At 12:25 the phone rings in my room in the Traube Tonbach. Friendly I am reminded of my reservation in the Schwarzwaldstube, which is coming up in five minutes. An appointment that has been on my calendar for weeks and that I would never have forgotten under any circumstances, of course. 700km of travel are just behind me. But we know: “A unique cuisine – worth a trip”, the Guide Michelin’s definition of three stars, which the Schwarzwaldstube has held for over 20 years after a brief interruption due to the fire.
Even this short call is another indication of the precision of the processes in the Traube Tonbach – and especially in the Schwarzwaldstube, which I will now entrust myself to completely for the next four hours.
My last visit to Baiersbronn was almost five years ago. A time when a lot happened in the Black Forest. First the tragic fire of the 230-year-old main house, which was also home to the Schwarzwaldstube, then the pandemic, finally the reconstruction of the new restaurant complex and the transitional period in the Temporaire.
The “new” Schwarzwaldstube resumed operations almost exactly one year ago. The new guest room is modern, flooded with light, floor-to-ceiling windows all around, the Black Forest outside within reach, inside now somewhat less so. High ceilings and a busy, yet very relaxed atmosphere. The classic outfit of the service, now under the direction of Nina Mihilli, has also changed; discreet dresses and suits have replaced the traditional dirndls.
While I’m still working out the details of my tasting menu (€295 in the large version), the first Amouse classics arrive at my table: including a Pomeranian beef tartare with cucumber relish, egg yolk mayonnaise and a seaweed cracker with pickled mullet (colored with plankton) .
While I am still acclimatizing with the second glass of champagne (Blanc d’Argile from Vouette & Sorbée) and letting the impressions work on me, another small course attracts my full attention: belly and back of Spanish Balfégo tuna, lacquered with its reduced lard, plus popped tuna fat and a luxuriously lavishly portioned topping with a special selection of Imperial Caviar. Impressive how all components interact and especially of course the fat sensationally underlines the caviar.
The first official course of the menu follows. A salad of grilled lobster, Saint scallop and octopus with winter leeks, young celery and radish, crustacean marinade with passion fruit and cilantro. In the glass, a 2020 Riesling Sommerberg from Albert Boxler.
In terms of wine selection, I put myself firmly in the capable hands of sommelier Stéphane Gass, merely supplemented by my preference for wines close to nature. The wine accompaniment to the grand menu is currently calculated at 180€.
The “salad” is of great depth and light maritime iodine. The intense crustacean marinade combines excellently the numerous players from the sea, their quality is absolutely impressive. It is a lush prelude that gives a lot of pleasure.
The essence of guinea fowl under the puff pastry hood with black truffle, stuffed mushroom heads and duck liver croûton with herb tips is pure classicism at the very highest level of craftsmanship and is reminiscent of Bocuse’s classic, the Soupe aux truffes from 1975.
In place, the hood is elegantly lifted and immediately the animating aromas of mushroom, truffle and the essence cooked over three days escape. As if that were not sensational enough, a cracker with duck liver and shaved winter truffle is served à part. Wonderfully matched with a Sercial Madeira from Barbetto.
From this point at the latest, the magic of the Schwarzwaldstube takes effect. One fantastic, classic course follows the next. And yet the cuisine of Torsten Michel and team seems incredibly modern, the precision already mentioned at the beginning is of course also evident on the plates, but also in the overall rhythm. In addition, the opulence with which fantastic products are processed here, aisle by aisle, is intoxicating.
With the Arctic cod cooked in seaweed butter with poached oysters and stick scallops on steamed cress spinach on a shellfish mousseline with chervil, one of the most intense and exciting fish dishes is then in front of me on the table, which one can currently get hold of. With it a glass of Chardonnay from Achim Dürr, who, by the way, is sitting just a few seats away from me in the restaurant on this day.
The absolute star of the course is the shellfish mousseline, which is mounted here with a pleasant amount of Imperial Caviar – and of course the well-filled serving jug remains at the table (and is emptied completely). An unforgettable plate, in its dimensions rather corresponding to an à la carte portion.
Clearly more Mediterranean then the stuffed red mullet with spicy pine nut couscous and
glazed fennel, jus of Provençal vegetables with old sherry vinegar, red mullet liver and basil. Accompanied by a 2020 Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Domaine Saint Préfert.
This course is dominated by light flavors, delicate acidity, subtle sweetness and again great depth in the brew. The red mullet is freed from the middle bone and put together with the liver and baked scales. A very nice contrast to the previous fish course.
The next course also takes into account the innards of the processed animal: grilled Alsatian squab with licorice and thyme, small köfte crisp with baharat, pickled pumpkin and pigeon jus with black lime. Impressively beautiful, perfectly cooked, and extremely rich in aromatic facets with the addition of the Oriental spiced offal terrine (topped with roasted foie gras, of course).
Accompanied by a glass of 2018 A Torna dos Pasas Escolma, elegant and fresh and ideal for a Sunday afternoon.
The Schwarzwaldstube integrates the cheese trolley into each of the three available menus, each with around 40 varieties from Fromagerie Antony. When I later talk to Torsten Michel about this very cheese trolley and its selection, I learn that this is virtually only the compact interim trolley. The original Christofle trolley also fell victim to the fire, the current vehicle is taken from the Temporaire and will be replaced in the future by a new model of the silversmiths, which will offer even more space. A great tradition. However: The menu is demanding and for me, unfortunately, some restraint is now required in the selection of cheese. In the glass, a 2018 Scheurebe Spätlese Durbacher Plauelrain from Laible.
A first dessert thematizes mango: passoa savarin with mango-lime ice cream, pineapple ravioli, coconut snow and crispies, exotic decoction with ginger. Visually already a feast for the eyes, fresh, fruity, exotic, wonderful.
The sweet finale then again quite classic and perfect craftsmanship: a soufflé tarte tatin with apple sorbet and light sour cream mousseline, apple pearls in mild cider broth and gavottes croustillantes. Accompanied by a small glass of the 2020 Jurançon “Au Capceu
from the Domaine Camin-Larredya.
While I am now still reveling in the fresh memories of this menu, the sun appears for the first time in the late afternoon over the rolling hills of the Black Forest and reminds me of my resolution to take a long walk in nature later. In the evening, the next reservation is waiting two doors down.
But first, a quick look at the debauched selection of Friandise.
It was an impressive menu, with many truly evocative and memorable courses. In addition, the refreshed knowledge that here in the Black Forest a cuisine is celebrated, which is free of fashionable trends and ideas, which focuses on itself, its own history and on the great classics. This determination in combination with the consistently best possible product quality appears contemporary and modern, and above all extremely confident. Of course, there is also a vegetarian menu option (245€) – for me, however, only on the next trip to the Black Forest, which hopefully will not wait another five years…