Monday, February 22, 2010

Haben Sie Wien schon bei Nacht gesehen?

We had a lovely time in Wien. It was a touch too cold, but that only helped us appreciate the museums and stellar cafes. Why doesn't Berlin have cafes like these? Why doesn't Berlin shovel the sidewalks like they seem to have done in Vienna? Sigh. (On the other hand, why does everyone smoke so much there? Way worse than Berlin.) I spent lots of time wandering while mein Mann was saving the world. Vienna (or at least the Innere Stadt) is full of so many beautiful buildings (lots of cute old ladies in fur coats and good hats, too!), even in the cold it was lots of fun just to walk and look. A few noteworthy bits: I loved the Dorotheum, an old auction house where you can wander around and admire the very cool things that are coming up to auction - jewelry, furniture, old weapons, you name it. The tiny sandwiches at Trezniewski were a lot of fun. The apple strudel at Demel was great (although, in my humble opinion, such good strudel should be served warm. And the surly waitress wouldn't bring me any Schlagobers (aka: whipped cream): hmmph). Tafelspitz is basically brisket served in beef broth, but in Vienna they do it up. First one eats the deliciously flavorful broth with the veggies. Second, you are to spread the marrow (you get a marrow bone in the broth) on toasted bread, sprinkle it with salt and pepper, and eat it with your fingers. Finally, you get to the meat, which is served with bread sauce, horseradish, applesauce, fried potatoes, creamed spinach, and creamed cabbage (way better than it sounds). The whole thing was spread out on the table in a secession of beautiful copper pots. The Austrian cheese selection at Meierei was good if not life-changing, but it was served with some of the best bread I've had in ages (Looking back, that bread may have been the best thing I ate in Vienna) and it was fun to sit by the water and watch the people (and dogs pass by). I tried twice to visit the Secession. I semi-succeeded on my second attempt, but the floor with Klimpt's Beethoven Frieze was closed due to the opening of a new exhibit, which consisted of a lump of concrete, a book of squiggles, and a pile of 20,000 ugly posters. I did, however, see this cool older lady with polka dot hair.The art in the Kunsthistorisches Museum is world class, but the building itself is so amazing, I kept wanting to leave the galleries to admire the entry hall and amazing dome. I only wish I'd had a chance to visit more cafes and eat more cakes. In hindsight, I was a bit too focused on strudel...though I suppose there are worse things to obsess over.

Now, another response to another mystery reader! I'm very sad to hear of your brownie woes. You should most definitely try again because brownies are pretty easy to master and (especially in Berlin) people can't seem to get enough of them. (For work, I make brownies more often than any dessert.) As I wasn't in your kitchen, I can't say for sure what went wrong, but if you didn't forget any ingredients it sounds like you might have underbaked them? (Underbaked brownies are not-so-secretly one of my favorite things - in high school, we would half-bake a pan of brownies and dump ice cream into the warm pan. yum.) I can see, however, that you might actually want to cut squares and serve them to civilized people. For brownies, the flour you use shouldn't make a huge difference, but I use 550 for most dessert-baking and 1050 when I make bread. I seem to get better results when I don't use a cheap brand (such as Ja!), although I tend toward the Bio, so I haven't experimented enough to say if this is real and I don't think Ja!-type flour would ruin brownies either. I admit to running out of one or the other from time to time, though, and substituting without too much catastrophe. In terms of substituting the German granulated brown sugar for white sugar, that shouldn't have made a huge difference either. Try again and bake them until a toothpick or the point of a knife comes out fairly clean with just a few crumbs clinging to it. Or send the pan my way....I have a new freezer (!) so I can even add ice cream now!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Valentinstagschenken aus einem Karton

Lest you think I had forgotten, heart-shaped food is still my favorite part of Valentine's Day. I managed to score a box of avocados while working my latest random job: making finger food for a Dutch fruit-importing company during the recent Fruit Logistica trade show. (Oddly enough, they did not want any fruit in the finger food???) If you've ever been to a big trade show, you're familiar with the stands that the presenters set up to show case their wares. The Dutch fruit importers build a little kitchen of sorts (no stove or oven...) in the back of their stand. This was basically a box without a top in the middle of a giant room without any windows. I spent three days in said box constantly shooing the hostesses (these girls in tiny dresses who make espressos and giggle at the offensive comments made by fruit (or other) business men are a way-outdated trend that needs to be retired) out of my way. Anyway, Dutch fruit importers pay really well, as it turns out, so it was well worth it, though I wasn't too sad when the job ended and I could come out of the box. Anyway, by the time I had a chance to make the rounds, most of the fruit that was up for grabs had been distributed (they do sell fruit here, but it's so much more fun to score things for free), but I did manage to snag a bunch of American pears (the American pear people had a poster of Obama in their stand and I saw one group of fruit people taking their picture with it...heehee) and a box of avocados, which we enjoyed in a variety of preparations (I've discovered that the big Turkish grocery store near us sells very decent, almost Sonoran-style flour torillas (who knew?) so quesadillas and burritos were on the menu). The most picturesque, however, was our Valentine's Day breakfast: heart-shaped avocado on a roll pretending to be a bagel with cream cheese and lox.

Now we're are off to Vienna for a long weekend. Alas, mein Mann, has to work for two of those days, but I intend to devote my attention to the strudel, Tafelspitz, schnitzel, and other delights (maybe a museum or two, as well)!