One of my most favourite foods in Vienna is the Wiener Würst. It’s just a long hot dog but it comes with wonderful spicy German mustard and even sometimes a bit of goulash.
This post is not about this kind of würst, however. This post is about a FUBAR* of the würst kind – where you flub something up awful-like.
What a wonderful celebration week this was, to mark the passage of another birthday.
We had our fabulous friend, Annabel with us for the weekend (one of the hottest we’ve seen since living in Slovakia).
Scott did a stellar job of cooking celebration dishes such as crab cakes, burgers and gumbo – braving 100F+ heat in the kitchen for the gumbo.
Both Annabel and I are nursing swollen ankles.
Hers is from a wholly legitimate tumble in the African bush – with subsequent surgery and physio rehab.
Mine is from a wholly illegitimate trip, with only a badly swollen ankle, painful as it is.
We girls sit under the umbrella in the back garden and sip on chilled pink sangria while Scott caters to his two lovely gimps.
He is wonderful.
Monday morning comes and it’s time for me to drive Annabel to Vienna for a last celebration dinner at Steiereck, before she returns to London and I meet up with my nephew, Alex, and his wife, Ashley who are in Europe for a few weeks. They will return with me to Chata Diviak.
We say our farewells to Scott and Sisi, and drive away to Vienna.
This is the first time I actually drive into the center of Vienna instead of leaving the car at the airport to finish the trip by taxi. Scott has braved the city center many times, successfully, but there are so many one way streets, street cars and unwary tourists, I’ve been uncomfortable with the thought.
This time I decide to give it a try, for two reasons: one, the newly opened Kempinski Vienna is a very easy in and out just off the main road. The second: I have a capable navigator sitting next to me.
The drive is a smashing success. Not one missed turn. And no smash-ups.
We step into the hotel – a palatial affair with a grand lobby. Very nicely uniformed valets and front desk staff. As we approach the check-in desk, I open my handbag.
To find it is missing a wallet.
My credit cards, my identity card, my driving license.
I have no cash, no proof of identity, no nothing.
Yes, this moment is a close encounter of the würst kind.
I am in a foreign country without a passport or national identity card.
I haven’t had this kind of feeling in my gut since I retired.
I’m in a fog and call Scott to ask him to find the wallet – I hope – at home.
Scott almost loses his temper. But he does find the wallet.
I am badly shaken. And close to tears.
Annabel immediately steps in and takes charge. She has both rooms transferred to her card and leads me along to the restaurant where we have a quiet lunch before our spa appointments.
Afterward, I limp along to the spa for a massage which does help me to relax and calm down.
Both of us want to enjoy our upcoming dinner at Steiereck tonight – we do not want this stupid gaffe of mine to ruin the evening.
We are not disappointed in our experience. We have the six course tasting menu with accompanying wines: young Marchfelder artichokes with cucumbers and poppy; Mountain trout with melon and etiolated pea shoots; pan fried ‘reinanke’ (another fish) from Hallstätter Lake; venison sous vide then roasted; three kinds of runny, smelly Epoisse cheese (yes! I did!)
You may have noticed a small card on the table near the dishes. Each course is delivered with a card containing the dish in detail. I don’t have to write it all down in my little book.
We finish off with a plate of flower blossoms, violet jelly and orange blossom ice cream, all of which has been spritzed with a bitter orange blossom 'perfume' from an old-fashioned perfume spritzer.
Back at the hotel, Annabel is wise enough to get us straight to our rooms rather than stop for a night-cap.
Morning see us toddle along to Demel on the Kohlmarkt just off the Graben.
Demel is a confectioner and bakery, a Vienna landmark for over 200 years. The Empress Elizabeth (Sisi) often called upon Mr. Demel to have him make cakes for her. He delivered them personally.
Annabel and I have a little bit of breakfast while we watch the masters at work.
This gives a whole new meaning to ‘sponge cake,’ wouldn't you say?
Back at the hotel, Annabel checks us out and we sit for a short while before she leaves for the airport.
We are pleasantly surprised that Alex and Ashley arrive hours earlier than expected. I am glad to be able to introduce Annabel to them and them to her.
We say farewell to Annabel, and Alex gamely agrees to drive us back to Slovakia, Bratislava and home.
He has his driver’s license with him. (wince)
On to Bratislava for the night.
Ah, my wonderful Kempinski River Park. They are expecting us and know all about my missing wallet (Scott has called ahead and explained everything) and say nothing at all, just smile and welcome us all.
We treat ourselves to a Rolls Royce ride into Old Town so that AZsquared (as Alex calls the two of them) can see a bit of our capital city.
Dinner is at eight, and what a wonderful surprise we have in store!
Executive chef Bjorn Juhnke has just introduced a new menu into the hotel’s fine dining room, Restaurant River Bank.
I had already planned to try the July menu that features chanterelles, but the new menu looks pretty terrific.
The restaurant is quiet, so Chef Bjorn comes out to talk about his new menu and we all decide to let him take charge and give us a bit of everything.
It is fantastic. Venison sous vide, smoked pike perch under glass, which is full of smoke (!); foie gras; lobster consumé with lobster ravioli; smoked eel; roast scallops; suckling pig . . .
Hotel Sommelier Ratislav Šutál brings us Slovak wines to accompany the dishes. Alex, Ashley and I trade plates around the table so we can taste everything.
What a great way to introduce our country to my family!
After we finish, our chef-host gives us a tour of the entire kitchen complex of the hotel – not only the restaurant kitchen, but the larger series of kitchens and pantries that span the entire hotel below the ground floor.
It is quite a walk – a good thing after all the eating.
The morning sees us at breakfast on the terrace – the weather is not too hot. Then we’re homeward bound, Alex again at the wheel.
He has the dubious honor to experience some of the nastier drivers on the highway, but we make it home safely.
Scott is glad to see us, and to reunite me with my wallet.
*FUBAR: an old army acronym, “effed up beyond all recognition”