Pain d’epices, spätzle & flammenkuchen in Strasbourg.
Thank you discount airlines. When picking our next place to visit, we went to the sale section of a popular European airline, and selected the cheapest flight we could find. To wherever. It was a toss up between Romania and Eastern France. France won (though maybe Romania next?).
£10 later, and there we were in Strasbourg, in the Alsace region of East France, bordering Germany. We were only there for 5 days, but somehow it wormed its way up to the top, ranking as one of my best holidays, ever. We rented a little Airbnb apartment at the top of an old building, with some of those slanted roof windows where we could hang our heads out over the city. Only downfall: old house, top floor, no elevators. But running down the stairs every morning was fun.
There were many reasons it snuck its way into our hearts. The culinary diversity of a city that has historically yo-yo’ed in ownership between Germany and France. The midsummer sun and perfect weather. The incredible food. The greenery, the not-yet-destroyed-by-tourist-shop streets. Strasbourg’s entire city centre has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1988, the first entire city centre to be classified as such. Our first two days, we wandered the cobblestone streets over canals, looking at the medieval houses, visiting underground wine bars, drinking wine on the canal under the eternal sunset of midsummer.
We fell in love with the cuisine. I don’t think anyone has ever ordered as many plates of spätzle as we did in so few days. Spätzle are a type of egg noodle, but no words can describe them. They are no noodle. No pasta. No dumpling. They are greater than all of them combined. We found a restaurant on the water, where we would spend our evenings drinking amazing wine, stuffing ourselves with spätzle and schnitzel until the sun set late at night.
Our favourite was spätzle with sliced hams, pickles and a Munster fondue. Oh my.
Oh, and the flammenkuchen. Translated: flame cake. And it tastes about as epic as it sounds. Very thin bread dough, rolled out like a pizza (but it’s not a pizza. Trust me.) covered in fromage blanc, onions and lardons. Then baked. It’s made its way to a few food trucks around the place, I think I remember one in Portland, Oregon – but there it goes by its alternate name, tarte flambée. Find it. Thank me later.
On to dessert. Dylan has a friend who works in a pain d’epice (spice bread, or gingerbread) and nougat shop downtown, so we visited to taste incredibly large slabs of traditional Alsatian gingerbread and nougat in dozens of flavours.
Next up to a decades old pastry shop under the cathedral for Alsatian Rhubarb Tart, oven-browned, soft rhubarb pieces on top of an almond base.
After a few blissful days, we picked up our rental car, and we were off to the next part of our trip: into the Black Forest.