So, I’m just back from Vienna! More to come on my travels in the sophisticated Austrian capital (yes, I got my Klimt on!), but I just have to say the food was insane. I adored the bejesus out of Vienna so much and I can’t wait to go back. With Vienna in my mind, I wanted to wax poetic about one of my favorite parts of the trip: A food tour with Food Tours Vienna.
If you have any Vienna travel plans in the pipeline, I strongly suggest you book the classic food tour of Vienna with Lukas Hittinger. Food tour guide by day and chef by night, Lukas has a strong grasp of the city’s dining culture. I learned so much, and couldn’t wait to eat and drink some more. Here’s a look at the deliciousness I experienced on the food tour.
Café Sperl is one of the most historical Viennese Coffee Houses. Stepping inside here feels like stepping back in time, and I would give anything to hear the stories those walls would tell if they could talk. We ate apple strudel (when in Vienna!) and Schokoschnitte, chocolate hazelnut pastry made with egg whites and sugar that slightly resembles a brownie. Since I’ve got a thing for cappuccinos, I didn’t opt for the mélange, which is pretty much like a Viennese version of a cappuccino. Instead, I had the Franziskaner (Franciscan monk), like a mélange but topped with whipped cream instead of foamed milk. Viennese coffee culture differs from Italian coffee culture; the Viennese take their time to sit and savor their morning coffee while reading a newspaper while the Italians take their coffee standing so they’re in and out fairly quickly. Lukas mentioned that in the 90s, the opening of several Italian-style coffee establishments supplanted some traditional coffee houses, which caused many to close. Thankfully, some old-school classics like Café Sperl are still going strong.
Next was a visit to the glorious Naschmarkt, an outdoor market where the Viennese have been shopping since the sixteenth century. The lively vendors sell produce, meat, cheese, and everything else you would expect from a market, and there are also several establishments where you can take a seat for eating, drinking, and merrymaking. We stopped at Pöhl to sample cheese: Goat and sheep cheeses produced like brie by the Pranz family in upper Austria and a hard cow’s mountain cheese, aged 12 months from Tirol Tannheimer Tal. We also sampled Mohnzelten, a glorious poppy-seed filled potato pastry. I actually returned on my last day to pick up some goat cheese to bring back to Milan with me, and I threw in some Mohnzelten for good measure. Although it was vacuum-wrapped, the goat cheese didn’t hold up as well as I had hoped (my bad…it was risky, I know!), but the pastry kept well. Vinegar production is also quite Austrian, and we stopped at Gegenbauer, a famous producer with a permanent stand in the market, where we tried asparagus, pumpkin seed, and raspberry vinegar as well as some olive oil. Living in Italy, I’m quite spoiled when it comes to olive oil, but theirs stood up to some of the finest I have ever tasted.
Street food! There are countless würstel stands, some better than others. The one outside the Albertina museum across from the opera is considered the best, and it was also recommended to me by my pal Oded. We noshed on some more gloriousness…. Käsekrainer (cheese-stuffed würstel) sliced up and served horseradish and mustard. You dunk a piece of sausage into the mustard, then the horseradish and you eat it. It’s dreamy. Würstel is also enjoyed hot dog style, but the bun is not from one of those industrial dime-a-dozen packages like many hot dogs I’m used to at home…the freshly baked buns are placed around a spike to create a slot for the sausage. You choose ketchup or mustard which is squirted in just before the sausage is placed inside. Yup, I went back to try the latter on my own time.
Candy! Zuckerlwerkstatt is the cutest place ever, a shop where sugar candy is made by hand. The staff prepares the candy for everyone to see, and during this visit, they were making little stars. I went back and bought some hearts for my work pals as well as some Christmas candy to bring to New York.
Wine: Lukas’ friend owns a pub and restaurant in a former abbey, so we went in during the off hours for a wine tasting. We sipped a few Austrian varieties like Gruner Veltliner as well as red and white blends of local varietals.
- Chocolate just makes everything better. We visited a chocolate shop and sampled some apricot dumplings, an Austrian classic in praline form as well as Linzer pralines made from hazelnuts and cranberry marmalade, and named for the traditional cake of this kind from the town Linz.
Grimm’s is an old-school bakery and the only one in the city center that still bakes onsite, as rents have gotten too high for some spaces to afford to continue to do so. We sampled Mischbrot a sourdough made with white and rye flours that is amazing with cheese and ham. Rauchfangkehrerbrot, known as chimney sweeper bread, is a sourdough made from rye flour while Gutsheerenbrot, known as landowner bread, is like the Mischbrot but seasoned with fennel and cumin. We also tasted a white bread that is like a Tuscan-ciabatta
Last, but most certainly not least, was the butcher shop where we tried Cabanosi dry sausages and freshly cooked fried meatloaf made from veal. The ham had been cured in a brine for two weeks, smoked for two hours and then cooked for 12 hours. Yum.