You don’t need to be German to celebrate Oktoberfest – you just need to enjoy German food and beer. And because this year marks the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest, many local restaurants have jumped on the beer-barrel bandwagon.
In Germany, Oktoberfest traditionally runs from late September through early October, but in this country Oktoberfest has been Americanized and turned into a decadent month-long food fest.
So where can you go to dine on authentic Oktoberfest cuisine? No, not Der Wienerschnitzel. Please. Try the Balboa Bay Club’s First Cabin restaurant, where Austrian chef Josef Lageder has created an authentic Oktoberfest menu that’s available for lunch and dinner through the end of the month.
Curious to see what Chef Lageder was cooking up, we made a reservation for lunch. It was a beautiful afternoon and we were seated on the patio overlooking Newport Harbor.
“Now there’s a view they don’t get in Germany,” I told Stasha, as she perused the menu.
“”No, but I certainly wouldn’t turn down an Alpine view from the Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria right now, either,” Stasha laughed. “I’ll just have to settle for living vicariously through the cuisine.”
Overhearing this, Chef Lageder, came to our table to say hi and explain the menu.
“I used to live on the border of Bavaria and went to the Oktoberfest in Munich. I created a very authentic menu for First Cabin,” he explained.
“Everything looks delicious. Would it be possible to taste small portions of a variety of things?” Stasha asked him.
“Absolutely. We’ll start with the herring and a cup of lentil soup, and go from there.”
Chef Lagadeer returned to the kitchen as our server, Gabriella, brought us a single Weltenburger beer to share.
“This is nice and light,” said Stasha, taking a sip. “Oh, look at the herring,” she cooed as the first dish appeared. “What a beautiful presentation. I love that it’s stuffed with green apples and sour cream.”
“I guess we don’t need a herring aid for this dish,” I said, waiting to see Stasha’s reaction.
“Chris, your jokes are the reason I wish I was hard of herring,” she shot back. “What do you think of the soup?”
“I like it.”
“Like it? It’s delicious. The applewood smoked bacon gives it such a nice, savory flavor. It’s perfect for fall. And the Weltenburger is fabulous with it.”
I spotted Dieter Hissin, the Balboa Bay Club’s director of food and beverage, and motioned him to the table.
“What can you tell us about the beers?”
“Our selections are from Bavaria. The Weltenburger, which you’re drinking, is traditionally cloudy because of the yeast. It’s supposed to be very good health wise, good for your skin.”
“I think I’ll have another,” joked Stasha.
“You should also try the Oktoberfest beer, which is brewed in the style they have done for hundreds of years. The beer is stored for up to six months, which gives it time to settle. It’s traditionally a little stronger than regular beer because it had to survive the summertime heat. They called that Oktoberfest beer because it was brewed in March for drinking in October.”
We toasted Dieter as Gabriella brought our next course: Paprika Goulash with slow braised pork, homemade spätzle, and red cabbage.
“This dish is the perfect combination, as far as I am concerned,” said Stasha. ”The simple pasta, braised pork and cabbage complement each other so well. The pork melts in your mouth. And the red cabbage? I could eat a pound of it.”
Chef Lageder returned to our table, and Stasha asked him what was in the braised pork sauce in addition to paprika.
“Lots of onions. That’s the key. If you have two pounds of meat, use two pounds of onions. They meld together. We also add whole tomatoes, they melt away but give the dish so much flavor. Also garlic and caraway seeds.”
“I would love the recipe!” exclaimed Stasha.
“I’ll get it for you,” promised Chef Lageder.
Our next dish arrived: Wiener Schnitzel – a center cut pork loin breaded and pan fried, with a small potato and cucumber salad, plus cranberry sauce with loganberries. We also shared a glass of the Spaten Oktoberfest beer.
We finished with the apple strudel, vanilla bean ice cream and crème anglaise, then relaxed with a cup of coffee.
“You know, I was kind of concerned about the menu,” confided Stasha. “I read it and imagined a massive carb overload, but the main dishes are wonderfully balanced with the garnishes and accompaniments. The flavors are really unique—savory with a little sweet.”
“You’re right, it looks like it’s going to be heavy but it’s very satisfying and not too filling. Not like when I go to the fair and order a giant bratwurst with all the fixings. Now that’s a heavy meal.”
“I’m actually sorry we didn’t get to try everything on the menu,” bemoaned Stasha. “I’m going to suggest to my friends that they come here in groups of three or more and order one of everything on the menu. That way they can get to taste a little of each authentic dish,” stated Stasha. “But, definitely order two of the Paprika Goulash. Definitely.”
For more information, call (949) 630-4145 or visit www.balboabayclub.com.