It was Chris’ turn to decide where we would go for dinner for this Successful Nesters excursion. And he chose the Black Forest Inn in Stanhope, NJ.
Yes! As far as I’m concerned, on a cold winter’s night, especially with freshly fallen snow on the ground, there is nothing like German food to warm you right up. It’s a no-frills, tasty, homemade kind of fare that is reminiscent of my childhood.
So off we went…The trip was an easy 45 minute ride. And since it was about the same distance for Phyl and Randy, we decided to meet there.
As soon as we arrived, I knew we were in the right place!
There’s tudor flare with lots of wood, a big bar, leather-padded bar stools, ornate German beer steins, exposed wood beams, beautiful stained glass panels, and the occasional mounted antlers, plus the lively clink and clatter of simple white china, glassware, and friendly chatter. The waitresses are decked out in traditional dirndls.
From the foyer, which of course had the requisite cuckoo clock or deer-head clock as the case may be, you enter the bar area, which also has tables for dining. An open dining room opens into several smaller partitioned dining spaces. The lower ceilings give the place a homey feel and the lighting is warm with votives of candlelight on each table and a miniature vase with fresh flowers. We were seated at a cozy corner table with a lovely stained glass panel nearby.
The wine list was exceedingly reasonable. We were able to enjoy a Simi Chardonnay for $36! Within minutes of sitting down, we were served delectable rounds of buttery garlic toasts…with a little butter to spread on top – unnecessary but delish! We shared a few appys – warm and fresh Bavarian pretzels with the perfect crisp buttery salted crust and soft warm melt-in-your-mouth dough with a sharp cheese spread, crunchy delicious potato pancakes about the size of a silver dollar with applesauce and sour cream.
Variety being the spice of life, I love to share two meals to get a broader dining experience.
Phyl and I shared zesty melt-in-your-mouth sauerbraten in a rich gingery gravy with homemade red cabbage that had not too much tang and a potato dumpling. Loved the meat and cabbage; there was too much other deliciousness waiting for me to have more than a taste of the dumpling.
Here’s what Phyl had to say about the other half of our meal…
Chicken schnitzel. Go ahead and say that three times fast. Not easy, is it? Seriously – stop reading and try it!
But the fact is this traditional German preparation of chicken breast was very easy on the taste buds. In fact, it was delectable! The combination of the tender pounded-thin chicken breast enveloped in a golden crisp crumb, with the addition of the rich, creamy pink sauce (a little like a Russian dressing) topped with nutty Gruyere cheese made this entrée the winner for me.
Elise and I (or any sister we happen to be dining with) always do what we call “splitzy”. As she mentioned, we order an entrée each and then switch in the middle so that we can enjoy tasting two different meals. After years of scientific research, I have concluded that the eater will almost always like the first entrée they try the best out of the two. And this was no exception. Both of our entrées were delicious, but the schnitzel won first place for me.
Here’s what Randy had to say about his meal…
Growing up there was a very significant Italian food influence in my home. For the most part, if it didn’t have red sauce and mozzarella on it, we didn’t eat it. My mother is 100% Italian and comes from an old-fashioned traditional Italian family from New York. My father, on the other hand is from the Midwest, and of German descent. He would tell us about the German dishes his mother served he and his 11 siblings. Needless to say, I was very excited when I was told that our second Successful Nesters dinner would be at a traditional German restaurant. I wanted to try some of these dishes my dad often spoke of.
I found the menu a bit confusing since no descriptions were provided. So until my plate arrived I really wasn’t sure what I was going to be dining on. I ordered the Wiener Schnitzel. What’s that you ask? Well quite simply it’s a thinly sliced piece of veal battered and fried. I also added the traditional fried egg on top. Why is that traditional? Well the menu said it was. It was delicious and I mean really delicious but traditional German? I’m not really sure. Had I substituted the fried egg with a little marinara sauce and some mozzarella cheese it would have passed very easily and deliciously for Veal Parmesan. I guess my next attempt at German food, traditional German food that is, should include some of the sausages that I heard so much about. I am looking forward to the next visit. And I will most definitely invite my dad to come along!
Here are a few words from Chris on his meal…
I started out with Potato and Leek Soup for a warm, flavor initiator on a snowy winter night in Sussex County. Then I ordered the Braised Venison. I ask around for game once a year. This Germanesque version was served with three separate slices of braised tender venison each smothered in their own unique gravy! It was like a venison gravy sampler. One, gravy, plate center was the dark autumn cooked timber flavor, another plate left, was a lighter sun tan color with the traditional German tang of vinegar, with a slight shout of kraut pursing the lips in a flavor pout. Then, grave plate right was the color of over toasted Wonderbread, but a flavor of thyme with the slight shock of the coocoo clock, a traditional mechanical chronometer in many German shops. Along the rim were a white carrot slice and zucchini the size of a quarter.
Save room for dessert…
When I’m out for dinner, especially as I continue to try hard to have just one indulgent meal a week (I’ll tell you more about that later), I always want the meal to be soup to nuts…or a full meal with everything from appetizers to desserts. In this case, Phyl and I again shared but only one dessert – the chocolate souffle with ice cream. Just enough. Dark chocolate richness, warm cake with an airy springy consistency, a little molten goodness in the center, and the creamy vanilla ice cream as a perfect accompaniment.
The night was a delight. And the Black Forest Inn did not disappoint. Perfectly traditional German eating in a classic old-time restaurant. If you love seafood, the Black Forest Inn hosts a Friday Night Seafood Buffet. I can’t vouch for it, but I imagine it is plentiful and yummy. They also host some special game nights, as in boar, wild turkey, venison, and more. Find out more about the Black Forest Inn!
That’s it for this adventure with the Successful Nesters. We’d love you to tell us about how you’re flying free and enjoying your days and nights without the kiddos.
A little background on my experience with German food.
For years, and I mean like over 20, we have been saying we’d like to go to the Black Forest Inn. We have a sentimental attachment to German restaurants. My ancestors are mostly Irish, but there’s a wee bit of German in there too. When we would visit my Aunt Dottie in Queens, Chris, my mother, and I would have dinner with her at a classic German restaurant, Niederstein’s – it opened its doors in 1854 and closed in 2005. Niederstein’s served up authentic German fare and was the kind of place families would go for Sunday dinner or to celebrate a wedding, a Christening, a funeral.
When Chris and I moved to Hoboken, especially when we were first married in the mid-1980s and had no kids of our own, we would go to Helmer’s just a block and a half from our first apartment, pretty much once a week. We both loved the food, the extensive beer list before there were extensive beer lists, the classic gleaming wood bar, and the traditional cuckoo clock that had been there since Helmer’s first opened in the 1940s. In fact, just two years ago, in January 2015, Chris and I got a Groupon for Helmer’s. We were excited to have a reunion meal at this favorite spot… and were completely shocked after making the trek only to find a sign “CLOSED – Thanks to all our customers for the many years of business.” Bummer! Where would we get our German food fix?
Speaking of German fixes, Hoboken also boasted a fabulous Pork Store, Laemmel’s. We frequented this place, between 1984 and 1992, our Hoboken years, to gather a dinner of a variety of fresh homemade wurst – bock, brat, weiss, knack, and so many more – accompanied by a variety of hot, sweet, spicy mustards, with a side of sauteeed onions, red cabbage, and sauerkraut. Alas, Laemmel’s is also no more. It closed its doors in 1999.