Schumann's Jager Haus

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Schumann schnitzel

German restaurants, it would seem, are becoming a rarity, not just in the U.S. but also in Germany.

Whenever I visit Germany, as I did in May, I always ask any German natives I know for restaurant recommendations in the cities I plan to visit. Invariably the suggestions are for favorite Italian, Greek or Mediterranean restaurants, or maybe the best place to get a currywurst, which is basically a wiener sprinkled with curry spices and served with ketchup.

But restaurants that serves what we consider to be the typical German foods -- schnitzels, sauerbraten and such -- are surprisingly hard to find. They’re there, but not prominent. And sometimes, as with the Hofbrau Munchen Berlin, they seem to exist mainly for the tourists. (A Bavarian “beer hall” restaurant in Berlin is sort of like a Cajun Mardi Gras themed restaurant in Orlando.)

Schumann’s Jager Haus, a German restaurant on Church Street in downtown Orlando, has more in common with that Berlin restaurant. It is heavy on the atmosphere -- indeed the atmosphere is one of its best selling points -- but the food is a bit far from the fatherland. 

Magnolia Square Market

Written by Scott Joseph on .

magnolia theoTheo Hollerbach shows off his Magnolia Square Market.When I visited Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe a few weeks ago, I had a chance to get a peek at Magnolia Square Market, a German deli and specialty store that owner Theo Hollerbach has been wanting to open for some time. I figured it would be something akin to a glorified food stand, the sort of thing you’d find set up at a farmers market or food fair.

But when we walked in to the dark space from the back door and the lights were flicked on, I do think my jaw dropped open.

Hollerbach's Willow Tree Cafe

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Willow Tree schnitzelThings didn’t start out well on my trip to Sanford last weekend. When I arrived at my intended destination, Chianti’s, a new pizza and pasta place, I discovered a wedding party in the center of the small space. Not a reception gathering -- they actually held the wedding ceremony there. Some other time, I said as I left. I didn’t know the couple, so I didn’t want to be a part of their celebration.

Let’s head over to downtown, I said to my dinner companion. A new restaurant, the Breezeway, in the space that was previously occupied by Two Blondes and a Shrimp. It was busy, which may be why no one acknowledged us as we stood inside the front door. But while we waited, I looked over the menu that was sitting on the bar. Appetizers of fried mozzarella cheese and deep-fried breaded mushrooms? I was hoping for something a little better than that. And since we still had not been greeted, we slipped back out and stood on First Street.

Across the street and a few doors down, another restaurant was all abuzz. Let’s go check out the Willow Tree Cafe, I said.

Heidelberg

Written by Scott Joseph on .

HeidelbergAs NASA prepares the penultimate launch of a space shuttle, many Space Coast businesses are concerned about what will happen when the launches go away, along with the tourists and, not incidentally, a good number of workers. I’m worried, too. It’s all but inevitable that some businesses will close, but others will survive, I’m sure. Those who make it will be the ones that pay attention to good quality. I think Heidelberg will make it.

Heidelberg has been serving good German and Austrian food on the corner of Minuteman Causeway and Highway A1A in Cocoa Beach since 1986. And far from cowering in fear about what’s to come, owner Heidi has just opened a new patio for an optional al fresco -- or whatever the German equivalent would be -- dining experience.

International Market & Deli

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Here’s a place I plan to visit often. It’s International Market & Deli, a compact store with exotic and hard to find products, both canned and fresh, and a delicatessen with meats, cheeses and prepared food items that you can purchase to take home or have heated to enjoy right there.

It isn’t a large place, but you could spend a lot of time just looking at the labels of the colorful jars, and in some cases trying to figure out just what they are and what you might use them for.International_Market_shelves

There was a refrigerated case with cheeses and salamis, and there was a freezer compartment with what appeared to be frozen prawns and whole eels inside. And there are also hard-to-find beers from around the world. Behind the counter I spotted a bevy of drugstore type items -- cough syrup and cold remedies -- in various languages.

But the thing that got me the most excited was a shelf with tubs of green pickles. Not just any pickles, half-sour pickles. Every time I visit a deli in New York I wonder why we can’t get the wonderful half-sour pickles that are a staple there. Half-sours have a rounder taste than your basic dill pickle. Publix carries a product that is labeled half-sour, but they’re terrible -- fully sour and loaded with way too much garlic. The pickles I bought at International Market & Deli, packed in unmarked plastic takeout tubs, are the real deal.

Anna's Polish Restaruant

Written by Scott Joseph on .

mixed_platter
The Polish platter at Anna's includes pierogies, kielbasa and stuffed cabbage.
When Paris Bistro moved to its new home on Park Avenue last year, it left behind its old space on Aloma Avenue. The new digs are so much more attractive than the Aloma restaurant, which was oddly situated in a two-story building that was otherwise occupied by professional businesses. Not that a restaurant isn’t a professional business, but you know what I mean.

Now another restaurant has take up the Aloma Avenue spot, and somehow it seems homier and, frankly, more charming than it ever did as Paris Bistro.

The new restaurant is Anna’s, a small Polish cafe, and it offers another option to local lovers of pierogies, kielbasas and stuffed cabbages.

Actually, of the three things I just mentioned, only the stuffed cabbage is made on site. The pierogies are imported from Chicago, a town with a large Polish community that knows a thing or two about pierogies, and the kielbasa is, well, kielbasa. You can pretty much get that anywhere.

But all three were included on the Polish platter that some friends and I enjoyed during a lunch visit. The platter also included some Polish sauerkraut and a thick mushroom gravy. Even though they were made in the Midwest, the pierogies were delicious. We had one of each type offered: potato and cheese; meat; and sauerkraut and mushroom (the best one). The cabbage was stuffed with a mixture of rice, pork and beef, all densely packed into a roll. This was one winning platter.

Chef Henry's

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Restaurant reviews tend to follow a pattern, one that chronicles the meal itself, starting with appetizers, then soups and salads and on to entrees. But a review of Chef Henry’s requires one to start with dessert. Simply put, the apple strudel here is phenomenal.

This isn’t exactly news. I’ve raved about the strudel since I first wrote about this family’s original restaurant, Chef Henry’s Cafe. And the strudel was singled out for my very first Foodie Award for Best Dessert, in 1999. Then, as now, the strudel was made Henrys_frontby Estera Brestowski, chef Henry’s wife. Words can’t do it justice. There is no way to adequately describe the buttery flakiness of the pastry or the sweetly tart taste of the apples and how they are baked perfectly to that elusive point between too crunchy and too soft. It just can’t be done.

Of course, the strudel is even more enjoyable when it comes at the end of a meal as wonderful as one at Chef Henry’s. The food is simple, really, but the flavors are complex. And the execution is masterful.

My guests and I started with an array of appetizers, including halusky, a potato dumpling mixed with cheese and a touch of bacon that can only be described as a sort of Slovakian mac and cheese. But even a fancier version than those currently being touted at expensive restaurants around the country. And bryndzovnik, a puff pastry filled with sliced potatoes, sour cream and cheese. And gazda kobasz, a classic Hungarian style pork sausage.

Hollerbach's Willow Tree Cafe today's Magical Dining Month feature

Written by Scott Joseph on .

For today’s Magical Dining Month recommendation, how about some German fare? Let’s go to Hollerbach’s Willow Hollerbach logoTree Cafe in lovely downtown Sanford.

As lover’s of German food know, we have an unfortunate dearth of restaurants that do it well, but Hollerbach’s is one of them. And the cafe’s MagDngMo menu is on the $20 list, which means you get three courses of hearty -- and filling -- food for a song sung to oom-pah-pah.

My recommendation is to start with potato pancakes, which come in two versions: basic, with sour cream and applesauce, or “gourmet” with smoked bacon and cheddar cheese.

For the entree, two of my favorites are among the choices. I love the wiener schnitzel, here made with a pork cutlet. But I also like the sausage platter. If those don’t appeal to you, have the sauerbraten or the Jaeger schnitzel.

Apple strudel or Black Forest cake are your choices for dessert. (There’s a cheesecake, too, but whoever heard of German cheesecake?)

Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe is at 205 E. First St., Sanford. The phone number is 407-321-2204. You can view the restaurant’s Magical Dining Month menu here, or select another restaurant at the main Web site.

Enzian's Eden Bar

Written by SJO Staff on .

Enzian's Eden Bar opens; Turns out the fabled garden was in Florida. Or is that Austria?

Maitland's Enzian Theater premieres its new bar/eatery tonight. Eden Bar occupies a 2000 square-foot outdoor space with seating for 70. The entire area is open-air, but the bar and much of the seating is under a sturdy roof allowing for continuous service even in a downpour. It was a beautiful evening when the Hound stopped by for a preview, so added protection wasn't needed.

Eden Bar It's a beautiful space; the circular bar has a rich deep wood tone that is complimented by the swooping ceiling. Colored pendant lights over the bar and recessed can lights throughout the rest of the space add just enough glow to allow the surrounding greenery to be seen. All along the wall the bar shares with the actual theater building is an elaborate mural painted by Oscar-nominated animator Bill Plympton. The mural is a whimsical depiction of a Floridian version of the Garden of Eden, which explains how the bar/restaurant got its name. It doesn't explain the Austrian items on the dinner menu.

It turns out, according to a note on the menu, that "Enzian Theater was conceived by Tina Tiedtke in the spirit of Friedstein Castle, home to her grandmother, Princess Felicitas Hohenlohe." The menu note continues: "The Eden Bar is offering a few selections from the kitchen, including recipes from the houses of Hapsburg and Rothschild."

Those offering include a salad, and cheese spread, one soup, a main course of brook trout smoked with pine needles, and an almond and hazelnut torte. Turn the page and you have a vast variety of other options, including other salads, sandwiches, steak tacos, bento box nachos, flatbread pizzas and other uncomplicated fare that won't overstretch the limitations of Enzian's small kitchens.

Old-timers will remember that the Enzian grounds used to have a separate building, an old house, that was converted into a restaurant. For many years it was the well-received Jordan's Grove, but when that business closed, as steady parade of other eateries took up residence with varying rates of success. The house was razed several years ago.

The Hound sampled the libtauer cheese spread, described on the menu as delightfully tart and smoky, served with pita bread. But instead of pita, the spread was served with dark bread from Yalaha Bakery. I didn't get tart or smoky from the taste, but I did get caraway. I couldn't tell, however, if the seeds were in the spread or in the bread.

My friend and I also sampled one of the pizzas, the Yukon Gold potato ($14), which had roasted garlic, house-cured bacon, parmigiano-reggiano  and mozzarella cheeses, and slices of potatoes. It was a pretty good pie, but I question the cost of $14 for such a small serving.

True to its name, Eden Bar features a full line of liquor and some nice wines. As I said in yesterday's post, one of the gimmicks of the bar is the offering of very old liquor, including pre-Prohibition bourbon and pre-Castro rum, at prices ranging from $75-$250 a shot.

Take that gimmick, the Floridian Garden of Eden theme and throw in an Austrian castle and you have a bit too much going on at once.

But I like the bar, it's a comfortable place to sit and chat, especially this time of year when outside is the place to be. I can see people coming to Eden Bar even if they don't have plans to see a movie.

Polonia

Written by Scott Joseph on .

When the Polonia Polish restaurant sign went up on US 17-92, old fans breathlessly hoped that it was the same folks who had won their hearts and bellies at the similarly named restaurant from Winter Park. It is.
Owner Rob Plummer told me by phone that he had to close the restaurant on Aloma because his chef went back to Poland. But the chef is back and all is well again.
You don’t have to be Polish to admire Polish food. You need only an appreciation for hearty fare whose origins come from the necessity to make do with what the earth and the seasons give you. This is farmland food, Eastern European style, where root vegetables like beets and carrots, and cured meats like kielbasa are used in abundance. And simple ingredients like flour, water and potatoes can be turned into something as splendid as pierogi.
And this is where something with a reputation as unflattering as a stuffed cabbage can be made into a delicacy that will change your mind about it forever.
Golabki, pronounced gowamki, is the name for the stuffed cabbage ($7.95). The pungent leaves were filled with a mixture of ground beef, pork and rice and covered with a tangy sauce of tomatoes. If you prefer, a mushroom sauce may be substituted.
Polonia features two types of pierogi ($7.50), the filled dumplings that are a staple of a Polish meal. You can get them with sauerkraut and mushroom or with potatoes and farmer cheese. Either version will be served topped with butter and covered with sweet caramelized onions and finished with a creamy dollop of sour cream. I liked both versions although I would probably tip the scales in favor of the potato filling because it seemed like a more substantial entrée.
One of my favorite dishes was the veal cutlet ($12.95). My guests and I could hear the cook in the kitchen pounding the cutlet, which was then coated with a breading and sauteed. The breading came out as crisp as you please, and the buttery taste was a perfect accent to the creamy veal.
Both the beef goulash ($11.95) and chicken paprikash ($9.95) were mildly flavored. That’s not so unusual for the goulash but the paprikash should show more seasoning. The goulash featured chunks of beef simmered in red wine with carrots and shallots. The chicken was simmered with vegetables and was sufficiently moist and tender.
If you have a hard time deciding what to order, consider the big Polish platter ($9.95), which isn’t really all that big but does tender ample portions of stuffed cabbage, kielbasa and pierogi with mashed potatoes and Polish kraut.
Other entrees come with a choice of two sides. The beets were fairly mild and the carrots rather dull. The sauerkraut was good and so was the cucumber dill salad with its sweet sauce. My favorite was the potato dumplings, dense rolls of potato flour with a smooth texture.
If you really want beets order the borscht ($3.50), arguably Poland’s most popular soup, with its red beety broth and shreds of the root vegetable. The soup is served hot with a plop of sour cream.
Zurek ($3.50) is another popular soup from Poland. Known also as Easter soup, it has sour rye flour as its base and is seasoned with fresh garlic and marjoram. Two halves of a hard-boiled egg float in the murky broth and feathery leaves of freshly chopped dill float on top.
For dessert there poppy seed cake ($), a multi-layered affair of chocolate with sweet vanilla frosting and hundreds of poppy seeds. Apple strudel ($) and blintzes ($) are as equally good as the cake.
Polonia is housed in a standalone building that at one time was a fast-food restaurant of some sort. (The abandoned drive-through lane is still there.) Most recently it was home to an Asian restaurant, and there is what may have been a make-do sushi bar next to the deli counter. The small dining room is rather plain, with white walls decorated with a couple of colorful Polish costumes and undistinguished paintings. The center of the room has what appears to be a dance floor, although no one moved the tables away to polka to the music that was playing. Tables are uncovered and napkins are of the paper variety.
No, this is not a fancy dining experience. But for those who enjoy good Polish food it’s as fine as it gets.