Austrian-born chef Kurt Gutenbrunner has three restaurants of his own: Wallse, Blaue Gans, and Cafe Sabarsky, and is designing the food offerings at the Standard’s brand new Beer Garden.
Since we’re in the midst of Oktoberfest, which Gutenbrunner is celebrating at Blaue Gans, and since the chef’s most recent project is a beer garden, we caught up with him today and talked about nothing but, well, beer. And sausages.
Click through for the scoop on the Beer Garden’s food line-up, where the chef sources his sausages, and more.
So are you celebrating Oktoberfest at all four restaurants?
No, what’s happening is this…Do you know about Oktoberfest?
I’ve read a bit about the original in Munich, yes.
Okay, Oktoberfest started 200 years ago. It was a wedding between Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese in Munich, and was a celebration for the people. This was start of Oktoberfest. And into the1900s, we had all of this up and down, but I think around 1960 Oktoberfest became what it is now: A big amusement park with tents–every big beer company has its own tent. And people go there to eat roast chicken, or grilled fish, or some roast pork, and drink the Bavarian beer. It’s only Bavarian beer. If someone tells you they have Oktoberfest from somewhere you have to say no, Oktoberfest is only in Munich.
So my West Village restaurant that has a Michelin star [Wallse], it is very high end cuisine, and we really don’t sell any beer there. It’s mostly wine–a large selection of Austrian wine. The only place that’s right for the Oktoberfest celebration is my restaurant in Tribeca, Blaue Gans.
What are you doing for Oktoberfest there?
We have eight draft beers, and the menu is designed more around sausages, and schnitzels. It’s a pleasant spot for Oktoberfest. During the Oktoberfest in Munich, they have special brews, they’re a little stronger, and we have two of them down there [at Blaue Gans]. And what I did with the menu was added a couple more dishes, like classic sauerbraten, choucroute, sausages, a huge pretzel (really, really big). I have them at the Beer Garden at the Standard, too.
Do you make your own sausages?
No, I’m a strong believer that a butcher can make sausage better than me. Like a cheese maker can make better cheese than I can. And you can write better than me, right?
Hopefully! What butcher do you buy the sausages from?
It’s on the Upper East Side, called Schaller and Weber. It’s a German butcher shop that’s been there for over 70 years.
So you know, Oktoberfest ends the first Sunday in October, and it’s 16 days long. So you count backwards to know when it starts. So last Saturday we had the kick-off party–we had a forty man and woman marching band down at Blue Gans, and another band inside, and a group of people doing the traditional dance. We brought them to the Beer Garden at The Standard too.
What are you serving at The Standard’s Beer Garden?
We’re having three kinds of beer: A Bitburger pils (that’s one of the best German beers), a wheat beer from Munich called Ayinger, and a dark beer from the former East German part–you know, they make great dark beers over there.
Then we do different sausages, like the classic weisswurst that Bavarians eat, a cheddar sausage, a classic bratwurst, sauerkraut, and the huge pretzels. We have great hot dogs over there too, so the kids will like it. Oh, and we have currywurst, the German classic that you eat on the street. You’ve got to get the best beer and the best sausages, and keep it simple. That’s what people want now.
And are you also sourcing those sausages for the Beer Garden from Schaller and Weber?
And is the beer garden fully open now?
Yes, it’s open, and it was so fun on Saturday, oh my God. It opens at 4pm today and closes at 12am.
Do you have a favorite beer?
Yes, I like the Bitburger the best. It’s my favorite–light, only like 4.6 percent alcohol, and it’s a very crisp, hoppy pilsner. This what I like the best. Sometimes, you know, when I eat a weisswurst around lunchtime, I like to have a small wheat beer. But that’s about it.
Are there any American beers you enjoy?
A lot of the small brewers, like Brooklyn Brewery, are doing a good job. It’s just very different. The taste is very different from our German beers.
Is there a beer bar in the city (other than the Standard’s Beer Garden) that you think is pretty good?
I think Zum Schneider in the East Village is doing a great job. A really, really good job.
Do you ever use beer as an ingredient?
We use dark beer to marinate pork. I like Belgian beer to cook mussels. And especially the wheat beer–for certain sauces, when you put it in it there, it brings out the flavor little bit better. We also marinate ribs in dark beer.