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FOOD & DRINK

Ash Wednesday treats for the hard of herring

The Local's food writer and consultant chef, Gaz Smith, looks into your best options for the start of Heringsschmaus on Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday treats for the hard of herring
Photo: Gaz Smith
Look, I´m not gonna lie, going head to head with all the other Austrian food traditions, like crispy golden goose, sweet, potent sturm, earthy asparagus and pungent wild garlic, pickled raw fish isn´t exactly leading the pack.
 
Right ? Wrong!
 
At this time of year, you can passive aggressively poke the Catholic church in the eye and thoroughly enjoy eating this delicacy. Like most great dishes, it started as a peasant’s food, but has now firmly staked its claim as one of the most respected festival dishes going, and it’s good for you too (if you ignore the calories and focus on the omega fatty oils and vitamins.)
 
I´ve been converted, and it’s about knowing where to go, and in a landlocked country, it ain’t easy knowing where to go, and if you get a bad one, you´re not going to rush back for seconds.
 
Another great thing, and perhaps most importantly, is that the locals constantly recommend it as a great hangover cure : Salt, Fish, Mayo, Bread and Schnapps, what could go wrong?
 
My fish supplier, Lisa, tells me that it’s getting more popular every year, and that it signifies the first of the 40 day fasting period we know as Lent, which means Austrians can “Fressen & Saufen” for the last time without the guilt of meat.
 
The days of seeing it as a form of punishment are long gone and it has become one of the highlights of the culinary year.
 
I know from experience that the restaurants offering the biggest choice are not necessary the best options.  We tried a few places which were recommended by my fellow chef friends, and then we went fishing for the best.
 
Peter Neurath, owner of Tancredi, was recommended by a good few people as a great place to start, and his restaurant is where other chefs go to eat on their days off.
 
So we went to ask him, and, like a gentleman, he demonstrated it for us in three ways:  the classic herring with granny smith apples, beetroot and horseradish, another version with apples, celery and spring onion and a third option with curried aioli, apples and spring onion. 
 
All three were delicious, and cured me of the few pints the night before — the locals are right!
 
Restaurant Tancredi, Große Neugassse 5 / Eingang Rubensgasse 2, 
1040 Wien (www.tancredi.at)
 
Other notable suggestions were
 
Bernhauers, Pfeilgasse 2, 1080 Wien (http://www.bernhauers.at)
 
Meixners gastwirtschaft Buchengasse 64, 1100, Wien (www.meixners-gastwirtschaft.at/)
 
Amon, Schlacthausgasse 13, 1030, Wien (www.amon.at)
 
Schreiners gastwirtschaft, Westbahnstrasse 42. 1070, Wien (www.schreiners.cc)
 
Well that’s me sorted for Ash Wednesday, and now I just have to pretend that Lent doesn’t exist.
 
Mahlzeit !
 
Gaz Smith is head chef at popular Irish restaurant and pub O’Connors.

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FOOD & DRINK

Hugo, Almdudler and Radler: 5 drinks to try in Austria this summer

It is easier to face the summer heat with a proper cold drink in your hands. Austrians know that well and have created (or made popular) several delicious alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Here are five you should try.

Hugo, Almdudler and Radler: 5 drinks to try in Austria this summer

The debate of which is the perfect summer drink is undoubtedly a very controversial one.

While many people would argue that nothing can beat the Italian Aperol Spritz (which is also very popular in Austria), some would rather stay with a simple cold beer.

If you are team Spritz, then you should know that Austria has a love for things g’spritzt, with their own versions of sparkling drinks (with or without alcohol). However, for those who prefer a beer, the alpine country is home to several famous brands, including the Styrian Gösser, the Viennese Ottakringer, and Stiegl, from Salzburg.

READ ALSO: Five Austrian destinations you can reach by train to escape the heat

In any case, when living or visiting a new country, it’s always fun to try out the traditional dishes and, in this case, beverages.

Here are five drinks you should try during the Austrian summer.

Hugo drink summer drink austria

Hugo is a very popular (and sweet) summer drink in Austria (Photo by Greta Farnedi on Unsplash)

Hugo

Some say this is the Austrian answer to the Aperol Spritz, but its sweetness from the elderflower syrup makes it quite different from the bitter bright orange Aperol.

There is also a bit of controversy as to where this drink, which Austrians love to drink during a nice summer afternoon, originates.

Internationally, it seems to be widely accepted that this alcoholic aperitif comes from South Tyrol, a German-speaking region of Italy with deep Austrian roots. Ask any Austrian, though, and they will tell that just proves the drink is from Austria.

READ ALSO: Eight ways to talk about the heat like a true Austrian

Italian or Austrian, the sweet drink is made with prosecco, elderflower syrup, seltzer and mint leaves. Serve it with lots of ice in a large glass, and you have a perfect summer drink.

white wine drinks party

Mix your white wine with sparkling water and you get a refreshing gespritzt (Photo by Matthieu Joannon on Unsplash)

weiß gespritzt

This is extremely popular, relatively cheap even in fancy restaurants, and somewhat controversial, but take some white wine and add a little sparkling water (sometimes ice) and you get a weiß gespritzt, or a g’spritzter.

READ ALSO: The best Austrian wineries to visit this summer

Not everyone appreciates mixing your wine with water, but it makes for a refreshing and lighter drink. In Austrian restaurants, you might be asked whether you want a summer gespritzt, which means it has higher water content and, therefore, is lighter, or a “normal” one.

It is by no means an Austrian drink, and you may have to ask for a Weinschorle instead of a Gespritzter in Germany, but it is a popular drink in the German world.

gösser radler drink

Austrian brands sell some of the most popular Radlers in Europe (Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash)

Radler

A Radler is another drink that though not from Austria, is extremely popular here. Not only that but some of the most popular Radlers are sold by Austrian brands.

Traditionally, all you need to make a Radler is to mix beer and lemonade. However, the drink is also found bottled and sold by beer companies such as Gösser and Ottakringer. The mix has also expanded and you can discover Radlers with a citrus or berry mix.

READ ALSO: Austrian old folks toast success of ‘Grandma and Grandpa’ beer

It is a lighter and sweeter beer, perfect for enjoying the summer with a fresh drink that is not so alcoholic.

Mixing apple juice and sparkling water creates a perfect non-alcoholic summer drink. (Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP)

Apfelspritz

Following the Austrian love for adding sparkling water to drinks, a very common and non-alcoholic beverage is the Apfelspritz.

It is a mix of apple juice and (you guessed it) sparkling water. It is popular in Biergarten as a non-alcoholic alternative, with kids joining in on toasts with their apple and soda mix.

The drink is also very common in Germany (where it is known as Apfelschorle), Switzerland and Hungary.

READ ALSO: Cash and Schnapps: A guide to visiting pubs and cafes in Austria

almdualer gerhard schilling

Almdudler’s CEO Gerhard Schilling holds a bottle of the traditional Austrian drink (© Philipp Lipiarski)

Almdudler

Another option for a summer light and non-alcoholic drink is the Almdudler, which is technically the name of the Austrian brand that sells the famous carbonated soft drink.

The drink is a blend of 32 “natural alpine herbs, beet sugar and soda water”, according to the website. It has a very distinctive logo and can be found in almost all Austrian households – being one of the most popular beverages in the country.

Did we forget about your favourite summer drink? Then let us know in the comments below or send us an email at [email protected]

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