Epicurean Adventure with Uniworld River Cruises and recipe for Black Forest Cake
What was very surprising is how busy we were for the cruise. I wasn’t sure what to expect on board a smaller ship, but we had very full days and evenings. Each day we were docked in port (for at least part of the time) and most days there were several included excursions offered, so there was something to do in the morning as well as the afternoon. We also opted for a few excursions that were not included, wanting to see and learn as much as we could about each of these villages and cities. We were always in search of the unique local food specialties, wines, and beers. Each port provided just that as we sailed northward on the Rhine River. Each evening the Cruise Manager, Wouter, would discuss the available excursions in the upcoming ports, offering additional information to what was in the brochure. I found this to be helpful in the planning of our trip.
While still a vacation, river cruising also offers many opportunities for an education and learning about the region: its history, customs, and the food, wine and distilled spirits that the area is known for. It was a complete package and a more cohesive cruise than just stopping in a number of different ports to visit the cities. With this particular cruise offering the Epicurean Adventure Program, we were able to focus on the culinary aspects of the Rhine region.
River cruise itineraries have an overall theme from the food to the music and the excursions. One example of this is that we had a Black Forest Cake making demonstration several days following our trip to the Black Forest. You really want to choose a river cruise based on the type of interests you have and what type of cuisine and wines you enjoy. Our goal for this trip was to see the stunning castles along the Rhine and enjoy Alsatian and German food, wines, and beer on board and off the ship in the towns we visited.
Riesling is the king of wine of this region and as we traveled through Alsace in France and Germany, we tasted many and very different Rieslings. Most Americans think of Riesling as a sweet wine, however the Riesling grape can produce a wine that is everything from bone dry to dessert sweet, depending on where it is grown and when it is harvested. We enjoyed several tastings at wineries in the town of Riquewihr in France. In Rüdesheim, Germany we toured the beautiful 14th-century Schloss Vollrads (Castle Vollrads), which, until recently, had been in the same family for 800 years. Here we tasted three very different white wines at this vineyard, beginning with a very dry Riesling to a late harvest dessert wine. A few bottles of their delightful wines came back with us to the states to enjoy in the new year.
In the charming towns and cities we visited, stunning window displays of beautiful foods, cheeses, breads, and pastries beckon you at every turn. Of course, we gave in and sampled the local specialties in every port. Our first evening in Basel included an impressive table side preparation of Weiner Schnitzel. In Kaysersberg we sampled Kougelhopf, a slightly sweet and molded yeast bread dotted with whole almonds. Similar to a pizza, but made with lardons and Gruyère, we enjoyed the rich Alsatian Tarte Flambée in Strasbourg. Heidelberg gave us an opportunity to try Schnelleeballen, a ball of pastry dough that’s wrapped and fried and then topped with chocolate or numerous other glazes or sugars. Cologne introduced us to Gingerbread Boy shaped soft pretzels and the Berliner (similar to a jelly filled doughnut). In Amsterdam, we had the most memorable cheese fondue and a slice of their version of apple pie, which is unlike any apple pie I’ve ever had before. Every port also afforded us an opportunity to try the local wines (which are always reasonably priced and very good) and the local craft beers. Drinking beer in a German pub in Heidelberg certainly seemed the fitting thing to do before heading back to the ship.