Cornucopia in the old 100 Guldenmill

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Top-Chef Eva Eppard creates regional gourmet food in the middle of Rheinhessen with a unique approach of deep sustainability.

by Gisela Kirschstein

The guests are met at the mill's weir, bench, chair and flowers are carefully and romantically arranged underneath the small roof. A path winds down to the entrance of the former flour mill, a small door within allows the view into the grinding station. "You could bring the mill back to work, that wouldn't even be difficult", Eva Eppard says. The young woman runs one of the best restaurants of the region in the old mill. "Eppard in the 100 Guldennmühle" sets a unique pace in terms of regional cooking and sustainability – and won her a  ‘Best Of Wine Tourism’ award from the Great Wine Capitals for sustainability in 2017.

"The consumer doesn't care where he buys his vegetables", Eppard says, and it’s very clear that she doesn't approve. "We live in a middle of a cornucopia of our own producers", she says, "time to realize that, don't you think?" Eppard has, and for a long time at that: Five years she led the restaurant in the old Kupferberg cellars in Mainz, was chef of a big gourmet kitchen in a high class hotel before.

"All my groceries except for fish and risotto come from a range of 150 kilometers around us", Eppard says, "and I don't mean the hypermarket by that." By no means: pumpkins and potatoes are bought in Appenheim, right around the corner, the herbs stem from a market garden in Mainz, asparagus, apples and raspberries from the famous farming area of Mainz-Finthen. Out of the fruits of the region, Eppard creates high-class regional cuisine from Rheinhessen. "I only serve what I would like to eat myself", Eppard says, "it's back to my roots."

The small village of Appenheim seems to be one of those sleepy little towns in the middle of the hill country of Rheinhessen, a true winemaker’s heaven. "We are in the center of good wine", Eppard says, Appenheim is filled with excellent wineries, the famous names crowd the wine list in her restaurant. "A high concentration of wine power", Eppard calls it. To her, it's a "matter of honor" to serve those wines to her guests.

The view from the mill's terrace wanders over to the vineyards, it’s the "100 Gulden", a famous grand cru-site which was bought by Hildegard von Bingen in the 12th century for her new-found cloister on the Rupprechtsberg. Legend has it that the famous saint bought the vineyard for 100 gulden, the name remained until today – and was extended to the mill alongside.

"Hildegard von Bingen was a very wise woman", Eppard says, "she knew that wine is important for the region, the cloister and the people." They have a long tradition of wine making and cooking here, Hildegard is famous until today for her recipes and remedies made from the plants of the region. Eva Eppard grew up right here, in Appenheim, her parent's home is right next to the 200 year old mill. "I know every stem and stalk around here", she says.

A restaurant in her hometown, "it was my dream from childhood on", Eppard tells me: "A restaurant for everybody, for the hiker just as much as for the couple in search of a candlelight-diner." Her dream came true when a friend of her brothers' called her one day: "Look, I can buy that mill", he said, "but I do it only if you run a restaurant inside." Eppard didn't hesitate, "I said yes right away", she remembers. It took nine months to clear and clean the mill and to transform the beautiful small rooms with the wooden beams and floors into a cosy, yet stylish restaurant.

Once a month Eppard gives advice to hobby cooks on a local radio station, helping out when the goulash fails. "I like that", says the woman who cooked for Richard Gere, Bill Clinton and all the other celebrities at the World Economic Forum in Davos. "One of the best restaurants of Germany", says the label on the entrance, given by one of the big food magazines. "I don't want a Michelin star", Eppard says, a restaurant for everyday people with jeans and without ‘chi-chi’ is exactly what she wants.

Eva disappears towards the kitchen to prepare for the meal to come: potato soup with roasted quail breast perhaps, followed by duck breast accompanied by a praline of the duck, pumpkin puree and rosemary jus. Heaven can wait.