Cologne is a pioneer of regional food culture
Regional tastes better
The marketing of locally sourced fruit and vegetables from the surrounding countryside has been a trend for quite some time now and will hopefully become common practice. After all, the consumption of regionally grown products can be a unique culinary experience and is also a global necessity for a better world. Cologne might not be at the top of the gastronomy game (apart from a few exceptions), but around two years ago Germany’s first national food and nutrition institute was established here. One of its aims is to develop a strategy for a sustainable regional and seasonal diet. And it’s not only the local producers but also food retailers who have recognised that the attribute “regional” sells well. It would be great if more restaurants would follow suit, establishing contact with the farmers around the city and bringing their products to the table in a way that is profitable for everyone. ernaehrungsrat-koeln.de
Hold the wine!
If you don’t want to drink wine or beer with your meal in a restaurant, your only option is often the same boring non-alcoholic options. With a bit of luck there might be a non-alcoholic prosecco on the menu, otherwise you’ll have to stick with fruit juice or plain old water, as if you were constantly thirsty. But at his restaurant Ox & Klee in the middle of the three impressive Kranhaus buildings by the Rhine River, the pioneering Daniel Gottschlich is showing that non-alcoholic drinks can also be a sensory culinary experience. To complement Ox & Klee’s nine-course dinner, diners don’t just get a wine pairing, but also have the option of being served non-alcoholic drinks with every course, which either come from the kitchen, are the responsibility of the sommelier, or mixed in the bar one floor below. Tonic with buckwheat caramel and pepper, red grape juice with olive oil and eucalyptus or beetroot with bay leaf might sound unusual at first, but once you’ve tried them, you’ll soon be arguing about who gets to be the designated driver of the evening, happily forgoing wine in favour of more creative refreshments.
Ox & Klee, Im Zollhafen 18, 50678 Cologne, oxundklee.de
Cologne’s culinary scene is unimpressed by trends
A whole new side to tofu
For a long time, vegetarian food has been seen as the option for killjoys, and spongy soya strips and flavourless nut roasts or other meat replacement products the epitome of bland and boring cuisine. The majority of people in this part of the world still regard tofu as a tasteless alternative to meat. Only with the increasing popularity of Asian cuisine in Germany are people starting to realise that meatless or even vegan food doesn’t necessarily have to revolve around the replacement of animal components. Vietnamese restaurants like Chum Chay on Friesenwall are leading the way: here you can enjoy mi quảng trộn with fried tofu, various vegetables, peanuts and spicy lime and chili sauce on thin, yellow noodles, for example. The pretty red neon lettering above the entrance makes the courtyard even more attractive. Especially to the trendy foodie crowd, who always knows a great veggie eatery when they see it.
Chum Chay, Friesenwall 29, 50672 Cologne, chum-chay.de
Heaven on earth
We probably don’t need to reiterate the fact that the Old Town isn’t an old town in the strictest sense of the word. Nevertheless, it’s still a magnet for tourists. The food and drinks on offer in that area has, with a number of exceptions, geared itself towards cooking large portions for people who will probably never return. The canon of Cologne’s local dishes is therefore limited to boiled pork knuckle, ‘Himmel und Ääd’ (mashed potato and apple with blood sausage) and the famous bratwurst sausage. You can find these dishes all around the city, but for the abovementioned reasons, they are usually of an average quality. Thankfully there are also exceptions, places where local traditions are given a new twists. Like Johann Schäfer, a brewery restaurant in a former haulage firm’s premises on the legendary Elsassstrasse in the southern part of town, where innovative, traditional dishes such as braised kohlrabi with hazelnut and anise, pork belly in smoked paprika stock and red cabbage with honey-glazed plum and millet are served at prices that won’t break the bank.
Johann Schäfer, Elsassstrasse 6, 50677 Cologne, johann-schaefer.de
(by Johannes J. Arens)