Guten tag, mein freunde, and welcome back to Kitchen Catastrophes. Today’s adventure takes us to the not-so-snowy in June peaks of the Cascade mountains, as Jon returns once more to Leavenworth for a few weeks. An event celebrated in the only way mid-twenties men know how to celebrate, and what the Russians call “zapoi”: a drinking binge lasting at LEAST 48 hours.
We combined this zapoi with our own tradition, what we call "The Adult Ball-pit": All consumed containers of alcohol are conveyed to a region, to create a fun obstacle when stumbling drunkenly later in the evening.
Now, while being blessed with my personal presence would be reason enough for such a fete, it was not the only reason. Oh no, for my childhood friends Tom and Jason were also in town. Between the five of us (Tom, Jason, Myself, JJ, and Joe), the amount of alcohol consumed could quite well boggle the mind. On the Sunday of our time together, we began drinking at 9 AM, and did not stop until we called it a night near midnight. Now, normally I would record such a bacchanal for posterity, unveiling to you all the many varied drinks we consumed, but really, since our goal was companionship over variety, we mainly just kept buying Rolling Rock, Rainier, and Budweis-I’m sorry, “America”. There was a sprinkling of shots and Bloody Marys , and a hard cider here and there, but overall, we stuck to the canned goods. Also, did you not read how I was in the middle of a straight 56-hour drinking fest, how the hell do you think I would have the presence of mind to record that?
No, today’s post is about the finale of our bacchanal, the Monday morning breakfast. Jason had petitioned that we eat ‘decadently’ for our final meal together, and this presented JJ and me with a quandary: see, Leavenworth, by stint of its many fine hotels, doesn’t really have a big breakfast scene. There’s 2 breakfast focused restaurants in town, and we had already eaten at the better of the two the day before. We decided to improvise, and go with what makes Leavenworth’s food scene pop: a breakfast of beer and brats, and then more beer and brats, by attending the two main sausage gardens in town. How did it go? Did anyone die? Keep reading to find out! Because, you know, that’s the standard format of information transfer in written works. Why were you trying to interrupt me with questions?
Tanned, Beaten, and Cured
Let me start with something of a warning: JJ and I have a definite favorite of the two sausage gardens. After our second time eating there, we went and personally bought the sausage they use to cook at the cabins during last summer’s adventures. That favorite was our starting destination: a place we call “Cured”, but is technically called “Visconti’s Leavenworth Sausage Garden by Cured”. That mouthful of a name, while perfectly explaining why we go by the short form, does have a reason to be that long: Visconti’s is a local Italian restaurant took over the building it’s in, generating new businesses as it did so. The upstairs is the restaurant itself, while the lower floor became a gelato shop and butcher’s shop where they could hand-make the various salamis, sausages, prosciuttos, pepperonis, and other meats used in the restaurant. They named the butcher shop “Cured, by Visconti’s” So, Visconti’s had a butcher shop making sausages, and it acquired an open air lot next to the building, so it made a sausage garden. We just call both of the places Cured, and rely on context for which one you mean. (“I’m going to cured for lunch” versus “I gotta stop at Cured, grab some stuff for the party.”)
Their physical proximity also helps, since it doesn't super matter which you're going to, as artfully depicted here.
Since it opened before the second place, we went there first. Ours orders were, in many ways, fairly emblematic: JJ’s love of the Cured Chorizo is strong enough that I could probably use the recipe to buy his first born son off of him. And I’m always down for grapefruit flavored beers, a German tradition, born of one barman’s quick thinking. After World War 1, bicycling became a huge fad in Germany, and one bartender created a bike path straight from Munich to his building. Shortly after, a thousands-strong band of cyclists arrived, and almost drank his bar dry. He quickly mixed in some carbonated lemonade he’d been working with to stretch out the beer stock, and the drink became known as a “Radler”, or “Cyclist”.
So JJ had his Chorizo, I snatched up a kielbasa, and my pick of the Stiegl Radler prompted everyone who wasn’t JJ to join me in citrusy companionship. In JJ’s defense, he ordered before me. In his condemnation, his hatred of forty percent of all flavors means he was unlikely to join us regardless. The sausages were widely considered perfectly fine, and the Radler deemed “Refreshing”. Shortly, we had plowed through the first round of beer and brats.
Full disclosure: it was at THIS point that I went "Shit, I should be taking pictures, so I can post about this." Hence why there's nothing of the actual Cured food.
Unfortunately, we had punched through too quickly! The second brat place didn’t open for 30 more minutes. And, given that the businesses are, according to Google, 89 feet apart, that meant we were remarkably early to our second destination. FORTUNATELY, that meant we had time to suffer.
A Matter of Fact
For between the two locations is a secret lair, a basement shop, sunk into the ground. A shop named A Matter of Taste, built with a singular purpose: Human suffering. Okay, that’s not true. It’s a food shop, focused on dips and sauces. Mustards, hot sauces, honey crèmes, so on and so forth. However, every time we visit, JJ and I indulge in the same stupid ritual: ignoring all warnings, verbal and physical, we taste their monster hot sauce.
AS you can see, ignoring those warnings takes a fair bit of work.
There are a lot of important facets to this decision: as we’ve discussed before, JJ and I are no strangers to heat. We used to eat whole ghost peppers as an annual ritual. For Christmas I bought him dried Ghost pepper flakes, and since then, he’s upgraded to Carolina reaper and scorpion flakes. As this may imply, we're basically driven by teodestrieb, what Freud called "The Death Drive", a desire for our own self-destruction. And every time, the sauce doesn’t fail to fulfill our need for pain. One time, after sampling the sauce, it popped my right ear, and drained the wax from it. I have no idea how that happens, but it hurt to BREATHE for the next while.
Suffice to say, it was a joyous six minutes of suffering. “My life is ruined,” was overheard, as the pain ravaged us. “Is this forever now?” Good times, good times.
A Haus of the Munchies
After suffering and recovering, we returned to wait for the second shop, Munchen Haus, to open. And, to be clear, we were still standing around 15 minutes before opening.
Looking at this picture, I realize I was the only member of the group not wearing shorts.
Here, Jason and I took a bold step forward, ordering the Bockwurst, motivated, at least in part, by Jason’s grandmother. That may sound strange, and I don’t feel like explaining it, so live in confusion. But we both committed to it. If you’re unaware, Bockwurst is a pale sausage, made of a mixture of pork and veal, and flavored with herbs and vegetables. JJ went weird and ordered a Mediterranean Chicken Sausage. Tom’s order was the sole point of sanity in our experiment, and even that was notable for being a 1/3 lb sausage.
Continuing my approximation of juice with breakfast, and indulging in a bit of nostalgia, I ordered the Dam Hard Cider from Whiskey Barrel Cider company, a cidery that opened within days of me graduating college, in the exact same town. Drinking the pale pink drink reminded me of the days on their patio, drinking and discussing a new theatrical endeavor. Hell, we even held an improv show there, years ago, as part of a exploration to see if our group could become more Community-centered. Not that you care about any of this, I just wanted to re-indulge myself with the nostalgia.
The fact that I am now old enough to have wistful nostalgia for the days following my college graduation is jarring, but that's life.
While perfectly adequate, our summation of the Munchen Haus sausages was that they were slightly inferior to Cured’s. This was at least partly due to a difference in casing: the sausages of Munchen Haus use a softer casing, meaning there’s no ‘snap’ as you bite into it. It’s a perfectly valid way to make sausage, but it was less viscerally appealing to our group. I can state that my first experience with bockwurst was, while not bad, certainly eye-opening. The pork-veal mixture is almost disturbingly soft, and the vegetal flavor just weird enough to cause pause. Knowing now the flavor and texture, I could see myself eating it again; but of course, that first reaction is unchecked, unmeasured.
Is this sausage six inches? EIGHT?! We don't know! It's unmeasured!
Having finished our sausages and drinks, we walked back across the street, into the all-encompassing arms of Visconti, and finished our breakfast with Gelato, from the gelato shop I mentioned… 920 words ago? Jesus Christ, I talk too much.
But, anyway, that was the story of our breakfast: beers, brats, tears, and ice cream. Was it the best breakfast I’ve ever had? Maybe. Definitely, it was a moving experience, good food shared with good friends, in good weather, and was overall a great time.
Also, I had ice cream for breakfast. 12 year old me just got jealous and doesn't know why. BECAUSE HIS SENSES APPARENTLY TRANSCEND TIME AND SPACE.
MONDAY: JON CONTINUES HIS ASSAULT ON NORMALCY, INTRODUCING A FUSION FOOD FOR JUST BEFORE THE FOURTH.