Geno's 'Best of the Wurst'... and more...

Austria Travel Blog

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The Centimetre 'Meal on a Sword' as previously reviewed by me.

Ok, so I've had a very interesting time living in Austria. Some things I've loved, some things i've disliked intensely, and some things I've just not understood.

It's an interesting land with an amazing and confused history. Once a great, powerful empire, it now struggles for an identity which can best be understood by its need to constantly having to tell people they do NOT have kangaroos.

Austria finds itself caught up in the middle of the advancement of western europe, the bustling optimism of eastern europe and the complacency of central europe. A land surrounded by 9 different nations (Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, Liechenstein, Germany, Czech, Poland, Slovakia) it has many different influences and people crossing it's borders. The result is confusing to say the least.

The 'real' Austrians generally arent happy about all this progress and dont really like change.

The Wienner Schnitzel. Unfortunately most places do it in pork and not Veal as was originally intended.
They prefer nothing more than to sit down in a beisl (old pub) or heurigen (wine garden) with their beer, cigarettes, a hearty meal and waste away the day complaining. If they have nothing to complain about, they'll just complain that they dont have anything to complain about.

Personally, I think they're nuts. It's a fantastic country and the food is so much damn fun!

Austrian meals cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered gourmet, or even remotely healthy. They are traditionally farmer's meals - based on three major ingredients: pork, potato and dairy. You will never see a decent vegetable, unless you like kraut (cabbage). Salads are typically vegetables soaked in vinagerette and stored long term in tubs so nothing is fresh and everything soggy and vinagery.

Unfortunately, they have an overly and totally unreasonable fondness of salt.

Tyroler Gröstl: Fried potato, bacon, onion, herbs and topped with an egg. The perfect mountain meal!
They even named their second biggest city after it: 'Salzburg' (meaning literally Salt Town). I've had meals so salty i've instantly wretched after one mouthfull. I actually stopped eating in the work cafeteria after several meals left me feeling like an 'insalted' snail, and sick for the afternoon. I tried to complain but in typical Austrian fashion blame was totally avoided. Austrians find a way to excuse anything that might require change or improvement: 'Oh a salty meal means the cook is in love' and a cheeky grin spreads across their face as if this makes it better. Where I come from 'a salty meal means the cook is no good'...

Obvioulsy, the Schnitzel is the most well known meal. It originally came from Milan as the Veal Parmigiana. The austrians just took off the tomato (too healthy), changed it to pork (cheaper meat), made it bigger, and served it with pomme frittes (fries/chips).

A Stelzer! (literally means 'stilts') Pork knuckle. The best in the land is in Schweizerhaus in Prater.
My favourite is the Puten Cordon Bleu. That's Turkey schnitzel, filled with both ham and cheese. I've reviewed the schnitzel houses of Vienna elsewhere in my blogs. The 'Figlmuller' restaurant is also a very famous schnitzel restaurant in the centre of town however it is not my favourite (the schnitzels are too thin).

My second favourite dish (or favourite when on the piste) is the Tyroler Gröstl. Native to Tyrol, this is a heart attack on a plate: double fried potato, bacon, onion, herbs and topped with an egg.

Kaiserschmarren. The best dessert in austria - double fried pancakes, covered in sugar, with plum compote. Can also eat with apple or pear compote.
It's terrific.

Tying in at second of course is the Pork Knuckle. Affectionally known as a 'Stelzer' or 'stilts' because of the long bone sticking out. These are absolutely delicious and packed with flavour and covered in crackle. I've also reviewed these and if you are in Vienna outside of winter you simple must go to the Schweizerhaus in Prater. People eat it with 'kren' (horseradish) but I tend not to.

There are many other dishes of course to sample however they aren't favourites of mine. Just to be fair I will mention a sample of other popular meals you may like to try: Gulasch, Tafelspitz (very famous), Leberknodel, Gnockerl, Mailander toast.

In contrast to the meals, are the desserts, which range from the plain to the exquisite. Kaiserschmarren - both King Franz Joseph's and my favourite dish, is an incredibly basic dessert.

Apfelstrudl mit vanillensauce. The legenary dessert
It's a pancake that is cooked, then chopped up and refried and covered with icing sugar, and served with a fruit compote. It's absolutely delicious, but dead simple.

In contrast, some of the pastries are extremely complex and most French pastries are actually stolen from Austria, the croissant in particular. Invented in Vienna as a 'kipferl' it was a gift to the Turks and hence shaped in their national symbol - the halfmoon or crescent. The French stole the idea and changed it's name using the French word for 'crescent'. The origninal bakery that invented the 'kipferl' can still be found in Vienna. The bagel was also an Austrian invention, created by a Jewish-Austrian as a gift to the Polish.

Apple Strudel is probably the most famous and they range in variety so much. Sometimes served warm, sometimes cold, sometimes with raisons, sometimes with cream cheese instead.

Zwetschke Knodel. Plum dumplings. My favourite is the chocolate or marillen (apricot) filled ones.
They are nearly always fantastic. Don't forget the ice-cream!

My other favourite desserts are the knodels (dumplings). There are the small types, covered in sugary crumble and filled with either plums, apricot or chocolate. Then there is the giant Mohn knodel. Which is filled with plum and poppy seeds. Both are fantastic. Other great desserts not to be missed are krapfen (jam filled buns) and golatsche. I dont get all the fuss with Sachertorte. I think its a stale, dry, boring cake with a lame centre and boring icing. You can probably make better yourself.

A great way to sample a lot of foods is to attend Rathaus Platz (Cityhall park) during summer. There are a number of stalls offering all sorts of drinks and foods from around the world and Austria. In winter you also get a good variety there but more snacks than meals.

Austrians take coffee very seriously.

Mohnknodel mit vanillensauce. Poppy seed dumplings
The coffee shops of Vienna are in my view, probably the best in the world. A meandering walk through the districts will inevitably uncover some treasure of a place serving some sort of delicious morsel, along with the most perfectly presented coffee culture in the planet. And I honestly mean that. Forget France or Italy. I've also sampled hot chocolates in almost every cold climate I've been and have yet to find better than those in Austria. With the one notable exception of the Chocolate cafe in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Last but certainly not least are the snacks and fast foods of Austria. I consider their take away pizza's the best anywhere, and the plethora of Turks ensure that there is many a great kebab stall around.

But the crown jewel, the ducks nuts, the bees knees, the cherry on the top, the golden chalice, my favourite thing, without rival, in the entire land, is the blessed 'Käsekrainer'.

This is the best wurstel stand in the country. Am Hoher Markt in the 1st district next to the Jewish quarter. Come here for the 'best of the wurst' in the land.
Legend has it, it was a gift from God to end suffering and bring instant joy to the people. No, I made that up - 'kranskies' were traditionally a Slovenian pork sausage filled with garlic and herbs. The Austrians added cheese, actually they jammed every single tiny gap full of Emmenthaler cheese, and invented the best thing since the bikini! On initial inspection, it looks disgusting. I've personally introduced them to at least 50 people and never once had a negative outcome. Most people become heavily addicted. You can eat them in two basic ways. Chopped up on a plate. Or in a hotdog bun. Both have their good and bad points. On the plate is the tradtional way and you may hear locals asking for 'ein eitrigger, ein bugel, und ein sechzehnte blech'. This translates literally to 'an oozing finger, a coathanger (the back end of the bread), and a 16th tin (Ottakringer beer)'.
more Käsekrainer. look at that cheese just oozing out! Dont be put off! You will begin to get addicted and crave these things...
In a hotdog is more fun as the bread helps to dissolve the stong flavour and keep it warm. You have to be careful for hot spurts of liquid cheese shooting out and you'd have to be a seasoned porn actress to not flinch while you are eating one! The best wurstel stands for these are in the 1st district, above Karlsplatz, at Schwedenplatz and of course the highest rates is at Am Hoher Markt, next to the Jewish quarter and looking up at the famous clock.

Second to the käsekrainer is the 'Käseleberkäse'. Translates literally to cheese-liver-cheese. It actuatlly means 'cheesy meatloaf'. This is basically a giant käsekrainer. They slice it and eat it in bread. I order it with an additional slab of cheese as I love the way it rolls off the tongue: 'käseleberkäse mit käse'.

A thick slab of a sort of holey meatloaf with the 'holes' filled with cheese. I eat it in bread with an additional slab of cheese!(plus mustard and ketchup). Ask for: 'ein käseleberkäse mit käse und senf und ketchup - bitte'
And I love the look of shock on the vendors face when they say 'MIT kase?'!!' as if it's too disgusting to consider any more cheese on it...

One thing this review doesnt cover is drinks. Austrians make some superb wines and in hugely plentiful supply. It would take months to review them all. Wine culture is exceptionally stong especially in the spring and summer when the Heurigens (wine gardens) are in full swing. You almost cant go wrong. You should also be sure to try Weisser spritzers and Radlers. Beer is also very good. Stiegl and Gösser being the preferred favourites.

Ahhhh.

The Käsekrainer. This is the single best thing in Austria. A cheese filled pork sausage. The perfect snack anytime. Especially at the end of the night. I havent met a single person yet who isnt in love...
.... burppp.....mahlzeit!!

 

novabelgica says:
I feel an indigestion coming up.
Posted on: Oct 22, 2008
Sheila_0808 says:
yum! looks delicious!! I'll take the Mohnknodel mit vanillensauce please! Do they deliver?lol!
Posted on: Apr 04, 2008
tazmania says:
your blog & photos mak me feel hungry *__*
Posted on: Apr 02, 2008
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The Centimetre Meal on a Sword a…
The Centimetre 'Meal on a Sword' …
The Wienner Schnitzel. Unfortunate…
The Wienner Schnitzel. Unfortunat…
Tyroler Gröstl: Fried potato, bac…
Tyroler Gröstl: Fried potato, ba…
A Stelzer! (literally means stilt…
A Stelzer! (literally means 'stil…
Kaiserschmarren. The best dessert …
Kaiserschmarren. The best dessert…
Apfelstrudl mit vanillensauce. The…
Apfelstrudl mit vanillensauce. Th…
Zwetschke Knodel. Plum dumplings. …
Zwetschke Knodel. Plum dumplings.…
Mohnknodel mit vanillensauce. Popp…
Mohnknodel mit vanillensauce. Pop…
This is the best wurstel stand in …
This is the best wurstel stand in…
more Käsekrainer. look at that ch…
more Käsekrainer. look at that c…
A thick slab of a sort of holey me…
A thick slab of a sort of holey m…
The Käsekrainer. This is the sing…
The Käsekrainer. This is the sin…
this is the traditional way to eat…
this is the traditional way to ea…
The locals order it as such: Ein …
The locals order it as such: 'Ein…
the Käsekrainer Hotdog! the way I…
the Käsekrainer Hotdog! the way …
a semi-devoured Turkey Cordon Bleu…
a semi-devoured Turkey Cordon Ble…
Another Stelzer. look at all that …
Another Stelzer. look at all that…
The famous Sachertorte. I dont get…
The famous Sachertorte. I dont ge…
a rich cake with assorted chocolat…
a rich cake with assorted chocola…
The croissant was actually an Aust…
The croissant was actually an Aus…
Topfen Goltasche. Cream-Cheese fil…
Topfen Goltasche. Cream-Cheese fi…
krapfen. a sort of jam filled donu…
krapfen. a sort of jam filled don…
The famous chocolates...Mozart lov…
The famous chocolates...Mozart lo…
The delightful naschmarkt. right i…
The delightful naschmarkt. right …
i really do love käserkrainers
i really do love käserkrainers
look at the cheesy goodness
look at the cheesy goodness
Geno shows how its done
Geno shows how it's done
Stiegl - the best beer in Austria!…
Stiegl - the best beer in Austria…
319 km (198 miles) traveled
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