“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
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