It's mostly locals who frequent this cozy pub, so there's lots of laughter and friendly greetings. Newcomers, too, are warmly welcomed; by the proprietor, the wait-staff and other guests. Rating: Quality 14/20 Value 15/20Set in an old granary, the Alte Zunftscheune offers a variety of settings: a sunny patio, a garden courtyard shaded with trees and vines, an ancient stone cellar with working well, and the half-timber-construction main dining area, split between the ground floor and an open mezzanine.
Not surprisingly, wine is a dominant theme in the decor, from old wine making equipment to framed photographs of wine princesses. Wine also plays a role in many recipes, even in desserts, where it's often substituted for milk. Almost all produce, meats and vegetables, like the recipes, come from local farms.
Regional specialties include potato soup, pork with bacon and Gräwes (seasoned mashed potatoes with cabbage), beef filet with horseradish sauce, liverwurst, blood sausage, and such Mosel fish as perch, pike and eel. Dessert might be a tart and sweet rhubarb compote. Main courses are in the €9-12 range and should, of course, be accompanied by local wine.
Contact: Goldene Traube Am Markt 8, D-56841 Traben-Trarbach, tel +49/6541/6011, fax 6013. Proprietors: Richard und Marlies Allmacher
Through the centuries, this region was generally poor, a fact reflected in its cuisine, which favors smoked meats and fish, sausages, cheese, bread, wild boar, turkey and potatoes. But modern tastes demand creativity, and the regions restaurants, for the most part, deliver. Wine, of course, plays a major role in many dishes.
Some of the best places to eat along the Mosel are Strausswirtschaften (literally bouquet establishments), small, temporary, vintner-run eateries set up in courtyards, backyards, driveways and cellars. Two regulations regarding these places persist from medieval times: they may open no more than four months a year and cannot post permanent signs. To get around the latter rule, the owners hang a straw broom or a bouquet of twigs (hence the name) wrapped in ribbon. Almost all sell simple but tasty fare, usually straight from the vintners kitchen. Often the proprietor will not only take orders and serve, but also prepare the meals. It's good food and a great way to mix with the locals. Quality varies, but any shopkeeper can direct visitors to his or her favorite.
The primary restaurant at the Hotel Richtershof is elegant, romantic and tranquil. Entering guests pass an open kitchen where aromas and sizzling pans put the taste buds on alert. Arched windows in the 1809 structure allow ample light and fabric-backed chairs seem to absorb much of the sound. Service is formal, but not stiff. The menu is ambitious and successful: consommé of lemongrass and mussels, lobster ravioli on wild asparagus, brook char in lemon-thyme sauce, kangaroo with peanut sauce, and iced strawberry soup with champagne sorbet.
Most entrées are between €20-24. With a glass of wine, an appetizer and dessert, the bill could easily come to €80 per person. Perhaps the best value is the daily, four-course prix fixe menu at €33. A five-course menu, with corresponding wines is €82.
The Doctor-Weinstube, a longtime favorite of Europeans, is increasingly popular with Americans visiting the charming wine village of Bernkastel-Kues. Set among the towns cobblestone streets and half-timber houses, the hotel was built in 1668 as a tithe house and still maintains much of its Renaissance atmosphere. Guestrooms are average in size, basic and bright with a rustic feel. Through dormer windows they face either the narrow street or the courtyard terrace.
If you arrive at the four-star Weinromantikhotel Richtershof in a horse-drawn coach, you won't feel out of place. A gravel driveway, shaded by a spreading chestnut tree, leads to the 300-year-old winery/estate converted to a hotel in 2001. It's a charming collection of half-timber, Baroque and Jugendstil buildings connected by modern structures to create an ensemble feeling. Public spaces, the restaurant and guest rooms have an understated elegance. Understated too, are the room rates, which would not shock at twice the price.
The idyllic setting, next to a wooded park with pond and waterfall, is enhanced by the presence of an active winery. Guests can tour its 17th-century colonnaded, barrel-filled cellars or hike through vineyards with a guide to explain the wine making process.
The 44 guestrooms are spacious and individually decorated, many with antique furnishings. Napoleon once slept in Number 402, which has a four-poster bed and the original stove from 1809. Number 401, decorated in a peaceful floral theme, has a terrace overlooking the garden. A corner double, Number 406 overlooks the medieval portion of the estate, as well as the garden and vineyards. A new wing is charming but lacks the character of the older buildings.
The family-run Hotel Hutter is, quite simply, a steal. For the price of a mid-range dinner in most German cities, you get overnight lodging and breakfast. Add another €10 ($11) for dinner.
The 42 rooms, mostly doubles, are plain but functional, clean and large enough for two. Ask for a river-view room on the first floor (our second) that opens to a patio panorama encompassing the 180-degree bend in the river, the steep vineyards of the Bremmer Calmont rising behind it, and the ruins of the Kloster Stuben monastery. Be sure to request a private bath or shower, since a few rooms have shared facilities.
Each has its own atmosphere, but all share the same varied menu, with an emphasis on regional dishes prepared with creative flair call it Mosel Fusion. Sure, potatoes are a Mosel staple, but one Zunftscheune version presents them sliced thin, filled with spinach and poached salmon, topped with hollandaise sauce and cheese, and baked. The salmon, of course, is poached in Riesling, which is another dominant theme: Riesling soup, Riesling cheese sauce and the decadent Vintners Dream vanilla ice cream served with a warm Riesling cream sauce and marinated grapes.
Several entrées are served in the skillet, like the Butcher Platter with fresh blood sausage and liverwurst fried with onions and potatoes, or cheese Spätzle sautéed with onions. Less adventurous diners can choose from a great variety of meat and fish entrées, including a half-dozen types of Schnitzel. Despite the spread-out dining areas, service is consistent and good. Entrées range from €7-18 but average around €14.
Rating: Quality 13/20 Value 15/20
Moselromantik-Hotel Kessler Meyer
About 15-minutes walk upstream from Cochem, the four-star Hotel Kessler Meyer provides stunning views not just of the Mosel, but of cliffs, the town and the imposing Reichsburg (Imperial Castle). The hotel has been around and much expanded since 1978. While it may not have the character of older hotels, it has both elegance and charm. Service is top-notch. Guestrooms are spacious and filled with light, many have balconies made private by a floral hedge. Numbers 48 and 49 in the newest part of the hotel offer the best views. In the twilight, it is bewitching to sit on the balcony and watch the lights of the town come on.
Contact: Moselromantik-Hotel Kessler Meyer Am Reilsbach 12. D-56812 Cochem, tel +49/267/197880, fax 3858. Prop: Kessler-Meyer family
Gutshotel Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt
Contact: Gutshotel Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, Balduinstr. 1, Obere Mühlbrücke 9, Neumagen Dhron, D-96049, tel. +49/06507/2035, fax 5644.