Anne-Rose, who takes a fussy interest in introducing her guests to paths through the Vosges mountains, started this madness with a suggestion of hiking down the Munster valley from her guest house in Trois-Epis. It would be important to start early because her chef promised backaffa upon our return from Munster's cheese and Turckenheim's Gewirtz. The limited dining capacity of the Hotel Villa Rosa is stretched nightly by French from Strasbourg, Germans from as far as Stuttgart and Swiss from Basel. The Villa Rosa combines everything you’ve read about the wonderful village dining in France.
Conceived by Alsatian farm families, backaffa is a peasant dish. Departing for the fields at daybreak they would drop off an earthen pot of pork and lamb shoulder, sliced potatoes and onions covered with Riesling wine at the local baker. He would seal the lid with dough and place it in his cooling oven. When the farmers returned, the backaffa would be slowly stewed in its own Riesling atmosphere.
We navigated the 15 or so miles from wine to cheese via Niedermorsschwir, a hamlet that displayed a motorist warning: Tall autos might collide with overhanging houses and disturb stork families.
At Wettstein, the diminutive blooms of Europe's higher elevations appear in profusion. Unlike the dark, piney Black Forest trails across the Rhine, these flowers include the yellow burst of piloselle, the daunting purple of digitalis and multicolored forest violets. Scents of lavender give a hint of the ballroom to the great outdoors, but alas there was no edelweiss.
We returned late, tired and ready for a well-earned dinner!
Even though we had selected our evening fare, it’s fun to go through the menu with Anne-Rose, who adds some theatrical touches. For example when I didn’t understand one item, she flapped her arms like a chicken. Or maybe a pheasant.
With the backaffa Anne-Rose brought us a Riesling of no special pedigree. I eyed it with suspicion and asked:
“Where did you get this?”
A shrug. “A place I know.” It was memorable, better than we had the night before at the three-star Auberge de l’Ill.