18 August 2010

On the road again!

Ok we're heading back on the road, so the Blog might be neglected for a while. Kelly is off to NY and I am off to India and Nepal...stay tuned for fresh updates the first week of September!

13 August 2010

Reason #132 to Love Vienna

The Naschmarkt. In the running for My favorite place in Vienna. More than three long blocks of farmers' markets and eateries.

One aisle is all cafés. Plenty of outdoor seating. Great people watching spot.

There is no better place to sit and read the paper over a cup of coffee in the morning, but the place also bustles at lunchtime and comes alive at night with a chilled-out, dj-spinning, beautiful-people vibe. With a range of options from Asian to Turkish to Austrian cuisines, it's impossible to get bored. There are fancy seafood restaurants next to take-away kabob windows. Wine pubs, schnitzel shops and the best hummus I've ever tasted.

And if that's not enough for you, feast your eyes on this...


...and this...

I mean, seriously, there are acres of fresh produce here...

...and these are just the fruits I'm showing you!!

Wanna make a salad with some of your fresh greens? You might want to stop at the vinegar shop. Look at all those flavors!! Makes the mouth water, doesn't it?

There are nuts and dried fruit and these little cones of sweets that look like semi-precious stones. What's that? You're more of a savory type?

No worries. Roasted sweet peppers filled with sheep's cheese? Yeah, they got that. Kalamata olives stuffed with garlic? Uh-huh. Prosciutto wrapped figs stuffed with almonds? Yup.

The Naschmarkt has fresh, handmade pastas...

...a great selection of cured meats, fresh meats from the butcher a few counters down...

...and every spice, herb and seasoning known to man.

From the mundane to the exotic, this place is a hausfrau's dream. And we haven't even covered the fresh baked breads and the flower stalls! But alas, I think I have used my weekly quota of the word "fresh" in this post so I will leave you with one thought...

This hausfrau is going to the Naschmarkt for breakfast & a shop tomorrow morning.


10 August 2010

Cooking Across the Sea - part deux

Welcome folks to the second installment of Cooking Across the Sea brought to you by your two favorite Shirls. Sadly, this will likely be the final episode as Vienna Shirl is stateside bound in ten short days.

But once I'm settled in Texas we'll start working on a new series "Cross Country Cooking." Catchy, right?

Fans of this blog (all 5 of you) might remember the first installment, titled BEFORE! AFTER! Just like last time, NYC Shirl was intrigued by a recipe on the Smitten Kitchen website and sent me the link. And once again, we both cooked the same dish within 24 hours of each other. It's eerie how well-synced we are.

The dish? Scalloped tomatoes with croutons. Sounds delish, right? And perfect for summer's yummy and plentiful tomatoes. The ingredient list had me from hello. Tomatoes, crusty french bread, fresh basil, garlic and parmesan cheese (+ olive oil, sugar, salt & pepper.)

You can find NYC Shirl's beautiful creation here. Of course, her blog features the BEFORE! AFTER! aspect. I mean, after all, we are Shirls. This shit just comes naturally.



I paired mine with marinated-then-grilled chicken breasts. It was a good combo. A fun and pretty dish to create (I especially liked the NYC addition of yellow tomatoes for beauty.) But two out of two Shirls agree: if these ingredients are good quality, we'd prefer them without all the interference. A little bruschetta with chopped tomato, garlic and basil on that crusty french bread would have hit the spot with much less work (and much less hot oven effect.)

Still, I might make it again if I had company, it was good looking and yummy. Find the recipe here next time you're having someone over.


09 August 2010

A great Vienna weekend

Ok, so with only 2 more weeks left in Vienna, Kelly & I decided we needed to get out this weekend and jam pack it full of Vienna stuff.

We started out on Saturday mid-day by walking downtown in the old city, with a particular Italian restaurant in mind for lunch. Kelly has been there once with a friend of hers and said it was excellent.

We had some beef carpaccio with garlic bread as an appetizer, and then a quatrro formaggio pizza.......delicious.

Unfortunately Saturday was a bit rainy, so it was nice to camp out, drink some wine and laugh our asses off.

Kelly laughing her ass off.
After lunch, we walked through the old city some more, until the rain picked up...then we hopped on the subway and went to?...you guessed it, Gary & Inge's

It was a quiet day at the pub, so we got to sit and talk with Inge for a good long while. When I was in England (and Kelly was in Paris) we missed Inge's 70th birthday party...so we promised to come back next week to celebrate.

Next stop was the movies. We saw Inception starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It was very good and a good way to escape the rain.

After the movie we stopped at Starbucks for coffee-to-go and walked down to the Rathaus (City Hall).

They have a bunch of bars and eateries setup in the summer outside the Rathaus AND have a free outdoor cinema...but on this rainy Saturday evening they had a special treat showing on the big screen.

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra playing a bunch of Austrian favorites.

After a while we walked back through the Hofburg and made our way home...a good day indeed.

On Sunday, the weather was beautiful...perfect even. We headed out to the Prater, a large public park formerly the royal hunting grounds, which is only about 20 minutes from our house. Its a great place to walk around...and its ginormous (20 times the size of Central Park) but we went there to eat at the Schweizerhaus.

The Schweizerhaus (Swiss House) is the place to eat in the Prater. There has been a restaurant here since 1907 and actually has nothing to do with Switzerland. There used to be a Swiss dairy nearby and in the time of the emperors, Switzerland had been, for centuries, associated with opulence and sophisticated gastronomy.

They serve all sorts of delicious (and overpriced) food, but its also all about the atmosphere. They have a huge beer garden, divided and named after parts of the city. On a nice day, its a great place to hang out.
They are also famous for one particular dish, Stelze. Depending on who you ask, its either a ham hock, a pork knuckle or a shin shank....either way its a giant crispy skinned, juicy, fatty, hunk of pork rubbed with coarse salt and served with horseradish and mustard. Yummmmmmm.

I looked it up. I think its a ham hock.

So as if that wasn't enough for a great Sunday....there's more!

Our friends and Richi & Anita called us and asked if we want to go for dinner and drinks at Schloss Neugebäude! So after a brief stop (and nap) at home, we hopped on the train to Simmering.

Schloss Neugebäude is a castle built in the 1560's on the spot where the Sultan Sulyeman had his tent during the Siege of Vienna in the 1530's.
These days in the summers, it has...you guessed it, a beer garden, small eateries and an outdoor cinema.

We had a few drinks, some food and relaxed.

A great ending to a wonderful Viennese weekend.

06 August 2010

M, M & K do P

Good evening ladies and gents, you're tuned in to the third and final installment of M&M come to Europe in which our heroines travel to Paris, France to sample the cheese, drink lemony beer (panaché en Francais) and wander the streets. Regular readers may recall that the girls traveled from Austria to Switzerland and now are rounding out their ten day tour in Paris....

Our arrival coincided with Bastille Day (observe le tricolore flying everywhere) and also with a massive rainstorm. But after seven days of walking, hiking, eating, drinking & playing with children in the heat, we were happy for a chance to take it easy.
We ate our first meal (and drank our first wine and panachés) at a brasserie just around the corner from our charming little hotel in the Marais neighborhood. I had to share my salad with Mademoiselle Ladybug but I didn't mind. She was very gracious and said "Merci beaucoup."

Then the day cleared up nicely, just in time for a late afternoon cruise down the Seine...

...and a stroll past some of Paris's sites. Three European capitals in ten days equals a lot of ground to cover. We three agreed before we even reached Paris that we couldn't see all the city has to offer so we wouldn't kill ourselves trying. It made for loosely planned days, a relaxed attitude and possibly getting lost once or twice (oops!!)

But don't think that means we just lazed away each day eating cheese in cafés (though there was plenty of that.) We also conquered The Metro.

Admired Miss Eiffel in the daylight, and as she sparkled at night.

I think all ladies sparkle in the Paris moonlight.

We also indulged in a little nostalgia and retraced some of Moira's steps from her last trip to Paris with her parents (our aunt & uncle) about twenty years ago. It made us all feel a little bit closer to two people we love and miss. Warm fuzzies - Parisian style.

And speaking of warm fuzzies, Monsieur Le Chat said bon jour to us while we wandered in Saint-Germain-des-Pres.

We spent a few hours wandering Montmartre, here are the girls in front of Sacré Coeur.

When you stroll around Paris at night, you see she really earns her nickname The City of Light.

Day or night, she's a pretty city (who apparently inspires me to try and be Ansel Adams with my little point & shoot Canon on sepia setting.)

But the best photographer of the trip was the waitress at dinner on our last night. Aren't we lovely?

And that, my dear people, ends the saga of M,M & K in Europe. It was an amazing ten days spent showing off some of my favorite places to some of my favorite people. We were downright pooped by the end and ready to go home for some wine-free downtime. Which I think is a sign of a well-planned and well-executed holiday. An even better sign? After a few days rest we all three agreed (via email) that we were good and rested up and ready for another ten days. I wish!!

I love you M & M, thanks for the good times.


02 August 2010

Wachsteinfest in the Waldviertl

We were very lucky that before we left Austria we got a chance to go to the Waldviertl (Forest Quarter).

Kelly in the woods...looking for elves.

Our good friends Richi & Anita were going up to Traunstein where Anita's family have a summer home and for this weekend's Wachsteinfest.

Traunstein is smack dab in the middle of nowhere about 2 hours drive from Vienna. Its a sleepy little village surrounded by farmland and woods...but they have a secret.

They like to party.

They like to have big parties.
Very, very big parties!

Since winter is very rough up in the Waldviertl, during the summer they have a series of Fests, every other week or so. Up to 4,000 people come from around the area and hang out in their special party zone in the woods. Its pretty freakin' cool.

They have bands.
...and maybe 10 bars scattered throughout the hillside, some built right into the rock.
They have 100's of picnic tables scattered about up and down the hill, tucked away behind rocks and wherever they could find level or semi-level ground.
Kelly & Richi
It was a great time for sure...but it wasn't just about the Party in the Woods.

Walkin around the country
We had all day and good weather on Saturday to walk around the beautiful countryside.

Cool, quiet....dark...very Lords of the Ring-ish.
Coffee & homemade cakes at Anita's parents house.
At the end of the day, we went to Anita's parents house for some delicious homemade apricot cake and coffee, then had a nice nap....after the nap?


Its always nice visiting a place when you have locals to show you around...and feed you!

It was truly a perfect weekend getaway.

Before leaving on Sunday, we went back into the woods for lunch. During the daytime, they have traditional music and food. Its understandably mobbed with people. What a great way to spend a Sunday with the family.

A very special thanks to Anita, Richi & Anita's parents for being so generous and welcoming us to their little corner of Austria.