Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Foodie in Vienna - Part II

Heurigan in BenediktinerhofFor years, taverns called Heurigans have existed in Austria's wine country. During the early days, people carried their own food to these places; now they all offer a mix of food and entertainment along with the wine. I visited Benediktinerhof - one of the oldest wine estates in Vienna Woods, just outside the city. The undulating hilly countryside, the vineyards in the distance, the old church tower and the village made for a lovely sight in the fading sunlight.

The wine tradition of Vienna began during Roman rule; at that time wine was made only for consumption by the nobles. The common man could not grow grapes for money. That changed only after a Austrian emperor enacted a law much later. About 80% of wine produced here is white. Sweet grapes grow on the slopes that face the South.

Heurigan in Benediktinerhof
Heurigan in Benediktinerhof
We were welcomed by girls in traditional costumes, with shot-glasses of schnapps, as a band played folk music. After a while, we trooped into huge underground wine cellars of the tavern to sit around rough-hewn tables that were loaded with food and wine. Candles flickered throwing shadows on the walls. The Heurigan was much larger than I had initially imagined; they have enough space in their underground taverns to seat 800 people!

Heurigan in Benediktinerhof
Heurigan in BenediktinerhofBottles of wine, breads, herbed cheese spreads, beef Carpaccio, and other starters kept us going for a while. Conversation flowed freely as did the wine and beer. Entrée was simple meat and potatoes: fried chicken, pork, and other meats. For dessert we had the omnipresent Apple Strudel.

Heurigan in Benediktinerhof
I had three Israeli colleagues at my table and one from the USA, and the hours went by fast. All this while, a few elderly musicians entertained us with local folk music. Heurigans have never been sophisticated dining or drinking spots; neither the wine of the food were top-notch. However, the place did have a lot of atmosphere and we had a very enjoyable evening.

The other must-visit place in Vienna is one of their famous coffee-houses. Interestingly coffee came to Vienna when retreating Turkish invaders left behind sacks of coffee beans. Since then, Vienna has developed a sophisticated coffee culture where it is blasphemy to order 'ordinary coffee'; instead you order from one of many choices on every menu here. Even my Austrian Air flight had a coffee menu.

Cafe Central Vienna
Cafe Central Vienna
Cafe Central Vienna
Among the many coffee-houses I walked into, one deserves a special mention. Café Central is one of the many historical cafes that still abound. The interior is quite amazing with arches, vaulted ceilings, and old-fashioning lighting fixtures. We sat under large portraits of Austrian royalty; yes the regal-looking lady in the painting behind me is Sisi, the tragic queen of Austria I wrote about earlier. The cafe also serves up delicious local favourites and desserts. Here is an interesting salad I had, called the Rocket-Lamb's Lettuce Salad with Tomatoes, Olive Pesto and Parmesian Cheese Shavings. The dessert in the picture is a Cream Strudel with Vanilla Sauce. The coffee with apricot liqueur was particularly good.

Cafe Central Vienna
Cafe Central Vienna
Coffee in Cafe Central Vienna
After that dinner, we walked through the Hofburg Palace, which was lit up now and looked very nice against the night sky. We passed by the Museum Quarters, the Opera House - the best in Europe, or so claimed my companions, and Gothe’s statue.

During one of my early jobs, all new employees used to be given a Commitment plaque that left a lasting impression on me. I still have it in my study and it quoted Goethe: "Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it."

Hofsberg Palace at Night
Me and Goethe
The Sacher Hotel Vienna
We took a detour to the elegant Sacher Hotel, home of the world-famous Sachertorte. Made of two layers of dense chocolate cake, this torte has a layer of apricot jam in the middle and dark chocolate frosting on all sides. I picked up one for my family; the torte came packed in a wooden box engraved with a picture of the Sachar Hotel. Here are some pictures of the torte after it was opened at home in Pune.

Sachertorte Reaches its Destination
And finally, the Wiener Schnitzel! It was huge, tasty, but too filling to eat often. Also, as you can see, it's not very photogenic.

Wiener Schnitzel in Vienna Related Posts:


16 comments:

sank63 said...

Outstanding couple posts my friend. I'm living vicariasly through your blog these days.

Zhu said...

Is the little girl you daughter? She is so cute!

I like the night pictures...

The food looks very fresh and yummy!

Priyank said...

Wine, coffee and Schnitzel (which I getting used to eating). Your daughter is sweet. Let me know if you happen to drop in Toronto.

Vijayendra Darode said...

hi shantanu,

Congrats one being named in the sunday times , 14th sept 2008 (pune edition) as one of the few people who dablle soms serious professions.

I am very proud that i found your blof, read it, and enjoyed it, befpre other people would do. Way to go.

Heartyy Congrats once again!!!

Vijayendra

RennyBA said...

You know I love wine and the field as well as the cellar looks so very tempting. Thanks for sharing, including some of their history!

Your dinner looks delicious too. I just love Cream Strudel and have a crush for Vanilla Sauce.

Wishing you a great Sunday and a lovely week ahead :-)

Shantanu said...

@sank: Thank you, my friend! Europe has so much to enjoy...

@zhu: Yes, she is. :)

@priyank: I just may, one of these days. :)

Shantanu said...

@vijayendra: Thank you for writing in.

@rennyba: Thank you, my friend. Hope you had a great weekend too!

indicaspecies said...

I'm told the coffee culture in Vienna is like the 'chai' time in India where people spend many hours over a cuppa.

Sig said...

These posts make me want to book a trip to Vienna right away! So many places, so much to eat! :) Glad you are slowly eating your way through the world... :)

Shantanu said...

@indicaspecies: I guess it is. Reminds me of the coffee houses in Calcutta. But only for the ambiance. In India, both chai and coffee come in only one variety in most places.

@sig: Welcome back after so long! You are absolutely correct. :)

Cuckoo said...

I liked Rocket-Lamb's Lettuce Salad very much. I mean in looks. :)

Even I have some wooden boxes of chocolates at my place. For keeping some treasures now.

kyh said...

I can feel my mouth waters upon seeing those delectable pastries! Beautiful setting.... Lovely environment to make up for it!

BTW, are you a Marathi?

Anil P said...

I'm intrigued by the atmosphere, I'm sure there must be quite a history behind them.

Shantanu said...

@cuckoo: The box now acts as a souvenir of Vienna.

@kyh: I am not a Marathi, but have been staying in the Marathi heartland of Pune for almost a decade now.

@anil p: Every place here seems to have a story behind it.

Kate / Kajal said...

wow shantanu, u really seemed to have has a blast. Those vineyards and the underground cellars ... all look so beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing this. I really enjoyed seeing all your pictures, and you little girl looks like such a darling :)

Shantanu said...

@kajal: I did have a great time there. She does, doesn't she... :)