There really is a little bit of every cuisine in the Bay Area. Last night we went out with friends to Speisekammer to see for ourselves if the German food merits the good reviews – and it does. Four distinct menus with tantalizing options (specials, regular items, beverages, and desserts) are fun to read, and potentially embarrassing to pronounce when ordering, making for an all-around enjoyable meal.
We contemplated writing a Specialty Brews post for the boot, but thought instead we’d feature it in its proper context. Radeberger Pilsner clocks in at 4.8% ABV and was too hoppy for most at the table, so it was up to August to make a dent in it but she didn’t get very far at all. It’s just so much beer in a 2 liter boot! Check out the Radeberger website; it’s almost like a movie trailer.
The escargot on the day’s specials menu were stuffed in button mushroom caps with garlic herb butter. Typically we see tiny snails but these were gargantuan in comparison! Protruding from the mushroom caps, they were tender and not like eraser bits that we’re accustomed to expecting. The butter sauce was rich and hearty with garlic and fresh herbs, and the mushrooms were a nice change from plain escargot or puffed pastry wraps.
This was an appetizer that everyone dug into, for all at the table liked seafood and there was plenty of variety here. Poached shrimp, gravlax, pickled herring, and smoked trout came on a mound of greens. The shrimp were very fresh and slightly warm still actually, prepared in a good, spiced boil and somewhat buttery. Gravlax, or raw salmon cured in salt, sugar, and dill, was different – none of us expected fish to be sweet, but regardless it was a pleasant flavor. Pickled herring is one of August’s favorite snacks from childhood, so she took full advantage of having it here. The smoked trout had a relatively flaky texture with its smoky flavor and a hint of sweetness.
“A variety of domestic and imported cheeses served with seasonal fruit” was super impressive. Surprisingly, Zach the Supertaster wasn’t able to identify immediately all the cheeses; for example, we had to look up the sage derby with mild flavor and bright green veins. We added a pretzel for a tiny upcharge, and one of our friends who loves pretzels highly approved of this one. All the fruit was exceptionally fresh and great pairings for the cheeses.
August and the pretzel-loving friend both tried the sautéed venison medallions in plum sauce served with spätzle and red cabbage. Be prepared, this is game meat, so it’s not the most tender but it is full of flavor because it is very lean. The sauce was sweet but not sugary, blending in well with the buttery and tender spätzle. The red cabbage took our friend by surprise because she didn’t think it would be more sour than sauerkraut, but August grew up with red cabbage so she welcomed the pucker.
Our other friend got the bratwurst with cracked spices, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes. He ate every morsel and was so distracted he didn’t say a word, therefore it must have been good!
For a side we got creamy spätzle baked with caramelized onions and European cheese, plus we added bacon for a fair upcharge (black forest ham was another option). Like what came with the venison plate, the spätzle was tender but amped up, made super creamy and gooey with cheeses and smoky with the bacon. The caramelized onions added a sweet/savory flavor. For basically being a German-style mac n cheese, it puts a lot of American versions to shame.
With five different sausages and a grilled smoked pork chop served over sauerkraut, this is a platter easily for two to three people, or Zach and a whole lot for Bea the Dog back at home. It included bratwurst, thürlinger, bockwurst, two kleine nürnberger sausages, and a mystery sausage that wasn’t on the menu nor could the server identify it. Each was very high quality with no gristle chunks, very juicy, and great snap to the natural casing. Bockwurst is Zach’s favorite in general, and here was a good version and he liked that he could see actual chives in the mix. Being a ham fan, the smoked pork chop was essentially an extra lean pork loin with a bone, smoky yet tender and juicy. The sauerkraut didn’t have an overwhelmingly processed sour flavor; he could tell it was made in house, and it had a slight sweet flavor that set it apart from other sauerkrauts we’ve tried.
We will definitely come back to Speisekammer another day. It’s worth multiple visits to enjoy the food, and also the live music that plays two to three times a week starting at 8:30. Despite having a very, very extensive alcoholic beverage selection, this is for sure a family place, welcoming to all ages.
Without a car but with hours to spare on foot while waiting for new brakes, a tire rotation, and an oil change, we walked around downtown Martinez in the vicinity of the repair garage. We thought about other people who might be drawn here for any number of reasons, since it is the county seat, and we figured, why not find the best places to recommend to those who, like us today, are on foot? Where can someone walk to for great, quick food? Today we sampled from three restaurants, to provide a spectrum of what’s not just available, but also great quality.
Luigi’s Deli and Market was the final stop during our day downtown. It has had a makeover in the last couple of years since we’ve been here. Outdoor patio seating and lots of indoor tables accommodate all the people that flock for the fresh sandwiches and deli salads, and Zach noted all the salads looked fresh. To share, we got a hot corned beef sandwich with all the trimmings: Swiss cheese, pickles, sauerkraut, and thousand island dressing. It was grilled on a panini press with Semifreddi’s bread, melting the cheese perfectly. Ninety percent of the cheese and all the meat served here comes from Boar’s Head; the 10% of the cheese that’s not is special order for customers. The sandwich was everything you could hope for in a hot, traditional style. From grilling the bread it was nice and crispy on the outside but not too hard at all to pull through. The highlight of the sandwich was the corned beef, followed closely by the Swiss cheese. The meat was very lean, fresh, and not too salty and very mild with the pickling spices. The cheese was strong and sharp but not overwhelming, as it balanced well with the other elements. Additionally, the meat and cheese are available for you to buy sliced and take home.
If you are a soda fan, you will be left with your jaw on the floor. There are over 400 different kinds of soda available, and many of them are from small bottlers that have been open for over 100 years! Even though this picture shows hundreds of them on a shelf, there is also a cold case so don’t worry, not everything is room temperature. For the sodas that are, they have an ice machine with cups for you to cool your drink in a jiff. Not pictured also are the six racks of different potato chips, including baked, low-calorie, and kettle.
With a variety of sandwiches for your hunger, and an even bigger multitude of beverages for your thirst, Luigi’s won’t leave you dissatisfied.