Dining with Dan

The Bavarian Chef

 

by Daniel M. Walker, Contributing Writer

 

Dan Walker

“Gemutlich” means warm and cozy in German. That is how Jerome Thalwitz wants his patrons to feel after their dining experience at The Bavarian Chef. To Jerome, this is part of his heritage. He moved to Virginia from Germany with his parents at the age of 11, where his father opened the original Bavarian Chef in Madison, Va., over 35 years ago.

“My father felt the country living around Madison was very close to his native Germany. Growing up in the restaurant business and following in my father’s footsteps was a natural. I love the excitement of a busy weekend and watching patrons enjoy my creations. Like my father, I studied and apprenticed as a chef at the five-star Hotel Vier Jahreszeiteu in Berchtesgoden, Germany. While I have adapted my creations to local tastes and likes, I always want my patrons to experience the distinctive taste of fine European cuisine,” explains Jerome.

The Bavarian Chef’s menu is extensive and presents an array of German and European veal, pork, chicken, beef and seafood favorites. Entrees that are readily identified are Cordon Bleu, Wiener Schnitzel and Steak Diane. In fact, Jerome prepares steak a number of ways, including Steak au Poivre, a French method of preparing filet flamed in black peppercorns with a sauce of cream and cognac.

Two things I appreciate in a menu are that the entrees can also be served as appetizers and that the vegetables are served family-style. Vegetables are often a second thought in some restaurants, but not with Jerome. As I would later find out, Jerome’s vegetables are very special.

As I opened the menu, my eyes immediately honed in on the Wiener Schnitzel, which gave me a flashback to a romantic dinner several years ago overlooking a scenic European lake at sunset. That was my first taste of the iconic German dish. I made up my mind immediately — my dinner would be Wiener Schnitzel prepared in the traditional fashion. Jerome suggested topping the sautéed, hand-breaded veal with Black Forest ham and Gouda cheese. The results were delightful! Jerome also prepares schnitzel in several different fashions, such as Mandel Schnitzel, which is pork tenderloin coated with almonds and served in a strawberry-gin sauce.

The meal began with a creamed red pepper soup topped with a generous portion of crabmeat. I also had an appetizer portion of weisswurst, bauernwurst, and bratwurst sausages served on a bed of sauerkraut.

Attention to detail always distinguishes a good restaurant, and the Bavarian Chef hit a number of home runs. For example, the sauerkraut was exceptional. Often sauerkraut tastes bitter, with too much vinegar in the brine. Jerome’s sauerkraut was mellow and rich.

The same attention to detail was evident in the family-style vegetables. The red cabbage, Spatzle, carrots, creamed corn, string beans, whipped potatoes, potato dumplings and zucchini are all worth a return visit to the Bavarian Chef. I especially enjoyed the red cabbage cooked with apples, onions and wine. The creamed corn seasoned with bacon also suited my palate.

I have always felt that in a taste- bud wrestling contest between European desserts, German desserts would more than hold their own against French confections. As with his entrees and vegetables, all of Jerome’s desserts are made from scratch. He offers Apfel­strudel, Black Forest Cake, German Chocolate Cake, Sacher Torte, Grand Marnier Crème Torte, Bavarian Nut Ball Carrot Cake, and Baked Alaska (with 24-hour notice). I sampled the flourless, dense chocolate Sacher Torte and the Grand Marnier Crème Torte. On my next visit, I will have to try the Apfelstrudel.

One of the really neat things about my gourmet adventures is planning for a return visit. There are actually two Bavarian Chef restaurants. The original location is on Route 29 just outside Madison. Jerome also has a new Bavarian Chef, located in the old train station in Fredericksburg. Jerome explains this restaurant setting is not uncommon in Germany. In little villages throughout Bavaria, some of their best restaurants are either in or very close to train stations.

From my own experience traveling in Germany, I found that Jerome has captured the good eats, good cheer and the “gemutlich” of the traditional European heartland for all of us to enjoy.

Route 29 in Madison, 18 miles north of Charlottesville • (540) 948-6505 & 200 Lafayette Blvd., Fredericksburg, near the Caroline St. shops in Old Town • (540) 656-2101. www.thebavarianchef.com

 

 

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