A few snapshots from my amazing vacation, first in San Diego and then in Norfolk, Virginia. I’ll make some real posts when I recuperate but for now… here you are, my friends.
Happy hump day, friends! Today we have a special treat. My good friend Meagan Drillinger of Travel Agent magazine recently visited Vienna, and graciously offered up a peek into the culinary aspects of the trip. Since I don’t have any big trips to Vienna coming up (unless someone who loves me is buying me one for Christmas?! Yes?! No…?) I thought I’d pass on this delicious account to you.
I’m a travel writer for a trade publication. Sure, it sounds glamorous but more often than not I find myself stuck at conferences where I don’t really get to experience whatever exotic destination I find myself in. Luckily this last trip to Vienna proved a little more exciting.
I was in town for a short three days attending the first Austria Destination Summit, a trade show for travel agents looking to learn more about the destination. I could bore you with tales from the private Vienna Philharmonic rehearsal, or the nighttime tour of Shoenbrunn Palace (which ended with a lavish banquet overlooking the city)… but I think I’d rather tantalize you with tales from the table.
Night one: Champagne and hors d’oeuvres in Vienna’s iconic Ferris Wheel (the oldest in the world). The Viennese absolutely love their smoked salmon, cheese and ham on bread. And as basic as it sounds, it does the trick. Creamy, salty smoked salmon with a dollop of creme fraiche on a soft slice of baguette? Sold. Then it was wienerschnitzel (lightly breaded and fried fillet of veal) with a squeeze of lemon and a side of scalloped potatoes, with a never-ending glass of crisp, white wine at Wagon 31, the restaurant adjacent to the Ferris Wheel. Did you know Vienna has a booming wine industry? Me neither… but I was not disappointed.
Dessert was loosely translated on our menus as a chocolate-filled dumpling with strawberry sauce. I’m not a girl with a sweet tooth, but man that sounded like a drug that I had to get my hands on. Diabetics: Avert your eyes. Picture a fluffy white cake ball filled with oozing, molten chocolate, crusted in shredded coconut and topped with gooey strawberry sauce.
Night two: A private dinner in the wine cellar of Klosterneuburg Monastery, a Roman Catholic monastery just outside of Vienna on the Danube river. The working monastery is home to not only a cellar chock full of delicious Viennese wine, but it is home to the largest cask of wine in the world (56,000 liters!). Hey, heaven. The monastery capitalizes on this by offering guests the opportunity to literally slide down the barrel. Needless to say, I could not resist after I had sampled a few glasses of the onsite libation.
Night three: A feast for the senses and a true taste of Vienna. Our hosts rented out Cafe Gloriette, part of Schoenbrunn Palace, the summer residence for the Habsburg family. It was built in 1775 as a “temple of glory” for Empress Maria Theresia. In 1780 it was transformed into a breakfast room for the Emperor Franz Josef I [Ed. note: can I get a room dedicated solely to breakfast, please?!]. Today it is an elegant restaurant boasting breathtaking views over Vienna. Arriving at night was an experience all its own as the building was set aglow with dramatic lighting. We entered to a quartet playing delicate Mozart (which later erupted into some sort of hypnotic blend of house beats with electric Mozart – odd, but it grew on me. Or maybe that was the wine). In any event I tucked into a Viennese staple: beef broth with soft dumplings, similar to matzoh balls. Following this was flaky cod and saddle of veal, all culminating with my favorite: oh yes, those chocolate-filled dumplings. What a gloriously calorie-filled bookend to an already overindulgent trip.
Despite my waistline’s better judgment, Vienna has not seen the last of me.
When I first met my friends who grew up in Seattle, they talked about it like you might describe a long lost love. No city is as amazing, beautiful, intelligent, desired, as this city. Flawless, one might say. I didn’t believe it. In fact, I even promised them I’d hate it just to spite them. I ate my words. And then I ate everything in sight.
Seattle is a foodie’s dream. Locally grown, locally prepared, locally admired. They are proud of their food sources, their culinary stars, and their seafood (mention how much you like Atlantic salmon and you can expect to get the stink eye), and there are restaurants around every single corner. I was only in town for four days but I had one thing on my mind: eating. Below, some highlights.
Serious Pie Truth be told… this is what our leftovers looked like. I was so ravenous by the time we sat down in Tom Douglas’s dark little pizza shop, I inhaled those suckers. Serious Pie does a Happy Hour from 3-5 PM Monday through Friday where each of their famous little pies is only $5. Madeline and I ordered 4 between the two of us and we managed to save a few pieces to take home.
On the menu: Yukon gold, rosemary, olive oil
Guanciale, soft egg, dandelion greens
Roasted chanterelles, truffle cheese
Penn cove clams, house pancetta, lemon thyme
Verdict: DELICIOUS. This place was on my radar because the truffle cheese pizza was featured on an episode of Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” but truth be told, the guanciale, egg, and dandelion greens blew everything else out of the water. The crust was delicate and salty, the perfect vehicle for the smooth egg, spicy greens, and shaved parmesan cheese on top (I think it was parmesan… whatever it was, it was like little slivers of heaven). This place is a perfect lunch spot, and if you’re fortunate enough to make it to happy hour, you can sample it all.
Dahlia Bakery Another spot I neglected to photograph on site. So help me God, you walk into this tiny shop, also owned by Serious Pie’s Tom Douglas, and the smell of donuts takes up every inch of available brain space.
On the menu: Cinnamon sugar donuts with vanilla mascarpone and apple butter dip
Coconut cream pie bites
Verdict: HOLY HELL. I’m a donut snob. “Is this the best donut you’ve ever had?” Madeline asked. “It’s the best yeast donut I’ve ever had,” I answered. What a tool.
Honestly, though. Crackly on the outside, sweet, doughy perfection on the inside. One word of warning: you have to eat these immediately. Not only are they better hot, good luck making it home with these suckers in the car. The coconut cream pie bites were tasty, but the donuts take the cake. Pun intended.
Red Hook Brewery As much as I love a good meal, I also love a good adult beverage. And no, Dad, I am not an alcoholic. Red Hook gives a $1 tour which is essentially listening to the history of the company while sampling their delicious brews. 5 tiny beers for a dollar? Yes, please.
On the menu: Mud Slinger Spring Ale
Slim Chance (Red Hook’s light beer)
Long Hammer IPA (my personal favorite)
Black Hook Porter
Red Hook ESB Original Ale
Verdict: SICK. Not only do I love this beer (all 5 incantations), the food at the brewery’s restaurant was delicious. Because every minute of every day was filled with eating, my party opted to snack on appetizers instead of gorging on full meals but the burgers that sailed by almost made me forget that I had just eaten a full brunch. We got a plate of the nachos and a bowl of the clams sauteed in butter and red and green peppers. Thank God I had a good food base in my stomach before hitting the tour. Maybe I was buzzin’ by the time the tour was over. Maybe.
Enjoying a Nitro, one of the beers Red Hook serves only at the brewery. This wasn’t carbonated, and the waiter explained something about not being able to put it in a keg… or something… because of the gases… I don’t know, I was drunk.
Bottom line: I gained six pounds between when I landed in Seattle on Thursday and when I departed on Sunday. In my book? Success.