Some of Vienna’s food and wine

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Firstly, I would like to say thank you all so much for your concern and I’m sorry to cause concern… we’re all good but reminded that life takes us around unexpected corners! I am looking ahead to our last 9 weeks in Italy and right now I must complete the Vienna experience as I have been informed Vienna is an up-and-coming holiday destination for a few bloggers out there.

As I said before, the cafe scene is big and bursting with avid food lovers, I have also never seen so many signs in cafe windows stating they are vegan friendly- this is something new to me. Of course, you are always going to have average food shops in the city centre where tourism is at its peak, however, if you just take a walk to a neighbouring suburb you won’t pay half as much and no doubt get something home made and delicious. Take for example our neighbourhood of Neubau: plenty of cafes to choose from at very reasonable prices. We settled on this one called Ulrich which was situated in the St. Ulrich Piatz just off Burggasse and just happens to be the new ‘hip’ place.

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Hip new cafe/bar

We loved the outdoor seating and the relaxed atmosphere of the place. What we did find was they tend to ask you if you have a booking. We never did. However, most of the tables outside were pre-booked but we were told if we were gone before the booked time then they were happy to accommodate us. We figured an afternoon beer won’t take all evening to finish so we sat down and enjoyed the atmosphere. Our server here was a lovely guy who use to study in Bologna last year…and how did we find this out? We kept answering in Italian! 

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Flat nuts – the perfect beer snack

We ordered beers (I had a Weissbier and Nic had the local Zwickel beer) and a bar snack, then sat back and enjoyed the afternoon along with everyone else. I have to say Nic and I both enjoyed Austrian beer much more than the wine. We are big red drinkers and favour a full bodied Shiraz which is very different to the Austrian reds we tried. They were very sweet, light and fruity. I think next time we will try more rieslings and definitely more beer. Our bar snack was delicious, the bread was crisp and house-made from whole wheat flour served with extra virgin olive oil and a dukka mix of crushed nuts, sesame seeds, salt, cumin seeds and a hint of chilli: absolutely delicious and very morish.

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Fruit and veg vendor

Another of my favourite places to walk around in Vienna was the Naschmarkt, this is a wonderfully massive food market. You will find anything from food stalls, produce stands, restaurants, cheese vendors, old guys selling pickles and sauerkraut right out of the big barrels…and pretty much anything else you can think of that is food related. The first shop we came across was an Asian grocer so we stocked up on supplies to bring back to Italy (and sadly left them on the train!!) and then we found white asparagus. Big, fat, beautiful white asparagus, I love the stuff and can’t get enough of it at home as the supply is very small and very expensive. Another reason I love to stay in apartments is the fact that I can cook with local products, so I purchased a big bunch of white asparagus and served it for dinner and breakfast the following day. I would of been in heaven if I had brought my truffle salt too… But I managed to buy some mini brats wrapped in bacon that tasted pretty yummy, so breakfast the morning after the markets was pretty delish and gave us plenty of energy for a day of sightseeing.

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Poached egg with sauteed asparagus and bacon wrapped mini brats

 

Another one of my favourites in Vienna was frittaten; pancakes seasoned with herbs, cut into thin strips and served in a rich beef stock. I can understand why this is popular with the locals, it is full of flavour and the texture of the pancake works beautifully with the  rich flavours in the broth.

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Frittaten

 

I’m not sure I want to post this next picture but Max absolutely LOVED his cordon bleu. The kid has not stopped eating since his 12th birthday and Vienna was his mecca for large plates of meat! I have to say I did try a piece of his lunch this day and it was very yummy, however, my tuna salad was made beautifully and the right choice for me. What I am trying to say is if you have hungry pre-teens then Vienna is your town.

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Giant cordon bleu

Right that’s it, I cannot possibly end this with that picture so here is one more delight you can have in Vienna- pastries 

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Mango and pineapple pastry, apple and sultana and jam filled pastries

By the way, the mango and pineapple pastry on the left was my favourite and if you need a few cake recommendations I hear the esterhazytorte and the dobostorte are delicious…and how could I forget the classic apfelstrudel!

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Pesto from the Motherland

I remember being introduced to pesto in the 90s and I wasn’t a fan. It was the pine nuts that ruined it for me. All I could taste was nuts and I remember thinking to myself ‘well, I don’t know what all the fuss is about?’ For the next few years I’d make it for work but never really got excited about it and never made it for myself to eat for pleasure. It was also around this time that I started disliking nuts, they tasted so rich and fatty that I couldn’t stand the taste or texture in my mouth. Brazil nuts were my contender for worst nut of all.

It wasn’t until I met Nic in 1999 that I was re introduced to pesto- he loves the stuff! In fact his whole family loved pesto and I ate it more in the following months than I had ever eaten it in my life. The first time I sucked it up because I wasn’t go to say anything, I was trying to make a good impression. When I ate my future MIL’s vegetarian lasagne with a pesto topping I was pleasantly surprised. Nic being Nic saw the pesto and told his mum I didn’t like pesto (I died), however, I managed to say I just wasn’t big on nuts and Pam told me she also didn’t like a lot of nuts in her pesto. I started to slowly eat pesto and enjoy it.

I have made pesto in so many different variations, a little more parmesan than pine nuts; more olive oil, less olive oil; a mixture of arugula and basil; plain basil; walnuts instead of pine nuts; with garlic without garlic. The list goes on. I think we have all read a pesto recipe but it is one of those recipes that everyone has an opinion about and their way IS the ‘authentic’ way. It is a recipe that I now make up as I go and do it by feel rather than recipe but I have always been curious as to how they make pesto in Genova, the motherland of pesto.

On our trip up north Genova was always on our day trip list. I had never been and Nic had only been there once before. He is a sixteenth-century Italian historian and he’s following some leads in Genova. He wanted to take another look at the city, so it was set: we would spend the day looking around Genova and I could try out a few pesto samples.

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Pesto in Genova

Our first sample was the kids’ lunch! Yes, it is true I could have ordered my own bowl of pesto pasta; however, there are a few things you have to consider when visiting Genova:

a) The city is a port city

b) I hadn’t had a decent seafood meal (bar my 40th b’day dinner that E cooked) since arriving in Italy six months ago

c) I’d been smelling the salt sea air all morning and my body was craving seafood…FRESH SEAFOOD!

I did end up bribing the boys with chocolate for a couple of mouthfuls of their pasta and they dutifully agreed (and also ate large portions of our meals too…we got the raw end of the deal!) I know the picture isn’t the best but the pesto was fabulous and the boys really enjoyed it. From what I tasted it was very much like one I usually make but with more olive oil and maybe not as much cheese added, or pine nuts for that matter. It was fresh, packed a punch and devoured in minutes.

The cuttlefish Nic and I shared was delicious and stuffed with bread, sardines and parsley, served in a beautiful tomato broth (Alex liked this a little too much)

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Our other main was a beautiful clam and garlic pasta which was insanely tasty. I love it when the seafood is so fresh you can’t help but taste the sea in the sauce.

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Clam and garlic pasta

Lunch was very filling and satisfying, however, my pesto urges were not yet met so I decided to find a deli and buy some to take home with me. We did a lot of walking around Genova and it reminded us a lot of Sydney. The boys particularly loved the harbor area and would have been happy to stay the rest of the week there. Genova is a beautiful city with a seedy side that is slowly getting pushed out. Of course the boys had no idea what was seedy and what wasn’t.

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Alex hanging out at the wharf

 

For me, I guess it was the prostitutes standing on the corners of the old port streets that got my attention. It was just as we where coming out of the Palazzo Spinola, I didn’t mind but when they started pulling in business with my kids a few meters away we thought it might be time to find that pesto deli on the high streets. It was time to leave the port!

 I found a deli back in town (away from the port and prossies) and we went in. I was a bit blown away by the massive bowl of pesto in the fridge, not because it was so big but because of the colour, consistency and foam on the pesto.

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It was SO fine in texture. I got Nic to ask the lady at the deli if this was ‘typical’ Genova pesto and she said that it is a personal taste as to how you make pesto. She said they make theirs like this because this is how they like to eat it, someone else will make it differently. I love this answer because all those people I have met over the years telling me they make the most authentic pesto were in fact full of BS. Pesto is however YOU like it to taste and that is why my pesto has more cheese and less pine nut. One thing I did take away from this batch of pesto was the amount of oil used…sooooo much more than I would use. I am also guessing that this was made in a Thermomix because I don’t know of any other machine that would chop and blend to this consistency without ruining the basil leaves. You know it is blended at a high speed because of the foam on top and let me tell you that foam was jam packed with flavour- INTENSE!

So back in Turin that night I was dying to try out this pesto with the recommended pasta the lady also sold us. This is in fact the traditional way to eat pesto pasta with Trofie Bianche

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It was semi dried and extremely starchy. I was told some people like to add more pasta water to the pesto…but that is only if you want too! 

When all was said and done, the taste was deep, rich and flavourful. The pasta was very starchy and a little gluggy, something I wasn’t expecting as I was serving it, however, it didn’t taste gluggy when we were eating it. But I wouldn’t like to eat this cold. I loved it and can’t wait to go home and make pesto in the Thermomix to see if I am right. The boys didn’t enjoy this one as much as the one they had for lunch but that could also have something to do with me making them eat pesto pasta twice in one day!

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However you choose to make pesto, just remember it’s never going to be wrong; it’s just the way you like it and that’s all that counts.