Eat Fish Week: Trout Strudel

I will be on an island all week, and a bad conscience has been nagging all the time. Have so much stuff to blog about but so little time. So here you are: my folders give enough material for a whole fish week. You won’t find exact recipes for anything, just an idea of what I threw together. It is meant to inspire you. And if I find a begging comment about some real recipe when I come back, I might think about it!

trout strudel

Let’s get fancy. This is the signature dish of an Austrian restaurant I used to love and have already written about. Used to, because last time we were there with some blogfriends, the experience was less than stellar and I am not very keen on taking my hard earned money there soon. But this dish, it is really good. So I researched and found this recipe online, it was authorized by the cook himself, but it wouldn’t work. Believe me, I am not a novice in the kitchen and I can notice and fix broken recipes, but this one, no. So no recipe here, not even a source, but just an inspiration: Make a strudel, fill it with a farce of mushrooms and a piece of fresh trout fillet. Let me know if you have a great experience!

inner life

Excuse the bad picture, it was sooo late as I was finally done with this un-obeying recipe!

The Secret to the Perfect Wiener Schnitzel

Perfect Wiener Schnitzel

My friend B., a true Bavarian woman, prepares the best Wiener Schnitzel (Viennese breaded and fried veal cutlet). Since she once cooked this for us some years ago, we always ask for it whenever we visit her, although she cooks and bakes a lot of other things very good, too (she has a mean tiramisu, but that is for another time). I always wanted to learn her secret. Sure, you have to use the best veal you can find, otherwise it is not fit to be called Wiener Schnitzel, but her Schnitzel has this light and airy quality, the coating doesn’t stuck, it is perfectly golden and crisp with no blackened specks and it tastes so other-worldly.

This is her secret:

Butter at the end

Start with vegetable oil, end with butter! Now there are all kinds of recommendations out there for frying things, but this one here for a Schnitzel, it makes really sense: You start frying in vegetable oil, which heats up higher (and better) than butter, so you get the fluffy crumb. It doesn’t burn like butter would do if you used it all the way, so there are no black spots and burnt taste. And the butter in the end gives the great butter taste, which plain oil would lack. I also argued in favor of Butterschmalz (clarified butter, like ghee) which has a high burning point, but it really lacks the fresh butter flavor this method brings.

So next time you are frying a bread-crumbed cutlet, try this out. You will see it is the best method!

Drink: Best with Wiener Schnitzel is a fresh and light Grüner Veltliner (dry white wine from Vienna, Austria); what grows together, goes together!

Restaurant Obauer

Restaurant Obauer

the menu cover

There are not many people who would plan the visit to a two michelin starred restaurant only as a preamble to a dinner at a trattoria, no stars, no toques, no nothing. There are even less people who would do this over one weekend, leaving regular office jobs on Friday afternoon and driving around 1400 kilometers just to eat two spectacular dinners and be back at the office on Monday morning. Yet, for a number of years now, we have been doing this with a couple of our friends. Only the two stars are new in the equation, belonging to the very hyped-about restaurant the Obauer brothers are running in Werfen, Austria since 1979.

I had never been to this restaurant before. I have read a lot about the two brothers and I have one of their cookbooks “Hemmungslos kochen” (unscrupulous cooking) which I adore for the combination ideas it gives and to which I return again and again. Two of us six on this evening had already been to the restaurant and while I didn’t know about the feelings of C., I knew that M. wasn’t very impressed with his rustic Sunday lunch here about a year ago. But then again, he adores Paris Hilton, so this opinion didn’t have much impact on me. I had also been informed that the breakfast you get to enjoy if you stay at the Obauer Hotel was something to remember so I had reserved rooms for all of us at the hotel as well. End of October being out-of-season for this region, there were not many accommodation alternatives anyways.

On this evening I chose (after elaborating for a long time on the a la carte menu) the 3-course menu; T. and K. had the 4-course version, which was like mine plus a dessert I had abstained from; and A., M. and C. had the 6-course menu. I have made pictures of only my food but tasted some courses from the big menu as well.

Obauer - greetings from the kitchen 1Obauer - greetings from the kitchen 2The first greeting from the kitchen was a platter of 4 different morsels for each person. I cannot exactly remember what each of them was, there was a slice of aromatic dried sausage, a piece of tuna, some egg foam-sushi and some bread with a spread. And there were fried pieces of a fish I can’t remember either, on a curry sauce. As you can see, these didn’t leave a lasting impression. I don’t even understand what they were aimed to be and what kind of statement was intended as to what was to follow. Was this mix meant to declare “we cook local and global and mix stuff”? This greeting was way underneath the level of what was to come.

Cream of turnipLamb aspicThe real amouse that followed were a lot tastier and had more character. The guys got a piece of lamb aspic with a quail egg and the girls got a cream of turnip with a tomato-olive condiment and jerusalem artichoke chips. I loved this cream, the smoothness and, well, the creaminess, went very well with the condiment (a strong and kind of sour, fresh, antipole to the taste) and the chips (a great textural balance).

Schilcher frizzanteWater glassUp to this point we all drank some aperitif, I had my beloved Schilcher frizzante, this time from the Reiterer Winery, filled exclusively for the Obauer restaurant. This sparkling rosé is one of the very rare rosés that I like and the aromas, hmmmm, it is like bathing in strawberries, the good old tasteful ones, mind you. And one more drink related detail: Don’t you just love this water glass? It fits so perfectly in your hand.

pickled mallardMy first course was pickled mallard breast with beetroot and jerusalem artichoke. The breast slices were very tender and had a very light game taste, these were combined with slices of also pickled beetroot, jerusalem artichoke and cep (porcini) pieces. To make this all the more luxurious, there were slices of foie gras and shavings of black truffle, sprinkled with fleur de sel and bedded on some beetroot sauce. This was a perfect earthy dish, I loved the combination of the mallard with all the root vegetables and the foie, the natural taste of the ingredients sliding to the sweet-side, but balanced perfectly well with the sourness from the pickling. With this course we drank a Rotgipfler Rodauner 2005 from K. Alphart. Rotgipfler is an autochthonous grape from the Austrian Thermenregion. It had a golden hue, had a distinctive bouquet and some acidity, which I liked on its own but thought that it didn’t go that well with the dish. But I was alone with this opinion, my co-drinkers were happy with this straightforward wine and the combination.

MonkfishThe second course was monkfish on a bed of radicchio with apple balsamic vinegar. It is amazing how fresh the fish was and how great the combination with the not-at-all-bitter radicchio and the sweet vinegar… I thought about having this course again. Right after the first time. I keep on repeating myself, but the Obauer brothers have just the right touch about combining ingredients. So simple, not much more than the three named ingredients on the plate, and you have heaven. The wine accompaniment to this course was 2003 single vineyard Traminer Grassnitzberg from the Polz Winery. This was a typical Traminer, very clear and heavy-ish, with some residual sugar which went very well with the sweet/sour on the plate without overpowering the fish. Beautiful.

Lamb from WerfenPolenta & radishThis great menu came for me to an end with lamb from Werfen (where the restaurant is located) with rosemary polenta and radish. The lamb was very subtle and melt-in-your mouth tender with some great jus. The rosemary polenta, which looks like a cappuccino, brought the right herbal touch and the radish catered for the wish to eat something that was not so wholly “round”, it was the rough edges that made the dish complete. Come to think of it, I want to eat the whole menu again. Now, please. The wine with this course was 2000 Peccatum cuvee from Josef Leberl. This cuvee consists of Blaufränkisch, Cabernet and Zweigelt, reminding of Bordeaux wines. A nice and go-along match for the lamb.

Some remarks about other peoples food and wine (which I have of course tasted!): Discovery of the evening for me and T. was a Grüner Veltliner old vines 2002 from Weinrieder which accompanied the turbot with scallops and pumpkin puree with saffron. I know and like Grüner Veltliner (with a real Wiener Schnitzel, for example) wines but never thought they could be so buttery and caramel-ly like this. Apropos: I loved the dish, especially the pumpkin, but the scallop didn’t really add anything to the whole and gave the impression that it was there just for the sake of luxury. This was a combination that didn’t have to be. Another dish which was very risky was the “tafelspitz” with foie gras and porcini risotto, which most of us loved but M. hated. The “arabic” pigeon with poppy seed salad was another course in the big menu which we were all not very crazy about. We felt the “arabic” came too short, there weren’t any pronounced spices in this dish.

Overall I would highly recommend the Obauer restaurant. The food is a great value (3-courses for € 45, 4 for € 58 and 6 for € 88; remember what we paid at the Wielandshöhe, whose pants have been blown off with this dinner!), and they have the best wines Austria has to offer (which is a lot!). You can go with the glass-wise recommendations of the sommelier and you would be on the secure side if you feel yourself overwhelmed with the wine list. I insisted on doing this and immensely annoyed K. who really knows his Austrian wines, or for that matter, who knows his wines, period. But still, I am happy we did this, because this way we got to drink a couple of new wines and test the sommelier.

As mentioned before, we also stayed at the Obauer hotel. This I would not necessarily recommend. The rooms are hideous. Don’t get me wrong, they are spacious and clean but just pure ugly. I think the Obauer restaurant and the hotel could both do well with a “female touch” and redecorate. The rooms were way too expensive (€195 for a double) which is a little bit moderated with the really great breakfast you get, but still. Talking of breakfast, have you ever had a potato soup with monkfish and truffle for breakfast? Here you can.

This was a great start to our gourmet weekend. The food is well worth the money, the time and the journey. I will surely eat here again. I will just look for another accommodation.

Update: We visited again in August 2007 and weren’t very happy with the restaurant performance. Some dishes were great (trout strudel) some gone terribly wrong (way too much salt on the meat) and what was worse: The service seemed not to care. How can a plate almost completely untouched just be taken away without any questions in a two star restaurant? This is not a go to anymore!

The Pannobile Weekend*

The pannobile group

the Pannobile 9 (photo courtesy of Pannobile OEG)

This weekend we visited these fine gal and guys in Austria, at the very far east corner, on the shores of Lake Neusiedl. They call themselves “Pannobile“, which is a group of nine winemakers from the village of Gols in Burgenland, whose goal is to create the individual, the unique wine as opposed to the globalization hereof. The name derives from Pannonia, the historical region covering parts of east Austria, Hungary and ex-Yugoslavia. Every year, each Pannobile winery produces one white and one red wine, from autochtonous grapes, and only after each member gives his OK to certain criteria being fulfilled, may the wine bear the Pannobile label. These wines are all presented to the public on the first weekend of September and last weekend it was the turn of the 2004 vintage to come forward.

the 2004 pannobile reds

the Pannobile red box 2004

Yes, we did taste all of them, and then some more. On this weekend, you have the opportunity to visit the cellars of the Pannobile wineries and taste not only the Pannobile wines but the whole line of wines each of them produces. If you have ordered any a year ago and were lucky enough to be allocated some, you may pick your wines up as well. Usually the Pannobile wines are already sold out before they have been bottled.

We visited 6 of the cellars and had a great time. Please click on the pictures below to see which ones they are and read more.

Beck Judith Beck Pittnauer

Heinrich Heinrich soil

Preisinger wines Preisinger father and son

Preisinger Wendelin

the Pannobile cellars we visited, not pictured are Paul Achs and Gsellman & Hans

We were also lucky enough to get a private tour of the Preisinger vineyards on Sunday. We were awed at how beautiful they were, how distributed over the Wagram area (two rows here, three rows there) and most importantly, how much work it is to maintain a vineyard. Here are some pictures. Again, if you click on them you’ll see bigger pictures and can read some more.

Blaufränkisch Blaufränkisch rows Merlot

lambwool Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Sauvignon rows

the Preisinger vineyards

We topped it all of with our favorite and traditional Sunday lunch when we are in the area. We went to “Dankbarkeit“, a restaurant dedicated to the region, its products and its cuisine, serving dishes long forgotten, accompanied with great wines from the region, be it from their own vineyard or from other, renowned, cellars. “Dankbarkeit” is a prize-winning restaurant where we always feel ourselves at home. Here you can eat star-level food without the frou-frou and without the need to wear a tie & a jacket. The staff hasn’t changed in years, the owner himself is among the servers and at the next table the village-elder are playing cards.

Yiddish chickenliver terrine Fishsoup with paprika Suckling pig aspic with lentil salad

Boneless lamb shanks with zucchini-pepper ratatouille and polenta Fawn ridge with a mushroom-ragout and gnocchi poppy-seed muffin

Sunday meal at the “Dankbarkeit”

This was a great weekend as always. We have been doing this twice a year (in Gols there is also a more general Wine Spring Fest in April) for 6 years now and I see no reason to stop it.

Dankbarkeit Gasthaus und Weinbau

Hauptstr. 39
A-7141 Podersdorf
+ 43 2177 2223

* Sorry about all the confusion and broken or wrong picture links and layout problems on wednesday afternoon. I had to learn some html the hard way, but now I have it! because of a technical problem with, some thumbnails are not shown, instead you see only the name of the picture. Please click on these as well, as they do open up to show the proper picture. I am working on the solution to the problem, in the meanwhile, accept my apologies. Now I just seem to have a layout problem (picture – caption distance too big) but I hope to get that out of the way as well. Everything seems to be ok now. If you experience any problems with the pictures and/or the layout, please leave a comment.