Serious Entertaining

Seasonal menu planning for the perfect dinner party.

Serious Entertaining: Bringing The Biergarten Home

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[Photographs: Carrie Vasios]

One of my favorite things to do in the summer is grab some friends and spend a leisurely day sitting outside in a biergarten. With endless beer, brats, and board games, I could make my visits a weekly habit. The only problem is that about two thirds of New York feels exactly the same way I do, making securing a coveted outdoor spot about as difficult as snagging a taxi at 4 p.m...in the rain.

Faced with this unfortunate situation, the obvious move was to bring the biergarten home. And so can you, with this menu of light and tasty German food and, of course, some large pitchers of good brew.

Pretzel Rolls

These yeasted rolls are boiled and then baked, so they have the wonderfully chewy texture of pretzels and a dense, faintly sweet crumb. Their dinner roll size makes them perfect to have alongside your schnitzel, or even as a snack with your first beer.

Braised Cabbage with Apples and Raisins

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This colorful side dish is a study in contrasts. Braising cabbage in apple cider brings out its natural sweetness, while finishing it with apple cider vinegar adds a pleasing acidity. Thin sticks of gala apples adds a bit of crunch and tart flavor, while raisins absorb the cider to become sweet and plump. This dish pairs perfectly with a glass of cloudy, straw-colored hefeweizen.

Chicken Schnitzel

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Schnitzel is often made with pork or veal, but using thinly pounded chicken breasts makes this an ideal lighter main course for summer. The coating of flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs gets crisp and golden in the pan, and the short cooking time produces an extra juicy chicken cutlet on the plate.

Peach Kuchen

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Kuchen simply means "cake" in German, but it often refers to a not-too-sweet confection that's similar to American coffee cake. This version uses sour cream to keep it extra moist and a heavy dose of cinnamon to give it flavor. Slices of juicy peaches make the perfect topping. So while adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream might not be traditional, it's certainly welcome.

Beer

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[Photograph: Maggie Hoffman]

Germany produces a wide variety of beers, from the light bodied Kölsch from the region of Cologne to dark Dunkels from the area around Munich. A great choice for hot days is hefeweizen, a golden wheat beer. Here's some S.E. suggestions for brands to try. No matter what beer you choose, just remember to always keep a few pitchers on hand.

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