Repatriate Games




Whenever Tony returns from a work trip to a dry country, I repatriate him with lunch at one of our favorite restaurants for Austrian food and a beer (or two).  Following my return last weekend from New York, Tony thoughtfully garnered provisions so that I would not have to face the grocery on a Saturday afternoon just before the store closes at 1800. On Sunday, our least favorite day to be in Austria, the repatriation continued with a visit to neighboring Slovakia and the Danubiana Meulensteen Museum.
About an hour from the house, this modern (but not weird) art museum sits on a small peninsula in the Danube, with large windows that flood the galleries with light and offer soothing views of the river. A perfect way to ease back into Central Europe.

The museum’s exhibits rival those in Vienna’s museums, at least we think. On this occasion we enjoyed two new openings; the first, by a Slovak post-modern artist, and the second, by “The great lone wolf of Austrian art of the 1960’s,” Christian Ludwig Attersee.

Mostly the paintings offered us pleasing designs and colors. This one, though, made no sense at all.

Afterwards, lunch at a small, small restaurant near the museum that has become a favorite stop. Surprise! I did not order my usual Zander. Instead, I mixed things up with the whole grilled Forelle. a European cousin to Trout.

Before crossing the border, a final stop at an OPEN GROCERY STORE. Not quite the 5.500m2 Whole Foods mecca in New York City, though I was still able to pick up fresh pasta and some fabulous Slovak wine for dinner. It is good to be home.

Weekend Roundup. Perchten, Palaces, and Plenty of Food

It is no secret that we like to venture out on the weekends; and with Christmas markets opening across the region, the weekends seem to plan themselves.

Continue reading “Weekend Roundup. Perchten, Palaces, and Plenty of Food”

Weekend Roundup. Meat and Markets.

Saturday dawned sunny and bright, and thus Tony and I needed no further invitation to head out somewhere. One of my news feeds mentioned a festival somewhere nearby in Slovakia, and that was good enough for us.  It turned out that the town was celebrating the autumn kill, or something (we don’t speak Slovak!) Though everything on the grill smelled wonderful, eating barbecued animal parts at 1030 in the morning wasn’t for us.


A Luxury Overnight

Hard to believe, but we rarely dined out in D.C., and we rarely do so here in Vienna. A large part of the reason for that is because I love to play in the kitchen; but more to the point is that, at least in DC, we could never justify wasting money on chain restaurants, saw no reason to “wait” for an open table at a “No Reservations” place, and saved the higher end dining for special occasions. All that remained was “ordinary” food, and we could prepare better in my kitchen, so why bother?
Here in Vienna, dining out is tedious if one is not in the mood for Austrian food; there are far too many “ordinary” restaurants (yet still somehow expensive); and at this time of the year, quite a few places that we might consider are “Auf Urlaub” for weeks at a time.  Chains are thankfully nearly non-existent, the horrible T.G.I. Friday’s being the biggest blight on the Ringstrasse, in case we lowered our standards.
On Friday I desired French food. No tables left at the marginally Parisian bistro here in Vienna; and my other go-to was, you guessed it, “Auf Urlaub.” To the Internet I went, and in a matter of moments  booked a night at a luxury river front hotel, made reservations at a favorite French brasserie, and off we set on Saturday evening…for Bratislava.
Dinner. I loved the geometry of this plate and the disharmonious drop of Balsamic vinegar.  With seeded bread and pumpkin seed butter to curb the rising appetite, examining the wine list was the next task.
Our Slovakian Frankovka red favored by Maria Theresia made a fine accompaniment to the amuse-bouche, foie gras with marinated apples and almond puree.

Pork-knee terrine followed, atop a cozy nest of spinach puree and pumpernickel crumbles.

(I really must take a course in food photography.) This dreadful photo is of the most sublime grilled duck breast I have enjoyed in a while, perfectly paired with black lentil puree and tart kumquats. Tony went with a classic steak Bernaise. Our dinner was perfect.

After our meal we had just enough energy to hail a taxi back to the hotel for some time in the whirlpool, watching the lights twinkle on the Danube through the floor-length glass windows high above the river. 
Morning dawned at the late, late hour of 06:00 (for us, anyway!) A sauna visit was the perfect starter to breakfast and before we even pondered the exquisite buffet of regional and international plates, a piping bowl of Congee for me and Belgian waffles for Tony started our day.
A little shopping followed breakfast, and eventually we made our way back to Austria, shuttered, of course, as it was Sunday. Our luxury overnight had come to an end. 

Bratislava. We Came for the Food.

Central Europe may not be on many people’s “Top Foodie Destinations,” and that is too bad for them. Give us the promise of a sunny afternoon, and some great food and drink in the form of a Slovak Food Festival, and we’re there. Even better was that we left behind gray and drizzly Vienna for sunny and blue skies Bratislava. Our destination: Bratislavsky Hrad (Bratislava Castle), host for the festival.
The Vienna Gate of Bratislavsky Hrad.
Across the street from the castle sits this lovely social times structure, which does not befit this diplomatic quarter of the city at all but is part of Bratislava’s charm nonetheless.

Walking along the castle walls, the SNP Most (Bridge) and its alien spaceship landing pad can be viewed in the background.

But onto the food.

We have picked up enough of the Slavic language since living here to navigate menus, thankfully. 
Tony, in particular, knows how to find the beer menu in at least six languages. 

Sharp smoked and grilled cheese is common here, especially with a side of preserves. Lots of national costumes, too, on display today.

Our first “small plate” came with a beautiful view.
Aromatic strudels tempted us.
The grilled caraway pork was more compelling, though, and we gave in. 
Though we were convinced we could not eat another bite, the delicious aromas from the “Goose Hut” changed our mind. Roast goose, palacinka, sauerkraut and a potato pancake for good measure. 
Though the festival was primarily a showcase of Slovakian fare, a few “international” cuisines had rather large followings. Like, each of the two American burgers stalls.

Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner a Slovak Food Festival.

Bratislava is Never Boring

Our plan to tour Schloss Niederweiden today, a little known former royal hunting palace (with an exceptional “wild kitchen” and the real reason for the visit) went Kaputt. Since we were just a few kilometers from Bratislava, we kept on driving. 
In some ways Bratislava feels like a weekend home, like the way the Czech Republic feels. The city has a few scruffy edges; and we know our way around to favorite stores and galleries. And the food, wherever we enjoy a meal, will be fabs.

 I recalled reading that Bratislava was hosting its Easter Market this weekend, so Tony and I wandered to the two known places in Stare Mesto for such events. Lo and behold, we found the tiny market along the boulevard near the National Theater.  Why even ask. Of course I fed my Easter egg addiction collection.

 This is one of the prettiest doors in Bratislava, at the Church of the Holy Savior. Usually there are people sitting on the stairs to muss up the photo.

Speaking of doors, I have been in search of this guide to the “new and cool” places in Bratislava, and finally found it!

“La Putika” was suggested as a place for a good selection of beers and whimsical French food. Not that we don’t love Slovak cuisine. Alas, the restaurant was closed. 

 No worries. We made do quite well with piping pans of Halušky, soft potato noodles baked with sheep cheese and topped with bacon in a small wine keller.  Lunch was fabs, and, Bratislava is never boring.

Babuschkas, Brides, and Bratislava’s Blue Church

Off to Bratislava we were on Saturday to help the good Slovak people celebrate their national crafts and to enjoy their regional cuisine. Anna Grace, home from three days of the electronics-free class retreat, opted to hang at home with Clayton Theodore and catch up on social media homework and laundry. She has assumed the title of The Teenager with great aplomb.

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Bratislava is for Everyone!

Another sunny chore-free weekend, another day trip in the MomMobile. One could almost get used to this lifestyle.
This past weekend Bratislava opened its palaces, museums, and archives for free to all those interested, to commemorate the historic privileges of self-government.  
From the western approach it is near impossible to miss Bratislavsky Hrad, the “fake” castle. The castle is not technically fake; it just happens to be a rebuild from 1959 so we call it a fake castle.
In addition to the open doors, the city pulled out all the stops for local wines, along with samples of Slovakian cuisine in the Stara Trznica, the Old Market Hall. But of course. It is not a festival in Central Europe if alcohol is not involved.  
We sampled Fazulova, a bean soup with smoked knuckle, sausage, and noodles. Excellent paired with a Frankova modra red. I have begun keeping a wine notebook, as I have come to rather like some of the red wines of the Czech and Slovak Republics. And of Hungary and Romania. A favorite Austrian red is a Blaufrankisch from the Burgenland state. But I digress.
Believe it or not, sampling Slovakian fare made us hungry for lunch!
We found a sunny table in the Old City, where Tony ordered Lokse plnene, a potato pancake filled with chicken livers sautéed in red wine. I tasted. The dish was delish. 
I ordered Brydnza pierogi, another Slovak dish of dumplings filled sheep milk cheese and topped with fried pork belly. I am impressed that I’ve actually managed to lose weight while living and eating in Europe. See? My old American jeans are loose!
A walkabout the city was a necessity afterwards. Bratislava’s Old City is compact and full of character.
The view from inside the Municipal House onto the square.
The beautiful court house within.
In the archives section of the municipal house we learned that following the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, most public signs changed to add the third language of the country: Slovakian (the language restored), German, and Hungarian. 

One member of the family climbed the tower of the municipal house for a birds eye view.

(She’s on the far right, waving.)

Making our way back to the car, past a small market and other city scenes of interest.

Bratislava is for Everyone!

Scenes from a Slovak Christmasmarkt

A friend and I day-tripped this week to Bratislava to investigate the Slovak Christmasmarkt scene. Bratislava is much smaller than Vienna; the city only had two markets, both of which were easy to explore in a single day. I would describe the markets as minimally commercial, folksy, and heavy on the food offerings. That is not a bad thing.
Slovak Babicka had PR duty. Who in their right mind would refuse a Central European grandmother?
The Slovak spin on gingerbread involved lots and lots of icing, and their designs went beyond what I’m used to seeing.

There being no backerei or cafe at Vienna’s Hauptbahnhof (the main train station is currently undergoing expansion and is a bit incomplete), we were gnawing our fingers with hunger by the time we reached the markets. Hence the two dinner-plate sized Placzka (hot, greasy, and crisp delicious potato latkes), and the cups of hot honey wine (a bit like I imagine warmed cough syrup to taste).

The different holiday spirits may have been described in Slovak, but the mugs all read, “Merry Christmas” in English!

Still sated from our placzka we passed on the cabbage and liver crepes, which were a big hit with other marketgoers, though.

The craftwork available to purchase included the usual handmade soaps and leather and knitted goods as well as Slovak folk art pieces. I especially liked this wooden puzzle map of Europe.

My friend and I agreed that this was one aspect the Viennese Christmasmarkt scene could improve upon–providing ample areas at which to enjoy the ample epicurean offerings.

Speaking of ample goodies…

On our day outing we learned that the Slovaks language (or the English translation thereof) is quite literal. For example, the sandwich in the front is called “grilled cheese.” Of course. A wedge of grilled sheep cheese on dark bread. Whatever else could that mean? 
With the placzka finally wearing thin, we stopped for a quick bite at a once elegant but slightly aging train station cafe while awaiting our return connection.
We both ordered a “Hamburger” and each received a microwaved ham-ish pattie in a bun, complete with warm cucumbers and warm mayonnaise. Foiled by a Slovak literal translation! Those liver crepes were suddenly looking most appealing…
A few comestibles and a couple of decorative pieces came home with me, including this pretty Czechoslovakian serving platter from a vintage shop we found in our wanderings. 
All in all, a lovely outing.

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