Tag Archives: Vienna

Café Hofburg and Hinterholz Bar-Restaurant — The Last of Vienna

I suppose you can tell from the increased frequency of my postings that I’m trying to wrap things up before midnight on 31 December. It’s my final New Year’s Resolution of 2018. A whole new list of highly-unlikely-to-be-completed projects and self-improvements goes into effect on 1 January 2019.

So I’m ending these Vienna notes with this entry about two v different restaurants.


Café Hofburg

Café Hofburg is in the inner courtyard of the former Imperial Palace of the Habsburg dynasty. Today the Hofburg is the residence of the President of Austria. I was there to visit three of the Hofburg’s museums: The Imperial Apartments, the Sisi Museum, and the Silver Collection.

But first came lunch.

Wiener Schokolade

Wiener Schokolade

Hot chocolate, of course. It was Vienna, and it was late Fall. This drink came with whipped cream and a shot of rum.

Wiener Schnitzel

Another Austrian tradition. For the first time this trip, I had Wiener Schnitzel, with potato salad.

The meal was all right, but, once again, it was the location rather than the food that was the star here. After lunch, I headed for the Silver Collection and the other museums.

Imperial Table Settings

More Imperial Table Settings

For more on the Hofburg museums, including a lot of pictures, check out the posting from my first visit to the Hofburg in 2014.


Hinterholz Bar-Restaurant

Hinterholz

Hinterholz

You might think, on entering Hinterholz Bar-Restaurant, that you were in a classic dive. The first room you see is dimly lit and a bit shabby. As Raymond Chandler once wrote about another location, “a great deal of expense had been spared” on the decor. The sound system played mostly American rock from the 60s – 80s. Occasionally you might catch a whiff of marijuana from the Hemp Box Cafe next door.

But there’s a lot more to Hinterholz than that first room. You can explore the Hinterholz in 360° here.

I really liked this place. It had no pretensions and no attitude. The food was both good and hardy, and the portions were huge, even by American standards.

Traditioneller Zwiebelrostraten

Traditioneller Zwiebelrostraten

This was my braised beef with onions and roasted potatoes. It was priced moderately for a single portion, but the dish would have easily served two.

I liked it so much that I returned a couple of days later.


And that’s it for both my 2018 Fall trip and for my postings for the year.

Best wishes to all, for a much better 2019!

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Renoir Painting Stolen in Vienna! (I Have an Alibi.)

As longtime readers may recall, I’m a loyal supporter of the Renoir Sucks at Painting movement, which calls on museums and galleries to remove and banish the works of that loathsome French hack, Pierre-Auguste Renoir. That’s why I had mixed emotions when I saw this headline on the Artdaily website:

I was happy because yet another insipid piece of Renoir-created eye-torment had been taken out of circulation, removing a blotch on the art world, and on Western civilization as a whole.* At the same time, I was a little afraid, because I was in Vienna when the theft occurred, and Interpol’s International Art Theft Squad: Renoir Subset: Potential Thieves Division almost certainly has me in its database.

Fortunately, I have an alibi: At the time of the theft, I was at an exhibition of the works of a much more talented and original painter. When the police show up to interrogate me, I’ll show them my ticket to “The Life and Works of Thomas Kinkade”.


The Onion reports on the earlier liberation of another public nuisance.


*You know who owns a Renoir? Donald Trump.

Except it turns out that his is probably a fake, and another con artist apparently took him for $10,000,000. See Donald Trump’s Fake Renoir: The Untold Story.

Sixta — My Favourite Meal in Vienna

I had what was easily the best meal of my trip to Vienna at a restaurant called Sixta, which is a short U-Bahn ride outside the city’s historic center. Sixta has the comfortable feel of a long-established neighbourhood favourite. It’s a gay-friendly place with a good mix of people.

Wildschweinbraten

Wildschweinbraten

Oh, this was good! It’s wild boar, with a cranberry red wine sauce. Those are chestnuts on top of the sliced meat.

Now, about the objects toward the back of the plate. I didn’t know what they were—grated potatoes?  some kind of biscuit?—and the menu described them as “napkin dumplings”, which raised more questions than answers. Google to the rescue. Napkin dumplings are a traditional Central European side dish made with stale bread, onions, eggs, and milk.* Think turkey stuffing, and you’ve got an idea of the taste. They’re named napkin dumplings because they’re traditionally boiled in napkins.

Napkin Dumplings. Image from the linked website.

Napkin Dumplings. Image from the linked website.

Anna’s Schoko-Mascarpone

Anna’s Schoko-Mascarpone

The server recommended this chocolate mascarpone cake slice for dessert, and she certainly knew what she was talking about


*Good recipe for Napkin Dumplings at the link.

The Third Man, and Café Mozart

That scene contains the most frequently quoted passage from The Third Man, and as it ends, you can hear part of Anton Karas’s famous musical score, played on the zither.

The Third Man is a classic 1949 film noir set among the ruins of Vienna during the post-WWII occupation. An American, Holly Martins, spends much of the movie trying to find out what happened to his friend and potential employer, the mysterious Harry Lime. The film, with Joseph Cotten as Martins and Orson Welles as Lime, was written by Graham Greene and directed by Carol Reed. With that much talent involved, it’s not surprising that the British Film Institute named it as the greatest British film of all time.*

I’ve mentioned that one of my little side projects on this trip was an exploration of some of the historical cafés and coffee houses of Vienna. Here’s how The Third Man fits in.

Café Mozart is identified by name in the movie, but the scene that was set there was actually filmed at another Vienna café. The real significance of Café Mozart is that this is where Graham Greene worked on the script.


Coincidence

As I headed for the café, I walked past this building, and recognized it immediately.

In The Third Man, this is the entrance to Harry Lime’s apartment building. It looks unchanged from when the film was made in the 1940s.


Café Mozart

Café Mozart

Café Mozart

Café Mozart can trace its origins back to 1794, and was renovated in 1994.

Café Mozart Interior. Image found on the Web.

Café Mozart Interior. Image found on the Web.

Knowing myself as well as I do, I realized that once I was comfortably seated in a nice warm cafe, drinking a nice hot cup of chocolate, it would take an enormous effort to get me back onto the cold, windy streets of the city.

Mozart Schokolade

Mozart Schokolade

Hot chocolate, with a chocolate and pistachio sauce and a dollop of whipped cream.

Cream Cheese Dumplings

Dumplings

Cream Cheese Dumplings on a berry compote.

Let’s just say I stayed a little longer than I’d planned, and much longer than was absolutely necessary. But can you think of a more pleasant way to spend a couple of hours on a chilly afternoon?


*A solid choice, although I’d probably go with Kind Hearts and Coronets or The Bridge on the River Kwai.

Griechenbeisl, the Oldest Restaurant in Vienna

Griechenbeisl

Griechenbeisl

Griechenbeisl is old.

It was celebrating its 45th anniversary when Christopher Columbus landed at Plymouth Rock and founded the United States.

By the time Napoleon crossed the Alps to defeat the Russians, it was already 365 years old.

One of the most momentous years of the 20th century, up there with 1939 and 1968, was 1980. Not only was the first Friday the 13th movie released, but Griechenbeisl turned 533 and PAC-MAN was unleashed on Japan!

Founded in 1447, Griechenbeisl is the oldest restaurant in Vienna, but as the Millennials keep reminding us, between gorging on avocado toast and bitching about their damn student loans, Old isn’t necessarily Good.

But in this case, it was. I went for dinner.

The Real Griechenbeisl Entrance

The Real Griechenbeisl Entrance

Hungarian Goulash Soup

Hungarian Goulash Soup

Yes, goulash again. “When in Vienna, do as the Hungarians.” Again, too—I keep finding mild chili peppers in unexpected places.

Boiled Beef Viennese Style

Boiled Beef Viennese Style

My main was Boiled Beef Viennese Style. The waiter brought a hot pot to the serving table, and arranged the boiled beef and vegetables on my plate.  Two small bowls contained sauces for the beef—one was apple-horseradish, and the other was made with wild chives. A side dish held shredded, roasted potatoes.

As I wrote, I found it good. Good, but not great. Service, though, was flawless.

Café Landtmann — Lunching with the Ghost of Dr Freud

Café Landtmann

Café Landtmann

Q: What did Hitler, Trotsky, Tito, Stalin, Emperor Franz Joseph, and Sigmund Freud have in common?

A: In 1913, they all lived within a few miles of each other in Vienna.

It’s not all that surprising when you think about it. Vienna was the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, one of the European great powers, with 50 million inhabitants in its 15 constituent nations. In the years leading up to the first World War, the city was at the red-hot center of the intellectual world, and second only to Paris on the cutting edge of the arts. And where did all this intellectual heating and artistic cutting take place? In the city’s cafés and coffeehouses.

I had lunch at Café Landtmann, which was Freud’s favourite.

Café Landtmann Interior. Image found on the Web.

Café Landtmann Interior. Image found on the Web.

Mixed Sausages

Mixed Sausages

I went with Viennese classics, starting with an assortment of four kinds of sausages, which are barely visible at the top of this picture. They came with three dipping sauces and brown bread.

Viennese Chicken

Viennese Chicken

And for the main, Viennese Chicken. It reminded me of breaded veal—same look, same texture. Austrian/German cooking is not noted for its range or variety.

This was very good, though. Loved the crunch.

Christmas Market at the Vienna Rathaus

Here are some pictures from the Christmas Market in front of Vienna’s Rathaus, or “Townhall”. You can find smaller markets in almost every public space in the old city, but this one is probably the most famous and popular.

I wonder why Christmas Markets, so popular throughout Europe, have never really caught on in the US. There are a scattering of them here, especially in places with large German-American communities, but nothing on the scale of what you’d find in Germany and Eastern Europe.

Despite the lights and the music and the food and the mulled wine, visiting one of these markets always leaves me a little sad.

I’m not a Christmas person, but my mother was. She started decorating for the holidays about the same time that the leaves in Pennsylvania began to change colour, and didn’t stop until every room looked like a Santa’s workshop.

I think of her whenever I walk through a Christmas Market like this.

She would have loved it.