Week 12: Austria

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Plum prep

I had one of the most romantic evenings of my life in Austria. Bill and I were on our first international trip together, a two week tour of Italy, Austria and Germany. We spent a couple of days in both Vienna and Salzburg where I fell further in love with the Bavarian area and culture. One night in Salzburg we found an outdoor restaurant at the base of the Hohensalzburg Castle. We ordered pork and golden potatoes with seasonal white asparagus smothered in a hollandaise sauce. We also had the most amazing dessert of fried ricotta cheese with stewed apricots. The cheese balls were light and fluffy and oh so mouthwatering. Then we walked across the Makartsteg footbridge under the stars with a live band playing in the background. Makes your heart go pitter-patter right?

Below is our dinner followed by dessert- 5 years ago this month!

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Dinner with fresh white asparagus
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So happy with dessert

For our Austrian night I was looking forward to re-creating that meal. The only difference being two other couples in my freezing San Francisco apartment. Still, I was excited!

In Austria we drank beer until we were sick of it- lies! I loved every bit of it. There I had a radler for the first time with sparkling lemonade and fresh-tapped weissebier. We went to breweries in old monasteries and parks. At Bevmo, however there was little to no selection of Austrian beer. We settled for German beer (the horror!) but took this little grapefruit Salzberg radler home to enjoy.

Austrian Beer
Austrian Beer

For an appetizer Ashley found this amazing recipe for Paprika Sauerkraut. I’ve never thought to add spices to sauerkraut- especially hot spices. Sprinkled throughout were also pieces of bacon just because. This dish was so good, I’m definitely bringing it to my next potluck. It was like a mix of sauerkraut and kimchi and the sourdough bread was the perfect vessel.

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Paprika Sauerkraut

Sergio called dibs on dessert, so Bill re-created our Austrian dessert for the first course. Austria specializes in all kinds of dumplings; rum dumplings, chocolate dumplings, cheese dumplings, fruit dumplings. Instead of cheese dumplings dipped in stewed fruit, Bill made baked fruit dumplings. Foiling my plans of re-creating the stewed apricots, the apricots were not in season so we used plums. Bill cut the plums in half, baked them until soft and added butter and brown sugar inside the cores. Bill made a potato pastry dough, cut out circles and carefully wrapped the dough around two halves of the plums. He then boiled the balls, making sure none cracked open. He took them out of water and rolled them in a breadcrumb/cinnamon and sugar combination. You can also fry the dumplings, but we chose the “healthier” version. Bill used extra plums to make a plum reduction on top. The balls ended up being large and slightly intimidating but oh so delicious. When cut in half you had a perfect combination of fruit, dough, cinnamon, and a slight sweetness from the glaze. They actually weren’t overly sweet and made for a great first course instead of dessert.

 

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Plum Dumplings
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Layers of fruit and dough

I was overjoyed when I found white asparagus at the grocery store! I knew it was in season in springtime, but I really thought I could only find the white version at a specialty store. In order to appreciate the difference in flavor from traditional green asparagus, I kept the dish simple. I steamed the asparagus, zested a lemon and added a bit of lemon juice on top. For the main course I made pork schnitzel. I beat the crap out of that pork, pounding it as thin as I could on the counter. I breaded and fried it and again poured a bit of lemon juice for a bright flavor addition. Finally I made a cheese spaetzle. I’ve made spaetzle a dozen or so times. Once you make it the first time it’s a very easy dish to make. I like to consider myself the spaetzle expert amongst my friends. The key ingredient is nutmeg! I’ve had spaetzle without nutmeg and it just doesn’t hold up.  It’s a great alternative to pasta; basically a side of mac and cheese.

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Schnitzel
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Spaetzle

 

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For dessert Sergio made Apple Strudel. This thing was oozing with apples in a carmel-y sauce. A perfect end to a dinner that brought back so many memories. I was so happy to be able to share my European stories and food adventures with my friends.

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Strudel

As much as I fell in love with Austria when I was there, I will admit having the absolute worst dinner of my life in Vienna. I was beyond tired after not sleeping on an overnight train from Venice. We walked around trying to get our bearings and find a restaurant. By the time we found one I was starving on top of the exhaustion and just wanted something recognizable with a beer. The entire restaurant including the waiter was in Swiss-German. I decided on some meat course that was a suggestion from Bill. His suggestion ended up being a liver dumpling of some sort that was pretty disgusting. At this point all I wanted was my beer. When it arrived, I took a long swig and breathed a sigh of relief. Then Bill’s face scrunched up and he said, “you aren’t going to like this”. He turned my beer around to reveal the recognizable words Non-Alcohol. I immediately burst into tears.

Prost!

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