“I don’t believe it! Oktoberfest is almost over!” I lamented to Stasha.
“What are you talking about? It’s still September!”
“True, but in Munich, Oktoberfest starts in mid-September and only runs through the first Sunday in October.”
“Good thing we’re not in Germany.”
“But we are in Newport Beach, which means it’s time for Oktoberfest at Balboa Bay Club,” I said with a smile.
“You’re right,” she said. ”I remember how good that was last year. Chef Josef Lageder prepared a truly authentic German menu, featuring traditional recipes from his homeland of Bavaria, and paired the dishes with specialty beers flown in directly from Germany for the event. The Paprika Goulash was amazing.”
“It’s still amazing – remember I went to the Balboa Bay Club last month for Chef Lageder’s Oktoberfest preview luncheon? See what you miss when you’re on vacation?”
“I’m sure you’ll fill me in on every detail – and every dish.”
Prior to attending the Oktoberfest tasting, I decided to educate myself on the history and origins of Oktoberfest. Turns out that the event should be named September Fest, since it takes place in Munich, Germany, beginning in mid-September and runs for 16 days through early October.
However, the early Oktoberfests did take place in October. The tradition started in 1810 to celebrate the Oct. 12 marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to the Saxon-Hildburghausen Princess Therese. The citizens of Munich were invited to join in the festivities, which were held over five days on the fields in front of the city gates.
Anniversary celebrations were held annually, eventually becoming larger and more elaborate. When the city began allowing beer on the fairgrounds, makeshift beer stands began cropping up. They were eventually replaced by beer halls in 1896. The beer halls, like the beer tents of today, were sponsored by the local breweries.
And speaking of beer, I was surprised to learn that in keeping with tradition, only six brands of beer are allowed to be served during Oktoberfest: Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, and Spaten.
Oktoberfest was eventually moved to September to allow for better weather conditions. Today, the last day of the festival is the first Sunday in October. However, since Americans tend to take things literally, we celebrate Oktoberfest throughout October.
Armed with this background info and ready to sample some authentic German food, I arrived at the Balboa Bay Club and was escorted to a large table filled with fellow foodies all eager to explore Chef Lageder’s Oktoberfest menu.
“This is a very classic, very traditional menu,” explained Chef Lageder. “People come here for Oktoberfest because they know they can order these items. It’s comfort food – very rustic.”
Chef Lageder was right. I felt more and more comfortable with every bite of his sensational cuisine, which started with a large warm pretzel with mustard, followed by Linsen Suppe, Lentil Soup with applewood-smoked bacon and sliced Wurstchen.
Next came the Wiener Schnitzel: Center Cut Pork Loin breaded and pan fried, with potato and cucumber salad. Then, Chef’s famous Paprika Goulash with slow braised pork and homemade Spatzle, plus sour cream and red cabbage.
“I’m glad you made the Goulash again this year. This was one of our favorites from last year,” I confided to Chef Lageder.
“Mine. too,” he replied.
The dishes kept coming – Gebratene Schweinshaxen (slow roasted pork shank with mashed potatoes), Bavarian Bratwurst (boiled in milk instead of cooked on the grill or sautéed), warm apple strudel with vanilla bean ice cream.
In between courses, we sampled some of the beers available during Oktoberfest, including the traditional Paulaner Lager. We also sipped several German wines that paired well with our food.
“More goulash?” asked Chef Lageder as he made his way around the table.
“Chef, I’m so full, I can’t eat another bite…well, maybe two more bites,” I laughed as he plopped more goulash on my plate. “I’ve eaten so much German food, I feel like I’ve been to Munich and back.”
“Good!. The next best thing to Oktoberfest is to come to Balboa Bay Club.”
“And I don’t need a passport or a plane ticket,” I joked. “Now, if someone could just carry me to my car, I’ll be fine.”
“Sounds like you had fun,” said Stasha after hearing my Oktoberfest saga.
“I did, and lucky for you that Oktoberfest goes through Oct. 31 at Balboa Bay Club. There’s plenty of time to enjoy the goulash and the rest of the featured menu. Did I mention Chef added a new item this year? Sauerbraten marinated in red wine.”
“Better plan on several dining excursions this month. And don’t forget to wear your lederhosen,” she grinned.
For more information on Oktoberfest at Balboa Bay Club, visit BalboaBayClub.com, or call 949-630-4145.