Friday, November 29, 2013

Schnitzel & Such in Vienna

Within an hour of arriving in Vienna last December, we had all piled into the Cafe Gloria, just a few doors down from our apartment, and were enjoying the first of many schnitzel meals. Perfectly fried, bigger then the plate, and served with just a simple squeeze of lemon. This wouldn't be our only meal here as it was good, comfortable and filled with locals.


Schnitzel isn't the only typical fare however. Another very traditional meal in Austria, is a huge dinner of boiled meats called Tafelspitz. This might not sound very interesting but you would be wrong. We went to a well-known local chain called Plachutta.

The restaurant is built for serving groups, as you need a lot of people preferably to eat all the food that they will bring to the table. We didn't quite understand how large the portions were going to be so we completely over-ordered. This is just one of 3 pots we had!

Hot pots of boiled meats and marrow arrived, tender and falling apart, swimming in a rich fragrant broth. We were starving, so immediately started to dish up, only to have the waiter return to our table, ready to prepare our plates. Seeing what we had done, he shook his head in disappointment as he scraped off the mistakes we had made and went about serving the dinner in the proper way.


Having already shamed ourselves by not knowing the correct procedure for eating boiled meats, I felt it couldn't hurt my cred anymore by asking for the copious amounts of leftovers to be packed up for us to take home. I thought he might pass out upon this request, but after I assured him that I realized the broth could not be transported in their little boxes, he dutifully boxed up everything for take-away.

On New Years Day I turned that into two huge skillets of hash with eggs nestled amongst all the leftover goodness. Mimosas and coffee were the perfect compliments.

Vienna is also well known for their pastries and sweets, but perhaps the most famous is the Sacher Torte, made popular by the Café Sacher.

There is the main café which is popular and elegant and also has a line for days to get in! We chose to eat next door at the simpler gift/coffee shop. We still had to queue up but it moved quickly, even for 6 of us. Having a slice of Sacher Torte with fresh whipped cream added on the side right before coming to your table, may be the thing to do in Vienna, but we all agreed the dessert was dry and not as good as we had hoped. The more you know...


Around town, and at the Christmas Market, there were lots of stands offering street food and hot mulled wine. Vienna sausages on rolls, langos (fried bread with or without cheese), spiral kartoffel (curly french fries), pretzels, etc. Things to fill you up and keep you cozy in the chill.


But of everything I ate, the stand out meal in Vienna was had on our last afternoon, before we headed to catch a train for Prague. Steirereck im Staadpark is a Michelin starred restaurant and #16 on the World's 50 Best, set in the middle of a beautiful city park. Unlike some starred restaurants, this one had an unstated elegance combined with artsy quirkiness that made the whole experience both fun and special.

Instead of the traditional chefs menu that the entire table must take, Steirereck offers you the option of creating your own multi-coursed meals. So while I took 3 courses, Dayne opted for 5 (big surprise right?).

From the beginning of the bread service served with butter plates made of butter, and the funny amuse that arrived looking similar to a trapeze act, we knew we were in for a great (LONG) lunch.

Everything had a bit of a twist, like this dish of trout which was "cooked" in beeswax at our table.

And each dish arrived with it's own calling card.

Presentations were also beautiful but not too stuffy.
But the end-all-be-all was the cheese trolley, holy hell what a site!
And of course there were desserts, a unique digestif trolly, inventive coffee and tea service, and these stunning dried citrus fruits and wafers that also arrived via trolly and we were invited to choose our own collection.
If you are looking for a decadent and wonderful afternoon, I highly recommend Steirereck im Stadtpark, especially if you are lucky enough to share it with a group of good friends!
Delicious and pretty pictures here.

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