Category Archive: Culinary Journeys

The Kitchen Is Closed…

…as I will be traveling around Sri Lanka for the next 3 weeks with very limited internet access (and no apron!). Looking forward to seeing you all back here in February!

Happy cooking,

Karen

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Christmas in Vienna

Christmas in Vienna

Vienna is magical for Christmas. The streets are beautifully decorated with lights, shop windows tempt with all manners of Christmas cookies and sweets, and the traditional Christmas markets will get even the worst grinch in a festive mood. The air is filled with the fragrant scent of Punsch and Glühwein (spiced wine), roasted chestnuts, and Lebkuchen (ginger bread). And if you’re lucky, you may even get a glimpse of Christkind delivering presents on Christmas Eve…

I wish everyone a magical Christmas filled with peace, love, and great food!

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A New Orleans Tradition

When the shadows grow longer in New Orleans and cooler air from up north brings much anticipated relief from the heat of a long summer, it is time to head on over to Café du Monde for an order of café au lait and beignets. The Cafè has been in business in the French Quarter since 1862 and offers one of those quintessential New Orleans experiences that are much beloved by tourists and locals alike. Sipping a cup of chicory laced café au lait, nibbling fluffy hot beignets piled high with powdered sugar, and watching the never ending stream of tourists walk by is New Orleans at its best.

The heavenly beignets are always freshly made and oh so delicious. They arrive straight from the kitchen on tiny plates covered with copious amounts of sugar – biting into them inevitably means getting your face covered in sugar, which is half the fun. The Café is open 24 hours, 7 days a week, and I only remember a few occasions (all of them having to do with hurricanes) when its doors were closed. It’s also a great spot for a late night (or very early!) snack, and of course for a leisurely Sunday morning breakfast. Just make sure you don’t wear dark clothes (because you will get sugar on them) and don’t wait to be seated. Grab a table and you’re less than two minutes from beignet heaven! And afterward go for a stroll down Royal Street for some antique shopping, or take the free ferry across the mighty Mississippi to Algiers for the best view of the city. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do!

Café du Monde
800 Decatur Street
New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 525-4544
Open 24 hours, 7 days a week

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Lunch at Pretzhof

I just came back from a week of hiking and relaxing in the mountains of Tyrol in western Austria. The trip was a lot of fun, with lots of great food and absolutely gorgeous last summer/early fall weather. We were treated to deep blue skies with wispy fall clouds, the first signs of leaves changing colors, and t-shirt weather almost every day. And of course, plenty of time to explore some local food!

We also made a side trip to Südtirol (or Alto Adige, as it’s called in Italian), an autonomous province in northern Italy just south of the border with Austria. Südtirol belonged to Austria until 1919, and up until today the historic connection can be felt strongly, with German as the predominant language. This historic connection is also evident in the region’s cuisine with its many local renditions of typical Austrian dishes. Some of the most iconic dishes in Südtirol include Knödel (dumplings), Speck (smoked and air cured ham with a spice rubbed crust), and Schüttelbrot (crispy discs of flatbread made with rye flour and local spices).

The highlight of our trip to Südtirol was undoubtedly lunch at Pretzhof in the Pfitschtal just off of the historic town of Sterzing. The lovingly restored traditional farm sits high atop the valley and offers fantastic views of Sterzing and the glacier covered peaks of Südtirol. The interior of the restaurant features tastefully restored and furnished Stuben (traditionally the only heated room in old houses) and the kitchen relies heavily on organic ingredients produced by the farm, such as herbs, cheeses, meats, and honey. The food is classic Südtirol fare with a light and modern touch, impeccably prepared and beautifully presented. It’s all about quality and simplicity. The ingredients are fresh and authentic, exactly what one would expect from an organic mountain farm. There’s no menu, so the friendly wait staff explains the day’s dishes, which makes ordering fun. Our lunch was started off with a “greeting from the kitchen” consisting of an herbed cheese spread with a very generous bread basket containing different types of local breads (see above picture). My favorite was the Schüttelbrot.

For starters, we ordered mixed appetizers. They consisted of a plate with the farm’s own artisanal cheeses, some of which were from sheep’s and some from cow’s milk. All of them were incredible, served alongside two types of vegetables marinated in olive oil and herbs, which perfectly complemented the cheeses. I particularly liked the Graukäseterrine, a mousse-like pate made from Graukäse, a local cheese specialty.

There was also a plate of various smoked and cooked meats, all of which were spectacular. The plate included a divine smoked Hirschspeck (Speck made from venison), Hirschkaminwurzen (venison sausage), venison carpaccio with pickled carrots and zucchini, Speck, tender roasted beef filet, and a great cold beef salad marinated with olive oil.

For our main dishes, we chose pork chops, which were oh so tender and very aromatic with lots of rosemary. The pork chops were served with a generous side of warm Krautsalat with crispy Speckwürfel (cabbage salad with crispy Speck cubes). The salad was perfectly balanced, not too acidic, and with just the right amount of heavenly cubes of Speck. The dish was nicely tied together by an excellent side of pan roasted potatoes, which were deliciously crisp without the slightest trace of greasiness. Perfection!

We also tried the Gamsgulasch (chamois; a wild mountain goat indigenous to the Alps), which came with perfect Knödel, beautiful mixed vegetables, and home made wild cranberry jam. The Gamsgulasch was superb and probably my favorite dish. It had a really deep and complex flavor and the meat was very tender.

For dessert, we tried a light and refreshing peppermint sorbet as well as the Maronikrapfen, which had a chestnut and apple filling with just a hint of cinnamon. The perfect finish to a perfect lunch!

There’s also a small shop attached to the restaurant where you can purchase some of the farm’s products as well as local wines and Schüttelbrot. I highly recommend making reservations as the restaurant is very busy both for lunch and dinner.

Pretzhof
Tulfer 259
39040 Wiesen/Pfitsch
Tel. +39 0472 764 455
www.pretzhof.com

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Imperial Temptation

Cafe Imperial Torte

I recently enjoyed some delicious coffee and cake at Cafe Imperial in Vienna. The Cafe is located in the luxurious Hotel Imperial, one of the city’ grand old palaces, featuring original artwork, antique furniture and chandeliers, as well as exquisite butler service. They even iron the daily newspapers that are delivered to the rooms and suites! Cafe Imperial is located on the majestic Ringstrasse, a beautiful wide boulevard that circles the historic city center. The interior oozes Old World charm with comfortable plush seating, chandeliers, and gorgeous display cases full of heavenly cakes and pastries.

I tried their hallmark Imperial Torte, which consist of six layers of thin almond cake that are filled with a velvet cocoa cream and covered with marzipan and a chocolate glaze. It was easily one of the best cakes I have ever eaten. Not too sweet, and completely satisfying. I ordered a Melange (coffee with milk and milk foam on top) with my cake, which was equally tasty – very smooth with a lovely aroma and almost no acidity. The service was just as impressive.

This is a great spot to while away an afternoon, or for an indulgent after-dinner treat. I know I’ll be back soon to try the Schwarze Orange (Black Orange) variation of the Imperial Torte…

Cafe Imperial
Kärntner Ring 16
1010 Vienna
Austria
+43 (1) 501100
Open daily from 7AM to midnight

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