Perfectly at home
with delicious food at Das Schnitzelhaus
It is meaningful that, now that Fort Wayne finally has a real German restaurant, when you walk into Das Schnitzelhaus it is, somehow, remarkably not exotic at all.
The meaning is this: the lack of an exotic feeling is not because the restaurant is not 100 percent German in every detail. Because it is. The point has to be how very German Fort Wayne really is, thereby making Das Schnitzelhaus feel quite nicely familiar.
As a matter of fact, Das Schnitzelhaus is precisely the kind of little restaurant in a nice old house that Chef Cornell Taubert chooses when he visits his native Germany.
“I don’t go to big places,” he said. Right now Das Schnitzelhaus has just two outdoor tables on its porch, so he is contemplating adding a dining deck in the back yard. “In the summer in Germany, I never go in a restaurant to eat,” he said. “I sit outside.”
Thirteen years ago when Taubert first visited family in Fort Wayne and saw the lovely old home at 1522 W. Main St., his first thought was what a nice German restaurant it would make. He, too, was shocked that, with all its German heritage, Fort Wayne did not have a German restaurant. When family events finally led to him and his wife Debbie moving here to live in the family home on Watkins Street, so many people were inviting themselves over for dinner on Friday nights, he said, that Debbie finally all but demanded he open his restaurant. The house on Main Street was available, and Das Schnitzelhaus opened in June 2013.
Taubert is the culinary-school-educated scion of a family with hotel and restaurant ownership and management experience all over Europe. He has been cooking and working in hotels and restaurants since he was 5, he said. He is pouring all that experience plus his whole heart into his restaurant, while planning at least one more in Fort Wayne. The new one will have a liquor license.
The heart shows in the recipes and style of food he serves. It’s grandmother-style food, not culinary school food, and the secret is simplicity and long, slow cooking. Plus the high-quality ingredients his mother sends from Germany. The thyme, marjoram and cumin he finds here do not please him. But the Düsseldorf mustard he found at Meijer made him very happy because it can take a long time for those packages to arrive from Germany.
In a nice twist of fate, Fort Wayne has taught Taubert something about German food.
Growing up in Kühlungsborn on the Baltic Sea in what was then East Germany (he fondly remembers his childhood there), he often enjoyed potato salad. It was cold. He was surprised to have customers at his restaurant here expect warm German potato salad.
“I never, ever in my life had warm potato salad,” he said. “So I contacted a friend I went to culinary school with. He was working in Munich, and he had a good recipe he had gotten from a customer, who was a grandma, who gave it to him. So now we make warm potato salad.”
Roast pork, slowly and simply cooked until it acquires melt-in-your-mouth tenderness and a sweet, rich flavor, leads his menu. Rouladen, rolled beef stuffed with onions, mustard and a pickle, schnitzel and sausages also star. Pepper sauce, mushroom sauce and gravy often cover the meats plus the sides, which include mashed potatoes, spaetzle, braised red cabbage and sauerkraut. Plus the surprising warm potato salad. His cabbage rolls have won a following.
Das Schnitzelhaus also offers soups, salads and sandwiches, plus desserts, which he makes from scratch: Black Forest Cherry Cake and Apple Strudel (served with ice cream). He bakes his own German bread, too, and offers a cheese platter as an appetizer.
Das Schnitzelhaus’ Roast Pork with Sauerkraut
1 pork butt roast
1 can sauerkraut
1 small red cabbage, shredded
1 carrot, grated
1 small onion, grated
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1. Fit pork butt into roasting pan with lid, season with salt and pepper, and add an inch of water to the pan. Cover and roast at 350 degrees for three to five hours until it is falling-apart tender. Check occasionally to make sure liquid level is maintained in pan.
2. Put entire can of sauerkraut (including liquid) in saucepan, add the grated carrot and onion, vinegar, sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Stir gently to combine. Rinse out the can with a little water and add to the pan. Heat to a gentle simmer and let it cook slowly for two to three hours until very tender and sweet-sour. You can control the sweet-sour balance by how much vinegar and sugar you add.
3. Put the shredded cabbage in a saucepan. Add the cumin seeds, salt and pepper to taste and enough water to not quite half fill the pan. Cover and heat to a gentle simmer. Cook gently for two to three hours until very tender and sweet. If you want to make the cabbage sweet-sour, too, you can add vinegar and sugar to taste.
4. Serve pork with sauerkraut and cabbage. You can make gravy with the pork pan drippings. Warm potato salad would also be good as a side dish.
First appeared in the June 2014 issue of Fort Wayne Monthly.