Alright, so I missed Oktoberfest.
This means that once again I’ve blown my chance to get buzzed on Bavarian lager, clad in lederhosen, publically showing my Teutonic solidarity by dancing ‘n singing like a fool. Glückliches Oktoberfest!!!
It’s cool. I’ve avoided many a St. Patrick’s Day in my time, so culturally, I’ve already got a lot to atone for.
I have never been to an Oktoberfest celebration – Either in the German homeland or in a Bavarian community hall – but I imagine that the experience is a game-changer. Beer, brats, blaukraut and brezel are all high on my list of favourite things and although I don’t particularly like ompa-music or shuhplattelr, I can appreciate it all on a mad kitch-as-art level… It’s a cultural thing right? I can get on board with that! After many, many beers that is.
And I know a place! Against all common sense the small pulp and paper mill town of Port Alberni is home to an actual Bavarian community centre! And tucked underneath its stucco and florescent-tastic dance hall is a place of wonder… A portal to a different time and place!
Specifically, it’s the 1950-60s. A time when plush seats, paintings on the walls, Tosca on the jukebox and big plates of spaghetti and meatballs meant “Italian’ or when fake grape vines and formica-top tables covered in souvlaki and red onions meant “Greek”. German food was the barbaric beer-soaked middle child of this vaguely-foreign trifecta of American cuisine. It represented the mid-Western meat ‘n potatoes crowd and its distant homeland mentality of “eat lots, drink lots, work lots… Tomorrow is a good day to die!”
Since opening in 1966 The Little Bavaria Restaurant has remained dedicated to these oldschool tenets of hospitality and the menu has changed very little. It’s the kind of no-bullschnitzel house that still survives in fringe towns thanks to great recipes and massive portions.
Crystal and I slid into one of their cozy little booths a couple months back and after marveling at the interior – Dark wallpaper, velvet curtains, steins and deer heads – we laid down our plan of attack by candlelight.
Pay very close attention! This kind of strategy session is important if you are going to survive a dinner at the Little Bavarian. Forget ordering an appetizer! Alright, maybe try the lentil soup if you have someone to share with, but no bread, no cheese plate, not even the side salad that precedes the entrées. If you fill up during the opening act, you will not make it through the headliner’s drum solo.
You think I’m joking don’t you? *giggles* you’ve never eaten at a restaurant like this… It’s like that John Pinette routine – they will attempt to kill you with food. I think it’s a German thing.
The big guns are all meat and potatoes: Schnitzel, sausages, sauerbraten, spätzle, Zurich-style geschnetzeltes and rösti potatoes. And they are BIG guns! The portions are Flinstones-sized. The plates they use are those metal diner-style oval jobs big enough to carry many lifetimes worth of food per person. If you could hush the room for long enough you might be able to hear the tortured groaning of the tables.
The sausages at Little Bavaria are some of the best I’ve ever eaten. They have the perfect combination of density, juicy fat content, outer crunch and inner spice. Until I tried ‘em I always considered the classic sausage and potato plate (ie. bangers and mash) to be nothing more than hangover food. Now, I look at a well made sausage (such as these) as the main event! Tube-meat can, in the right hands, be an entree as respected as a steak or piece of fish.
And as good as the sausages and schnitzels are nothing can prepare you for sauerkraut. It’s soft, whisper-thin and ethereally light in flavour. There was no vinegar aftertaste at all! It was the surprise star of my plate that night.
We ended out meal with the requisite slab of homemade Black Forest Cake… Which was both delicious, and almost enough to make me explode. But, I manned-up and finished my half. Mmmmmmmm…. Chocolate soaked in cherry booze… *coma*
I chatted with one of the ladies in the kitchen as I paid my bill and remarked on the quality of the food. “Same recipes, same ladies make them” Was her matter-of-fact response. A tradition unchanged since the Bavarian cultural centre’s founding back in the 60s.
So yeah… I’m making my reservations for next year’s Oktoberfest. Who else is in?