Food & Drink

A look into Alsatian cuisine

Discover why Alsace is France’s favourite region for comfort food.

When you think of your favourite foods, they tend to fill you with a feeling of warmth, comfort and happiness. The food in Alsace has the exact same effect, making it one of France’s best-loved foodie regions. From Calais, it’s about a six-hour scenic drive into the heart of the region, so if you set off early you’ll be just in time for lunch!

Coq au Riesling

As far as the eye can see in Alsace, there are gently rolling hills striped with vines. Not only does this paint a pretty pastoral picture, but it also means that the region is replete with delicious local wines, which are equally great for cooking with as they are drinking.

 Explore the rolling hills of the Alsace region and all they have to offer.
Explore the rolling hills of the Alsace region and all they have to offer.

One dish in particular that is a favourite with locals in Coq au Riesling, a delicious, hearty meal of chicken cooked in white wine. Traditional recipes call for whole birds to be used, but thighs and leg joints work just as well, so it’s really up to personal preference. Next, you add vegetables, including onions, leeks, garlic and mushrooms, and you can also chuck in some chopped up bacon if you want to add a little more depth of flavour.

For the sauce, a medium-dry Riesling is ideal, but any other medium-dry French white can work just as well. Thicken the sauce up with a little single cream, and leave to simmer. You can also add thyme or bay to the sauce if you like, and don’t forget a good sprinkling of parsley when serving.

Choucroute garnie

Probably the most famous of all Alsatian dishes, choucroute garnie is commonplace on many winter menus, and is a hearty addition to any meal. The dish itself is heavily influenced by Alsace’s proximity to Germany, featuring sauerkraut (with an Alsatian twist), potatoes, sausages and other cured meats.

Although recipes vary, the sauerkraut is usually heated with Riesling, pork fat, herbs and seasoning, and Frankfurt, Strasbourg and Montbéliard are the sausages of choice. Typical cured meats include ham hock, back bacon, pork knuckle and salt pork. Settle down into any of Alsace’s cosy restaurants and enjoy a hearty plate of choucroute garnie, washed down with a bottle of Alsace Riesling.

Tarte flambée

Also known as ‘flammekueche’ in Alsatian, tarte flambée is a delicious local treat.

You simply cannot visit the region of Alsace without trying this local favourite. Tarte flambée, or flammekueche as it is called in the Alsatian dialect, is somewhat similar to a pizza. It’s traditionally rectangular in shape, although is sometimes round, made of a thinly rolled out bread base, topped with crème fraiche or fromage blanc (which is similar to fromage frais), onions and lardons.

Tarte flambée is traditionally cooked in a wood-fired oven, and it’s said that the dish was actually used to test how hot the oven was getting, as at its peak, it’s the perfect temperature to cook this flatbread treat in just one to two minutes! You’ll find tarte flambée available all over the Alsace region, and they’re also easy enough to recreate at home for a quick bite to eat.

Baeckeoffe

 Traditional Baeckeoffe is the perfect dish for lazy weekends and cold nights.
Traditional Baeckeoffe is the perfect dish for lazy weekends and cold nights.

Another great comfort dish from the Alsace region is Baeckeoffe, which is very similar to a casserole in that everything is chucked together into a big pot, and slowly cooked over the course of the day.

The origins of this dish actually stem from the Jewish community of the region, and a traditional Hebraic dish, the cholent or hamin. As the use of oven is prohibited during Shabbat, Jewish women would prepare their Saturday meals on a Friday afternoon and give them to the town’s baker to keep warm in his oven until the following day.

The word ‘Baeckeoffe’ actually translates as ‘baker’s oven’, which is a fitting name for this dish, and it’s often topped with a bread lid over the casserole dish. Inside, you’ll find a warming stew of potatoes and onions, combined with chunks of beef, mutton or pork, simmered in local Alsatian wine. Ingredients such as juniper, leeks, thyme, garlic, parsley and carrots are also often added for additional colour and flavour.

Bredele

Treat yourself to some Christmas bredele.
Treat yourself to some Christmas bredele.

After filling up on choucroute garnie and baeckeoffe, you’ll want to sample some of Alsace’s best-loved Christmas treats, bredele. Bredele is a collective name for small cakes and biscuits (of which there are many) made with different flavourings and spices.

Anis bredele, cookies flavoured with aniseed, and schwowebredle, cookies spiced cinnamon and orange, are two popular types of bredele. During winter you’ll find piles of these delicious biscuits at the many Christmas markets dotted throughout the region, and they’re great as a gift for loved ones back at home.

Kougelhopf

Kougelhopf is a light, ring-shaped cake which is a traditional dessert in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and, of course, Alsace. Made using yeast, flour, butter, sugar, eggs, raisins, almonds and orange zest, the texture is similar to brioche, and the taste is delicious!

It’s usually eaten alongside a cup of coffee and you’ll be able to grab a slice at most coffee shops throughout the region. So wherever you are in Alsace, you can escape the winter weather and indulge in a tasty midmorning treat.

Pâtes d’Alsace

 Alsatian spätzle or knepfle is not to be missed.
Alsatian spätzle or knepfle is not to be missed.

Pasta noodles are another traditional food from the region, and also fit snugly in the ‘comfort’ category. Recipes for the traditional ‘Pâtes d’Alsace’ have been found dating back as early as the 15th century, and they don’t differ much from how the pasta of the region is made today. What makes Pâtes d’Alsace unique is that it’s made with a large quantity of eggs, and doesn’t include the addition of water.

As you can imagine, the local pasta comes in all shapes and sizes, but one of the stand-out local dishes is spätzle or knepfle, depending on the part of Alsace you’re visiting. This type of pasta is dense, similar to gnocchi in texture, and is most often served as a side dish. There are a few variations of this dish, but you’ll most often find them served with a cream sauce, mushrooms and bacon lardon. Simple and delicious.

Riesling

Riesling is often considered the most respected wine in the Alsace, and any visitors to the region simply must give it a try. While German Riesling’s can be sweet, Alsatian Riesling is much drier, making it the perfect accompaniment to rich dishes.

Alsace’s wines are famous all over the world.
Alsace’s wines are famous all over the world.

Gewürztraminer

Another popular wine in Alsace is Gewürztraminer. The grape itself is incredibly aromatic and can be used to make wines that range from the very sweet to the very dry. As it has a high sugar content, it is also used to make Alsatian dessert wines.

Are you feeling inspired to visit the French region of Alsace, and can’t wait to tuck into some of the local specialities? Remember to book your tickets with us early in order to take advantage of the best prices.