Scoring an interview with owner Sandie Schwaiger was an item I finally got to check off my short list. Serving heartwarming German fare just north of the Orange Crush, I've always considered Jagerhaus a local gem in OC's restaurant scene. Learn more about this week's carnivore below.
Favorite meal growing up.
Rouladen - beef strips rolled up around bacon, onions, mustard and a pickle; served with a rich brown sauce.
Where does the restaurant's name come from?
Jaeger means hunter, so Jagerhaus would be Hunting Lodge. We serve elk, deer and wild boar, so that seems to fit. Actually, hundreds of years ago, there were men in Germany who worked in the forests, maintaining the wild herds, treating illnesses and thinning out the herds when necessary. They lived in little houses in the woods called Jagerhauses.
Your best recent food find:
Filet mignon salad at Prime Cut Cafe.
Where did you grow up?
My Dad was an Army officer, so we lived in lots of places. West Point, Washington DC, Virginia, Hawaii, Okinawa, Texas. My first husband was from California, so he brought me out here from Texas.
As the second owner of Jagerhaus, how did you come about purchasing it?
The original owner retired in 2000, and my husband and I purchased it from him after seeing it advertised for sale in the German newspaper. My husband was a German chef, but we subsequently divorced and he left the restaurant. I grew up on German food, so I could prepare any of these dishes, but I have three talented cooks who were trained by the original owner, and have been preparing authentic Bavarian food from scratch for over 20 years. This allows me to spend my time in the dining room visiting with our guests.
Most undervalued ingredient:
Juniper berries. We use them in our red cabbage and our szegediner goulash— adds a piquant touch.
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Use fresh ingredients whenever possible— tastes so much better!
What is your busiest meal of the day, and what are your most requested items?
Although we have 40 entrees on our lunch and dinner menus, our busiest meal is breakfast, especially on the weekends. The most popular item is the German pancake, which is actually a souffle, individually baked to order. We have peach, apple, raisin, cherry, lemon and strawberry. Fruit is in the batter, and we top it off with powdered sugar just before serving. Also among the must-haves are the bratwurst and sauerkraut omelet and house-made corned beef hash.
How much catering do you do? Are there any unusual requests or popular times of the year?
We have a healthy catering business, going all over the map— from Orange County to Beverly Hills, Long Beach, Oceanside, Riverside and San Bernardino. The most popular time would be October— lots of people want to have an Oktoberfest in their backyards.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Choices of food from all over the world.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
Eel, served as an appetizer as he would have appeared in life (curled up). The guests cut off small pieces and put them on crackers.
One food you can't live without:
Barbecue. Blame it on my Texas roots.
Where was your most recent meal?
Lucille's. Brisket burnt ends salad.
Why do you think the restaurant has been around so long?
Our portions are generous and the food tastes great! Unless it is something that requires advance preparation (sauerbraten, for instance, is a beef roast that we marinate for five days in wine and vinegar and ginger snaps.), we don't prepare it until you order it. You can hear the schnitzels being pounded in the kitchen; even the cordon bleu is prepared on order.
Favorite places to eat.
Lawry's Prime Rib and Lazy Dog Cafe.
What's your favorite childhood memory?
My grandfather reading Uncle Wiggly books to me. I didn't want him to know when I learned how to read, for fear he would stop.
What is your beverage of choice, and where do you get it?
A German red wine produced from the Dornfelder grape (a Pinot-type grape). It is imported by one of our German distributors here in Southern California.
You're making breakfast; what are you making?
Vegetable omelet with avocado.
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Last thing you looked up online:
Glass tile samples (remodeling my bathroom).
Hardest life lesson you've learned?
If you make a choice that leads to bad consequences, make another choice and work your way out of it.
What profession would you like to try if you weren't in this business?
Get your spatzle on at www.jagerhaus.net.