It’s that time of year again when we have an excuse to gulp down as much beer as we want.
Sure, the celebration of Oktoberfest is a German event. A quick background: It originated in Bavaria in 1810 when Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig, later King Ludwig I of Bavaria, married Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen and invited the citizens of Munich to celebrate the wedding with them in front of the city gates. It was continued the following year as an agricultural festival but soon became known for the beer tents. In the 1950s the tradition of the mayor tapping the first beer keg was established. Two hundred years after that wedding feast, the beers continue to flow in astounding quantities: Last year, 6.4 million liters of beer were consumed at the Oktoberfest (actually down from the record 7.5 million liters recorded in 2007!).
But that never stopped us Filipinos from joining in the overbeering German festivities. In fact San Miguel beer already started its Oktoberfest Beer and Music Festival last September 12 (strictly speaking, the Oktoberfest is a 16-day festival starting late September and ending on the first weekend of October).
For an authentic Oktoberfest experience, though, hop over to the Harbor Garden Tent of Sofitel on October 17 and 18, when the German Club converts Sofitel’s tent into a Biergärten (beer garden—minus the GROs ha-ha!). The group is even flying in a yodeller named Lissie and the Hofbräuhaus Band and Show from the legendary Hofbräuhaus, a beer house in Munich founded by the Duke of Bavaria in 1589. For foodies and gourmets, there will be a Bavarian spread of roasted pork knuckles, roasted calf, laugen rolls, grilled German sausages and pastries.
Strictly speaking, only beer conforming to the Reinheitsgebot or the German Beer Purity Law, with a minimum of 13 percent Stammwürze (a measurement of extract; approximately 6 percent alcohol by volume) brewed within the city limits of Munich may be served at Oktoberfest. The following breweries are accredited: Augustiner-Bräu, Hacker-Pschorr-Bräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, Spatenbräu, and Staatliches Hofbräu-München. But, whatever, we’re drinking San Mig Pale!
For a year-round experience of German food, aside from the German Club, there is also the more accessible Spatzle at the Shangri-la East Wing. While the influences of this restaurant are more Swiss, as RJ Ungco, the restaurant’s executive chef, trained at Le Roches in Switzerland, there are a lot of German-influenced items on the menu.
To begin with, says Chef RJ, Spatzle is German for “little sparrow” (although other references say the German word is “sperling”), a kind of pasta found in the cuisines of Southern Germany and Switzerland. At this restaurant, a carbonara spatzle and a mushroom spatzle are served that accompany the homemade roasted chicken sausage.
Also offered is “wiener schnitzel vom schwein” or pork schniztel (technically, when you say schnitzel it should use veal); an assorted sausage platter; as well as various versions of rosti, that classic potato pancake of Germanic Switzerland. But the best German-inspired item on the menu is the schweinshaxe-crispy or marinated pork knuckles. This is deliciously deadly.
The restaurant is not purely European, though. It also has a special menu for those who can’t part with Pinoy flavors. Truth be told, I am in love with their pork belly, whose skin is thick yet oh-so-crunchy, contrasting with the fork-tender, melt-in-your-mouth meat. There’s also a mean beef stew, which proves the chef’s expertise at tenderness!
Wherever you decide to celebrate Oktoberfest, it’s bound to be “gaudi” (great fun!). Make sure to memorize this line: “a bier, bittschen!” (one beer, please!) when you make your rounds. And be prepared when the organizers call out, “Eins, zwei, gesoffen!” meaning “One, two, drink!”
Til then, Prost! (Cheers!) •
Oktoberfest at Sofitel. For inquiries, call The German Club Manila. Tel. 817-3552 or 818-4236.
Sofitel Philippine Plaza. Tel. 832-6988.
The author is at Blog: margauxlicious.com. E-mail: [email protected] Twitter, Facebook, Instagram: @margauxsalcedo.