ST. JOSEPH – There are two reasons to be a fan of the simply elegant European dining experience at Hessenland Country Inn: Precision and consistency.
With the ownership team of Liz Ihrig at front of house and Frank Ihrig in charge of the kitchen, there is a never-failing attention to detail that is almost spooky.
We’re here for a business meeting of eight women – the annual meeting of the Ontario Travel Divas, with a photography seminar provided by Erin Samuell of A Simple Photograph, division of blog ideas for the next year, and dinner. We’re in luck because the restaurant is open this weekday night to accommodate a Christmas party in its vast main dining room, with a wall of windows and patio doors that provide a picturesque view of the countryside near the shores of Lake Huron.
Twinkling white Christmas lights in garland border the window and stockings carefully hung on the mantle serve as a backdrop to a table perfectly laid out with silverware, carafes of water set at intervals.
I could order with my eyes closed: Kalbs Schnitzel Wiener Art ($24.95), which is a Huron County veal that’s been breaded and sautéed, with just enough smooth, brown gravy to make it decadent. And on the side I choose spaetzle, a soft egg noodle that is delicious without adornment, and red cabbage, made interesting with clove and something sweet. This is the same order I have every time, and every time it looks and tastes just as wonderful (unless it’s Mongolian Grill night, when I choose a whack of raw meat and vegetables and take it outside to the grill for frying and spicing by Frank.)
On a visit this past summer, the kitchen also made a special order birthday Pavlova, a fussy dish with its meringue base, topped with fruit and whipped cream.
Our waitstaff finds the perfect balance between professionalism and friendliness, somehow always managing to appear when we’re in need but disappearing from the cozy dining space when we are settled.
Hessenland also serves its own beer, Hessenland Helles Bavarian style beer, and this spring will begin planting grapevines with the expectation of pouring its first glass of wine in 2018.
Hessenland is currently running pre-Christmas hours, Friday and Saturday for dinners only. Group reservations for 20 people or more on the remaining weekdays until Dec. 17, at which time it closes until Spring.