Astral Nomads

One man, one woman, one rabbit......traveling with the stars.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Vienna - Monuments and Art

Much like other major European capitals, Vienna is chockfull of monuments and monumental buildings. I guess when a dynasty like the Hapsburgs rules for hundreds of years, you run out of things to spend your money on. Seriously, the summer palace, which was only, I am guessing, a 45 minute horse drawn coach ride from the regular palace had a square footage equal to the Mall of America. Now a days, some still have an official purpose. The rest have become museums or just plain tourist attractions.

Here's old Goethe. 'Sorrows of Young Werther?'
Not on a sunny day in Vienna.

One of the Hapsburg empresses immortalized forever.
Funny, I can't remember her name.

Nothing says grandeur like an ocularis.

Yes, Astral Nomads, party of two. No, Otis will not
be joining. Pardon, where's the cloakroom and the loo?

It's always good to see some floating heads.

Not quite Canova's Venus Victrix, but a good effort.

Bad Satan, Good Angel.

Who could argue with this? The true definition
of Fascism is the merger of state and corporate power.
Sounds vaguely familiar.

Nymph meets pachyderm . Pachyderm goes pie-eyed.

Wolfgang Amadeus, Astral Wendy's favorite.

Just seconds earlier, Astral Wendy was scaling the statue
trying to steal a smooch. Luckily the polizei arrived to
talk her down.

Posters about town advertising an exhibit featuring Klimt, Schiele, and 
others. You know the Astrals were all over that. We didn't really need the
ads, viewing Klimt and Schiele was one of main reasons for going to
Vienna in the first place. 

History buffs may remember that Vienna was divided into zones
after World War II, with the Russians having a piece of the pie.
Here's a monument to the Red Army. I think part of the agreement
when they finally left was to keep this intact forever.

Behind the monument seems to be a party place, judging from
the graffiti and empty bottles.

Doesn't exactly look like a smooth ride, if
it rides at all. But the gas tank appears to
insure an awesome range. First stop,Istanbul.

This is the Belvedere, a little place for Prince Eugene of Savoy.
He's generally credited with preventing the Ottoman
Turks from seizing Vienna and thereby, preventing
the fall of Europe to the Caliphate. Usually the Hapsburgs
were pretty strict about letting lesser nobles build structures
that rivaled their own, but I guess they owed him big
time and let him have a little fun. Today, the Belvedere 
is mostly an art museum.

Ok to leave the Eurovan down by the stables?

Well, you couldn't take photographs in the galleries,
so I went ahead and grabbed some of the Klimt and Schiele
on display there:

Klimt's most famous The Kiss.
Way larger than I expected.

Schiele: Four Trees
Astral Wendy's pick of the day.

Klimt: Portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl
This was my favorite. I didn't realize it was
unfinished until I got home. I like it just the way it
is, especially with the squiggles on the lower sides.

Schiele: Umarmung (Liebespaar II, Mann und Frau)

Just incredible, almost cartoonish but so much more than that.
Literally vibrates before you eyes.

Some nice gardens between the upper and lower palaces.
I forgot to mention that Prince Eugene needed two palaces.
The upper was so opulent, I would just stop there.
Not Prince Eugene.

Female sphinxes were something of a motif,
not just here but in much of Vienna. Not sure why.
Left as an exercise for the reader.

The lower Belvedere.

Gardens, yes, but nothing to rival the Jardin de Luxembourg or
the Tullieries in my opinion.

Speaking of works of art....................

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Vienna - The Food Edition

The nomads love to eat. Love to cook too. Most of the year, we stick to a gluten-free organic diet. When we go to Europe, the gluten ban is lifted. The bread is just too damn good. And, of course, when in Vienna, we had to have the Wiener Schnitzel. It's required by state law. This post covers the glorious food we were able to have in Vienna. Bon Appetit!

On the flight over, Astral Wendy had a beef tenderloin
with snow peas and mashed potatoes. Not bad for
airline food.

It's pretty hard to be in Vienna and avoid the Sacher Torte. Especially
when they keep leaving them in your hotel room. I think I ate at least
one a day. Don't think that will keep the doctor away. It's basically a
rich torte cake layered with apricot jam and enrobed in dark chocolate.
Actually, goes pretty well with a dry red wine.

Der Wiener Schnitzel and Austrian potato salad at the Mozart Cafe.
Thin pounded veal breaded and fried, served with lemon and lingon berry 
jam. The potato salad was divine, in a light vinaigrette type sauce, topped 
with baby spinach. Wunderbar! Served with a bottle of GrĂ¼ner Veltliner,
a nice crisp fruity Austrian white wine. 

On to breakfast at the hotel. An omelette bar? Of course.
And the biggest spread of food I've seen in a while: every
fresh fruit on the planet, at least six types of yogurt, fourteen
types of jams and preserves, every cold cut made, a huge
selection of cheeses, smoked and pickled fish, at least ten
kinds of granola, champagne, a large assortment of breads
and rolls, and a bakeries worth of pastries.

I started with a selection of smoked mackerel, some pickled
salmon, a few ripe cheeses, some watermelon, and a roll.
For breakfast you say? Hey, I'm in Europe.

Then I came to my senses and had some scrambled eggs, bacon and a
couple of sausages. In Vienna (Wien in German), the hot dog type 
sausage is called a Frankfurter, while in Frankfurt, it's called a Wiener. Go figure.

Always save room for pastries...

One day for lunch, we hit up Crossfields, an
Australian pub. There are no kangaroos in Austria.
This was some old school fish and chips. Of course, with
malt vinegar. It's the only way to go. That and
a nice New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

There's a wide variety of cuisine in Vienna. We found
this Italian restaurant which served some righteous
homemade fresh pasta. Astral Wendy went with these
tortellini in meat sauce. Very good.

Brick oven baked lasagna. A nice chianti. They also
made brick oven pizza which we vowed to return and
try. (See below)

Fresh fruit daily in our hotel room. I had forgotten how
good a fresh apricot can be.

We found another Italian place which was good
too. Nice to sit outside. I went with the spaghetti
alla vongole. The pasta was cooked exactly right.
Think we went with a crisp Orvieto that night.

Astral Wendy went with the Rigatoni Carbonara.
Good choice!

As promised, we returned for the brick oven pizza.
Funghi for Astral Wendy

Anchovy for me and a nice bottle of Barolo.

One night we ate at the cafe attached to our hotel.
Gruner Wertliner again. We came to really like that

Astral Wendy went with this 'potato strudel' which
was potatoes and other root vegetables layered
into a spring roll wrapper, served with a demi-glace
drizzle and some pureed roasted red peppers and a salad.
Of course, I had to try it. For science!

I went with der Tafelspitz, another Austrian specialty.
Like sauerbraten without the sour. Served with the
largest latke ever made. Root vegetables and applesauce.

We discovered this cool place named the Goulash Museum. They had around twenty varieties of goulash.

Tough to choose but I went with the pork and sauerkraut (left) and Astral
Wendy went with the veal and spinach spaetzle (right).

That's some righteous spaetzle.

The pork and sauerkraut goulash was so good I had
to make some when I got home. (see below)

The cold cut selection at the supermarket.

Various forms of schnitzels.

And, of course, pastries.

Back at the Mozart Cafe, Astral Wendy went with the perch.
She said it was good but she wouldn't let me have any.
Just kidding. I had only one thing on my mind: Wiener Schnitzel!

Ah, yes.

And the potato salad. We liked this so much, Astral Wendy
is in the kitchen right now whipping up a batch.

The Mozart Torte. Not as famous as the Sacher,
but still wonderful.

Two forks will do, bitte, this stuff is rich.

The next few shots are the airline meals on the return journey. Not too shabby. 

Braised beef cheeks? Why not?

Here's my version of the pork and sauerkraut goulash
with salt potatoes.

Bonus: Recipe
The potatoes were pretty simple. I had no idea what salt potatoes were so I peeled and chunked some potatoes and soaked them in salt water for a couple of hours and then rinsed them and steamed them for about 20 minutes. I used russets because that's what I could find at the market, but I think something like a Yukon Gold would be the better choice.
For the goulash, I used some pork shoulder blades cut into good sized chunks. I think some chunks of pork butt would be better but the market didn't have any. One thing I noticed at the restaurant was that the meat was very tender but not browned before the braising. At least it didn't seem to be pre-browned.
For the base of the sauce, I used a large jar of roasted red peppers, a cup of good paprika, 3 small chilis from my garden (de-seeded because the restaurant version was mild even though they threw in one whole red cherry pepper), one white onion, 5 diced plum tomatoes, and two cloves of garlic. I put all of that in a food processor and pureed it. Then I toasted a tablespoon of caraway seeds in a dry skillet and crushed them up pretty good with a mortar and pestle. Poured the puree and the caraway into a dutch oven, added about 3 cups of chicken stock and a cup of Orvieto. Probably not traditional but I was winging it. Brought this to a simmer, added the pork chunks, and put in it a pre-heated 275F oven for a few hours, checking every so often to get the pork to the right tenderness. Fork tender but not shredding.
Once the pork was right, I removed the pork to a separate plate and I added a 2lb pack of sauerkraut (well rinsed) and let that simmer low stove top for about a half hour. Then I added the pork back in to get it hot again.
To plate it, I put a mound of the pork and sauerkraut on a platter, surrounded it with the steamed potatoes, added a good dollop of sour cream on top and threw on some chopped parsley. It was pretty damn close to the original. I'll probably cheat now and look up a real recipe to see how it's really done.