A picture perfect autumn day, bright blue sky with the sun shining and the snow topped Schneeberg mountain in the background. My husband and I decide to hop on our bicycles and travel the local bike path to see where it takes us. Our Maltese, Houdini, will of course be riding with me in my front basket! We picked up the trail in Breitenau, a little village south of Vienna and wind our way along the Schwarza River through the tiny towns of Loipersbach and Natschbach. Wonderful little villages with loads of European charm!
The Austrians take their bike paths quite seriously….there are several rest areas along the way with benches, drinking fountains and trash barrels. Most of the locals are very friendly and offer a cheery Guten Morgan (good morning) as we pass by.
We pedal about 18 kilometers and enter the slightly larger city of Neunkirchen where we come across an open cafe greeting us with their chalkboard specials. Sturm, the special Austrian “juice” is available now. Sturm is the early wine that is just at its “beginning” fermenting stage……fizzy, whitish and deceptively high in alcohol content, blue meanie mushroom potency it is a terrific “thirst” quencher! Of course, we had to go in! I may be bicycling on a beautiful fall day, but I do take my wine food pairing quite seriously…. work, work, work!
My husband secures the bikes and we enter the garden area of the gasthaus (cafe). The tables are placed throughout a lovely patio area that is filled with flowers and trees…..every table has potted ivy, checked tablecloth and a candle on it….SUPER! The Europeans always welcome both human and canine diners to their establishments and Houdini was quickly served a fresh bowl of water! Hey, what about us, we were the ones doing all the pedaling! Our waitress takes our order for Sturm, gives us menus and comments on what a good boy Houdini is to sit on a chair at the table minding his manners.
Fall is the season for wild mushrooms in Austria, in fact, many of the Gasthaus have them as special items on the menu….we decide to go with the Mushroom Special, a Szegediner goulasch and a pumpkin soup…..YIKES….I think are eyes are bigger than our stomaches!
The creamy pumpkin soup arrives first….garnished with chopped fresh chives, toasted pumpkin seeds and a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil, it is simply delish! Our first mug of sturm seems to have disappeared and we order another round….Houdini is still happy with his bowl of water! Several patrons stop by our table to chat and pet Houdini…he is quite the show stopper….my husband is Austrian, so of course he speaks German, but my german is poor at best and while he converses easily, I try to explain that Houdini and I only “sprechen English”!
Our main meal arrives and my mushrooms (Steinpilze) are piping hot……they have been dredged with bread crumbs and fried to a crisp golden brown…..inside the mushrooms are meaty and moist….this is served with a tangy sour cream chive dipping sauce…….YUM! I also have a traditional Austrian potato salad that is mouth watering. My husband’s goulasch is a tender beef concoction with saurkraut, potatoes and paprika….kind of Austrian does Hungarian goulasch! Houdini and my husband both think it is wonderful! Of course we need another Sturm to wash all this down! Now this is Wine Food Pairing at its absolute BEST! The sparkling Sturm pairs wonderfully with these tradtional Austrian dishes.