It’s been a cold winter here in the Pays Basque this year… It snowed last Wednesday which promptly caused much chaos for the French here 😅 Roads were blocked, a lot of people were told to just stay at home, you get my drift. Having lived in milder winters over here these past 7 years, I’ve become somewhat of a wuss to the cold.
To combat my winter blues, I found solace in — yes, as you’ve predicted: food! ‘La choucroute garnie’ to be more precise 😀 A platter of smoked ham, sausages, braised pork, boiled potatoes and ‘la choucroute’ (sauerkraut) cooked in fat and beer; you can basically hear me shout “BYE, FELICIA!” to my winter blues across the table hah…
One of Alsace’s most popular dish, ‘la choucroute garnie’ refers to sauerkraut WITH an assortiment of cured meats/meats and steamed potatoes. ‘La choucroute’ alone simply means sauerkraut. To the Alsatians, ’la choucroute garnie’ is known to be a homey, important dish for families to gather around the table to enjoy together.
Interestingly enough, the origins of ‘la choucroute’ were historically from China. Possibly pizza, now sauerkraut? Almost everything is Made in China, eh! It all started with the Chinese construction workers on the Great Wall of China. Due to their being on an extremely isolated site, the workers fed on fermented cabbage that was preserved in brine. The Huns, a nomadic tribe from the eastern edge of the Altai Mountains and the Caspian Sea (roughly modern Kazakhstan) discovered this method of cabbage fermentation while trying to invade the Great Wall of China. By the 5th century, the Huns brought ‘la choucroute’ and it’s method to Alsace while on their way to Austria and Bavaria. And the rest, as they say, is history!
Alright, let’s get down to some serious meaty business… We were invited by friends to a night à la choucroute so of course, we had to go! La Tireuse in Biarritz has been hosting these Alsatian specialities from the 3rd of February and the last day to enjoy these meaty platters would be this 10th of March, so hurry!
You have the options of three different ‘choucroute garnies’; there’s simply the ‘jarret braisé’ (braised pork shank) served with either ‘la choucroute’ or belgian fries for 16 euros, ‘la choucroute garnie’ that composes of knack sausages, Montbéliard sausages, smoked country bacon, carp fish, boiled potatoes and ‘la choucroute’ cooked in beer (In Alsace, it is also widely cooked in Alsace riesling) for 17 euros and then there’s ‘la choucroute jarret’ which was the meatiest (and what we all ordered heh heh). It came with knack sausages, Montbéliard sausages, smoked country bacon, braised pork shank, boiled potatoes and ‘la choucroute’ at 22 euros. Did reading all that raise your cholesterol levels or what? Oops, mah bad! Sorry not sorry 😜
Not only were we served a sumptuous Alsatian meat feast, the cutlery and table decor at each table echoed that of Alsace. Our drinks were served in traditional Alsace wine glasses; small clear bowls perched on vibrant emerald green stems and our plates, painted with idyllic village settings.
And while one is enjoying their ‘choucroute garnie’, one must also have an Alsatian Riesling to go hand in hand! We had the Zimmermann Cuvée Blankenberg Gewürztraminer which was light and not cloyingly sweet, almost as if it tasted like lychee. And after that, beer. Glorious, delicious beer from Belgium and France. Our first beer was the Gouden Carolus Indulgence 2016. A beautiful pale golden nectar, nicely carbonated, mildly dry, slightly sour and fruity: ’twas a good beer to start with!
My favourite was the PalomBière, it’s basically beer aged in Armagnac oak casks. It’s made here in the Landes by Domaine de Lassaubatju who specializes in armagnac production. This beer was simply WOW! There is no Armagnac added into this beer, you can taste the sublime aroma of Armagnac in it so wonderfully. It tasted of toffee and apples mmmmm… The PalomBière went swimmingly well with dessert. By the time we had our last, lil ol’ me was getting a tad tipsy so I must admit I don’t quite remember how it tasted like BUT I do clearly remember I still preferred the PalomBière 😛
As for dessert, I ordered the vacherin (a dessert made of meringue, whipped cream, ice cream and fruit). The version here at La Tireuse came with small cubes of meringue, a scoop of raspberry sorbet, vanilla ice cream and a hard caramelised toffee bite (again, this went SO WELL with the PalomBière!). The two that ordered the apple pie verrine found it quite lacklustre and I had to agree.
I had such a fun, delicious, tipsy night out with friends at La Tireuse. A small part of the restaurant is currently open, where we dined à la choucroute. They are actually still undergoing renovations and set to fully reopen this March 15th with its extensive beer bar in full swing! I love me a good beer so am looking forward to it 😊 Maybe I’ll see you there!
Location: 29 rue Mazagran 64200 Biarritz, France
Wednesday – Saturday: 12pm to 2am
Sunday : 12pm to 11:45pm
Tip: Make reservations for ‘la choucroute garnie’ as their current available space is tiny