What is Wienerschnitzel

What is Wienerschnitzel? The author traveled to the Bavarian-themed town of Kimberley, British Columbia to find out.
What do you think of when you think of German food? For me Wienerschnitzel tops the list. But until recently I’d never actually had it. And here’s a confession: after hearing the word my entire life, I wasn’t even sure what it was. I assumed it was some sort of sausage dish drenched in fried onions and heavy gravy and served with pickled cabbage and consumed with beer. In fact, traditional Wienerschnitzel is a veal cutlet that has been pounded as thin as a pancake then breaded and fried in butter and served with fresh lemon. What? That didn’t sound like Wienerschnitzel to me. That sounded absolutely awful. I had to try it.

Luckily there’s a traditional Bavarian-themed village only hours away from where I live in Kimberley, British Columbia. Besides great skiing, hiking, mountain biking, and fishing, Kimberley offers an expansive selection of traditional Bavarian cuisine.

Although traditional Wienerschnitzel is made with veal, it can also be made with pork or chicken. I’m generally opposed to eating veal, but in this case I decided to make an exception. I figured this would most likely be the one and only Wienerschnitzel moment of my life, so I decided to set ethics aside and engage in the traditional experience. To further enhance the authenticity of the adventure I chose The Old Bauernhaus to host the dining experience.

The Old Bauernhaus was built more than 350 years ago, in 1640, near the city of Munich in Bavaria. It began as a shelter for servants of a nearby castle who cultivated a huge apple orchard nearby. Over time the farmhouse was owned by three different families, found use as a cider pub and survived the Black Plague. In 1756, the log building was restored in a typical post-and-beam construction (Zierbundstadel) and a stable was added.

In 1987, the then owners, Tony and Ingrid Schwarzenberger, took the house apart, and in 1989 the material was packed into two containers and sent to Canada by ship. In May of the same year, construction of The Old Bauernhaus began in “The Bavarian City of the Rockies,” also known as Kimberley. Six months later, in December, the restaurant opened for its first season selling Wienerschnitzel and other traditional German fare. Tony and Ingrid operated the business for ten years, until 1999, when the business was taken over by Nils and Michelle Fuhge.

As supporters of the Slow Food movement Nils and Michelle use only the best quality ingredients, local and organic whenever possible. Their venison and chicken come from Kaslo, they receive fresh produce from Fort Steele and Creston and their fresh ground organic rye flour for their daily-prepared sourdough rye bread is also local. Their sausage and eggs are obtained locally in Kimberly. Their veal comes from Konig Meats in Invermere. The coffee they serve is roasted locally in Kaslo and their mushrooms come from Dave the mushroom guy who mostly forages for them in the nearby mountains.

My wife and I arrived at The Old Bauernhaus around seven and were seated in the heavily timbered dining room. I perused the menu for effect, but it was all effect. I knew what I wanted. It was the Wienerschnitzel for me. Grain-fed veal, nothing else, no matter how enticing, was going to change my mind.

When the waitress came my wife ordered the special—a venison tenderloin in a mushroom cream sauce served with spatzlë.

“And you, sir?” asked the waitress.

And using my best German accent I grinned and said, “Ah yes, I believe I’ll have the Wienerschnitzel.”

When the meals arrived I was just plain giddy. The Wienerschnitzel looked amazing. Flattened and breaded and browned it looked like the surface of a chanterelle mushroom. There were pan-fried potatoes on the side and pickled cabbage and a bouquet of fresh vegetable that looked like they had been lovingly prepared, but I didn’t waste time with all that. I went straight for the Wienerschnitzel. I cut off a slice and speared it with my fork and held it up to my nose for a moment before placing it tenderly in my watering mouth. This was thee German delicacy. A food entire restaurants are sometimes dedicated to. A food the entire world has heard of even if they don’t know what it is. This was a legendary dish. This was authentic Wienerschnitzel prepared by an authentic German chef in an authentic Bavarian farmhouse that was over 350 years old. The anticipation was palpable.

I closed my eyes. I chewed slowly.

“How is it?” asked my wife.

I’d heard that mediocre Wienerschnitzel could be overbreaded and dry or excessively heavy, but this was anything but. It was light and dense at the same time and bursting with flavor. A squeeze of lemon on top really served to awaken the tastebuds.

“You’ve got to try this,” I said to my wife.

It was delicious. It was bold. It was making me happy. She took a bite and smiled.

“I don’t know,” she said, returning to her venison. I think you chose wrong. This is amazing.”


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Dustin LaBarge
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