The country inn "Wern's Mühle" in the Ostertal is known for fine, regional cuisine. Owner and chef Markus Keller makes sure that guests find only the best ingredients and products on their plates - he procures them directly from regional producers. We accompanied him on his shopping trip.
The man is to be envied. Markus Keller is not only host and top chef in personal union at "Wern's Mühle" in Ottweiler-Fürth in Saarland, which in itself speaks for an extremely pleasant workplace. The elongated country house is located in the middle of the green Saarland countryside, directly on the popular Mühlenpfad hiking trail. An old chestnut tree shades the guest garden, and from the sun terrace the view sweeps far over the Ostertal valley. In this inviting ambience, Markus Keller cooks according to Saarland tradition, using seasonal regional ingredients. Which he procures fresh. And we also envy the innkeeper for his shopping list. Because Markus Keller gets many of his groceries directly from regional producers. That includes handshakes, small samples and a chat, of course.
Markus Keller won the "Genusswirt des Jahres 2017/18" award with a particularly fine version of the traditional Saarland dish Gefillde: he prepares the stuffed dumplings with a vegetarian spinach and cream cheese filling, pike-perch fillet and walnut melt. The pike perch that is served at "Wern's Mühle" comes from the Rosengarten trout farm in Trassem near Saarburg. For Markus Keller, owner Marc Rosengarten not only fishes pikeperch from the ponds with his long net, but also other fresh delicacies when needed: Catfish and char, trout, perch and eel, all of the finest. In the small farm store, the fish is also sold smoked. Markus Keller tries a piece of smoked catfish: "You can't get that everywhere, either," he comments with appreciation. "I also like the natural, sustainable rearing of the animals here. They are simply valued."
Animals are also valued in Illingen. In the Hirzweiler district, Petra Fries runs an archehof with endangered animal species. In the Hirztaler village and show dairy, which she set up in the former Hirzweiler schoolhouse, she processes milk from farms in the area into the finest cheeses. Markus Keller is a great lover of Hexenbergkäs, a cow's milk cheese made from natural milk according to a Swiss alpine recipe. "Finely shaved on fresh lettuce - there's nothing better," he enthuses, packing two whole wheels of cheese into the car at once. Another favorite is the multi-award-winning fenugreek cheese with its spicy, slightly acidic undertone. Markus Keller makes the tongue click. Finally, a sip of fresh buttermilk - and the shopping trip continues.
Perl - what a beautiful name for a wine town! Here in the beautiful border triangle, the vines for fine Moselle wine have been cultivated for centuries. Perl is the only wine-growing community in the Saarland, and of course Markus Keller has his favorite address here: the Schmitt-Weber winery. Winemaker Thomas Weber accompanies the innkeeper into the catacombs of his wine cellar and directly into the site cellar. Here, the site wines, pressed from the grapes of four different top sites, ripen in oak barrels towards their perfection. Whether Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris - they always express the terroir and are full-bodied and harmonious ambassadors of the region on the Saarland Moselle. The mill wine vinified especially for "Wern's Mühle" is also stored here. Markus Keller wants to test the next vintage. Thomas Schmitt fills him a glass. With a concentrated expression, Keller takes a sip of the still cloudy wine: "It will be excellent!" he says happily. "You can already taste and smell the freshness and aromas." And so that the waiting time is not too long for the guests, he has a few more cases of the current mill wine put in the car. And then he drives back to his home in the Ostertal.
One of Markus Keller's favorite producers is so conveniently located that the innkeeper doesn't even have to get in his car. Because right next to "Wern's Mühle" stands the historic oil mill that gave the country inn its name. Markus Keller has made a not inconsiderable contribution to the fact that it is in operation again. Together with the owner, he reactivated the old machines, and together they specialized in special oils and regional seeds. Since then, the finest forest nut, caraway, rapeseed and linseed oils have been bottled in the old mill. Or directly into Keller's delicious creations. "You need patience, leisure, and must submit to the laws of nature," smiles Markus Keller, letting a fine, golden stream of walnut oil run into the sauce for his award-winning Gefillde.
Have you worked up an appetite? You can watch a video about the sustainable Genussland Saarland here:
Cover photo: Mr. Keller produces the finest oils in an old mill opposite his country house Wern's Mühle in Ottweiler © Marcus Simaitis
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