During our recent visit to Strasbourg we did the Strasbourg Gourmet Tour with Pierre, booked through AirBnB for just over £50 per person (tickets start from £43). Strictly speaking we had booked a four-hour experience called Strasbourg Gourmet Tour starting at 9:30am, which was then replaced by a better-value six-hour experience called Strasbourg CHRISTMAS Gourmet Tour, starting from 10am. No complaints from our side.
From the moment we met our guide, we knew this is someone who found their calling. You don’t find that much enthusiasm very often. Presumably in his mid-twenties, Pierre grew up in town and clearly loves it dearly and knows it inside out. We also liked the fact that the groups are limited to max 8 people, which in our case turned out to be a middle-aged couple from Yosemite, California, who had just started out as vintners and b&b owners, a bubbly, young lady from Southern California, and a French family with a twelve-year old daughter.
Moreover, it was good that the focus was by no means exclusively on food, but included lots of information about the city’s history, art, architecture and other aspects of its residents’ lives, past and present. Hard facts were interspersed with quirky fun facts and anecdotes. Everything felt very relaxed all the time. No lengthy lectures. Our guide switched effortlessly between French and English, making sure no one missed a bit. He’s obviously great with kids and the youngest member of the tour group didn’t leave his side for the whole length of the tour, coming up with plenty of serious and plenty of strange questions along the way, as it seemed.
Especially with me being no fan at all of Xmas and anything Christmassy it was a true blessing that the food tour was by no means limited to Christmas fare and getting drunk on mulled wine at the markets. Instead it was mainly focused on local food in general.
Our first stop was at Mireille Oster’s ginger cake store, one of the oldest in town, where we not only learned about and tasted ginger cake, but also were exposed to ginger cake sauerkraut chutney and two varieties of ginger cake liqueur. Pierre, who is obviously very serious about cooking, gave us some ideas about how to use the liqueur, for example when sautéing scallops.
The next stop was at the producers’ market where we were treated to hot spiced apple juice and dampfs with mashed apples. Dampfnudeln are a type of yeast dumpling very popular in Southern Germany, Northern Switzerland, and in the Alsace, I basically grew up on them during my childhood in Bavaria, so this was a nice trip back down memory lane for me. We also sampled plenty of varieties of local mustard and horseradish and, of course, local cheese. The omnipresent Munster, which comes in various slightly different flavours and textures, is by no means the only great cheese of the region. Ms B, who is normally no fan of goats cheese, was completely blown away by the variety on offer.
The third stop was at Les Ptis Cochons, a sausage manufacture cum bretzel bakery, where we were offered different types of sausage, including one of our favourites: duck sausage (despite the fact that we nearly overdosed on them during our trip to the Dordogne a few years ago). We also had some hot bretzels covered in cheese.
Then we made the short distance back across the river to Petit France and the Xmas market at Place du Marché aux Poissons where we tried mulled cider, different types of duck liver and duck meat, before continuing along the river, learning about the French and German influences in Old Town and New Town.
At the city’s main Christmas market, Christkindelsmärik, we stopped at a few stalls, before making our way to the final stop of the day: Pascal Caffet, who, with his homonymous shop (also called Maison Caffet in some locations) won various prestigious awards over the past thirty-odd years, including World’s Best Pastry-Maker. The family business has been based in Troyes in the Champagne region and opened their first two stores outside of Troyes in Tokyo (2004 and 2007) before their first shop in Paris (2008). The Mont-Blanc and the Éclair, according to our in-house expert Ms B, were ‘absolutely divine’.
(c) BerkeleySqB except last photo (c) Kimberly from the food tour
Before wishing everyone a merry Christmas we walked over the Cathedral Square for a group photo. I’ve thought long and hard about what rating to give this tour. Pierre is obviously brilliant at what he’s doing and everyone loved the tour. Even online, he only ever received 5-out-of-5 ratings. On the other hand, I am a pretty big boy. I had not had any breakfast, and I was nearly starving to death for the best of 6 hours (I guess I could have just bought something along the way, but my thinking was I’d rather have a nice meal in a restaurant afterwards). Now, after Ms B threatened to end our relationship in case of anything less than a 4.5 rating, I’m thinking, yes, it most definitely was precisely a 4.5 out of 5. Just make sure you have a huge breakfast before the tour starts, and do perhaps bring some snacks along, if you have a healthy appetite.
Looking for more food tours? Check out the tours we did in New York, Cambridge, and Paris, or the French baking course we did in London. For restaurant reviews, feel welcome to eyeball our articles about Hélène Darroze, London, Lafleur, Frankfurt, Benoit, Paris, and Gruvelageret, Spitsbergen.