I am writing this column from Austria, sitting in the countryside near Salzburg, sipping apricot brandy and nibbling on a Sacher Torte.
Yes, the same Sacher Torte or chocolate cake with apricot jam or jelly fame, the one I wrote about in one of my previous columns.
But the Sacher Torte is not the only famous offering that Austria has made to the world. Think of the beautiful symphonies of Mozart that mesmerises even today.
Mozart could have beaten any celebrity endorser hands down today. Stroll through the streets of Salzburg and one can see the composer's name and face being used to sell everything from chocolates to delicatessens.
Austrian cuisine is a fusion of culinary forms of neighboring countries. The Habsburg rulers in the early 1900s held sway over Switzerland, Alsace, Burgundy, Spain, Holland, Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia and Italy, and the influences show.
Apfelstrudel is an Austrian version of a Turkish delicacy introduced during the Turkish occupation. The Wiener Schnitzel probably originated in northern Italy, while the delicious Palatschinken (crêpes), stews, dumplings and the Gulasch came from across the Hungarian border. The roasts and sausages were from Germany and the pastries find their origin in Bohemia. Another unique feature is the variety of sausages available. From Frankfurter, Debreziner (after Debrecen in Hungary) to Burenwurst and Blunzn made out of pig-blood and Grüne Würstl, the choice is varied. Grüne Würstl or green sausage are air dried and eaten boiled. Bacon is called Speck, and usually smoked and eaten with mild spices
Apart from the foreign influences on Austrian cuisine, every Austrian kitchen features its own local dishes: Frittatensuppe (crêpe soup) comes from Styria, Speckknödel (bacon dumplings) from Tyrol region; and Salzburg (the salt castle) has contributed the so-called Salzburger Nockerln, a sweet soufflé made from egg whites.
However, while one may not be able to enjoy all the influences at the many cafes around Austria today, the biggest import of all, coffee, remains at the heart of Austrian culture. The Turkish invasion of Europe was responsible for the birth of this culture with the introduction of coffee bean to Viennese kitchens.
I toured Vienna to Salzburg and Innsbruck, trying the food. In one of the restaurants I was recommended breaded cheese with pinot blanc weissburgunder. Even though Austria is known as the “Alpine Republic”, its diverse climate and soil provide suitable conditions to produce the world’s finest wines. There are 35 varieties of grapes authorised for wine making in Austria, which has been producing wine for centuries.
The coffee menu
● Kleiner Oder GroBer Brauner: Delicious black coffee rounded off with coffee cream served in a large cup.
● Wienner Melange: The classic melange contains hot milk, foamed milk and black coffee.
● Einspänner: The Viennese speciality made from black coffee is prepared with whipped cream, powdered sugar and served in a glass.
● Fiaker: Black coffee magic served in a glass and refined with cognac and whipped cream.
● Franziskaner: Douse black coffee with foamed milk. Add whipped cream and cocoa powder.
● Kaffee Verkehrt: Black coffee in a glass garnished with hot milk and foamed milk.
● Marie Theresia: An exclusive Viennese variation prepared from black coffee and orange liqueur.
● Kaffee Baileys: Bailey's whipped cream and cocoa powder sweeten the black coffee served in a glass.
● Wienner Eiskaffee: Double espresso served with vanilla ice-cream and freshly whipped cream.