The customers are enjoying a glass of wine at the Winzerstuben Weick. In a cosy, softly lit room, they chat and laugh across the table, clinking glasses. As Thomas Weick approaches with a trolley, they all turn to face him. Now, the charismatic host has their full attention – he and the 2 whole, golden brown, roast geese that he is pushing towards them. Thomas Weick welcomes his guests, joking and telling stories in a Palatinate dialect. On a big wooden board he begins to carve the geese, expertly taking them apart with skilful movements and a large knife.
Many guests are so captivated by the atmosphere that, as one convivial evening ends, they book there and then for the next year. Weick says he doesn’t need to advertise. ‘And when I tell people how many geese I get through each year, no one believes me. I have given up saying the number.’ Weick laughs. From 20 October to 19 December, the restaurateur celebrates the whole goose directly at the table. At the peak of the campaign in mid-November, his employees prepare up to 250 geese a week. Even in October and December, it can be as many as 80 to 100.
Whole geese with Palatinate stuffing
Because Weick’s own refrigeration capacity is limited, the pre-ordered geese stay in the fridges at METRO Ludwigshafen from where they are collected each day. The restaurateur from Kallstadt is their number 1 buyer of geese. In his kitchen the birds are then ‘showered’ and prepared, stuffed and roasted. His ‘classic Palatinate stuffing’ contains the roast heart and liver of the goose and apple, of course. It goes without saying that Weick, who also has a sideline in wine-making, is never short of a recommendation for a wine to pair with the goose. ‘I would recommend a dry Spätburgunder. We have 3 at different price levels. Or a Sankt Laurent – here in the Palatinate we don’t pronounce it ‘Saint Laurent’ in the French way. For an interesting alternative you could try a dry Gewürztraminer, which goes very well with goose.’
The Winzerstuben Weick in Kallstadt is one of the traditional taverns along the German Wine Route. Thomas and Angelika Weick have been running the restaurant for 31 years as tenants of the local wine cooperative. Thomas Weick loves the hearty cuisine of the Palatinate region and the delicate flavour of the game and fish for which the restaurant is renowned throughout the region and beyond. And that’s also how Weick came to appreciate METRO in Ludwigshafen Oggersheim as a supplier. ‘All the employees there know their products and provide good recommendations. And when they give me a delivery date, I know I can absolutely rely on it. It is a very special working relationship that I can’t commend highly enough,’ he says.
But how does a restaurant that is best known and loved for its game, fish and wine, end up with probably the biggest and most popular goose dinner in the region? ‘I always say that if you enjoy game or a rump steak, you will also love goose,’ says Weick. The idea came to him and his wife when they took over the restaurant more than 30 years ago and needed an idea for November, always a quiet month. ‘When the last grape has fallen from the vine and the wine festivals are all over, the Palatinate is no longer such an attractive place to visit for many. We had to come up with something.’ Their idea was so successful that the numbers of guests and geese have grown with every passing year. As the kitchen gradually became too small to carve and plate up the huge numbers of geese, Weick had his next idea of doing it at the table and turning it into an event for the guest. The rest is history – and his campaign has become famous throughout the region and beyond.
Today, the goose dinner at the Winzerstuben Weick attracts many regulars in the run-up to Christmas. Most come from within a radius of 60 to 80 kilometres, but others travel from all over Germany and some even make the trip from Switzerland and Sweden. Anyone wanting to book a table at short notice will have most luck in October or December. In November, most of Thomas Weick’s tables are booked up long in advance by regulars.
While the coronavirus pandemic restrictions were in place, however, the great goose extravaganza stopped completely. ‘Not even a delivery service like “Goose To Go” was enough to compensate here in the country,’ says Weick. But this year the goose feast is back on again, almost as if the pandemic had never happened. A total of 18 permanent employees and 4 temporary staff work at the Winzerstuben Weick, including 3 cooks, 2 assistant cooks and 2 kitchen hands. ‘All our employees have come back after the pandemic, apart from one who retired on age grounds,’ says Weick. ‘In actual fact, we even gained an extra cook and a waiter. And we need them, too, as business is going so well.’
‘Eating together with everyone having the same food on their plate, like families used to do at home, is part of the appeal of the goose dinner,’ believes Weick. ‘Actually the same idea could also work with other meals.’ A psychology professor who was a guest at a goose dinner once told him this.
But the psychology of the goose dinner might also lie in the charisma of the host, who traditionally tells his guests, young and old, the tongue-in-cheek story of how his resourceful cook brings the peacefully sleeping geese from the meadow into the kitchen with a sack full of apples.
A little mistake is woven into the story and whoever spots it gets a schnapps. Of course we’re not going to give away the secret here, but one thing we can say for certain is that no guest has ever had to leave without a nightcap, and there is a little surprise thrown in too.