, because the helpful man who sold them to me gave me a flyer with all the shops in Stuttgart that sell their chocolates! It looks like I won't have to go without them for too long at a time.
There were other sweet treats at the festival besides chocolate. Marzipan (almond paste) seemed rather popular. I picked up a sweet triangle of it on a stick that was composed of three fruity flavors from a shop in Metzingen called Dorte's Marzipan Atelier. They had some pretty impressive cakes on their flyer, which I've saved for a future visit.
There was also a great stand selling Baumkuchen (meaning "tree cake") from their bakery in Salzwedel. According to their flyer, they've been making Baumkuchen since 1807. I was pretty mesmerized by the video they had playing that showed them making the "rings" in the Baumkuchen by layering on the batter and slowly roasting the cake on long spits over an open fire. Though I haven't had any other Baumkuchen to compare it to, I did find this one to be rather rich and buttery, like a pound cake.
By this time the sun was setting and the lovely light displays were turning on around the main square. Though we'd thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, the crowds were getting to be a bit overwhelming as more and more people flowed in with the night. Stuffed to the brim with chocolate, we tottered down the hill and back to the car to make our way home to Stuttgart.
The chocolate festival (December 1-6) is over for this year, but you can still catch the Tübingen Weihnachtsmarkt this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (December 11-13). I remember from my visit a couple of years ago that several of the chocolate stands, including some selling hot chocolate and the one with the chocolate tools, will still be up.
Did you go to the chocolate festival this year? What did you think?