Fresh is best at Germany’s Black Forest restaurants
The beautiful Black Forest region of southwest Germany is a paradise for lovers of the great outdoors. This heavily wooded mountain range close to the French border is laced with fast-flowing rivers and dotted with picture-postcard villages that could be straight out of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale.
The region is also known for its cuisine. Black Forest ham and Black Forest gateau have achieved international recognition, and there are 17 Michelin-starred restaurants located throughout the region. Less well known, perhaps, is the Black Forest’s abundance of freshwater fish, which provides an interesting twist to the traditional impression of southern German cuisine as being solely about meat.
The family-run, four-star Zur Alten Mühle hotel and restaurant in Neuenbürg, for example, is all about freshwater fish, sourced from the Zordel family’s own fish farm. The gourmet middle-end restaurant, located deep in the heart of the region, also uses fresh, local ingredients when possible to give customers an authentic taste of the Black Forest.
The story of Zur Alten Mühle began in 1964, when the Zordel family started a small fish farm on the Eyachtal river in Neuenbürg.
“It was only a hobby at first, but we now have seven trout farms across Germany,” says manager Daniela Zordel, daughter of founder Hans Zordel. “The fish farm here in the Black Forest is the biggest trout farm in Germany. And of course we also now have a very nice restaurant!”
Indeed, the climate and water quality in southern Germany are ideal for farming freshwater fish, especially trout, which is why more than half of the 483 registered full-time fish farms are located in the states of Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg (home to the Black Forest). Rainbow trout is the most important fish species in German coldwater aquaculture, representing 95 percent of all farmed table fish. In fact, trout production has risen by just under 30 percent in the past 10 years; in 2010, Germany produced 28,200 tons of trout. The industry, however, is still very much dominated by small- and medium-sized businesses like the Zordel family’s.