We recently celebrated our joint 40th birthdays, so had what we thought was going to be a small party that turned into a large party. The theme was “alpine barbecue,” a term I invented because I’ve been deeply inspired by the alpine turn of events in Portlandia. The invitation quoted Grüner restaurant:
an adventure through the Alps and along the Danube River which begins in the Black Forest and ends at the Black Sea. As it passes through Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Romania, an alternate Europe emerges, with a hearty, earthier culinary tradition favoring savory, dill, caraway seeds, crème fraîche, horseradish and paprika as opposed to the more familiar southern flavors of garlic, basil, olive oil and tomatoes. This rich variety of cuisines is woven together by seasons and mountains and rivers—much like the Pacific Northwest.
Yes, it was as good as it sounds. Maybe even better. We rallied the neighbors for their tables and chairs, and I cooked my lowlands off, using wild elk and smoked trout captured and prepped by my brother-in-law in Montana. I adapted Hank Shaw’s moose meatball recipe for a slighly more saucy and less photo-perfect version.
The wheatberry salad above was a big hit. It was as simple as could be, too, just fresh red cabbage mixed with wheatberries simmered in a vegetable broth, apples, a host of complementary pickled vegetables, and a homemade cider vinegar vinaigrette.
OK, there was a tiny bit of cheating, since the meatballs were technically Swedish, plus I wanted to drink Czech Becherovka and that’s not exactly alpine, and the summer pudding was pretty much straight out of England, but no one complained.
…and there was only one small container of leftover bean dip, and another of about a dozen (out of 150) meatballs. That’s a sign of a good party, I think.
Cannery Eugenius pickled vegetables and fruits
Pickled cherries and pickled prunes stuffed with foie gras
Three Ghostly Sisters: Smoked Montana trout paté, Liptauer cheese spread, Ayers Creek Farm tarbais bean dip with savory
Assorted crackers and breads, dill potato chips for the decadent
Alpine wines (Austria, northern Italy, Alsace)
The Concrete (in Czech, “be-ton,” Becherovka & Tonic)
Sour cherry shrub
Open Oak wheatberry salad, pickled beets and chard, red cabbage, apple
Montana wild elk meatballs in prune gravy
Grilled Benedetti sausages
Wild Chinook Salmon, mustard and dill glaze
Warm slaw with Riesling & Riesling vinegar, caraway
Grilled summer squash, lemon, mint, walnuts
Romano beans beurre liptauer
Dill potato & zucchini salad with buttermilk dressing
Summer pudding: blueberries, tayberries, sour cherries, vieux garçon liqueur
Cheesecake with choice of loquat or sour cherry sauce