Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Review: Unser Dorfladen - Bavaria, Germany

On a summer trip to Germany, we spent several nights in the remote and hilly Bavarian village of Aufseß (Aufsesse). 

Not far from Bayreuth, home to Richard Wagner and a grand opera house, Aufseß is a quiet and delightful place with a population of about 1300 who can enjoy great food and very local beer at the town's brewery and restaurant, Brauereigasthof Rothenbach

Beyond that brewery and a few other gasthaus establishments, there aren't many local services. Filling the gap for Aufsessers is Unser Dorfladen. I wasn't clear if this small grocer was a mom-and-pop store or a branch of a German 7-11 type convenience store. Turns out it was neither. 
Unser Dorfladen is co-operative village shop that follows the original one in Gottwollshausen, founded in 2005. The objective is "to ensure the basic supply of food and articles of daily necessity, with fresh baked goods, fruit, vegetables, dairy products and other foodstuffs at reasonable prices." 

It's a grass-roots "eat local" operation, offering products from the region and a wide range of organic, fair trade and "demeter" products. In Germany, the demeter “biodynamic” certification requires biodiversity & ecosystem preservation, soil husbandry, livestock integration, and prohibition of genetically engineered organisms.” 

Because small villages can't support a supermarket and many of the older local shops closed, Unser Dorfladen aims to fill the gap and thereby "secure and maintain the quality of life in our sub-regions." 
Yeah, but how was the pizza? 
Keep in mind, this is a small cooperative grocery in a remote German Village. We stopped in for a few staples and I was drawn to the baked goods counter near the register. Among the local partners for Unser Dorfladen is Bäckerei Spreuer (Spreuer Bakery). Next time I need to try their zwiebelkuchen (German onion pie), but on this visit I was delighted to see some attractive slices of square pan pizza in the counter display. 

One serving was a generous size, roughly equivalent to two standard slices. It seemed to be designed for eating at room temperature (as are so many foods outside the USA) so we ate it without reheating. 

The crust was medium-thick, a bit crunchy, and sturdy enough to support its toppings. It did not much resemble pizza dough or even the kind of bakery sheet bread used for a Philly tomato pie or an Old Forge pizza tray. The texture was oddly somewhere between toasted black bread and a biscotti! 
Some curious perforations under the hood
The crust was tasty on its own, even as it made an odd base for a slice of pan pizza. I could imagine this crust served instead with jam and butter at breakfast. 

The tomato sauce was a role player, as was the liberal amount of cheese on top, which seemed to have a Gruyere character; perhaps inspired by flammkuchen, the crisp and smoky German pizza. 

What made this slice distinctive was the topping of ham and mushrooms. The sauce, cheese, and toppings were applied is proper proportions so that the pie was well-balanced in terms of flavors and textures.
The castle in Aufsesse
Like much of this pizza I experienced in Germany and Austria (there seems to be pizza shops all over the cities), it was better than 95% of American mom-n-pop stuff, but not as memorable as iconic pizza like Al Forno in Rhode Island, Lombardi's in NYC, DeLorenzo's in Trenton, or Picco in Boston.

All told, this sturdy square slice was a tasty variation on a pizza theme. Not many American small towns have pizza this good or the great variety of local goods that a co-op like Unser Dorfladen can offer. Ausgezeichnet!

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