As the cultural center of the Rhenish-Palatinate, Mainz offers a number of fairly local delicacies focused around wine and cheese. Make sure to try some of them before you leave. A good idea might be to simply visit the weekend market or a local grocery store and look for some there.
Here are some things to look out for:
- Riesling Wine – There is already abundant literature on Rhenish wine, but if you want to try things from the Palatinate, or from the area around Mainz look for those specifically from Rheingau or Rheinhessen. Riesling strongly reflects the soil it was grown in, and in the Palatinate/Rhinehessen you will want to avoid the dry stuff in my opinion. This area particularly excels at the semi-sweet and fruity varieties. (For dry Rieslings stick with the Mosel/Saar varieties)
- Spundekäs – “Meenzer Spundekäs mit Brezelchen” is basically a fancy cream cheese spread with some spices thrown in. Not sure how this ended up being so localized to Mainz, but South Bavaria has its own variant called Obazda. Its pretty good and worth trying.
- Handkäse – Hand Cheese is a hard cheese made form sour milk and is more of a regional specialty to the Upper Main valley, including Mainz. The Germans are quite proud of this totally bizarre creation, but in order to make it soft enough to be palatable it is usually first marinated in vinegar and then served with marinated onions. You will either like or not (I personally think its quite good) but its worth trying.
- Saumagen – This is a cooked sausage quite popular in the Palatinate, and is made with spiced pork and seasonal vegetables. Now it is an open question if Mainz really deserves to be considered part of the Palatinate, I would wager most Germany would probably consider Mainz to be at best a marginal member. Nevertheless this sausage can be found in every butcher in the city and is quite delicious.
- Jambon de Mayence – Mainzer Bacon is a cured meat made famously for 19th century Parisians and was likely not consumed at all in the city of Mainz itself. After the invention of refrigerated transport after WWI, production ceased entirely. A local butcher as resumed production only in the past decade and is quite a unique experience.
The region of the Palatinate around Mainz offers a number of other specialties, especially as you get closer to the border with France.