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Tyrolean Fling

[whitespace] Gabi Seider
George Sakkestad

Good for What Ales You: Tyrolean Inn owner Gabi Seider gives an internationally recognizable gesture of welcome.

A Ben Lomond landmark reinvents itself--but not too much--and the hills are still alive with the aromas of wurst and beer

By Christina Waters

YOU'D HAVE to be Bavarian to handle dessert after a meal at the newly reopened Tyrolean Inn. But you don't have to be from Europe's lovely Alps to wish you had room for one of those apple strudels, Bavarian creams or opulent Black Forest cakes on the menu of the cozy Ben Lomond restaurant.

For decades this sprawling wooden cabin beneath the redwoods has played host to admirers of the delicious meat entrees, wursts, schnitzels and potato creations of southern Germany. Open once again--for dinner and also for overnights in the surrounding log cottages--the Inn is under the proprietorship of Dieter and Gabi Seider, who have made sure that cuckoo clocks still line the walls and lusty German folk tunes fill the air.

The restaurant resembles an inn in some Bavarian forest, circa 1910, and the menu is an ode to the unpretentious cooking of the region: sauerbraten and potatoes, roast pork and spätzle noodles. From a modest beer list, we chose a tall half-liter glass of Erdinger Hefeweizen alcoholfrei ($3.95), and a Gorden Biersch microbrew Märzen ($3.75) served in a Munich beer hall-style mug. Ice cold, they were perfect with our appetizer of smoked trout ($6.50). For wine lovers, a small but specific list offers some German rieslings as well as French and California wines to accompany the cuisine. While I admire riesling, I enjoy it most on its own. So I selected a well-made cabernet sauvignon 1997 from J. Lohr to accompany my order of jägerschnitzel (pork cutlets) with mushrooms and spätzle ($15.95). Jack had his eye on the bratwurst with sauerkraut and potatoes ($10.95) and didn't consider anything else.

"Why does the bread get a cloth napkin," Jack complained, "but we only get paper ones?" He had a point. Given the obvious care put into reopening the Tyrolean Inn, cloth napkins are really a must. The trout--served with farm bread and a fist-sized scoop of whipped cream spiked (a bit too lightly) with horseradish--was wonderful, as were small composed salads filled with herb-flavored carrots, tomatoes and sensational, vinegary marinated cauliflower. I had always loved the tangy vegetable salads we had years ago in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and this one offered many of the same flavors.

Though her first response to every query was "I don't know," our waitress was more than willing to find the answers to our menu questions. Some fine-tuning in terms of seating guests and making sure place settings are complete will doubtless take place as the newly reopened dining room settles into a smooth routine.

The kitchen already has its act together, we were happy to observe, as our freshly prepared, generously portioned main dishes were produced.

A giant bratwurst arrived--filled with that haunting, finely textured veal and a hint of nutmeg flavor--on a reasonably sized mound of classic, flawless, bitterly wonderful sauerkraut. The new potatoes on the side were excellent, and Jack loved making sure each flavor--bratwurst, potato and sauerkraut--was in each bite. I had to admit this was the real thing, a fine version of the world's greatest sausage--and from Nuremberg to boot.

My plate was brimming with slices of moist, beautifully sautéed pork scallops, topped with a light sauce of cream and wine densely packed with mushrooms. It was terrific. Hearty. But terrific. And the tiny squiggly Bavarian noodles called spätzle were right on target, lightly flecked with parsley and glistening with butter. I loved the meats, treated with respect and without apology. There will be other Tyrolean nights in our future. Surely we'll save room for dessert one of those times.

Tyrolean Inn
Address: 9600 Highway 9, Ben Lomond
Phone: 336-5188
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-10pm
Chef: Greg Magnusson
Service: * 1/2 Friendly but underinformed.
Ambiance: *** Loaded with Bavarian knickknacks and irresistible folk music atmosphere.
Cuisine: ** 1/2 Solid renditions of authentic Bavarian fare, created with skill and care.
Overall: It's wonderful to have this San Lorenzo Valley icon back open and extending its warmth to lovers of Tyrolean cookery.

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From the August 18-25, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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