by Lesley Jacobs Solmonson, Drinks Editor
"I'm the Schnitzel queen of Richmond," says Chef Brittanny Anderson cheerily and without a hint of sarcasm. She is speaking to a crowd of chefs at the 2017 Pork Summit held at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. There will be no schnitzel today, however. Today, she displays a brined and sous vided pork loin, which she brightens up with green garlic mayonnaise and beer "caviar", Anderson's choices illustrate the mission of her restaurant Metzger in Richmond, Virginia where she modernizes German cooking by taking familiar ingredients and elevating them. It's old school with new rules.
Sausage Making was Just the Beginning
Hailing from Richmond, Anderson had been cooking in New York at Blue Tavern at Stone Hill Farms for about four years when she and her bartender husband Kjell felt the need for a slower pace of life. With the burgeoning Richmond food scene, they saw great potential for their talents. Among the jobs Anderson held when she returned to Richmond was sausage making at Brad Kemp's Sausage Works.
It dawned on Anderson that there simply wasn't anywhere in town to get really great German food. More than that, there wasn't anywhere she could think of that served truly modern German food at all. Kemp came on as a partner, followed by Nathan Conway, who now runs the restaurant's wine program. What really made the concept jell however was when the team found a location in Church Hill, an area of town that had once held the moniker of Butcher Town when it was home to German immigrants. Metzger, which means butcher in German, was born.
Modern German Cooking
Metzger Bar and Butchery has been open for two years and Anderson has become a chef to watch. Her ability to elevate traditional German and Austrian fare is notable across the menu. As Anderson notes, "It's kind of weird and interesting to do modern German food." For instance, her carrot soup is served with a pretzel dumpling, caraway yogurt, and dill. A sausage board is elegantly laid out with clean, isolated garnishes. And the familiar Black Forest Cake becomes a Black Forest Bombe with cherry ice cream, chocolate cake, and brandy chantilly.
Not every menu item has a 21st century twist to it; plenty of people come to the restaurant for old world cooking. In any given week, Anderson will go through 200 pounds of pork loin, using it for everything from schnitzel to grilled chops. The schnitzel is still old world, traditionally prepared with a few flourishes; duck fat is used to roast the potatoes and the sauerkraut is braised in beer.
Acid, Acid, Acid
One of Anderson's not-so-secret weapons in brightening Germanic food is the well-considered use of acidity to counter the fat. Even traditional Schnitzel is served with a slice of lemon to squeeze over the breaded, fried exterior. To overcome dryness, Anderson brines most of her pork, incorporating beer and spices. "When you brine a pork loin, you get a beautiful, juicy piece of meat in the end," she says.
That tenderness alone takes the pork out of the tough-and-chewy style of grandma's cooking. In her dish for the Pork Summit, she adds the subtle flavor are pickled mackerel in the green garlic mayonnaise and a drizzle of oil with Cascade hops and parsley. Later, during a team exercise, she presents a Schnitzel topped with a bright, light celery-caper salad.
To keep the menu on point, the German theme runs through both the wine and bar programs. Conway makes a point of spotlighting under-appreciated Alpine wines like Austrian Gruner Veltliner and Hungarian Furmint, offered by the glass.
Wine, Beer, and Cocktails Align
Kjell Anderson supervises the bar and beer program. A large selection of German bottled beers is available, while cocktails often draw on lesser known German spirits. The Turbo Bling incorporates rye, yellow chartreuse, Obstler brandy, and Stroh Jagertree, while the popular Nürnburg Punch (a recipe from 19th century barman Jerry Thomas) uses Zweigelt, a full-bodied Austrian red wine.
Despite its love affair with German cooking, Metzger manages to feel like a completely modern experience. The cohesive approach to food and drink is undoubtedly in part responsible. However, it's more likely that it is Brittanny Anderson herself. While her braids and rosy cheeks would look at home in the Alps, her passion for flavor experimentation and her no nonsense approach set Metzger apart. This is no local beer hall, but Anderson herself is one tough fraulein.