I was at a wedding on Sunday, and my lovely date was surprised to hear me mention that I wanted a cold beer. I realize that she’s only known me to drink wine thus far (which is always how it is in the beginning), but I do enjoy a cold beer, especially on a warm afternoon.
The groom at the wedding was a good friend of mine from our Martini House days. Back in 2007, the kitchen staff would habitually drink “Tecate Tea” after work: That’s a one-quart plastic deli filled with ice, a liberal squeeze of lemon and lime juice, and Tecate poured to the brim. It’s impossibly refreshing after a night in a sweltering kitchen.
A beer aficionado may criticize this whimsical concoction, perhaps the same way that a wine aficionado may sneer at sangria. But I don’t ever want to party with those kinds of people.
If I’m in the East Bay and I happen to crave a fancier beer, then that’s my opportunity to visit Gaumankitzel in West Berkeley. I’m a fan of Gaumankitzel’s whole brezel and sausage concept, so I like to pair that little plate with a big, tall German bier.
The last time is visited Gaumankitzel, I stayed on for an early dinner of Spätzle with Herbed Walnut Sauce, pictured above and below. Most of us will probably recognize this green “walnut sauce” as pesto, especially here in the Bay Area, where pestos were ubiquitous during the California Cuisine movement.
Although pesto originates in Northern Italy, Gaumankitzel’s substitution of walnuts for pine nuts offers a Germanic twist that works well for this dish. The spätzle’s prodigious nest of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is an even more literal (and more decadent) nod to Italy.
I wondered, foolishly, if perhaps there was TOO much cheese on this dish, but it actually melted into the fresh, house-made spätzle with terrific results. Now I’m wondering: Has pesto and Parmigiano-Reggiano been slowly infiltrating German cuisine all these years? Or is this Italo-German mashup purely a Berkeley thing?