Café Sacher, Vienna

The Original Sacher-Torte has been one of the most famous cake synonymous with Vienna. To put it simply, its a refined, elegant chocolate cake with apricot jam spread over the sponge base, topped with a coat of chocolate icing over the cake.

As with any other famous inventions (heard similar story of the Mozartkugel over in Salzburg), there was a legal battle over the the title of “original Sachertorte”.  We visited Cafe Sacher located in the heart of Vienna old town.

We paired our Sachertorte with a cup of Coffee with original Sacher Liqueur and a cup of Wiener Melange Coffee with milk and cream.

A close-up shot of the cake, the additional layer of apricot jam in-between the sponge cake and the round chocolate seal are the signature identity of the sachertorte served here versus their competitor Cafe Demel. The latter had a triangular seal with only one layer of apricot under the chocolate icing.

In honesty, the sachertorte was not as rich and moist as I had expected it to be. Perhaps I should be reminded that this was a recipe dating from 1832 hence it was a lot simpler and basic compared to our fancy modern pastry creations.

Still on the topic of confectionery, earlier we pop by Manner – a classic wafer snack originating from Vienna. Other than being widely sold in many supermarts, they also have their own boutique in a few major cities in Austria. In particular, there is a large store near St Stephen’s Cathedral.

The original Neapolitan Wafer was sandwiched with hazelnut-flavoured chocolate cream filling, but they have now expanded with a range of other flavours.

The pink packaging was pretty eye-catching. I even bought a metal box with the prints of the St Stephen’s Cathedral tile patterns on it. Taste-wise, I thought it was pretty similar to Loacker.

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Plachutta, Vienna

Vienna is one of my favourite cities in Europe and it is not a surprise that it took the title of the World’s most liveable city for ninth consecutive year (as at Mar 18). My impression of Vienna from my first visit a couple of years ago was the opulence and grandeur of the palaces, spacious and safe public spaces and an efficient transport system. We had no problem getting around speaking English. We only stayed for two nights on our previous visit and it felt that there are so many things to do that we should return again to explore more.

Having dined in Steirereck Restaurant (undoubtedly one of the best restaurant in the city), we now opted to try out more casual food establishments for a taste of other traditional Viennese cuisine. Amongst which, the one that caught my attention was their renowned meat specialty – boiled beef, or tafelspitz, which was Emperor Franz Joseph‘s favourite dish.

Shortlisted Plachutta as they have a number of branches in Vienna and we visited their flagship restaurant in the first district (Inner Stadt) which is a short walk away from the landmark St Stephen’s Cathedral.

The boiled beef is available in 13 different variety depending on the cut of meat. There is a short description for each variety such as lean and low fat or juicy part of the shoulder etc. along with a diagram of a cow on the menu to show where each cut comes from.

We chose the Tafelspitz world famous and the Gustostuckerl – three different pieces to choose lean or marbled, which I chose the marbled.

While waiting for our food to be served, the staff placed two warming trays on the table in preparation for the arrival of our two pots of boiled beef. First up was the Tafelspitz with one whole piece of rather lean meat was sitting inside the large copper saucepan filled with root vegetables and a piece of bone marrow. The waiter then scooped out the bouillon into our soup bowl which served as starter.

Frankly when I read that Tafelspitz is boiled beef, it didn’t sound appetizing. Afterall Asians often eat braised beef noodles which sounded much more flavourful than boiled beef.  At first sight, the light and clear soup looked plain. However we fell in love with the soup after taking a sip as it was packed with flavours of the beef and sweetness of the root vegetables after long hours of simmering.

The marbled Gustostuckerl had more tendons and looked more juicy.  Both the boiled beef were served with fried potato rosti.

Before tasting the meat, the instructions sheet showed that we should first spread the bone marrow onto the slice of toasted black bread and season with salt and pepper. So we did so dutifully. The rich beef bone marrow that is high in fat was an excellent spread over the crusty toast.

Here comes the highlight of the meal – the tender and almost melt-in-your-mouth beef. I was thinking smugly that I made the right choice to choose the marbled cut compared to the tafelspitz (rump) which was lean cut with little fat, which can make it less tender. To my surprise, when I tried the rump cut, it was equally tender.

By the end of our meal, the broth from one of the pots was all slurped up while another left with about 20%. It was our first proper eat out dinner after having humble home-cooked meals up on the ski slopes; and this was extremely satisfying and nourishing!

I certainly enjoy Tafelspitz more than the widely known Wiener Schnitzel.

Earlier Photos Taken:

Second time seeing the St Stephen’s Cathedral and still impressed by its colourful tiles on the roof.

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Café Hawelka, Vienna

Apfelstrudel and Sachertorte are probably the two most famous pastry representative of Austrian cuisine. We didn’t try any of these when we last visited Vienna in 2014 as we only planned a short 2 day stay back then. After ticking off our must-see attractions in our last visit, we had more leisure time to explore Vienna this time including trying out more Austrian food.

Having spent the afternoon on the train, we didn’t have a proper lunch. Our first stop after checking into our hotel was to visit Café Hawelka in the historic city centre for a light bite. The cafe was opened by Leopold Hawelka and his wife in 1939.  The building survived the bombardment during World War II and in the mid-1950s, Cafe Hawelka became a meeting place for many writers, musicians, artists and intellectuals. The cafe has a speciality, the Buchteln – a delicious sweet pastry made using the wife’s original recipe. It is now made by the son of Leopold. Considering that we would be having our dinner in 2 hours’ time, we decided to just try the Apfelstrudel.

There was no printed menu in the restaurant, the items are listed on a small chalk board hung on the wall. The apfelstrudel had a nice flaky skin with generous apple-raisin-filling wrapped inside. The nutty breadcrumbs greatly enhanced the texture of this pastry. I liked that this was not too sweet nor soggy.

Nostalgia was in the air once you enter through the door. The decor of this cafe was rather old-school but cosy. It felt as if you had walked into the set of Friends (sitcom). The living room liked hall was filled with striped velvet couch at the side and white round marble-top tables paired with dark mahogany chairs.  Although the cafe was situated right at the heart of the historic city centre, it didn’t feel touristy.

Other Photos Taken:

What a sight! Salzburg was covered in white snow on the day of our departure. The city sure looks different overnight. Here’s the comparison of Mirabell Garden.  Perhaps Hallstatt would also looked much more magical with the white carpet.

We took a stroll around the city to take in the sights of a snow covered Salzburg before catching the train to Vienna.

There are lots of miniature liqueur available in many souvenir shops in Salzburg. Picked out these 2.

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Cafe Konditorei Fürst, Salzburg

Other than being known as the shooting location of the classic film “The Sound of Music“, Salzburg is also famous for being the birthplace of prolific composer Mozart. If you ever had friends who visited Austria before, chances are they would have brought back some food souvenirs wrapped in gold foil emblazoned with Mozart’s portrait. The chocolate balls recognizable in the iconic red/gold colours are widely available everywhere in Austria as they are produced by industrial confectionery producers.  However at Cafe Konditorei Fürst – the creator of the “Original Salzburger Mozartkugel”, the sweet treat is still made by hand according to the original traditional recipe.

Instead of the commonly seen red/gold wrappers, the ones here are wrapped in blue/silver foil.

Although it’s also a cafe serving a range of pastries and confectionery with sit-down area, we only went in to purchase a packet of Mozartkugels (Mozart balls). They are made from marzipan and pistachio surrounded by nougat and dark chocolate.  Pictured above is the cross-sectional view of the chocolate ball, but you’ll be surprised to know that when I first unwrapped these round sweets I almost burst out laughing. Cos the round ball looked like a woman’s breast due to a protruding bud in the centre of the sphere – visit Fürst‘s website if it piqued your curiosity.

For practical reasons, we bought a few of the chocolate balls to try as we wanted to evaluate if we should shortlist this snack as a gift for friends/colleagues. We gave up on the idea not because it wasn’t tasty, rather the weight of the chocolate balls adds up quite significantly. Given that we have to hand-carry these chocolate, it would hinder our mobility for the rest of our trip (cos we are only mid-way through our holiday).

Other Photos Taken:

Although it’s our 2nd visit to Salzburg, there are new undiscovered areas which we explored on this trip. Such as this rewarding view during sunset after a steep climb up the hill where Kapuzinerkloster is located.

This was another view taken on one of the bridges spanning across the Salzach river linking the historic old town (Altstadt) with the city centre.

The key reason why we made a stop in Salzburg was to visit the town which rose to fame through Instagram, and touted to be the most enchanting fairytale places in Europe –Hallstatt.

From Salzburg, one can either take the bus (with 1 transfer) or the train (with a transfer to a boat ride) to reach Hallstatt. Both routes will take about 2.5 hours to reach the small town. So you would be spending 5 hours on the journey if you are making a day trip to Hallstatt from Salzburg. Of course you could also make it an overnight stay in Hallstatt – if you wish to be stuck in a boring old town (in Winter most shops are closed).

Almost everybody who alighted at the train station would board the same boat that takes us across the lake. Upon arrival at about 11.40am, we took a snapshot of the departure schedule for the boat ride.

The famed classic village viewpoint was a short 300m walk away after making a right turn from the ferry terminal. There is no need for a map – just follow the rest and you’ll get there. While walking along the tiny single lane road, it was obvious that the influx of visitors had caused much inconvenience to the local residents. Many of the doors had signage asking people to “Keep Your Volume Low”, “Private Property – Do Not Trespass” and “No Flying of Drones”. I can’t help but feel that perhaps I shouldn’t have made the visit…not because I don’t feel welcomed rather I felt bad that the residents were suffering and we were perpetuating the hype over a silly photo…

Maybe we went on a wrong day where the weather was not at its best; perhaps I had too high an expectation after seeing a ton of amazing photos on Instagram or after investing 2.5 hrs to get here, I hope to derive higher utility. In essence: I was disappointed because the postcard spot was less dreamy and less romantic in reality.

I was in dilemma while compiling the collage for Hallstatt. Should I apply heavy editing so that I can achieve the effect that others had posted? Or should I post what was the reality? I decided to post one (upper) with my usual edits and one (lower) which was what most people had expected me to see.

From the photospot, we walked back past the ferry terminal and towards the other end of the town.

Initially we planned to spend half a day here in Hallstatt, but we soon realised that there isn’t anything much to do here (Winter plus it’s a Sunday). We walked along the main street where most shops are closed except for some souvenir shops, until we reached the funicular railway station to go up to Hallstatt Walkway.  Looking at our watches, we may be able to catch the next ferry departing at 12.45pm across the lake if we hasten our pace to walk back to the terminal. If we missed this ferry, the next one would be at 2.15pm (1.5 hrs later). That was how we finished our 1 hour tour of Hallstatt after spending total of 5 hours travelling to and fro from Salzburg.

Kinda disappointed with the actual views I ended up buying these cards as consolation.

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Carpe Diem Finest Fingerfood, Salzburg

Carpe Diem Finest Fingerfood was already on our to-eat list when we visited Salzburg back in 2014. Unfortunately they were closed for renovation. Ironically this time round, they were open but the Red Bull World (a few units away) was closed for renovation… (>_<).

True to what many reviewers wrote on TA, the place reeks of cigarettes smoke smell cos it is an establishment that allowed smoking. Not sure about the fine-dining area upstairs (which was awarded 1-Michelin star) but the one at street level which is the fingerfood/bar kind that permits smoking.

Arriving in the late afternoon, the place was pretty packed. The only available seats were at the bar counter area. We observed that most folks were there for afternoon desserts.

Hungry after our trip, we ordered the 7-course menu to share. The light bites menu cost €60. I suppose it’s up to readers to decide if it’s worth the money for the series of light snacks.

Carpe Diem‘s concept of serving dishes inside of small cones was said to be the signature of the restaurant. So we kicked off our meal with their signature dish – Beef tartar with mashed potatoes & cress in a sancho-pepper-cone.  Definitely something instagram-worthy. This cost €6.50 if ordered by ala-carte.

Next we had Lettuce, kaki & quinoa. I can’t be certain but I think the “kaki” could be Japanese persimmon. This is a special salad dish which is packed with nutrition too. 

Next we had another two “cone” dishes – Prawn, crayfish espuma & fregola and Goose liver, truffle, chicory & cassis.  The crispy waffle cone with the chewy fregola pasta creates a nice texture whereas the other ‘cone’ comprised of creamy and smooth goose liver mousse.

First of the two main was Turbot, carrot & ginger while the second main was Small filet steak, artichoke & walnut crust. This is the first time I had a steak with a crunchy and nutty savoury crust, a unique way of cooking the steak.

We finished with desserts of Hazelnut, cranberry and brownie. Towards the end of the meal we can’t wait to leave the place as we’ve reached our tolerance limit of inhaling 2nd hand smoke, especially when the guest sitting next to us lit his cigarette.

So if you are a health-conscious goody two-shoes, avoid this place…it’s probably not worth risking your health for it…

Other Photos Taken:

Salzburg is 1.5 hrs train ride from Zell am See. The train ride was scenic and comfortable.

Salzburg was unexpectedly freezing when we arrived as news reported that the Siberian Bear cold front was coming in from Russia. Temperatures dipped to minus 12 degrees when the average should be around 0-1 degrees in normal winters.

Despite the sub-zero temperature, the sky was clear and sunny.

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Asteralm, Saalbach

On Day 3, we ventured out to Saalbach – which is a larger town than Hinterglemm with longer trails. The weather was the best so far as it was finally a bright and sunny day!  Unlike the previous two mountains where the gondola stops at the mid of the mountain, the gondola at Saalbach allows non-skiing guests to reach the peak. Unfortunately there isn’t any eatery up there, so once again injured man camped at the restaurant at the mid-way point.

The pros of this restaurant over the others that we’ve been to is – they got TV! They were televising live matches of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games. While we were having our lunch, there was a group of patriotic Uncles supporting the German ice hockey team.

Between Schnitzel and Sausage, my choice is clear. I think the sausages I had in Austria seems to taste better than the ones in Germany. And the ones here looked so pretty with the flower cuts~

Photos Taken Earlier:

The peak of this mountain happens to be a photospot. We were awed by the amazing view of the Alps around the area~

Most of the churches I’ve seen in the Swiss Alps and Austrian Alps region has a peculiar feature – onion-shaped domes. Only came to understand that these are Eastern Orthodox churches after checking them up from the internet.

Somehow I had craving for fish while up in the Alps. Managed to purchase frozen salmon from the supermart.

Another surprise find was this delicious Austria brand Felix Sour Cream Sauce! It was a random buy as I needed sour cream to go with Rosti for breakfast. But we fell in love with this awesome dip!

Our breakfasts – I rarely get to prepare such heavy breakfast in Singapore. Pleased to have the luxury of preparing nice breakfast while on holiday~ #homecookedbreakfasts

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Berggasthof Hochalm, Hinterglemm

For Day 2, we took a shuttle bus to explore another part of the ski resort. As per previous day, injured man need to find a spot to surf internet stay warm and enjoy the beer while waiting for me.

This rather retro-looking hut serves original Austrian delicacies, hence Schnitzel was a natural choice.

The portion was quite generous, with a heavy breakfast we could make do with sharing a single portion.

Talking about breakfast, we bought several packets of an Austrian drink – Lattella developed in the late 1970s. Although the pictures on the packaging seems idiot-proof, we mistaken Apricot for Peach flavour. The apricot turned out to be the most “unique” flavour amongst the 3 flavours that we bought. The other two being Strawberry and Mango. This local fruit drink made from whey actually tasted similar to fruit-flavoured yogurt drink.

Other Photos Taken:

Blissful life – Snowboarding in the morning and back to hotel for Rest & Relax at the end of the day.

Part of the reason why I prefer to stay in apartment is the kitchenette for us to do some cooking~ We usually prefer to stay in to wine & dine in the comfort of the apartment. =)

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