Monday, November 06, 2006

The Bier Garden

A beautiful Sunday morning prompted my husband and I onto the motorcycle, speeding across multiple bridges into Portsmouth, honing in on The Bier Garden.

We arrived about 20 minutes before opening, but the impressive wrought-iron gate was ajar, so we strode in. One of the owners smiled at us, told us that they would open at noon, but we could wait with a beer, if we desired. We desired.

Faced with an unwieldy 250+ beer list, I threw myself into our waitresses capable hands. At her prompting, Dave went with a Boddington's, and I with the Weihenstephaner Hefe. The color was like burnished gold, and held a thick white head. There was a spiciness about it that smoothed into a pronounced wheat flavor, and was one of the better wheat beers that I've tasted. Lovely. We kicked back and relaxed under the wisteria-covered porch, enjoying the eclectic mish-mash of checkered tablecloths, mis-matched chairs, and moss-covered statuettes. The sky cleared just a bit more, birds chirped sweetly, and the restaurant officially opened.

We'd snuck in our orders a bit earlier, so shortly had a ridiculous amount of steaming hot German goodness before us.

Dave went with his benchmark German test-food, the goulasche($10.95). It was served on a delightful bed of spaetzle, and came with a side of his choice, in this case, the marinated green bean salad. He loved it all-- the beef was tasty and tender, the gravy had the perfect consistency. A true ploughman's lunch-- I was as impressed as he.

I was tempted by the liverwurst sandwich, but in the interest of branching out, selected the braunwurst platter ($6.99), with a pretzel roll($2.50). The pretzel roll, I wasn't so impressed with-- I guess I'd anticipated it being more pretzel-ish, although the accompanying mustard was nice. The braunwurst was excellent; subtly spicy, with hints of mustard and marjoram. Mine came with a choice of two sides, and I selected the cucumber and potato salads. Both were quite good. The cucumber salad was liberally doused with vinegar and dill; the potato salad flecked with delicious chunks of bacon.

Since that day, we've returned many a time to expand our knowledge of the menu. All manner of sausages, I am happy to report, are fine, fat flavorful specimens. Jagerschnitzel ($14.95) comes drenched in a mouth-watering gravy that, in theory, could make shoe leather palatable. Freshly-grilled onions and peppers provide colorful contrast. Sauerbraten ($12.95) is pleasantly stewy, with plump, hand-made spaetzle soaking up the generous gravy. Both the liverwurst ($4.25) and teawurst ($4.25) sandwiches are served open-faced, and while tasty, were vastly improved by a squirt of spicy German mustard.

Tony and Lory Osfolk, known simply as "Mom & Dad", and children Kevin and Stefanie, have created an authentic German restaurant in the heart of downtown Portsmouth. The recipes are all handed-down from the old country, and each meal is made from scratch to order. This European-style of dining, the antithesis of fast food, encourages one to linger a little longer over meals, over drinks, and preferably, with friends. Be it out on the patio, inside the wood-paneled dining room, or over in the bar, "be a diner, not just an eater!".

See more photos from the Bier Garden here.


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