This is the month a lot of German families around Fredericksburg and the rest of the Texas Hill Country prefer to spell Oktober. That’s because Fredericksburg, along with a handful of other places in this immigrant nation, has for decades joined the original celebration in Munich in welcoming the fall festival season.
Locally, that means Oktoberfest at the beginning of the month and the Fredericksburg Food & Wine Fest at its end, with lots of smaller festivals along the way. A feeling of celebration exudes from these mostly outdoor parties – cheering the cooler weather after a long hot summer, nodding to the end of another successful agricultural harvest, and certainly toasting the area’s abundance of terrific German-style food, wine and beer.
Both of these bookend October festivals are reflections of that culinary abundance.
Though Oktoberfest in Munich, which draws upwards of six million people each year, quickly took its place as an autumn harvest festival, it started with one of the most festive events we can think of, even today. Prince (and later, King) Ludwig married Princess Therese in October 1810, and he invited his subjects to throw a very big party. Ludwig provided horse races, and presumably everybody else provided beer. The beer part stuck around.
In Fredericksburg, which by the way is not named Ludwigsburg, the annual party October 5-7 has taken on huge dimensions, growing in attendance each year since its founding 38 years ago. Held around the town’s stately Marktplatz with its replica of the Vereins Kirche (the community church settlers from Germany built in the mid-19th century), Oktoberfest is a celebration of beer – just as in Munich. That is truly fortunate, since many craft breweries have opened nearby in recent years, offering a diversity of beers and ales, instead of only one flavorless “American” brew. This trend makes the Hill Country even more like the Old Country.
Then again, visitors can taste at any brewery almost anytime. What makes Oktoberfest special is, honestly, everything else – the German costumes and folk dancing, the oompah bands that play day and night, the first-rate German foods (wurst, schnitzel, sauerkraut, warm potato salad with bacon and vinegar rather than mayo) and endless numbers of chicken dances led by a real chicken. Well, so it’s really a guy in a chicken suit and sneakers; but after a couple beers, you’re not about to split hairs. Or feathers, for that matter.
As a town founded by Germans back in 1846, Fredericksburg loves Oktoberfest. And the world apparently loves Fredericksburg right back. A recent travel survey spotlighted the “10 Best” Oktoberfests in all of America, and there the town’s celebration was, with many of the other nine taking place in larger cities between California and the Middle European-dominated Midwest. Fredericksburg works hard all year long to make sure its Oktoberfest is unforgettable.
At the other bookend of this awesome autumn month, the town hosts its annual Food & Wine Fest. At this one, organizers and celebrants alike step back from oh-so-traditional German fare to celebrate the diverse array of flavors found in Fredericksburg today – and especially the area’s wine. Be sure to check out the Grape Expectations cooking school, where some of the best local chefs (including our very own, Steve Sommers) get paired with a local winery for fascinating demonstrations and sampling.
The notion of Texas wine, definitely wine made in Texas and, more and more, made with 100% Texas fruit, has transformed many regions of the state, and none more than the Hill Country. Statistics show that, based on visitor counts at dozens of wineries, the Hill Country is America’s second-busiest wine tourism destination, falling in after that other place. You know, Napa Valley.
There are upwards of 24 wineries offering tastings at the festival October 27, plus six craft breweries. There’s no shortage of live music and other entertainment, plus the chance to meet and shop with artisans right on the square.
Again, the party is on the town’s Marktplatz. There are food vendors galore, serving up a host of foods from German to Tex-Mex to Creole/Cajun to just about anything else you might crave. You shouldn’t leave this food and wine festival hungry or thirsty. That’s always a matter of some pride in Fredericksburg. Besides, you can tell yourself that winter is coming.
As many around here know from Oktoberfest, or at least from Jaegermeister, jaeger means “hunter” in German. And while a lot of dishes in rustic times probably got the name, it has mostly attached itself to a delicious schnitzel served with mushroom gravy.
1 (1 ½ pound) pork loin, cut into 6-ounce slices
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
½ cup milk
2 teaspoons Fischer & Wieser Brat Haus Beer Mustard
1 cup breadcrumbs
½ pound bacon, diced
½ cup diced yellow onion
2 cups sliced button mushrooms
1 cup Mom’s brand Spaghetti Sauce
1/3 cup red wine
Olive oil for frying
2 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Between pieces of plastic wrap, pound the pork slices till they are ¼ inch thick. Mix the flour in a bowl with the flour and seasonings. In a separate bowl, combine the egg with the milk and mustard. Place the breadcrumbs in a third bowl. Take each pork slice and dredge in the flour, shaking off excess, then coating in the egg mixture and finally covering with crumbs. Set on a baking sheet until all pork is ready for cooking.
Cook the bacon until crisp in a large pan and drain on paper towels. Crumble the bacon. Use the bacon grease to lightly caramelize the onion, then stir in the mushrooms and cook until tender. Add the Spaghetti Sauce and wine and cook until reduced and thickened, then add the beef stock and reduce again. Add the crumbled bacon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and cook the pork evenly, about 5 minutes on the first side then 3-4 minutes on the second, until golden brown. Remove pork to a platter. Stir butter into the sauce until it’s melted. Cover pork schnitzels with sauce and serve sprinkled with parsley. Serves 4-6.
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