The Palatinate region has many traditional dishes. The most famous dish is called Saumagen [sow’s stomach], consisting of a mixture of pork, potatoes and seasonings. Saumagen was one of the favorite dishes of the former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who was born in the Palatinate and loved to introduce state representatives to the Palatine cuisine. The most famous dinner that happened in the Palatinate was between Helmut Kohl and the Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. During the dinner Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to the reunion of Western and Eastern Germany, which finally led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
The traditional sausage of the Palatinate is the Bratwurst [fried sausage], which is also based on pork meat. Another culinary specialty served in all traditional restaurants is liver dumplings, in German called Leberknödel. A Bratwurst or liver dumplings are often accompanied by sauerkraut and fried potatoes. A particular salad is Wurstsalat – a salad made of strips of sausage, onions, gherkins, oil and vinegar dressing. This kind of salad is a main dish rather than a side dish and it is delicious when served in summer.
A legendary seasonal dish is Zwiwwelkuche un neier Woi [onion cake with new wine]. New wine is only served during the wine harvest from September to November and consists of freshly pressed grape juice, in the wine language called must. Despite the fact that must is in an early stage of alcohol fermentation, new wine already contains about 4 percent alcohol, provoking a cheerful ambiance everywhere where it is poured out.
The Palatinate soil provides perfect conditions not only for vines but also for all kinds of vegetables. Therefore, the area east from the Palatinate wine region is also referred to as the Palatine Vegetable Garden. One vegetable that stands out is white asparagus, harvested from April to May. Asparagus is served in all different kinds of dishes ranging from pancakes with hollandaise sauce, as a topping for the French tarte flambee or simply, in the form of ham-asparagus rolls.
A traditional sweet dish is called Dampfnudels [steam-noodles], a sort of white bread roll eaten as a meal or as a dessert and topped with a vanilla cream. Another specialty from the Palatinate is Quetschekuche [plum cake], which is traditionally served with Grumbeersupp [potato soup]. Be aware that you will not find these names in a normal German dictionary as they belong to the vocabulary of the local dialect.
Many of those dishes work well with a glass of Riesling, which may be served in the traditional quarter-liter glass, called Viertel, or in a half-liter glass. If the half-liter glass is filled with pure wine locals generally just order a Schoppen and if they prefer the wine mixed with sparkling water they ask for a Schorle. The traditional half-liter glass in the Palatinate is the Dubbeglas, due to the special shape that gives it a stronger grip. It is told that the Dubbeglas was invented by butchers from the town of Bad Dürkheim who had difficulties holding the normal half-liter glasses with their wet and fatty hands during the butcher festival.
For dessert the Palatinate also offers a rich variety of sweet white wines. The most common are Muskateller [Muscat Blanc], Gewürztraminer, Müller-Thurgau and sweet types of Riesling. Recently, there has also been a trend to serve red wine with chocolate. One wine-grower told me that he drinks a glass of red wine with a piece of dark chocolate every day – on his doctor’s prescription!