Austria was once the center of a large empire stretching from France to Russia and from the Baltic Sea to Turkey, imparting a varied heritage to Austria's cuisine. Indeed modern Austria now borders Italy, Hungary and Germany, among others -- and their culinary influences are the strongest. Austria's capital city of Vienna even claims its own cuisine as if it were a separate country -- it's the smallest Austrian state but also the most populous at over 1.5 million, which is one-fifth the population of the entire nation. Join us as we tour the country that gave us apple strudel and weinerschnitzel.
Information provided by the Austrian National Tourist Board
If the only impression you have of Austria is the Von Trapp family singing their repertoire from the Sound of Music, then travelling food lovers will be pleasantly surprised by their cuisine. Don’t expect light fare when visiting Austria, in fact most dishes are sumptuously rich and happily satisfying. There is limited variety in the cuisine but what they do cook is done well.
Austria's specialities originate from all countries of the former monarchy: Hungary, Bohemia, Italy.... They were perfected here, turned into joys for the eyes and the taste-buds. The expression of a joie de vivre that is equally to be found in a simple corner cafe or a luxury restaurant.
The food is the main thing wherever you are: Schnitzel and Tafelspitz. Kaiserschmarren and Powideltascherl. Vienna is a city of gourmets. The dishes are works of art, created by true enthusiasts. Poetic combinations of flour and sugar, like Sachertorte, Gugelhupf or Apfelstrudel. It's literally "o dolce vita" at the cake shops.
Rolled pastry filled with apple, breadcrumbs and raisins. Can be served on it's own or with hot vanilla sauce or ice cream.
Potato salad made from boiled potatoes, dices and marinated in a mixture of vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Good accompaniaqment for for Wiener schnitzel.
Roast beef with bacon.
A special Viennese cake. the ideal accompaniment to a Melange and an essential ingredient of Viennese afternoon coffee.
Kaiserschmarren (Emperor's Trifle)
A kind of desert omelet (or fluffy pancake) torn with two forks,sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Light fluffy dumplings which contain seven basic ingredients: flour, potatoes, semolina, bread rolls, ricotta, cheese and yeast
Deep fried pastries, like doughnuts. Sometimes filled with jam or custard.
A chocolate cake made according to a traditional recipe developed by Franz Sacher.
A regional speciality from Salzburg. Made from egg whites, yolks, flour and sugar to produce a soufle.
Traditional dish for both Austria and Germany. Shredded cabbage, boiled and seasoned with spices and oils, and served with meat dishes.
Prime beef from the rump boiled and garnished with horseradish and apple sauce, chive sauce, served with home-fried or roast potatoes.
Cheese Danish, found in most bakeries and coffee houses.
Austrian cookies normally baked for special occasions.
Veal cutlet breaded and fried, served with salad and pommes frites or potato salad.
Braised beefsteak with onions
In Austria, you never order just coffee -- they'll know you're a tourist. There is an Austrian word for every coffee imaginable. Here are a few:
Einspanner (or "hitch")
Sweet black demitasse, a strong black coffee, served in a glass with whipped cream and sprinkled with chocolate powder.
Sweetened demitasse served in a glass
A small amount of coffee mixed with a large amount of milk.
Grosser Brauner ("big brown")
Large cup of coffee with a dash of milk
Kleiner Schwarzer ("small black")
Demitasse without milk
Kleiner Goldener ("small gold")
Demitasse with milk
Kleiner Brauner ("small brown")
Small cup of coffee with a dash of milk
Half coffee and half milk with a frothy crown
“Austria today, is the most vibrant, most innovative wine-producing country in Europe, and the sheer enthusiasm of the local community of wine lovers and producers is simply staggering. This change began little more than a decade ago. The country has woken up to its potential for producing world-class wines, and there has been an explosion of experimentation, investment, expertise and excitement, and of correspondingly remarkable and often wonderful wines. Austria is abuzz with possibility. No other country has traveled so far in such a short time.”
- British wine journalist and author,
From Linz to Vienna and beyond, the Danube (or Blue) River maintains a wonderful sunny climate that makes the Wachau Valley and other nearby regions one of the best places to grow grapes.
After a 1985 "glucose" scandal that saw unscrupulous winemakers using anti-freeze on their grapes, Austrian winemaking has returned to its organic origins, producing some of the best wines in Europe.
The dominant white wine grape is the green Veltliner, which yields a fruity, tart wine prized by locals. Though Chardonnay, Muller-Thurgau, Muscat-Ottonel, Neuberger, Weissburgunder and Welschriesling are popular also, Austrian Riesling is the premier white grape of the region, yielding some of the finest Riesling wines in the world.
The four primary wine growing regions and their predominant grapes include:
- Grune Veltliner
- Blauer Wildbach
- Sauvignon blanc
- Grune Veltliner
Click on the link below to take a stroll along Austria's fantastic wine route..
Austria is a fine country to drink beer in; there are currently 360 distinct brands produced by 66 breweries.
Brauhaus Nussdorf The best beers brewed in Vienna come from this micro in Nussdorf. They are served only on the premises in the "Bier Heurige". All are top-fermented. The Old Whisky Bier (***+) is made from whisky malts and has a slightly smokey flavor, the Zwickel Bier (****) is (true to style) unfiltered, and Sir Henry's Stout (****) is a superb stout (however surprising it may be to find it brewed in Vienna). St Thomas Brau (***) is a reddish altbier, it's color hidden in a stoneware humpen. The Doppelhopfen-Hell (**), while pleasant, doesn't live up to it's name in hoppiness.
Ottakringer Ottakringer Gold Fassl (***) is my favorite Viennese beer (apart from the Nussdorfers, which are only available at the brewery). It's soft, malty and well-balanced, and very good vom Faß. Ottakringer also produces a non-alcoholic beer, Null Komma Josef, notable for it's hilarious name which means, literally, "Zero Point Joe"; this is Viennese slang for "next to nothing". I'll leave it unrated except to say that Clausthaler is better.
Gösser "Gut, besser, ein echtes Gösser!" Gösser is widely available throughout Austria, and produces a number of beers under that name. Gösser Spezial (**+) and Export (**) are typical Austrian beers, slightly malty and pale. Gösser Märzen (*+) is somewhat stronger, distinctly yellow, but disappointing. Gösser Gold (*) is thin and flavorless, much like an American premium beer like Bud or Miller.
Reininghaus Reininghaus (**) is produced by the same brewery conglomerate (Steirerbrau) as Gösser and is very similar.
Puntigamer Puntigamer (**) is also produced by Steirerbrau and shows a family resemblance. They also produce a Märzen.
Schladminger Schladminger Bier (**) is brewed in Schladming, at the base of the south wall of the Dachstein massif. The Schladminger glacier, at the top of the Dachstein, is a fine place to enjoy a Schladminger.
Trumer Pils Nice and dry (***). Brewed by Privatbrauerei Josef Sigl.
Stiegl Stiegl beer (**) has been brewed since 1492.
Edelweiß Weizen One of the few Austrian weiß beers (**+).
Brauerei Schwechat The Schwechat brewery is located in a suburb of Vienna, near the airport. Schwechater Hopfenperle (**+) is pleasantly malty.
I feel obliged to mention that many of my Austrian correspondants have castigated me for giving Schwechater too high a rating. In fact many have pointed out to me that, as any Viennese knows, Schwechater's unofficial slogan is "Schlecht, schlechter, Schwechater" (or alternately, "Schwach, schwächer, Schwechater"); cf. Gösser. I will be sure to re-evaluate it when next in Vienna.
Kaiser Bier Kaiser (**) is brewed by Wieselburger and is a typical Austrian; there is also a dark Doppelmalz (**). Wieselburger Bier (**+) is better; I only had it once, from the bottle and would like to try it again. See also Kartausen-Bräu.
Hirter Hirter (**) is an extremely light beer that's been brewed in Kärnten since 1290!
My Hirter rating seems to be one of my least popular; many Austrians have informed me that it deserves a much higher rating (indeed, most of my relatives seem to think better of it than I did). I'm eager to try it vom Faß.
Be sure to check out the official Hirter web page.
Eggenberger The intensely malty Eggenberger Urbock (****), at 23 degrees Plato, is the strongest beer in Austria. It may also be the best beer in Austria. Eggenberger's Hopfen König (****) is a very complexly hoppy pils. Brewed in Vorchdorf.
Zipfer Zipfer Urtyp (***) is one of the hoppier Austrian beers.
Baumgartner I enjoyed a Baumgartner (**) in the Grabner Almhaus.
Kapsreiter Landbier Goldbraun Golden brown Kapsreiter Landbier (***+) is intensely aromatic; it comes in a bottle with a ceramic stopper. Brewed in Schärding. According to my sources, the brewery is now owned by Ottakringer of Vienna.
"Austrian Beers" courtesy of Keith Waclena of the University of Chicago Library. (firstname.lastname@example.org)