Gourmet restaurants at the center of Alsace's cuisine scene

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STRASBOURG, France -- ASTA delegates are going to catch on quickly that dining is a serious business in Strasbourg.

Two of Alsace's three restaurants with three-star ratings are here: Le Beurehiesel, in a 17th century mansion in the l'Orangerie park and serving French cuisine, and Au Crocodile whose inventive menu features Alsatian fare.

The third is l'Auberge de l'Ill in Illhaeusern, near Colmar.

A word of warning to the diet-conscious: Alsatians seemingly have no word for cholesterol.

Some local specialties are spinach tarts made with butter, eggs, cream, onions and cheese; a meat-and-potatoes casserole called baeckoffe; tarte flambee (an Alsatian-style pizza), and a fruit-laden kugelhopf cake.

Then there is Strasbourg's famous pate de fois gras, and ASTA delegates will be there when this delicacy is coming into its best season.

No restaurant worth its salt (or cabbage) fails to serve at least one version of choucroute, the traditional Alsatian sauerkraut dish.

Maison Kammerzell, a landmark restaurant in an ornately carved Renaissance building across from the Notre-Dame Cathedral, offers a half dozen versions: Just consider the dimensions of its choucroute formidable, with three different sausages, half a pork knuckle, loin and salt rib of pork, bacon, black pudding and a liver dumpling.

Among the city's top choices for traditional French cuisine is the Michelin one-star restaurant Chez Julien.

Alsatian fare also is tops at Maison des Tanneurs, as are the traditional specialties at Munstersstuewel.

Brasserie Ancienne Douanne and Gurtlerhoft are large and inexpensive, and they are a good choice for groups.

Other fine dining choices will include such popular winstubs as Chez Yvonne, Le Clou, S'Thomasstuebel and Au Coin des Pucelles.

Beer with meals is often as popular as sipping those fresh Alsatian wines at the winstubs, and beer can also be the focus of tours, offered by the major breweries of Kronenbourg and Heineken.

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