German cooking may not be ideally suited to the climate or lifestyle here in Southern California, but the hearty flavors of its good sausages and frothy beers are hard to resist.
Mattern Sausage Inc. is a full-service deli and market that caters to a largely German-speaking clientele, although it is actually owned by natives of Austria. A mix of languages permeates the air in here, not to mention the festive music of central Europe and distinct blasts of smoky meat.
Most customers come to procure sausage, but there is a large selection of imported beverages and ethnic foodstuffs as well; terrific beers such as Aktien, Bitburger and Spaten Pils; smoked eel; made-from-scratch strudel, even quark, a white cheese with the texture of sour cream.
Willi and Anne Mattern, husband and wife sausage makers deluxe who, along with their bilingual staff, run the deli and attached sausage factory, do double duty behind the deli counter and in the factory. Mattern Sausage has one of the cleanest sausage kitchens anywhere, from which comes a mind-blowing 55 varieties if you count the various hardwood smoked hams. All of them are arranged impressively in the deli's enormous glass display case.
Just look at this selection, a few examples of which are Braunschweiger, akin to liverwurst; the prosciutto-like Westphalian ham; paprika-rich Hungarian salami; knockwurst, and smoky landjaeger hung in pairs. Mattern Sausage makes practically everything that can be sliced up and stuffed between two pieces of rye bread, and it's impossible to find fresher.
It gets busy here, so take a number and try to decide what kind of sandwich you'd like to order. Most come on crusty sandwich bread or on French rolls and are a bargain at $2.65. (Higher for the premium hams, etc.) About the only catch is that the sandwiches are made American-style unless otherwise specified--that means they come with lettuce, tomato, prepared mustard and mayo--garnishes that don't complement the subtly sweet and smoky flavors.
Ask for ein bischen German mustard instead, and nothing else. Then embellish your sandwich with the good side dishes, which sell for a whopping 75 cents each--things such as the Matterns' delicious horseradish, flavored with little bits of smoked meat; vinegary German-style potato salad, and the good coleslaw.
For $20, you can pack a picnic basket for four and still have money left over for bottles of imported German beer. One special not to be missed, when available, is Kassler rippchen, a salty smoked pork chop. Great snack foods at the counter include yeasty, doughy pretzels, ideal for the microwave, and salzstange-- long salted, chewy bread sticks full of caraway seeds.
* MATTERN SAUSAGE INC.
* 4327 E. Chapman Ave., Orange.
* (714) 639-3550.
* Open Monday, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Tuesday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
* Cash only.