It has now come time for me to write the “food post.” I was considering not writing one, but some loyal readers (read: 2) requested it and who am I to turn them down!? Here are some of the types of foods we ate – and I’ve made note to highlight some of our most memorable culinary experiences as well.
Pretzels, Beer, and Wine
Let’s start out with some of the lighter stuff. Germany is home to many, many pretzels. You can find them on every street corner, every pub, even in some restaurants. I would not say that the pretzels are amazing – but they are solid and I averaged one per day during our time in Germany (they weren’t as readily available in Austria).
Obviously Germany is pretty famous for their beer. While we weren’t visiting during Oktoberfest or anything like that, beer was everywhere and was a staple of almost every meal. Unfortunately, I don’t know too much about beer, my buddy over at A Pint Half Full would be able to do a much better analysis of what I drank. I stuck mostly to the hefeweizens or “weissbiers” – wheat based stuff.
I also bought a few bottles of monk beer – I guess back in the day there was a lot of monastery brewing. I wasn’t too impressed with those.
In Austria we had a lot more wine than beer. Austria is a major produce of Gruner Veltliner, a type of white grape – we drank that almost exclusively. It’s nothing super complicated or refined, but a great wine to drink with a meal. I wish I could describe it but I’m not wired like that – but from Wikipedia: “Master of Wine Jancis Robinson notes that Grüner Veltliner is usually produced dry with spicy, peppery notes. It is often full-bodied and with age can take on aromas and flavors similar to white Burgundies.” So there you have it!
There were some pretty staple dishes that we had over and over again, so I just thought I’d talk about them here.
Sausages and Wursts
These are ubiquitous. M loved them after we peeled off the skin so we ate some type of sausage almost every single day. There are small wursts, thick wursts, wursts filled with cheese, spicy ones – if you can think of it – it probably exists. In Germany the bratwursts were often served with a dollop of mustard on the side and french fries, so you know I liked it. My recommendation – if you eat meat just try them all until you get sick of them – and just don’t think too much about how the sausage is made.
A special shout out to the Kasekrainer, a special type of sausage cooked with cubes of cheese inside of it. So it’s like a cheese dog, except the cheese is INSIDE. Crazy.
A lot of Bavarian food consisted of hearty meats – stewed beef, roasted duck, etc. It was like people just hunted wild animals and cooked them for dinner. Well, it felt like that it least. A lot of the dishes came with thick brown gravies and large potato balls. I thought I’d like the potato balls more but they were a bit too sticky and chewy for my liking.
Another big thing in Bavaria is the Schweinshaxe, or pork knuckle. This thing looks crazy and generally comes with a gigantic knife stabbed into it. I’m not sure if we ordered it at the wrong places, but I found that it generally looked better than it tastes (often too salty and I am an American when it comes to how salty I like my food). The fried skin was also too tough for my liking (I’m more used to fried duck or pork skin). Still, I think if you’re in Bavaria you have to try this.
Vegetables, as always in Europe, seemed a bit hard to come by – though the salads in Germany and Austria seemed more like “American” salads. It feels like whenever we order salad in Italy we get like pasta salad with only a tiny bit of vegetables or something. We finally started ordering roasted vegetables with like every meal because we were getting sick of potato based starches.
Bavaria also featured a lot of great soups – mainly beef broths and consommes with large dumplings inside of them. In Austria, a lot of these times these soups would come with “pancakes”, strips of egg that are kind of like thick crepes. Apparently back in the day they’d take leftover dessert crepes and throw them in the soup the next day. Here’s a recipe if you’re interested – that stuff was GOOD.
Schnitzels deserve their own category – as I understand it, schnitzel basically means any meat that you pound thin and deep fry. Again, if you’re not vegetarian – how could you go wrong with this? There were tons of versions of this.
Wienerschnitzel, the classic, is veal that has been pounded thin and deep fried. I find that it tastes tougher than veal normally does, which makes me question why they even need to use veal in the first place (I generally don’t eat veal).
Schweineschnitzel is pork – think chicken fried chicken but with pork instead. I generally preferred that.
The most unique thing we had to eat was Tafelspitz which is considered to be the national dish of Austria which we also had Plachutta’s. It was a pretty cool production and worth going into detail.
Tafelspitz is essentially boiled beef – but it’s boiled for a long time along with the bone marrow. The soup absorbs a lot of the flavors. You start your meal by drinking the soup. You can ask for a bowl with nothing in it, with pancake, or with Austrian dumplings.
After you finish drinking the soup, you put the bowl aside indicating to your server that you are ready for the next course. They then come and take the meat and bone marrow out of the bowl and plate it for you so that you can eat it. There are plenty of vegetables in the broth as well.
Overall, Tafelspitz is a huge meal and we all pitched in to help Jess finish it. It looked amazing though and I wish we had gotten to order it more than once on our trip. I only seem to recall seeing it on the menu in Vienna, though.
Obviously, we ate a lot of gelato. I was surprised out how good the gelato was out there, there are a lot of stalls run by Italian immigrants and their stuff is legit. I’ve already shown tons of gelato pictures throughout the rest of this trip report so I’ll hold off on too many here.
Jess is the dessert expert, and she was constantly saying that she hadn’t realized how seriously Germans and Austrians take their desserts. We had a ton of cake and apple strudel in Bavaria – though we did not once have a Black Forest cake. Guess we’ll have to hit up western Germany for that someday. Vienna took desserts to the next level – it almost felt like Paris with the number of cafes lining the streets serving dessert.
Finally, you can’t leave Germany without having some chocolate. From the Lufthansa first class cabin to the supermarket, chocolate is everywhere. We bought 12+ Ritter Sports. That’s probably all I should say about that.
Vienna Film Festival
My favorite eating experience was at Vienna’s Film Festival. Apparently they just set up a giant screen in front of the Rathaus (city hall) where people can watch movies at night for like a month in the summer. Around it is what I would describe as a giant outdoor food court. It’s like you’re at the mall, but outside. Restaurants from all over Vienna set up booths – there’s a ton of variety and even a Magnum Ice Cream store! What!?
There were a ton of people there every night – tourists, locals, everybody basically. The food was great, the atmosphere was great, it just was pretty difficult to find a seat. You can however move to the benches in the nearby park. There are people coming around to grab your plates when you are done and things like that so you don’t even need to bus your own trays. If you are good at babysitting tables and don’t mind people hovering around you, I highly recommend checking out the Film Festival if you’re in Vienna in the summer. Even if you don’t like that – go anyway – there’s always takeout.
To be honest, I wasn’t really all that excited about the food options in Germany. I much prefer Italian pasta and pizza, or so I thought (that stuff is readily available all over Bavaria if you’re interested). I was actually impressed with what Germany had to offer food wise – there were some unique dishes that I really enjoyed eating. I wouldn’t say it’s a culinary wonderland or anything, but if you like hearty, wholesome food – Germany and Austria have your number.
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