Elevated food and cocktails in an upscale atmosphere
The German word fernweh roughly translates to a yearning to visit somewhere you’ve never been. That’s appropriate for the Hermann restaurant and distillery of the same name which welcomes guests by trail, rail and automobile. Although they all first come to the 1867 building looking for somewhere they’ve never been, they’re sure to return after tasting what’s inside.
For more than five years, the team at Fernweh Distilling Co. in downtown Hermann has served up slow-smoked meats, sandwiches and small bites that pair well with their line of craft spirits distilled on-site.
Fernweh’s journey began in 2017 when Andrew Weiss and three other partners decided to break free from their 9-to-5 jobs and start on a new journey. “A lot of us were passionate about whiskey and bourbon in general,” says Andrew. “We wanted to create a high-quality craft product made of the taste profile we enjoyed.”
They found and fully restored the historic building in the heart of the Gasconade County seat and discovered that Missouri was a perfect place to distill. “We really got into the agriculture of Missouri and realized that there’s wood and grain that gets shipped elsewhere,” he says. “We thought Missouri could really be a powerhouse for good craft whiskey.”
But there’s far more than drinks that are bringing folks to Fernweh. The partners first created a food menu to complement their handmade spirits, but that has evolved and expanded since. The menu now changes seasonally and features lots of local and international flavors with an emphasis on small plates meant to be shared among friends and families, according to chef Amanda Guthrie.
“The variety we incorporate into the menu with items from around the world is based on the fernweh wanderlust experience we’re going for,” she says.
The backbone of Fernweh’s menu likely comes from the Ole Hickory smoker that has been preparing the restaurant’s smoked pork and brisket since day one. “We believe that smoked meats and whiskey go hand in hand,” Andrew says. “So we knew we always wanted to provide top-quality smoked meats.”
Their signature smokehouse item is their smoked brisket plate. The brisket is rubbed in their proprietary spice blend which gives it a sweet, smoky paprika flavor. The brisket is smoked daily and spends eight hours cooking to perfection using hickory and cherry woods. Six ounces of the finished product is sliced to order and plated alongside a pepperoncini, toasted sourdough bread and housemade pickled onions.
“Everything on the plate creates a combination of sweet and savory,” Andrew says. “Then we have our three housemade barbecue sauces — honey rye, firecracker and raspberry chipotle — and you can kind of mix and match or create your own flavor profile.”
That brisket pulls double duty with one of the most popular dishes at Fernweh. The brisket grilled cheese has been on the menu since Andrew and his partners first opened their doors. Gouda, provolone and cheddar cheeses are melted atop slices of toasted sourdough bread. Chef Amanda’s smoked and chopped brisket and barbecue sauce join the cheese before the sandwich is assembled and finished on the flattop. It’s cut into quarters for sharing and served with fried onion strings. “It is definitely one of our signature items,” Andrew says. “I think there would be a riot if we ever took it off of the menu.”
In addition to a smoked pork plate, Amanda’s smoked creations can also be found inside the pork tacos. The pork is placed inside three flour tortillas along with pineapple salsa and an aji verde — a Peruvian green sauce — drizzle.
There’s plenty of small-plate appetizers to start your dining experience, but one long-standing item is a favorite of the Fernweh faithful. “We make our spinach artichoke dip from scratch and its been around since our second menu,” he says.
The housemade cheesy artichoke mixture is blended with spinach and served to you piping hot alongside pita dippers.
You won’t leave Fernweh hungry if you order the Cobb salad. A large bowl is filled with a plentiful portion of romaine which is then layered with cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots, manchego cheese, red onions, cucumbers, bacon, avocado, croutons, hard-boiled egg and brisket or pork.
“It will pair well with a vinaigrette,” Amanda says. “All those flavors of the garden veggies and smoked meat will lend themselves to a vinaigrette. You’ll get a bit of a sweet and smoky flavor with your vegetables.”
Stop in Hermann during a festival or holiday weekend and you’ll likely find one or both of Fernweh’s most popular specials available. Amanda’s Brisket Mac features wheat pasta shells smothered in a white queso made with hatch chiles, jalapenos and poblano peppers. The dish is topped with brisket and breadcrumb garnish. Or opt for the filet mignon special. The 8-ounce steak is marinated, cooked to order and topped with Amanda’s signature sauce.
While distilling their craft spirits — including vodka, moonshine, bourbon and whiskey — was their initial interest in opening Fernweh, the partners made it much more with a menu full of craveworthy items.
“We want to hand-select our grains and be really hands on from grain to glass,” Andrew says. “And it’s the same in our kitchen. We craft this menu and make our own sauces so it allows us to create different flavors. We’re not stuck with cookie-cutter recipes from somewhere else. It makes our menu unique.”
This is one of the nearly 500 Missouri companies that are part of the Buy Missouri initiative overseen by Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe. To find Missouri-made products or to enroll your business in the program visit www.BuyMissouri.net.
Fernweh Distilling Co.
Specialties: Smoked meats including pork and brisket. Shared plates including brisket grilled cheese and aji verde pork tacos.
Price: Starters from $10 to $15. Shared plates from $8 to $17.
Details: Open Thursday and Friday, 4 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 12 to 9 p.m. and Sunday, 12 to 8 p.m. Closed Monday through Wednesday. Cash, checks and credit cards accepted. Nonsmoking. Free Wi-Fi. Located at 4 Schiller St. in Hermann. Contact at www.fernwehdistilling.com and 573-486-2970.