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German Cuisine for the International Feinschmecker
By Ralph Collier

World War II left Germany in cultural, not just physical ruins. But today cities such as Hannover, programmed to amphetamine highs for next summer's EXPO 2000 are geared up for the biggest rocket to hit this town, or country - the first world's fair here, ever. In sheer terms of space it will cover almost 400 acres and will offer the visitor a soiree of perennial fascination. A writer touring the site in this turbo-charged area recently was shown the site of the U.S. Pavilion that, surveys predict will be the most anticipated of them all. Some 40 million out-of-towners, if not international Auslander are expected to tour this extravaganza whose theme is essentially approaching new ways in which humanity can utilize modern technology to achieve harmony with nature. Bottom line: improving the global qualities of life.

Ammann Hannover is a grand feast, and not an easy city, but a challenging one. The locals like to meet each other 'under the tail' of the horse of Ernest August, a life sized piece of sculpture of one of their more imposing little monarchs. Buy a bunch of posies, stand directly under the most hindmost part of the animal, consult your watch every 30 seconds and you will instantly be considered a genuine Hannoverian. Follow that with a visit to the Landhaus Ammann, a Relais & Chateau property that is the favorite child of the entrepreneur Helmut Ammann, a gifted chef who created this retreat to please the most discerning Feinschmecker.

A recent dinner during the white asparagus season began with a vegetable terrine with king prawns, a cup of cream of parsley soup and an entree of pike perch with a mustard sauce made in exact compliance with their eaters' specifications. One should never take a presentation of seafood for granted. But the piece de resistance for our table was boned quail, meaty and succulent and flavorful, placed on a leek potato cake and embellished with morels. Chef Helmut also creates his own version of Bavarian creams (Dreierlei Bayrische Creme), and if it happens to be on the dessert trolley when you visit EXPO 2000 next year, don't miss it. The trio consists of vanilla, hazelnut and raspberry creams with pistachio shavings. The chef's widely recognized wine cellar boasts close to a thousand bottles and Landhaus Ammann has comfortable rooms for those who choose to stay overnight, with breakfast in bed - almost everything a traveler could ask for in a comfortable suburban setting.

Considering what is fobbed off on them, tourists do well abroad. Fact is they could do so much better with the aid of a good guide book to lead them to restaurants of note. Cities like Berlin, once more the nation's capital, are getting their share of attention as are its rathskellers, bistros and other hashhouses in a town looking to overcome the ghosts of its past. Others such as Hamburg, a metropolis with enormous wealth, a stylish media center and a merchant class equal to that of any major Western European city, present a megalopolis that makes any alert visitor sit up and take notice.

Local folk, reserved and prudent, point with pride to their baroque church, the Michel, to their internationally recognized ballet, cabaret and film festivals and with mixed emotion to the Reeperbahn in the St. Pauli district. In addition to ecdysiasts, Hamburg's red light district, long a favorite for voyeurs as well as curious practitioners, has a certain appeal after hours. In one of its bistros a shapely chanteuse sings a loose German translation of Cole Porter's lyric: "...if you want to buy my wares, follow me and climb the stairs ...Love for Sale," sounding not unlike Marlene Dietrich.

Jacob Tucked into a steep-sided elbow of the Elbe River, Jacobs Restaurant Hotel Louis C. Jacob on the Elbe Chaussee owes its existence to the French Revolution. It is still going strong 200 years later in one of Hamburg's more desirable suburbs, welcoming guests with Hanseatic efficiency, a touch of Anglo Saxon charm and the discreet charisma of aristocratic tradition. If a writer had but one meal in or near Hamburg, this hotel would be the destination.

The setting for Jacobs Restaurant is warm and personal, the ideal backdrop for Chef Thomas Martin's magic in dishes such as a sautéed loup de mer embellished with a red wine sauce. One rejoices at the pleasurable memory of this triumphant overture to our dinner. The market price for truffles is sky high but a liberal budget allows this chef to serve a wonderfully thought out filet of veal with black truffles and buttered leaf spinach garnished with gnocchi, a complicatedly delicious combination. For a dessert, a moist, warm chocolate cake with mocca ice cream is terrific with a robust flavor, accompanied by jet black coffee and a digestif. The dessert is so light and fluffy it almost floats off the plate. Hotel Jacobs won't have to wait for EXPO 2000 to improve the global qualities of life. They’ve been doing precisely that for almost 200 successful years, right here on the banks of the Elbe River.

Ralph Collier is a member of the American Society of Travel Writers. For more information on these restaurants, please call the German National Tourist Office in New York at 212-661-7200.

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