I have a special fondness for Austria. Perhaps that’s because it was the first European country Stelian and I visited, back in 2006. But it also has a lot going for it — nice people, gorgeous Alpine scenery, spoken German that is clear and resembles that in my lesson books (this last being something I really appreciate since living in Switzerland).
And let’s not forget the amazing food. During our recent three-night stay in the nation’s capital, we didn’t eat anything that disappointed us, which is rare, since we tend to have hit-and-miss experiences as we try out new places on trips. So let’s kick off the Vienna series with a recap of some of our delicious meals and snacks, shall we?
For the evening of our first full day, I made a dinner reservation at Figlmueller, based on the advice of our guidebook. When we arrived at the appointed time, we saw a long line running out the door and onto the street, which is always a good sign. The restaurant’s menu is built around its famous pork schnitzel (need I remind you that Wiener Schnitzel originates in Wien, the German name for Vienna?). In Figlmueller’s version, 250 grams of meat is pounded flat and then breaded and fried into an enormous schnitzel:
I had the chicken version, which was a little more reasonably-sized, but also incredibly delicious.
The restaurant only carries Austrian drinks, so this was the perfect opportunity for us to try an Almdudler.
This is Austria’s national soft drink (like Rivella is Switzerland’s). We both enjoyed it — it is a carbonated, herbed lemonade that tastes something like Ginger Ale.
The next day, we had lunch at Trzesniewski — another Vienna institution, one that gets very crowded at midday. The deal here is that they offer a couple dozen varieties of small, open-faced sandwich (the red one below shows the full size) and you pick and choose the ones you want. Most are based on eggs, mayo, and relish. The partially-eaten plate below includes relish-tomato (red), egg-and-relish (green and yellow), egg-and mushroom (grey and yellow), and cream-cheese-horseradish-carrot (white and orange). Not pictured is Stelian’s favourite, liver paste, which he ate three of. All of the sandwiches were delicious, and a fun way to try a variety of different Austrian flavours.
On our final night, we tried Tafelspitz, or boiled beef, which is one of the most famous Austrian dishes. For this we went to Plachutta, again on the advice of the guidebook, and we were again very happy with the choice. Here is the set-up:
In Tafelspitz, beef is boiled in broth with root vegetables. We were given the choice of noodles or strips of pancake (and chose the former, the latter striking us as too bizarre) and the broth was ladled onto these for the first course (see Stelian’s bowl above). After the soup, our waiter fished out the beef and plated it alongside the excellent creamed spinach and roasted potatoes. The beef tastes rather like pot roast (a comparison I would not have been able to make before I learned to cook it a few months ago), and is meant to be eaten with the apple and cream-chive sauces on the far left of the picture. I would label this a must-do in Vienna, and it will certainly be a do-over if we go back!
And so, that’s it…no, don’t despair, I’m kidding. I would never forget to talk about dessert. I would, however, forget to take pictures of it, since I usually devour it within seconds of it being placed in front of me (hey, it’s all a part of marathon recovery). I did manage to snap a picture of this slice of Sacher Torte when we were halfway into it, though:
We ate this at Demel, one of Vienna’s most famed coffeehouses — we might have gone to the Sacher Hotel, where the cake originated, but Demel is also celebrated for its cake. This was our second time trying Sacher Torte, Austria’s beloved chocolate-cake-with-apricot-jam-under-the-icing confection: we also sampled it in 2006. Both of our experiences with it have been somewhat anticlimactic — it’s nicely flavoured, but is also a fairly dry cake. It’s still very good, just not the blow-your-mind good that you might expect based on all the hyperbole and history surrounding it.
Other dessert highlights on our trip included an unbelievably good apfelstrudel drowning in vanilla sauce, a delicious almond/Amaretto cake, and an ice-cream dessert with apricot puree at the centre (the Viennese are very fond of Marille, or apricot, in desserts).
I’ll get my pictures organized and be back soon with a link to an album and more tales of Austrian adventure!