One of my fondest memories of New Orleans in the mid-1900s was dining at Kolb’s restaurant for lunch. My favorite entrée was a short ribs dish that I’ve replicated many times, but the most fun of all was during Oktoberfest when a Tyrolean orchestra played and everyone got up from their tables and did the chicken dance.
It was a festive affair with large quantities of beer being consumed and German dishes such as bratwurst, red cabbage, sauerbraten and strudels being served. The old restaurant (1899-1994) was a beautiful place with a European setting. One side looked like a German tavern while the other had Dutch influences. A series of belt-driven ceiling fans came from the Cotton Centennial Exposition of 1884, held in what’s now Audubon Park. Founded by Conrad Kolb, who owned farms and used his vegetables in the restaurant, Kolb’s had its ups and downs and changes of ownership. But mention Oktoberfest, and Kolb’s was the place to be.
Today’s celebrations center around Deutsches Haus, where a full schedule of events are planned (see sidebar). Then some of us may want to celebrate at home. What are we celebrating?
German Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on Oct. 12, 1810, in Munich. Horse races in the presence of the royal family marked the close of the event that was celebrated for the whole of Bavaria. The decision to repeat the races in the following year gave rise to the tradition of Oktoberfest, held in Munich each year in late September-early October.
I have had little experience with eating or cooking German food, but like most New Orleanians, I’m always up for a party. After much research, trial and error, these are my choices for easy-enough German dishes to put on a spread. Most importantly, your Oktoberfest must include plenty of German beer. There are several brewed just for Oktoberfest and several brews imported from Germany. Try wine shops, import markets or supermarkets for these, or choose German wines to suit your fancy. I treasure my little white wine glasses with green stems that I got in Germany and will likely go with a Gewurztraminer, known for its crisp, spicy characteristics.
And, if the mood strikes you, flap your wings and do the chicken dance.
2 Tablespoons olive oil
10 links fresh bratwurst sausages,
about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 12-ounce bottles German
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
3 teaspoons dry mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Using a fork, stick several holes into the sausage links to keep skin from popping. Over medium-hot heat, brown bratwurst, turning to brown evenly. Add onions and sauté until limp.
Mix all remaining ingredients and pour over bratwurst. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove sausages and reduce liquid, uncovered, over medium-high heat, until it thickens and becomes syrupy, 10 to 15 minutes. Return sausages and set aside until ready to serve. Serve hot.
German Red Cabbage
4 Tablespoons olive oil
10 cups shredded red cabbage
2 Granny Smith green apples,
peeled and sliced
1 large onion, diced
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
6 Tablespoons water
6 Tablespoons sugar
Salt to taste, about 1/2 to
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground
4 cloves, crushed with a mortar
1 teaspoon caraway seed, crushed
with a mortar and pestle
Heat olive oil in a large, heavy pot. Add all other ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Serves 6 to 8
Creamy Potato Casserole
4 large baking potatoes
10 slices bacon
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese,
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup milk
Salt and freshly ground black
pepper to taste, about
Bake potatoes in a 400-degree oven until fork tender, about 1 hour. Grease a 2-quart casserole dish.
Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large skillet until crispy. Drain on paper towels. Crumble when cooled.
Remove all but 1 Tablespoon bacon grease from the skillet. In the grease, sauté the onion until wilted, add the garlic and sauté another minute or two. Set aside.
When potatoes are cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Add butter, letting it melt over the potatoes. Discard skins. Add half the cheese, sour cream, milk, salt and pepper. Mix well and spread in casserole dish. Top with other half of the cheese and crumbled bacon.
Bake in a 350-degree oven until just bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes.
Serves 6 to 8
Easy Apple Strudel
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled
and thinly sliced
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 sheet frozen puff pastry,
thawed but kept refrigerated
1/4 cup milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place apples in a large bowl. Stir in brown sugar, raisins, pecans, spices and lemon juice.
Place puff pastry on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roll lightly with a rolling pin. You may need a few sprinkles of flour to keep pastry from sticking to rolling pin. Spoon apple mixture down the middle of the pastry lengthwise. Fold the pastry over the mixture and seal edges, using a little water on your fingers and pushing the pastry edges together.
Whisk together egg and milk, and brush onto top of pastry. You will only use a portion of this. Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Serves 6 to 8
Oktoberfest at Deutsches Haus
The fun begins Fri., Oct. 11, with weekly activities including traditional German folk dancing, German wines and liquors and more than 20 German beers. Authentic German cuisine will include sauerbraten, krautwickel, kasseler rippchen, sauerkraut, kartoffelbrei, bratwurst and giant Bavarian pretzels.
Fri., Oct. 11, 4-11 p.m. Dinner and food booths, live music and beer
Sat., Oct 12, 1-11 p.m. Lunch, dinner and food booths, live music and beer; children’s activities including puppet show, 2-5 p.m.; dachshund races: registration at 1 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 18, 4-11 p.m. Dinner and food booths, live music and beer
Sat., Oct. 19, 1-11 p.m. Lunch, dinner and food booths, live music and beer; children’s activities including puppet show, 2-5 p.m.; 5K run, 5 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 25, 4-11 p.m. Dinner and food booths, live music and beer
Sat., Oct. 26, 1 p.m.-11 p.m. Lunch, dinner and food booths, live music and beer; children’s activities including puppet show, 2 p.m.-5 p.m.; wine tasting of wines from Germany, Austria and Alsace, 5 p.m.
Deutsches Haus is temporarily located at 1023 Ridgewood Drive, Metairie, until its new home is completed in Orleans Parish. For more information, call 522-8014 or visit deutscheshaus.org.