What the Fork?: Leberkase at Zur Kate

By Wynter Holden

When I was a kid, my mom would sauté liver with onions and unconvincingly try to pass it off as steak. The funny part is, she tried to fake my dad out, too. He bought it. I didn't. Maybe it was my keen sense of smell, or the fact I was always suspicious of her cooking, but there's just something heavier and more pungent about liver. I always thought it tasted like red meat that had been cooked with iron railroad spikes so the metallic taste would leech into the flesh. Yuck.

Whenever I see leberkase listed on a German restaurant menu, I cringe. My high school German's a bit rusty (ok, it did come in handy, Mom), but I can translate that word, and it means "liver cheese." Why couldn't it be lieberkase, or "love cheese." That I'd eat, no matter what it was! I adore cheese, from the zing of sharp cheddar to the mild tanginess of Emmenthaler and the creaminess of ripe brie. But liver + cheese? How could that atrocity be allowed?

In fairness to Bavaria, I didn't know if leberkase was a literal translation of what goes into the dish. So, when I spied it on the menu at Zur Kate in Mesa, I figured I'd do my homework this time. Zur Kate's version is served with onions, so that's already strike one. Seems awfully reminiscent of my mom's fake steak.

The verdict: Leberkase is a smooth meatloaf made from veal liver and assorted pork products. Think if it as German Spam. It's served in thick slices as a dinner entree, or cut into thinner slices and piled on a sandwich like bologna (which I don't like either...even as a kid I knew it was just lips and, well you know).

I'm relieved to hear that Bavarian Leberkase (the only kind I'll be trying anytime soon) is made with corned beef and bacon -- no liver! The Swiss, Austrian and German varieties all contain about 5% liver. I guess that really isn't too bad. At least the Germans did a better job of disguising it than my mom.

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