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Posts from the ‘Food’ Category

TWO OUT OF THREE AIN’T BAD BUT IT DEFINITELY AIN’T GOOD ENOUGH: PFARRWIRT

A beloved, albeit ambivalent, saying about Vienna goes: “When the world ends, I’m heading to Vienna, everything there happens 50 years later.” Actually, the jury is out on whether the original statement predicted it would take Vienna 10 or 50 years longer to end and whether the Austrian who declared it was the composer Gustav Mahler or the satirist Karl Kraus. Regardless of who the sage was, and however long Vienna would need to catch up with the rest of the world, it is exactly this saying that came to mind yesterday evening while dining at the Pfarrwirt.

What you won’t see when you visit the convenient online-reservations section of Pfarrwirt’s professionally done website is any indication that this restaurant has a smoking and non-smoking section and has reserved the superior seating for the friends of Phillip Morris. The reservation form poses all the necessary questions EXCEPT a preference for smoking or non-smoking.

Screenshot from Pfarrwirt reservations page

In fact, nothing, NOTHING, on the carefully crafted website, complete with a gallery of room-by-room photos, gives any visual or written indication that your dining experience will begin by navigating through a hanging cloud of fumes to arrive at the non-descript back room sectioned off for non-smokers. Assuming, of course, you are lucky enough after-the-fact to secure a non-smoking table. (Unfortunately, we weren’t).

Immediately upon detecting (smelling) our dire reservation mistake two minutes after being seated at our first charming table, the staff was professional enough (or accustomed to such last-minute requests by unpleasantly surprised guests?) to swiftly re-situate us to an alternative table directly outside of the glassed-in, far smaller, non-smoking section (which, not surprisingly, was full). This new table was where hope went to die. Instead, of counting our losses and high-tailing it out of there, we recklessly remained seated and ordered, falsely believing that the two bouncing, bright-eyed 6-month olds at each of the tables next to us would guarantee a smoke-free evening.

Au contraire.

Ten feet away, three perniciously determined nicotine addicts worked their tobacco-stained way through enough Marlboros to make up for every non-smoking diner present.

The Pfarrwirt boasts that it is Vienna’s oldest restaurant. Nestled in an enchanting, cobble-stoned square beside a picturesque church more than seven centuries (!) old, I don’t doubt that it’s true. The whole locale oozes in so much Old-World charm, you want to bundle it up and preserve it on the front cover a Christmas greeting card. Assuming, of course, that you don’t mind if the golden-winged cherubs wishing you “Good Cheer” all have Pall Malls dangling from their pouty, angelic lips.

When you go out to dinner, and particularly when you are entertaining guests from abroad, you really want three things from your restaurant of choice: 1) savory meals (and quality wine) 2) professional staff and; 3) an atmosphere that imbues you with the sense that everything has come together in effortless perfection.

Sign for smoking section at Pfarrwirt

Sign for smoking section at Pfarrwirt which, without the slightest hint of irony, advises: “Smoking endangers your health and the health of those around you.”

Pfarrwirt achieves the first two of the three. The food was good (not great but good – though the chocolate mousse was great), the wine selection okay, the staff attentive but not overbearing (though when I kindly suggested a smoking/non-smoking button option on the website, our waiter seemed to imply it was my mistake for not mentioning my preference in the “Your message to us” box at the end of the page), but when the place reeks of cigarette stench so stifling that every non-smoking diner feels asphyxiated, no stretch of the imagination can describe the dining experience as “imbuing a sense of effortless perfection coming together.” In fact, if you venture to close your eyes in an attempt to grant them a temporary break from the stinging fumes, rather than the fine aroma of Schnitzel inspiring illusions of a visit to one of the city’s best restaurants, the pestilent odor of Lucky Strikes conjures up images of a fenced-in courtyard of a high-security prison facility. With main courses ranging in price from 12 to 30 Euros, you expect a high quality dining experience that will be impossible for Pfarrwirt to ever achieve as long as it persists in allowing a nicotine haze to permeate its air, penetrate its food, and invariably taint what-could-have-otherwise-been a (positively) memorable experience.

Two out of three ain’t bad, but it ain’t nearly good enough. In fact, in this case, it was highly disappointing.

xxxx

For a restaurant that once had a smoking section and then decided it was time to go completely smoke-free, check out a local favorite – the Schöne Perle. No, it is not Vienna’s oldest restaurant and it does not look so quaint that it belongs on a Christmas card, but you will be guaranteed good food, good service, and a smoke-free atmosphere. (Reservations recommended)

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EASY CHRISTMAS COOKIES – LADY LOCKS / SCHAUMROLLEN

Before you go see the wookie, be sure you bake the cookie! – KC

Print This PostAdmit it. You’ve been eying those cookies down at the grocery store wondering if they could pass for homemade because let’s face it: Super Barbie Housewife you are not. She might rise at 4 am, tie that pink lace apron around her cute little waist and hop through the kitchen in those furry bedroom shoes grinding flour here, churning butter there, all in the name of extra special down-home lovin, but you’ve had better, more noble things to do. Like sleep in. Like show your support for the mistreated and abandoned puppies by frequenting the Animal Shelter Glühwein stand down at the local Christmas Market. And then you had to check out the new Krampus film  because it reminded you of Uncle Scrooge. Not to mention the amount of time you seriously contemplated organizing a grass roots movement complete with online petition against that Elf on the Shelf because the upcoming generation of bright-eyed bushy-tailed gift-hungry children must not be trained to be numb to the evils of a surveillance state. Someone has to do something. You thought about it at least. Thus the lack of sweet ginger-bread laced scents floating from your oven. Got it?

But let’s face it. All the folks coming to Aunt Em’s for Christmas don’t want explanations; they want cookies. And if you want to keep Ken’s focus on your apron and not that Barbie girl’s, it’s high time to dig out the beaters and heat up that oven. After all you’ll expect Ken to man up and take wrench in hand and fix the tire in the blizzard raging on I-95 on the way to Aunt Em’s, right? But you’re miserable at baking and never managed to keep straight baking soda from baking powder.

No worries. You’ve come to the right blog. Because I’m going to instruct you on how to make it look like you slaved hours in the kitchen baking up a plate of cookies so sweet and so good that they could take the sour out of Trump.  These Schaumrollen – or as we call them in Pittsburgh – lady locks are guaranteed to turn Uncle Scrooge’s ho hums into ho ho hos long before he hits the eggnog table.

Finished Schaumrollen

Finished Schaumrollen

But you will have to purchase some materials before you start. Just think of it as a long-term investment and your once-a-year ticket to get “Bake Christmas cookies” off the To-Do list in order to free you up for those other philanthropic pursuits (see above) so in need of your attention.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Fillo Dough is called Blätterteig in German - this one is "Bio" Organic.

Fillo Dough is called Blätterteig in German – this one is “Bio” Organic.

Fillo Dough (in Austria Blätterteig or even Bio-Blätterteig) – found in the refrigerator section of your local grocery store – such as Billa, Merkur or Spar in Austria or places like Lowes or Giant Eagle in the US.

Cookie horns or molds for lady locks, Schaumrollen, cream horns or cannoli – in Vienna I got mine at the Leiner on Mariahilferstr but you can also order them from Amazon in Austria and the US.

Dessert Decorator Press: Again, in Vienna, I got mine at Leiner but you can probably pick one up at Target, Walmart or Amazon.

Baking Paper
Corn Oil
Sugar

Powdered Sugar
Eggs (best if from happy chickens because happy chooks = better cooks)

  • 3 packages of fillo dough/Blätterteig – more for more cookies though you will probably not need to increase the filling since you will probably have plenty
  • 5 egg whites
  • ½ C sugar
  • 1/3 C powdered sugar
  • 1/3 C water
  • 1 egg to glaze the Fillo dough wrapped around the forms before baking
  • small bowl of oil to grease the horn/lady lock/Schaumrollen/cannoli forms
  1. Spread out dough.
  2. Preheat oven to 200° C (395° F).

    Egg whites with sugar beaten until stiff

    Egg whites with sugar beaten until stiff

  3. Mix water and sugar together and boil for 2 – 3 minutes while constantly stirring.
  4. Beat egg whites in bowl until stiff (easiest with mixer). Gradually mix in powdered sugar.
  5. Slowly add hot sugar mixture to stiffened egg white mixture using first the middle speed and then increasing to the highest speed until the consistency is rather stiff.
  6. Cut dough strips lengthwise in 1 inch wide strips. .
  7. With your finger, oil each of the lady lock/cannoli/Schaumrollen forms (horns). Next wrap a dough stripe around the forms
    Rolling the dough onto the cookie horn form

    Rolling the dough onto the cookie horn form

    making sure you overlap each layer along the edge (see photo). Brush the egg mixture on the dough horns. Place glazed horns on wax paper on baking sheet.

  8. Place horns/ladylocks/Schaumrollen in preheated oven and bake 8 – 15 minutes until golden.
  9. While still hot, carefully remove the horns/lady locks/ Schaumrollen from the forms and place on wax papered pan to cool slightly.
  10. Put the meringue (stiffened sugar mix) into the decorator press and then use to fill each of the horns/lady locks/
    Beaten egg for glaze

    Beaten egg for glaze

    Schaumrollen.

  11. Place decoratively on plate with powdered sugar sprinkled on top.
  12. Toss off the apron, reward yourself with some genuinely earned Glühwein and get ready to see Uncle Scrooge (and your guy) smile. If anyone enters the kitchen and catches you Glühweining, glance wearily at the plate of Schaumrollen, offer one up (two only if deserved), and dramatically indicate that you’ve just spent hours slaving over the most difficult cookies in the world

Once you’ve proven you can manage the basics, you can get creative. You can attempt fillings with other things like yoghurt, strawberries, puddings, whipped cream, or sprinkle some chocolate shavings over the top of the finished Schaumrollen.

Tip: Schaumrollen are better made fresh. If you want to bake ahead, simply bake the dough forms and store in a box in a dry cool area for a couple days (or even freeze in plastic container) and make the filling the day you want to serve the Schaumrollen or store the filling separate in a bowl in the fridge for up to three days and then fill the rolls on the day of serving. Print This Post

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TOP TEN THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN VIENNA IN DECEMBER

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Vienna gets lots of visitors in December and that’s not too surprising because the city is beautiful this time of year. Here’s the top 10 things you’ll want to do and see while here in December to get the most of your visit.

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    1. Visit a Christmas Market. With over 20 markets to choose from, there’s something for everyone. Here’s a list of Vienna Christmas markets from my 2014 post with links. Note that the special events have probably changed but otherwise the markets and descriptions usually stay pretty consistent year for year.
    2. Indulge in some Glühwein while at that market. For your own Glühwein recipe – check out my “How to make Glühwein” post.

      Gluehwein at Schönnbrunn Castle Christmas Market - photo courtesy of M. Gardzina

      Gluehwein at Schönnbrunn Castle Christmas Market – photo courtesy of M. Gardzina

    3. Have lunch at Cafe Central – they have what’s called a “Menü” option on the weekdays and it is usually a soup and a main meal consisting of a meat or non-meat dish and rather reasonably priced. Be sure to make reservations or you might have to wait for a table or not get one at all. You can write to them for reservations at the email address on the Cafe Central website but reservations are only valid if you receive a confirmation email (usually pretty quick response time).
    4. See the mosaic of the Last Supper. Do this after your visit to Cafe Central, since the Minoritenkirche with the mosaic is a two minute walk up the road from the Cafe.  More about this amazing piece of art work in my post: “Napoleon, Jesus and the Free Masons: the Last Supper in Vienna.”
    5. Have an authentic Austrian dinner in one of Vienna’s oldest restaurants – the Griechenbeisl. Again, reservations are a necessity. Check out my post about the Greichenbeisl restaurant entitled, “If the Walls Could Speak – A Schnitzel with Turkish Invaders, Beethoven, Twain and Johnny Cash.”

      Fancy Schmancy Aida Krapfen

      Fancy Schmancy Aida Krapfen

    6. Try a Krapfen. Don’t know what that is? Kind of like a apricot jam filled doughnut – more on the subject here: “Krapfen – Getting Fat in Honor of Fat Tuesday.”
    7. Definitely, definitely, visit a Coffeehouse to catch your breath, read a newspaper, discuss the world, and maybe even have some coffee. These two posts should help you with that: This one has a list of choice coffeehouses: “Vienna and her Coffeehouses – Sit Back and Smell the Coffee,” and this one describes a bit of the coffeehouse culture: “Place to Visit in Vienna – Coffeehouses.”
    8.  Digest some art and see some museums. Check out my post “Things to See in Vienna – Art Museums and Street Art.”

      Entrance to the Griechenbeisl

      Entrance to the Griechenbeisl

    9. Visit the Austrian National Treasury and check out some amazing artifacts like the legendary holy lance/ Spear of Destiny. More about that on my post:”The Holy Lance (“Spear of Destiny”) & the Power to Rule the World.”
    10. Take a stroll through the park of the Schönbrunn Castle and be sure to hike the hill behind the castle up to the gorgeous Gloriette where you can have a hot cocoa and if you’re timing is right, listen to some live piano music.
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HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Thanksgiving is definitely one time of year when pangs of homesickness plague me a bit. I love Thanksgiving and how crazy everyone is but above all, everyone’s together. Good food, good friends and family — a wonderful tradition. Hope you enjoy the day. I celebrated this past weekend and attempted to be creative with the veggie plate which explains the photo. Have a slice of pumpkin pie for me.

And if you missed my Thanksgiving 101 from last year – be sure to check it out:
Thanksgiving 101 for Non-Americans – Top Ten Less Known Facts:
http://www.kcblau.com/thanksgiving101-nonamericans/

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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