We didn’t want to follow Bonaparte Napoleon and many other famous people’s footsteps (Voltaire, Maupassant, Balsac, Napoleon III) who enjoyed the hot springwater’s of the Voges and the valley of the Rhine but rather to stay overnight at the hotel, called Sense of Essence. We found it easily, in the natural setting of northern Alsace (30 minutes from Strasbourg). When we entered we felt immediately the gentle atmosphere what the French called “douceur de vivre”. This corresponded exactly to the hotel’s slogan- make a delicious break for both the body and the soul and..I added to that advertisement- and for the stomach as well -since the hotel restaurant was marked in the Michelin guide book as a great gourmet stopover.
After the official check in we occupied our room. I can describe our room so as the elegance met (natur) simplicity. A huge bay window feautred to the forest, the white and the pale colours all flooded the calmness of the zen, so it was the place where I exactly wanted to spend the Silvester. But because of our early arrival we still had plenty of time until the evening dinner, so we decided to take advantage of the hotel’s fitness and massage facilities. And we did! We spoiled ourselves and only after that joy we started our gastro-weekend first at the panorama bakery. It was just on the opposite side of the road. The shop windows and shelves of the bakery were very inviting and tempted because of the spectacular goodies such as the pretzels and the French, Xmas chocolate tree trunks, and the Madeleine ‘s (made famous by Marcel Proust), Macarons, Baba Au Rums and not to mention the local speciality the Plombières ice cream (and the mini bundt cakes reminded us that we are close to Strasbourg since it’s one of the city beloved cake). After having a coffee and a piece of cake we made a round tour in the village. It was a bit dark outside but in spite of that little disturbing fact the village radiated a serene, pastoral atmosphere; actually after studying the village carefully I realized that the village was to be a perfect place for those who were looking for peace and leisure activities such as mountain-biking, hiking, horse-riding, fishing and golf…or for those who like museums and numerous sites dedicated to long-forgotten crafts and traditions.
But of course we came for discover the local gastronomic delights, and we hoped that Peter Weller, the master chéf would not disappoint us since I’d read in the Michelin guide book that he is constantly striving to renew his culinary art, in audacious, subtle ways, inspired by local specialities well-attuned to the seasons. To be conscious of those facts we stepped at the hotel restaurant at 7 pm. At the first glance the room looked like more Japanese then in Alsace style since the dominant colours were gray, white and black. The zen topic went on…Hardly had we sat down, the sommelier appeared and listed in one breath the names of 12 kind of local wines, then seeing our puzzled faces, he gave a quick analysis of each kind of wine. Finally my husband had had enough and choose (Pinot Noir) a red one. After the departure of the wine expert the swinging door opened and released the hotel owner the 39-year-old Pierre Weller. After he graciously welcomed us explained very quickly what would be the menu, chosen by him, which he said that in addition to the use of local raw materials contain Asian elements, then -See you on the TV ! -he exclaimed and disappeared.- Okay ! -I wanted to respond but since it was high time in the restaurant he couldn’t wait for that”-See you on the TV screen?-I repeated. “What did he mean by that?”-I asked my hubby-“I didn’t have the faintest idea what he was talking about”. -he answered- But when I started to pan across the room, I discovered a TV screen on the wall and then an another one behind my back. So “see you on the screen” meaning was we could monitor how the food is being prepared! Cool!- By the time we had got our drinks the restaurant became full, the majority were dressed in black and white, maybe because everyone wanted to make her or himself to fit to the decor? But meanwhile I got that far in my thought the first starter had arrived.
It absolutely livened up our expectations because it did tickle our taste buds, and indeed all our senses. The three stars dinner could be characterized as a pure “cornucopia” because from every course there were two: two starters, two main courses, two desserts and two types of cheese, except the beverages, one could consume from all according to her or his purse…
1st appetizer: Pumpkin cream soup ( it was SENSATIONAL !) a mini sandwich of smoked cheese, ham and toast and one piece of sushi (the latter was the weakest since the rice was not cooked enough, sorry)
Then between courses we got a pear sorbet, with a sesame and poppy crowns (the taller, oh my God it was so delicious that I asked for the recipe)
The 2nd appetizer was: game paté with macadamia nuts in the middle, alongside a star anise spiced candied peach and plum (ccoked beforehand in Choja wine and with sugar)
Main course was: lamb, fried in butter side dish pumpkin purée and carrot cooked in butter, radish and turnip slices fried also in butter
The lamb was simply perfect, not smelled tallow at all, the candied fruits with star anise, butter braised carrots and so on…the menu was simply extravagant: New Year’s Eve menu of chef Pierre Weller once again proved that he deserved all his tropheas what he had got so far
In the hotel you could also follow:Cooking lessons, Oenology lessons, Touring a cellar, Touring castles, Wine tasting, Tasting olive oil, Golf, Electric cycling quadruple room, amusement park
Plombir ice cream is named after Plombières, whose name has been associated with extravagant frozen desserts since the late eighteenth century.