Monday, September 20, 2010

Wurst case scenario

For a moment, set the märzen aside.

Because there's also plenty of hearty food rolled into this 2 1/2-week thing called Oktoberfest.

And you don't have to be in Münich to find it.

Try Toms River for some of that Old World flavor.

Detlev Barsch's business, D.A. Barsch German Butcher Shop, is tucked inside in brown, single-story building along Route 9, in the northern part of town where used car dealerships practically outnumber the people.

(Incidentally, for beer in Toms River, it's along Route 9 that you'll find the more well-stocked packaged goods stores, not busy, main-drag Route 37 into Seaside Heights.)

German food is Detlev's life; the butcher profession is a family affair, going back to when he lived in Oranienburg, Gemany, just north of Berlin.

“We had a sausage factory with 150 employees … we had our own store and our own delivery trucks," Detlev says, his voice gently seasoned with a German accent. "I learned my profession in Germany. In competition, I was the best butcher in all of Berlin in 1968; I was No. 3 in all of Germany, and my mother was the only female master butcher for 15 years in all of Germany."

Detlev, 62, has been plying his profession in New Jersey for decades (he came to the US in 1970), and many people remember him from the German butcher shop in Forked River (Lacey Township), about a half-hour drive south of Toms River.

"I started off with the whole family in Forked River. In the '80s, I sold the business to my brother (Wolfgang), then I started my own business on a dairy farm in upstate New York. I had a butcher shop there, Hamden German Butcher," he says.

A flood in 1996 pretty much devastated Delaware County, New York, and Detlev returned to New Jersey, working for his brother for about 10 years. He opened D.A. Barsch 2 1/2 years ago.

Standing behind his shop counter, he flips the calendar page from September to October. The Saturdays of the months are marked with catering orders. Predictably, this time of year is busy, and finds his shop lining up area retirement villages, German-American clubs and anyone else planning a fall fest event with bratwurst, knackwurst, sauerbraten, schweinshaxe, potato pancakes, red cabbage and other traditional German and European foods.

But Oktoberfest has gained an even wider reach as a time to entertain.

"The younger generations that spent time in Europe, they just throw a party for their friends and want to make it an Oktoberfest," Detlev says.

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