Spreading Austrian Delights
Food, much like wine and travel, brings people from around the world together and fosters a sense of community and tradition. Whether dining as we travel or cooking from our own homes, we can delve into culture and history by exploring local cuisines and regional dishes.
This month, Wine Tourist Magazine, is pleased to bring you the first in a monthly series of food related articles. We’ll explore regional cuisines and locally treasured recipes as we tour the globe on our wine adventures.
This month we begin our exploration in the country of Austria, our featured Wine Tourist region of the month. I know when I think of Austria, idyllic villages surrounded by snowcapped peaks reminiscent of The Sound of Music, instantly come to mind. I imagine sipping a Viennese coffee in a traditional Wiener Kaffeehaus while listening to the classical stylings of Mozart, Schubert or Hadyn; or perhaps dining on Wiener Schnitzel, Apfelstrudel and Mozartkugeln, while enjoying a Grüner Veltliner.
Once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Austria’s traditional cuisine is largely influenced by its neighbors including Germany, Hungary, Italy, Bohemia and the Balkans. You’ll find main courses such as Tafelspitz (boiled veal), Gulash, and Knödel (dumplings), and of course an abundance of side dishes featuring root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, turnips, parsnips and beet root. Austrian desserts also abound including the Sachre Torte, Linzer Torte, and Salzburger Nockerl. A culinary tour of Austria will indeed leave you satisfied.
The most difficult aspect of composing this column is “where to start?” With so many tempting options, it’s difficult to narrow it down to one recipe! However, the moment I stumbled upon this month’s selection, I knew it was kismet. Have you heard of a Heurige? Or perhaps a Buschenschank? Depending upon whether you’re in Eastern or Southern Austria, the Heuriger and Buschenschank are local, seasonal wine taverns.
The term Heuriger means “of this year” and refers to young wines of the current vintage. In 1784, Emperor Joseph II decreed all residents were permitted to sell and serve self-produced wine, juices and goods; enter the Heuriger. As a result many of these Austrian wine taverns open, typically for two to three weeks, after the growing season in the fall to sell the winemakers’ young wines. Prior to the 20th century, most Heuriger did not serve food to the guests, but rather people brought picnics with which to enjoy the wine and live music. Today, many traditional Heuriger also offer a limited food selection to their patrons.
Visitors to Eastern or Southern Austria will find a plethora of Heuriger catering to international tourists year-round. The term Heuriger was not protected and as such many taverns and restaurants use the terminology to apply liberally to non-traditional establishments offering a wider variety of items (beer and coffee), or wine which may not be self-produced. The word Buschenschank, however, was protected and as such applies only to the traditional seasonal taverns still self-producing and sharing their wares with the community. Both traditional Heuriger and Buschenschank can be found throughout Austria, and will offer visitors the treasured experience of enjoying young wine, simple fare and live music with friends and family.
Among the more popular and common dishes served at Austrian wine taverns are the spreads, including Liptauer. Liptauer is a paprika spiced cheese spread named for the Slovakian region of Liptau. The spread is served with bread, crackers, pretzels or bagels and is a combination of cheeses, spices and seasonings. The variation on recipes is nearly as extensive as those for chocolate chip cookies. Each Heuriger, chef, family and friend has a unique version of Liptauer, but all feature the beautifully, vibrant and orange colored spice, paprika.
Paprika is a spice derived from dried chili peppers, and Hungary is the largest producer of paprika which is offered in a variety of grades from sweet to strong. It is used to both color and season dishes, as in Liptauer. Cheese is also a main ingredient to all Liptauer recipes, but can vary from Quark, Bryndza (a sheep milk cheese), cream cheese, cottage cheese or goat cheese. The remaining ingredients are subject to taste and can include mustard, beer, anchovies, capers, pickles, Worcestershire sauce, chives, caraway seeds, sour cream, onions or crème fraiche. Discovering your preferred blend can be an easy, fun and delicious trial and error process and we’ll get you started!
- 2 shallots
- 4 mini gherkin pickles (or cornichons)
- 1 T capers
- 2 t paprika
- 1 T chives, plus 2 t for topping, chopped
- 2 t caraway seeds
- 1 to 2 t salt (to taste)
- Liptauer Crostini – recipe makes approximately 96 crostini
- 1 loaf thinly sliced rye bread (with or without caraway seeds)
- 1/2 c olive oil
- 10 oz. goat cheese
- 4 T butter
- 4 T sour cream
- 1 T beer mustard
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Cut the rye bread slices into quarters. Brush each quarter with olive oil and place on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until dry and crunchy.
- Combine the goat cheese, butter, sour cream and mustard into a food processor and pulse until creamed together. Next add the shallot, pickles and capers and pulse until combined.
- Transfer the dip from the food processor to a mixing bowl. Then fold the paprika, chives, caraway seeds and salt into the dip.
- When the crostini is done baking, remove from the oven and spread each with Liptauer dip (spread 10-15 minutes before serving so bread remains crisp). Sprinkle chopped chives over each and serve. Unused Liptauer can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days.
In the recipe shared here, we use goat cheese and a sweet Hungarian paprika. We also use a beer mustard found at our local market. The result was a sweet, salty and tangy spread that paired delightfully with the crunchy rye crostini. I am now looking forward to further experimentation including a version with a spicy smoked paprika. I also want to combine Liptauer with hard-boiled eggs for an Austrian spin on a deviled egg. It’s an easy spread with many possibilities, and it’s perfect for sharing and pairing with wine.
As the grape growing season comes to a close, and fall is upon us, perhaps you will have the opportunity to visit an Austrian Heuriger or Buschenschank, dip a few crackers in Liptauer, sip a local winemaker’s wine and listen to live music. Or, maybe like us, you can create the experience of Heuriger from the comforts of home – pour a glass of wine, snack on Liptauer crostini, put on some tunes and share the company of family and friends. Either way, it’s an Austrian experience that will enliven the senses and satisfy the palate. How will you serve Liptauer and spread the pleasures of the Heuriger? Prost!