On the recommendation of wpnewington, I spent a happy hour watching Rick Stein’s long weekend in Vienna (available here on BBC iPlayer). Arriving at Schwechat airport, Stein points out the Figlmüller sign for Wienerschnitzel and says how much he’s looking forward to eating one. And indeed, the schnitzel is the subject of his first culinary outing, but instead of finding a typical Viennese Beisl or Gasthaus, Stein chooses to sample the delights of the Imperial Hotel, as you do. And we hear no further mention of the Figlmüller again. I suspect the local guides recommended giving the FM a wide berth. First of all, it is now the go-to eatery of the coachloads of tourists that descend on Vienna. It always amuses me that when temperatures are in the minus zone and the snow and wind are whipping round the city, there are queues of shivering tourists standing on the pavement waiting to get into the “new” Figlmüller. Secondly, I believe the restaurant makes its schnitzel from pork, which is perfectly acceptable as a dish, but not really the original Wienerschnitzel.
When we first visited Vienna, we would occasionally pop into the original FM for a schnitzel. It is still there and certainly has a certain charm in an old-fashioned sort of way, but once it started becoming popular, diners were served with indecent haste, with the aperitif and main course arriving together, only ten seconds ahead of the bill. Figlmüller used to boast the largest schnitzel in Vienna, but then along came a restaurant chain called XXL … the clue is in the name.
As I continued to watch Stein’s long weekend, I became more sceptical that his researchers had not ventured beyond the first district, but as the programme unfolds, Stein does go further afield to find his eateries and drinkeries, which are much more interesting than the first district list of guidebook recommendations.
All in all, excellent entertainment for an hour and he pretty well captures the essence of Vienna in a nutshell.
But the programme got me thinking … if I had to do a long weekend in Vienna, what would be on my ‘to-do’ list? I’m going to start a separate section of the blog for things to do, see, eat and drink in my favourite city, but here’s something to be going on with. Following Rick Stein’s culinary lead, I’m starting with a recipe.
Schwarzwurzel (Salsify) Salad
Salsify isn’t something I’ve found in the UK – perhaps I haven’t been sufficiently diligent in my search – but it’s very popular in Vienna as an accompaniment to almost anything.
Take a bunch of salsify, peel it, chop into 2” chunks, pop it in water, add a squeeze of lemon juice and a teaspoonful of caraway seeds. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about twenty minutes, or until soft. Plunge into cold water. Mix with hollandaise sauce or mayonnaise. And if that all sounds like too much effort, you can buy it pre-cooked in tins, so just drain, then add sauce to taste.
Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall seems to be quite a fan, so if you’re bitten by the salsify bug, here’s a link to some River Cottage recipes.