Eating and Drinking in Alsace, France
Auberge à l’Illwald (“Le Schnellenbuhl”), Sélestat
The cooking here is on such a high level it seems mean to more rustic winstube to put them and the Illwald in the same pot. On the other hand, at least everyone knows where the bar is set. Winstub classics like headcheese and baeckeoffe (a stew of beef, lamb, and pork that usually includes a pig’s ear and tail) still look like themselves after chef Frank Barbier flexes his technique. They just taste better: brighter, more exciting, more gastro. The auberge and a 16-room hotel with a nicely balanced new-old feel occupy a handful of vernacular farm buildings disposed around a courtyard where Labradors torture a tethered sheep. The
Illwald is hard by a spectacular forest with a large game reserve, and beside a busy road, but I was only annoyed by the cars when walking between my room and the auberge; inside you hear almost nothing. Like the food, the dining room is a high-end spin on winstub traditions. I never walk into a restaurant and think, There’s nothing here I want to change, but the Illwald is beyond improvement. A columnar wood stove warms a corner. Kelsch woven by the Gander family in Muttersholtz drape the tables. Reverse paintings on glass are from the wonderful Arts et Collections d’Alsace boutique in Colmar. Amusing murals suggest how it might go if the animals took over: a hare and a fox ride in a nautilus-shell carriage, drawn by a man.