Wednesday, May 19, 2010

You Shall Be Missed

Over the months, I have grown to love Austrian breads, pastries and cakes.

The regular toast or sandwich breads readily available in Singapore are somewhat a rare sight here. In it's place are bread loaves which comes in a great variety such as white bread, wholemeal bread, sour dough bread(vollkorn), dark brown rye bread(schwarzbrot), muesli bread, yoghurt bread and many many more!

plain white semmel bread
vollkorn bread

The local's preference for cakes and pastries differs quite abit from Singaporean's as well. While different varieties of cheesecakes, tarts and thick chocolate cakes are usually spotted at cafes or bakeries in Singapore, quite a fair portion of pastries found in Austria are made with seasonal fruits like raspberries, blueberries, strawberries etc.
Another flavour not found in Singapore is the mohn cakes which are essentially poppy seed cakes. I really enjoyed it but sometimes, I can't help wondering if I really like the cake or whether I am simply 'addicted' to it.

A traditional local flavourite would be Schaumrolle. This is a very light pastry with puff pastry rolled to form a tube and the hollow in the center filled up with meringue (sugared whipped egg white). It can be quite a mess to bite into one but nevertheless, a hit during open-air events especially the annual Christmas markets.
The list is endless and I could sit here for hours blabbering away or I could go out right now and grab myself some tasty munchies before the shop closes for the day! :)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Villacher Brauhof

The Villacher Brauhof is the answer to Villach's prayer for their very own beer garden (biergarten). The restaurant is strategically located within the city center and the outdoor sitting area is normally jam packed with customers downing Maß (1-liter capacity beer mug) of beer during the warm Spring and Summer days.

On this windy day, most of the customers were seated indoors but this didn't dampen the mood one bit. Loud clinkings of the beer glasses could be heard distinctively throughout the restaurant and the mood, is definitely one of a buoyant and infectious nature.

We ordered two traditional Austrian main dishes: Giant frankfurter in gulasch sauce and Turkey Schnitzel.

The frankfurters were not really "giant" in size, just thin and long really. And I would have to admit that those sold along the roadsides or even vacuum-packed ones in the supermarkets tasted slightly better and crunchier to the bite. Ironically or not, I derived more pleasure from savouring the semmel dipped in the thick gulasch sauce.
The turkey schnitzel on the other hand was excellently done! It was not too huge a portion with a thin layer of cripsy batter coating the turkey fillet of just the right thickness! And it was non-oily to the bite!

Being the usual gluttons, we decided to order a small portion of Kaiserschmarrn as dessert after witnessing a little girl at a nearby table gobbled down hers in just minutes.

It was of the right sweetness and the small side serving of mixed fruit compote provided a refreshing cleanse to the palate from time-to-time. My favourite would have to be the small crispy pancake bits which kept me busy for a couple of minutes while I rummaged through the plate in search of.

Overall, it was a delectable lunch and I had already made an appointment to be back for yet another good Austrian dinner!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

MacDonald's Breakfast in Austria

Although MacDonald's is a well-known, world-wide fast food chain, the varieties in it's menu can vary quite vastly from countries to countries, with the differences in local food preferences.

To be honest, the breakfast menus served in Austria are rather unappetitising for me. However, with some recent additions to it's breakfast menu, I decided to give it a try.

starting front left, counter-clockwise: McToast, Sweet McGriddles and McCroissant

McToast was disappointingly thin and doner kebab-like except that the fillings consisted of melted cheese and ham slices.

Sweet McGriddles is not foreign to me since it was already launched some time back in Singapore. It is basically a thicker, sweet pancake. Not having tasted any in Singapore, I could only say that the ones here are ok but it would be nice if they could also launch the normal plain hotcakes.

McCroissant was also kind of disappointing too. It looked like a normal croissant and if not for The Hubby's effort to peel it open, I would have scolded him for being cheated by MacDonald's in bringing home a normal croissant! The fillings are the same as that in McToast.

So to sum things up, Singapore still serves the most appetising MacDonald's breakfast by far for me!

With Spring Comes...

The one thing I love about Spring is the transition of large barren lands to massive green plains dotted with blossoming wild flowers of every colours imaginable!

Such were the wonders of nature. And not to undermine the powers of humans, there were more varieties of floras at the local florists and gardeners who were kept busy with the endless stream of customers picking out cartful of greeneries, plants and flowers for their homes.

The garden at Mama's was no exception. After surviving the harsh winter, the garden seem all the more determined to welcome Spring with the addition of colours to it's rich soil. And so does Mama.

One part of the garden was set aside as a vegetable and herb plot while the remaining area was nicely decorated with plants and beautiful flowers.


Flowers from an apple tree

Spring also brings with it a steady supply of fresh fruits, our favourite being the big, juicy strawberries! Aside from being a healthy in-between meal munchie, the extra strawberries could go into the making of home-made marmalade which could be stored up to 6 months or more, to be enjoyed throughout the next winter.

And not forgetting the delightful, loud chirpings from the birds in Spring, ensuring their fair share of human audiences at 0500 sharp!

2-in-1 Birthday Cake

May is a busy month in the family, with two Taurus birthdays to be celebrated in Weisskirchen. Although it made the month of May a joyous one, however, for yours truly (the hopeless dessert glutton), it also meant that we'll be getting only ONE yummylicious cake from the baking expert - Tante Heli. *boo hoo*

This year, we got a Sacher Torte! Honestly, it tasted better than those sold at Sacher Café or Deml. It was chocolately yet not too sweet - simply P.E.R.F.E.C.T!

And everytime after tasting any cakes from Tanta Heli, it'll give me a boost of motivation to want to master the craft of cake baking. Do you think it's too late to add that to my New Year resolution?

The New Salzburger Mozartkugeln Minis By Mirabell

When in Salzburg, one must surely have purchased, tasted or seen the famous Mozartkugeln!

And to all Mozartkuglen fans out there, Mirabell has recently launched the new Mozartkugeln Minis! Nothing has changed except that it's available in a convenient, pop-in-the-mouth size even for the most petite ladies.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Nasi Lemak

Beware of the evil-looking green rice! Ohhh~

But it actually tastes quite the real deal! :)

I finally mustered the courage to "reproduce" nasi lemak in my little Austrian kitchen by substituting pandan leaves with pandan paste.

The rice cooking process was rather simple by substituting water with coconut milk, adding a dash of pandan paste for that pandan fragrance and a pinch of salt for taste. The rest of the job was basically done by the trustworthy rice cooker.

However, in my case, I was a tad too greedy and added in more pandan paste than required, resulting in the darker than necessary green rice. The rice was also a little bit burnt at the bottom of the rice cooker but nevertheless, burnt rice can be rather tasty too. I also left the rice to simmer a while longer in the cooker instead of serving it straight away which kind of made the rice taste better.

The rice was accompanied by fried egg slices, yummy chilli ikan billis (made by my mom), grilled chicken drumstick and stir-fried broccoli and carrots. Just some slices of cucumber would have been great accompaniment as well but it can be a challenge to find tasty, crunchy cucumbers in the local supermarket. Furthermore, the broccolis in the refrigerator were fast aging away so where better to store it than the stomach?

I would say it's considered a success for my first nasi lemak attempt and for those who couldn't get their hands on pandan leaves, a handy alternative would be to own a small bottle of pandan paste instead. :)

Happy Birthday To...Me....

Happy Birthday To Me~
Happy Birthday To Me~
Happy Birthday To Me...Me...Me...Me...Me~
Happy Birthday To ME!

I had a great birthday celebration this year with the most number of warm wishes received! As one ages, the importance of material gifts somehow diminishes over time and in it's place, gaining in importance, is the warm fuzzy feeling of having someone remembering my birthday and sending me a simple birthday wish. :)

And topping off this sense of emotional fulfilment with yummylicious food would certainly make it a near-perfect birthday experience!

The birthday dinner was held a day before at La Balance, a restaurant situated in the Balance Hotel near Wörthersee, which specialises in SPA and wellness facilities.

Dinner was a five-course meal with a starter, soup, 2 main courses and dessert. I was initially worried about the portion for each course since a single serving in a typical Austrian restaurant can be rather large and hence, it is not uncommon for me to order the kid's meal from time to time. However, on this evening, I was pleasantly surprised when I was presented with the starter. It was so nicely decorated and the portion was just R.I.G.H.T! The rest of the courses were equally elaborately decorated with matching crockeries and most importantly, they all tasted yum yum!

Starter - Variation von Räucherfischen mit Krenschaum und Gurkenspaghetti (Variations of smoked fish)

Soup - Fenchelschaumsuppe mit Knusprigem Garnelentartare (Fennel cream soup with crispy deep fried prawn wontan)

Main Course #01 - Gebratenes Forellenfilet auf Spargelrisotto (Fried trout fillet with aspharagus and risotto)

Main Course #02 - Duett vom millstätter Tauernlamm mit Ratatouille und Kartoffelgratin (Braised mutton and lamb rib chop with potato gratin)

Dessert - Das Beste vom Topfen und der Zwetschke (Variations of quark cheese)

Dessert #01 - Original topfen with plum sauce topping

Dessert #02 - Deep fried pastry with topfen fillings accompanied by plum dip

Dessert #03 - Caramel topfen with plum

If I have to choose a favourite amongst the courses, it would be a tough decision between the soup, braised lamb and caramel topfen! :P

At the end of the sumptuous meal, I was even proposed a toast by the hotel owner and presented with a small bottle of their homemade marmalade. Isn't that what personalised service is all about? :)

On the actual day, I was greeted with the pleasant sight of roses in the living room - thanks to dear Sebastian and THE hubby!

The day was spent relaxing and idling around town with 2 bratwursts from the Wurstkönig and takeaways of four nice-looking cake slices from Café Bernold.

Now, this is the P.E.R.F.E.C.T birthday experience for me! :)

Monday, May 3, 2010

HMV Stands For...

I have passed by The Heeren Shops along Orchard Road countless times and have even loosely termed the building HMV at times. But never once did I stop to ponder what HMV actually stands for.

It was only on a fine Sunday afternoon when Werner showed me his antique collection of gramaphone needles and records did I realised that the brand HMV actually translates to "His Master's Voice". And this is the famous logo of the fox terrier staring into a gramaphone!
To top it off, did you know that the needles used in the gramaphone needs to be disposed off after about 4 record plays? And that the volume of the record can be adjusted by using needles of different thickness and length? Thinner needle gives a softer volume while shorter needles were louder than longer ones.

Now we, or rather I, know! Cool eh?

On my next visit, Werner might be playing me some records from his own gramaphone! How exciting! :)

Light Lunch Along The Autobahn

On our way from Kärnten to Steiermark, we stopped by a restaurant along the autobahn (German for highway) for a quick grab at lunch.

It was a traditional Austrian restaurant and there were already quite a number of motorbikes parked outside when we arrived.

As we were rushing for time, I decided to go for soup and a simple salad.

Asparagus was in season, both the white and green version, and there was quite a long list of asparagus-themed dishes in the menu. I ordered the Spargel Cremesuppe (which simply translates to asparagus cream soup) to be accompanied by Gemischter Salat mit Putenstreifen (mixed salad with turkey strips).

Despite the simplicity of the dishes, it took the kitchen quite a while before I was served the soup. Nevertheless, the wait was worth while.

The soup was piping hot with melted cream and sprinkles of bread crumbs nicely soaking up the essence of the soup. Despite being a savoury dish, there was a slight tinge of sweetness in it which I'm guessing was due to the asparagus.
The salad had a generous serving of grilled turkey strips atop a plate of nicely laid out corn, carrot strips, cucumber slices, green salad, potato salad and beans dribbled in yoghurt dressing. The dish would have been perfect if not for the turkey strips which were a little on the salty end.
An hour or so later, I managed to waddle out of the restaurant, into the car - once again hitting the autobahn.