Vienna: Eats

Whilst I’ve never actually *chosen* a holiday destination based on the food I’d expect to get there, food is often the first thing that makes me fall in love with a place. And Vienna will certainly be remembered as one of my favourite cities for that very reason!

We were so impressed by the meals we had on our little city break there last October, whether it was in a traditional restaurant, a quirky canteen or from an outdoor vendor. The biggest benefit for us was that so much of the meat there is Organic…..Adam and I only eat free range meat, so eating out is often a bit tricky for us, although we do allow ourselves a little more freedom whilst on holidays. It wasn’t just the meat that impressed us though….everything we ate was of such high quality, served with a smile (not to mention a great deal of patience with my poor German-speaking-ordering!) and I’d definitely say the food was a highlight of our trip!

To that end, I thought I’d share with you some of the places we most enjoyed eating whilst in Vienna….I hope you’ll want to try them if you’re ever there!

One of our most memorable meals was the incredible lunch buffet at Brandauer’s Schlossbrau. A grand ‘beer hall’ (and huge beer garden in the warmer months!) set inside one of Vienna’s last Biedermeier dance halls, this place feels both fancy and informal, with dozens of tables all over the former dance floor and even on the old velvet-draped stage. There is a wonderful beer selection (I’m afraid I can’t remember which one I had, but it was the waitress’ recommendation and very yummy!) as well as an incredibly good value all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. Never one to turn down such a challenge, I relished the chance to try all the different traditional Austrian dishes, and I would heartily recommend doing so yourself, especially for the bargainous price of €7.50 (Monday to Friday, 11:30am to 3pm). I devoured three plates full, including an amazing potato soup, sauerkraut, schnitzel and goulash. I can imagine it pays to get there early during the summer months, especially if you’d like a pretty table outside under a chestnut tree, but it’s certainly an excellent place to visit if you’re going to see the nearby Schloss Shonbrunn…..Get the U4 to Shonbrunn (just about half a dozen stops from Karlsplatz going towards Hutteldorf) and visit the Schloss in the morning, and then walk off your big lunch around the Schloss grounds, zoo and very good copy of Kew!

I love a foody market, so Vienna’s Naschmarkt was a must for our trip. The Borough Market sized treasure is a few minutes’ walk from the centre (about ten minutes from the opera house and just over the road from the stunning Secession gallery) and is crammed with cute wooden stalls bursting with fresh produce. There are a good few sit-in restaurants and cafes there, but you’ll possibly be even more tempted to buy up lots of treats from the various stalls.

And still on markets, I couldn’t resist raving about the famous Viennese Christmas markets, which provided me with some of my favourite meals during our trip! There are a number of wonderful traditional dishes available at the various Chistkindlmarkts, and all of the ones I tried were AMAZING! I adored the savoury Pretzels and Langos (huge deep fried bread smothered in garlic sauce), but most of all the incredible Kartoffelpuffer (a sort of giant hash brown brushed with a yummy garlic sauce). We also enjoyed some amazing sweet things, like Lebkuchen (gingerbread biscuits), Maroni (roasted chestnuts),  and the yummy marshmallow-filled pastry rolls (can’t remember the name, but it was like the Hungarian Chimney Cakes, only filled like a Tunnocks Tea Cake!) as well as several mugs of the glorious Gluhwein (mulled wine). The biggest market is the one in front of the Rathaus, but you’ll find Christkindlmarkts all over the city from November onwards.

Still outdoors, I just have to share in the joy of the amazing Bitzinger Wurstelstand. You can find this gem right behind the iconic Staatsoper opera house, just around the corner from the famous Cafe Sacher. Famous in its own right, this sausage stand is often frequented by smart businessmen on their way home, as well as glamourously dressed opera-goers, all yumming up the no-frills offerings. There’s a good range of different sausages, sauces, breads and sides, and I just loved standing at the tall table integrated into the stand, underneath their heat lamp. This is how fast food should be!

Lastly, and probably our best meal whilst in Vienna, I can’t recommend enough the delicious offerings at Shone Perle. It’s a bit of a jaunt out of the main hub (nearest U-bahn station is Taborstrasse on U2), but this all-orgainc canteen style Neo-Beisl serves the most amazing food and is well worth the trip. I chose the Wiener Schnitzel (massive favourite of mine) which came with yummy potato salad, whilst Adam had the incredible Tafelspitz (prime boiled beef) which came along with a sort of giant potato rosti. Both dishes were accompanied with lovely sauces and sides, and we were delighted with the Austrian wines we chose too. I’d happily take the trip back here at the first chance….whilst the place isn’t fancy or terribly convenient to the main tourist attractions, I’d say you can’t beat it for quality and value.

Mahlzeit!

Ems x

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Catching up…. a week (or so) in Instagram

It’s been a busy couple of weeks with Christmas orders, preparations and hosting, hence the radio silence here on my blog. Still, there’s been plenty going on, and so I thought I’d catch you up with a round up of my latest Instagram posts…..

I enjoyed baking up a batch of Lebkuchen for the Domestic Sluttery Just Desserts club….we devoured most of them ourselves but managed to save a few to share with guests!

We had our Christmas party and house warming the weekend before last, and loved having more guests to stay over as well as a very merry bunch for a festive supper. There were crackers too.

We spotted Father Christmas himself at the market whilst out doing some Christmas shopping. I was worried he was leaving it a bit late!

We met (again) and fell in love with (again) the local Greyhound Rescue bunch….the dogs were all kitted out for the festive season!

I spent lots of time last week readying the house for our guests as well as making last minute Christmas gifts and orders. I most enjoyed making a little Wonderland inspired jam jar, as I’ve been meaning to do one for ages!

You know it’s Christmas time when you have jelly beans for breakfast (thanks Mark!)……

…..and cupcakes for lunch! (thanks Brigitte!)

I painted my nails all Christmassy for a friend’s Christmas party, but we couldn’t go in the end because the trains were all cancelled into London!

Despite my busyness, we still popped to the antiques market on Friday, where I was lucky enough to find this wonderful haul of vintage cameras!

I also fell in love with this gorgeous little cruet set I got…super cute!

We’ve been spying our chances in between the rain to go out for walks with the dogs….we have two staying with us for Christmas along with their owners, Adam’s brother and sister in law

Adam got rather stuck in the mud on one walk though as it had been so rainy! He was stranded for a while and nearly lost a boot!

I made up the mince pies with the mince meat I prepared months ago, and have been feeding weekly with brandy! They are pretty good!

We’ve been loving having the ‘young uns’ to stay…..they got giant knuckles or ‘Postman’s Knee Caps’ as early Christmas pressies!

Buddy has been loving our nice long garden, and my throwing lots of balls for him!

Adam’s brother and sister in law brought LOTS of treats with them, so we have been gorging ourselves!

Yesterday I planned out our Christmas lunch, noting down a time line of when to do everything and sticking labels onto pots and pans and dishes to reserve them!

We went over to Adam’s parents’ last night for a roast lamb dinner….Peanut enjoyed meeting a very attractive new friend there!

Supper was concluded with a delicious pudding of Bannoffee Pie and Butter Cream Meringues. I am still full!

I hope you have been enjoying the build up to Christmas and you’re all set for the big day too!

Ems x

Domestic Sluttery Just Desserts Club….. Christmas Lebkuchen

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I was so excited to have another great excuse to do some baking, in the shape of Domestic Sluttery’s Just Desserts Club. Not that I usually struggle for an excuse….there’s always one to be found somehow! Still, with a Christmassy theme of ‘Cinnamon’ I just couldn’t pass up the chance to get involved again!

I had initially thought I’d bake the yummy German biscuits we had made after our trip to Berlin last year (we bought Ampelmann cookie cutters and had to try them out!) as they are deliciously filled with festive cinnamon. We have also been making cinnamon flavoured vodka, but that’s not *really* a dessert, and it’s not really a recipe when all you do is shove some cinnamon sticks into a bottle of vodka! So, after scoffing up lots of the wonderfully Christmassy offerings on our recent trip to Vienna, I couldn’t think of anything more fitting (or tempting) to bake than Lebkuchen. I absolutely adore their wintery spice flavour, and love the soft texture and crisp sugary coating. The ones we brought back from Vienna lasted no time at all, so I was more than happy to get baking some!

I started out with this recipe on BBC Good Food, which was recommended to me by a fellow Lebkuchen lover. She did warn that the texture would be a little different to what we’d bought in Austria, so I tweaked the recipe to make them more like I enjoy them, and of course I just had to add an extra chocolate coating to make them more authentic still. Here’s my version of the recipe and how I made them…..

You will need (to make about 30 little biscuits)…..

  • 250g plain flour
  • 85g ground almonds
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 heaped teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 8 cloves, ground fine
  • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 200ml clear, runny honey
  • 85g salted butter
  • The finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 100g dark melting / cooking chocolate
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 1 egg white

How to make them…..

  1. Tip all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix
  2. Melt the butter into the honey, either in a pan over a low heat or in a measuring jug in the microwave
  3. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and mix well
  4. Stir in the lemon zest and combine to form a solid dough
  5. Cover the dough and pop in the fridge to cool for 15 to 20 minutes
  6. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius / Gas Mark 4, and line two baking sheets with baking parchment
  7. Once cooled, roll the dough into little 3cm diameter balls with your hands…. you should get around 30
  8. Place them on the baking parchment lined trays, at least 5cm apart (you may need a third tray to ensure they are spread out enough)
  9. Squash each one down to flatten it into a disc, about 1.5 cm deep
  10. Bake them in the oven for about 12 minutes, or until they are golden brown
  11. Whilst they cool a little on a wire rack, melt your chocolate over a Bain Marie
  12. Lay your biscuits face down on the wire rack and coat the flat underside of each with the melted chocolate using a teaspoon
  13. Once they have cooled again and the chocolate has gone solid, flip them back over the right way up ready to ice them
  14. Whisk together the icing sugar and egg white, adding about 1 tablespoon of water so that you have a smooth and runny mixture
  15. Using a teaspoon again, coat each biscuit with the icing, spreading it over the face of each one so that you have a nice fine coating
  16. Decorate if you like with more melted chocolate or hundreds and thousands….you can even add a little colouring to the icing to make pink ones like we had in Vienna!

Happy baking!

Ems x

Something from the weekend….back from adventures in Vienna!

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So as I think I mentioned, I was off on holiday in super-Christmassy Vienna last week, and we flew home on Saturday morning. We still managed a fairly productive weekend though, despite our early start and tiredness from the flight….

We traveled straight from Gatwick into the centre of London, where we were meeting a stack of friends at a pub near St Paul’s. Now I say friends….and they are….but they are also the ‘cult’ I belong to. Yes, I’m in a cult. I don’t think I said before. It’s not a scary, weird thing though. In fact, we’d really rather it was known as a ‘collective’, but it won’t stick. Anyway, about ten years ago I read a book called ‘Join Me‘ by Danny Wallace. And then I ‘joined’ him and a whole bunch of other people, all of us promising to do good deeds and be nice. We still meet up all these years later, and on Saturday was our big annual meet in London, where we drank hot cider, ate lots of chips, and raised over £1250 for a very worthy charity. It was, as usual, lots of fun to meet new people and catch up with old friends…some of whom I’ve not seen for years!

On Sunday morning we went out first thing (ish) to meet up with friends for coffee….but on our way and to my great delight, we spotted the Christmas tree sellers on the market! In fact, as soon as I walked out of our front gate I could see them and skipped all the way to go and see them! We had a good scout around the various trees, but decided to wait until Tuesday to buy one, once we’ve measured up and figured where we will have it. I can’t wait!

After all the Christmas tree excitement we made our way to the lovely Halsey’s where we met up with dear friends Hannah and Katie. We chatted and caught up, drank yummy teas and coffees, and I indulged in their wonderful Sunday brunch menu with a mushroom and goats cheese omelette (Adam had blueberry pancakes with ice cream!).

The rest of the afternoon was spent catching up on domestic things….we did our grocery shopping, sorted out all our post and failed delivery notes, switched energy providers (how grown up is that?!) and had a tidy. Then to save us the trouble of cooking, Adam’s Mum had us over for one of her tremendous baked pasta dishes and wine. We returned home early enough to watch a couple of episodes of X Files (I’d really missed it!), whilst eating lots of the amazing Lebkuchen we brought back from Vienna, and then collapsed into bed at a reasonable hour to try to catch up on our sleep!

I’ll be sure to catch you up with our Vienna adventure as soon as I can!

Ems x