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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Alsatian fare at Le Rapp

In one of our several Alsatian stops while crossing Europe North-South we decided to just try a place at random (a rewarding way to take the pulse of a regional cuisine - provided you are in the right region!).

We stopped overnight in the beautiful city of Colmar, and we entered a restaurant
(Le Rapp, 1-3-5 rue Weinemer - 68000 Colmar, Tel +33 (0)3 89 41 62 10 , Fax +33 (0)3 89 24 13 58, E-mail whose offerings looked firmly regionally based and the rough equivalent of an Italian trattoria, while the interior looked rustic, yes, but slightly more upscale. The prices for starters are €8 to 10, for the main course game specialties (which is what we had) around €17 (for fish and beef of course you look a little higher), and for desserts €6 to 8.

Let's give the game away: What a treat!

Well, that it was a bit more upscale than a trattoria was underlined by the fact that we even got a serious amuse bouche
Prawn (grilled or 'a la plancha') in ratatouille: sweet, fresh and delicious, the rustic presentation concealing a rather accomplished technique.

When the bread arrived and we tasted it, we were impressed, if not by the variety certainly by the quality (and, as we discovered later, it was a bottomless basket):

We continued with a 'quiche au lard maison'impressively served on a black slate, rich but not overwhelmingly so, and nicely, colourfully garnished.

Equally satisfying was the creamy pumpkin soup with chestnuts and slices of smoked duck breast:An array of sweet flavours with luscious, soft consistencies, and a perfect backbone of smoky elements. Good balance.

And of course we could not miss the classic Alsatian 'Baeckaoffa':This version, served in a super hot bowl, had wild boar and venison. This is all that plain regional food can be at its best, a multitude of flavours fully extracted from good quality meats, vegetables, herbs and spices and mellowed into harmony by means of simple but time-proof cooking methods.

To enjoy more clearly the flavour of a (much younger) wild boar we also had this:

Cutlets prepared with green pepper and red cabbage. Once again, we were struck by the balance in the richness of this food (no overwhelming grease, no heaviness), and by its true flavours.

Finally, in the dessert you also see some presentation skill at work:
Remarkable, quite some precise cooking going on here, with the cinnamon and wine infused pear accompanied by a very well made vanilla icecream; and the 'kugelhopf' shaped delice glace', the only disappointment in this latter dish being that we thought they were going to serve the kugelhopf itself: oooh.

This is the typical establishment which (we merely imagine) must have been run for ages by the family with basic home cooking, and where now, with the young generation at the stoves, probably well trained at the hotelier school, more 'scientific' in their ways and eager to show their skill and express their creativity, the transition to a different order of cuisine and sophistication is taking place. It's not an easy balance to reach at all, between tradition and sophistication: but here at Le Rapp all indications are that they have been successful indeed.


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