|American Dream Cuisine
in Vienna, Austria receives
|5 Stars &
Extraordinaire Cuisine & Service
The Ultimate Award:
Stars and Stripes
|"Eine gemütliche Gaststätte"
(a charming eatery) the concierge at the Grand Hotel Wien said when I asked
if he had ever heard of the Wirtshaus Steirerstöckl. As I started up
the V-10 TDI Volkswagen Phaeton and punched in the restaurant's address
into the GPS, I again felt reassured when the doorman wished us a "Guten
Appetit" and reminded me to save room for dessert. What struck me as strange
was that in a matter of a few minutes two people in this world class hotel
had spoken so highly of this 'Wirtshaus', which is located within 15 minutes
of the city center and offers "A little bit of country in the city" as a
recently published NY Times article had stated.
|As I drove up one of the many streets
that radiate out from the center of Vienna, I began to see the character
of the area changing from Imperial cityscape to gently rolling hills
marking the start of the famous Vienna woods in which I will soon
reach my destination.
Steirerstöckl is well known for its authentic regional cuisine
coming from the Austrian province of Styermark and by the looks of
the multitude of cars parked all over, the Viennese population has
discovered its bountiful pleasures as well. The construction of the
restaurant is rustic in keeping with the traditional cute cottage-like
wayside structures that dot the countryside of provincial Styermark
just waiting to offer up great cuisine in a warm chalet atmosphere.
|Upon entering the front doors decorated
with the fruits of autumn's bountiful harvest I was greeted warmly by a
friendly smiling waiter as if I was invited to his home for a family dinner.
I was shown to a table and even though the place was a buzz with animated
patrons conversing in their sing-song Viennese dialect, our host still managed
to exchange reassuring small talk to make me, a single diner, feel completely
The Goach family, owners and operators of this restaurant and its companion
Wirtshaus Jagawirt in Reinischkogel, Weststeiermark pride themselves on
being able to offer exceptional regional cuisine, using local produce and
meats in this especially well run and homey atmosphere.
|I decided that I would first read
the menu carefully to get a feel for what traditional 'Steirerisches'
cuisine has to offer and then ask the chef to use his imagination
to put together his own version of a fabulous dinner from start to
finish complete with wine parings for each course. I was delighted
to be offered a glass of 'Schilchersturm' as an aperitif as I had
heard that it is most sought after by wine enthusiasts all over Austria
at this time of year.
|An adorable rose petal pink liquid
arrived with a very fruity nose and a hint of raspberries; this is the fruit
juice from red grapes gone over just slightly to almost wine. Next, I was
introduced to Executive Chef Dieter Skrobanek who earnestly took the time
to explain what was in store for us from a culinary standpoint.
|I could now see how all the creative
pieces began to fall into place as the first course arrived introduced
by the delicate earthy aroma of fresh wild chanterelle mushrooms.
This first course was served over the pungent flavor of arugula and
topped with the perfect foil of sharp grana cheese and balsamic vinaigrette
The conscientious waiter seamlessly placed a glass of 'Gelber Muskateller
'02', Riegelnegg Vineyards Südsteiermark next to my special starter.
noticed a deep golden hue wafting big fruit and a dry finish with suggestions
of apple blossom and rosebuds. So far so good I thought as I made a mental
note to applaud the creative efforts of Chef Dieter and his capable crew,
when the next course arrived. This time a consommé of black truffles
baked in a crock covered by a puff pastry shell paired with a 'Sauvignon
blanc '02', Sabathi Vineyards of Südsteiermark. Both were delightfully
light and refreshing, a definite prelude of things to come.
|Just when it occurred to me that
I had finished two courses of which both contained wild mushrooms
of various preparations, along came the third course of homemade spinach
noodles, truffle filled potato croquets and you guessed it, more mushrooms!!
This time porcinis were added to the puree and topped with toasted
almond slivers to provide depth and structure and quite honestly it
tasted heavenly when paired with a 'Welschriesling '02', from the
Scheucher Vineyards of Südsteiermark, a typically medium dry
fruity rendition of the famous grape varietal.
|Now, after a pleasant pause to enjoy
the lively atmosphere of staccato laughter and the warmth of the glowing
fireplace, it was time for the fourth course to be presented: Homemade
sheep cheese raviolis in a light curry sauce drizzled with aromatic
pumpkin oil, roasted wild onions and garden fresh tatsoy.
had to keep reminding myself that there was more to come so I came to appreciate
the delicate portions and lightness of the sauces while I prepared to take
on the main course. The waiter placed a glass of CMB '02 (cabernet sauvignon,
merlot, blaufrankirch) in front of me, by Rosi Schuster Vineyards of Burgenland,
another of the great-undiscovered wine growing regions of Austria. While
savoring the first sip I reflected on the deep purple plum color and the
exciting morello cherry nose, it reminded me of an ample merlot with the
youthfulness of a pinot noir and the slight tannin finish of a California
|The anticipation heightened as I
relished the aftertaste of the CMB '02, when suddenly Chef Dieter
himself arrived bursting with pleasure as he placed his unique creation
on the table for visual dissection. Pan seared mountain stream trout
filet caught in the glacially fed rivulets in the hinterlands of Steiermark,
placed on top of fresh made pumpkin noodles with chopped fresh cooked
pumpkin cubes and roasted pumpkin seeds.
The obvious health benefits of pumpkin aside, I truly enjoyed and
savored every morsel and decided that I would have to bring a bottle
of the locally produced pumpkin oil home to New York to be sparingly
doled out on special occasions amongst friends and family.
|I was now ready to call it a day
but not so fast as I was quick to remember the prophecy of the doorman at
the Grand Hotel Wien, 'Save room for desert', and at this time it had to
come true. After a thorough clearing of the dinnerware and the crumbing
of the table, I caught a sheepish glance from the waiter to sort of get
a feel if I was in the mood to continue, and of course the answer was YES!
So far I felt the presence of steady imagination at work in the kitchen,
carefully constructing each course while first building a foundation in
the early stages, then adding height and depth through the use of locally
grown produce and excellent selections of wines, and culminating with the
gentle tease of sweetness to cap off the entire special event.
|I wasn't disappointed when the pastry
chef announced the arrival of a poppy seed soufflé decorated
with fresh picked raspberries and blackberries, tenderly caressed
by a sabayon made with the very fresh raspberry scented 'Schilchersturm'
that was presented to us as an aperitif at the start.
To compliment this seductive statement was the dessert wine Ruster
Ausbruch '98 from Feiler-Artinger Vineyards Burgenland, which is produced
using the Welschriesling and Weissburgunder varietals.
|I don't really know how to thank
Peter Goach and his family for this crash course in regional Steiermark
cuisine, but we must say that those who will venture forth to the foothills
of the Vienna woods will always covet within themselves the glowing ember
of this exciting and fulfilling discovery. Although quite past my usual
bedtime, I posed for some friendly photos and made each other a promise
to meet again someday at Steirerstöckl to celebrate our common love
for outstanding comfort food. Happy Trails! and 'Mahlzeit'!
| by John Lomitola
& Rolf Staehler
Editor-in-Chief: Ingrid Lemme