Linda

An invitation to The Brunswick Tavern to celebrate their 3rd annual Beer vs. Wine dinner was a welcome one. But the fact that this one focused on German food and was celebrating Oktoberfest made it even better for me. Fond memories of visiting Munich, Germany many years ago during Oktoberfest came back.

I love German food and now find myself craving sauerkraut. I grew lots of cabbage this year with that in mind, and have preserved a gallon of this delicious stuff for the winter ahead.

We have been to other wine dinners, and we enjoyed a recent “pairings” event where we selected either wine or beer to accompany our dinner. But the tavern’s dinner offered an unusual mix-and-match selection of wine and beer with each course to let the diner decide which worked best. With each course, we tried a bit of beer and a bit of wine.

It is important to note that these are not drinking events. Servings of beer and wine are very modest. You are not encouraged to drink a lot.

Our feast started with house-made pretzels — big, light, sprinkled-with-salt, fresh pretzels. These were served with two house-made mustards. Along with Henkel Trocken Sec, a sparkly light wine, this was a spectacular start to our meal. I could have eaten many of those pretzels, but restrained myself.

Halfway through the meal, I looked up at the large table at the front of the room and the pretzel basket was still there. I mentioned to George that I might want to sneak a couple home in my purse. I’m still regretting that I didn’t make my move, because as the meal was winding down I noticed the basket had been removed. Rats!

White Asparagus and Spatzle made a good salad course. The spatzle had a good texture and I liked the sage brown butter sauce. They had marinated the asparagus in the same wine served with that course — a dry Reisling.

The chef told us he had purchased the fresh pork and veal Bratwurst from The Sausage Kitchen in Lisbon Falls. I put the information into my memory bank, and I’m sure that I can talk George into a visit to that store without much convincing needed. They served these sausages in a bun as they would on the streets of Germany. A dish of cold sauerkraut and two mustards embellished these yummy things. They’d made the brown mustard using the Oktoberfest beer and the lighter mustard using the Reisling wine, both served with this course.

The main course was Wiener Schnitzel. The crispy veal cutlet came with a saute of mushrooms. Mmmmmm.

Our last course was really spectacular — grilled peaches with goat cheese and local honey. I wouldn’t think to pair goat cheese with a fruit for dessert, but the added honey made it sweet enough without being overly sweet. The chef came out to talk to us during each course, and he was very excited about finding local honey and built the dessert idea around that. He explained that grilled peaches are a German dessert.

I do remember ordering pears and honey as a memorable dessert in Italy. I’d never had grilled peaches but they were sublime. Our table had a vote over the dessert wine verses the beer served with this course. It was a split decision — the two women liked the wine and the two men preferred the beer. The man we dined with had a great quote, “Ladies like their dessert wine, while men have their brandies.” Ah well, we were all happy.

George

The tavern’s new executive chef, native Mainer David Pendexter, presented an interesting and tasty German feast. His culinary experience is diverse. His mother shared French-inspired dishes of Aroostook County with him when he was young, and he was also exposed to other cuisine while his family lived in different regions of the U.S. and other countries.

We’ve written about the Brunswick Hotel and Tavern before. The hotel is our favorite place to stay in Brunswick, handy to the downtown, very nice rooms, reasonable prices, friendly staff, great breakfasts and a general manager, Rick Martin, who graduated from Maranacook High School in Readfield.

We stayed there after this Monday night dinner at the tavern because we hate to travel late at night, but we missed breakfast because Linda had to be at school by 7:30 Tuesday morning.

At the dinner, we shared a table with a Falmouth couple who have attended several wine and beer dinners here. I asked, “Do you like German food?” And they replied, “Not really!” But the fact they were here said a lot about how much they like the tavern and its events.

When our hosts asked how many of the guests had been to Germany, nearly every hand went up. A tough crowd! But everyone appeared to be having a great time throughout the evening.

Our primary server, Lisa Emery, was fantastic. And Sam Brown, of Pine State Beverage, was very entertaining, speaking throughout the evening about the wines and beers. He is very knowledgeable and a good speaker, which added to our experience.

I was fascinated to learn that the brewery that made all of the evening’s beers is 1,000 years old — the oldest brewery in the world and founded by monks. Well, no wonder they are getting it right — a thousand years of experience and divine guidance!

Of course, if you put German food and beer in front of me, it’s going to be tough to disappoint me. Linda and I went to Germany for our honeymoon, and it was the first time I’d ever tasted German beer. For years after, that was all I’d drink, until Maine’s great microbrews arrived.

Sam said the first German Oktoberfest was a wedding celebrated in 1810. This feast of food and drink has a long history! Linda and I returned to Munich for Octoberfest, and I will never forget those huge tents, where 5,000 people sat at long picnic tables drinking huge steins of beer and eating thin slices of salted white radishes. Beer heaven!

No surprise that my favorite beer of the night was the Weinstephanger Oktoberfest, served with my favorite course of bratwurst and sauerkraut — the very definition of German food. The wines were well-matched with each course, but I really enjoyed the beers, including a bock (another personal favorite — Oak Pond Brewery in Skowhegan makes a really good one) served with dessert.

And yes, Linda is right, the grilled peaches with goat cheese was an awesome dessert. The goat cheese really brought out the peach flavor. It must have been difficult to turn out a perfectly grilled dessert like that for so many people.

The tavern hosts many special events like this, so check out their website for information and get to an event soon.

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed in the “Best of Maine” section.

The Maine Harvest Festival

Last year The Maine Harvest Festival in Bangor featured over 120 of Maine’s top producers with cooking demonstrations, lots of tasty food, farmers, foragers, craftspeople and many great stories. We were impressed! It was one of the best events we attended all year.

This year’s festival is even bigger, scheduled for this weekend: Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Bangor’s Cross Insurance Center. It’s on the site of the old Bangor Auditorium, and — good news here — right across the street from the Fireside Inn and Suites, if you want to stay overnight and enjoy the festival both days.

And if you don’t get enough food at the festival, Geaghan’s Tavern — our favorite brew pub with exceptionally good food — is also right across the street. Cheers!


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