I’ve only been to Austria once, but it only took one trip for me to fall head over heels in love with the country. It was teaching at the TBU conference that brought me to Innsbruck and then it was a post-conference press trip that took me to Tirol. When I left, after extending my stay once, I vowed I would return, and often. Life had other plans and I have not yet made it back. So when an invitation arrived to experience a bit of Austria here at home in NYC, I could not say no. It might not be as good as going to Austria but any taste is good enough for me.
And what a taste it was…
This is the invitation that I received in the mail, inviting me to #MyAustrianEvening on September 23rd at a loft in Red Hook, which is a part of Brooklyn. It is a real Sacher Torte all the way from the Hotel Sacher, in a beautiful wooden box that now holds my jewelry. Now that the torte is long gone!
If I had even considered saying no before I opened the box, I could not resist attending after I did so. TIP: ply me with dessert and I’ll do almost anything! *wink*
The Austrian Tourist Office went one step further and brought us to the venue in style, via car service. As my driver wound his way through Queens and Brooklyn, the city beginning to sparkle as only New York can during Golden Hour, I felt a small pang of longing for the image I carry in my mind of the way the setting sun illuminates the rooftops in the Old Town of Innsbruck. There is one building with a gold roof that is simply incredible to behold before and during sunset.
But I snapped back to the present when it was time to get out of my town car to accept a glass of sparkling wine from a woman in a dirndl and a man in lederhosen. Then I was escorted upstairs through a brick warehouse to a beautiful loft space with THIS view of New York harbor.
More sparkling wine, a few passed canapés, delightful conversation with our Austrian hosts and perhaps best of all to truly set the tone as if we were in fact in Austria: members of the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra there in the flesh performing select works by Mozart, Strauss and Schubert.
And then we sat down to a table laden with Austrian crystal, sunflowers and course after course of food that left me in a state of delirious happiness. It was one of the best dinners I have had in quite some time.
Our host said something in his toast to start dinner that not only rang true throughout the meal but also piqued my interest since it’s such a personal goal of mine. To eat fresh. He said that “Farm to Table is not a movement, it’s the way we grow up.” Sure enough, every course tasted as if every ingredient had been brought into existence moments before touching our plates. I was stunned. Though I love Schnitzel and Spätzle, they are a bit heavy and I once thought of those as being quintessential Austrian foods. Indicative of what one can expect across the board. In fact, they’re two small options in a sea of cuisine that is far more healthy, than it is not.
I DIED OVER EACH AND EVERY COURSE (Except the fish, because I’m allergic and so I actually would have died. But even that was so pretty I had to take a photo. And just look at that salad!!!!!!)
Our meal was created by Michelin-starred Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner of Wallsé, Café Sabarsky and Blaue Gans (all here in NYC). He is seen below on the left. Though I’d heard his name before I had never had the pleasure of dining at any of his restaurants. Now I will be doing so. What a talent!! And I now have his cookbook ‘Neue Cuisine’ which I will also be referencing often.
It was what the Austrian’s call “Gemütlichkeit.” This refers to the feeling of comfort and contentment that can be found when one is among friends in an atmosphere that lends itself to pleasant conversation and a good meal.
The atmosphere of the whole evening was so lovely that when it all wrapped up, I felt as if I was bursting back through a bubble and re-entering a very dimly lit world. As the car sped toward home, I replayed every moment in my mind again and again vowed to make my way to Austria. Soon.
Will it happen? Who knows…
The dinner I experienced with the Austrian Tourist Office in Red Hook, Brooklyn on September 23rd was complimentary but I was not paid to attend, nor to write about it here afterward. I am not receiving compensation to promote the contest, rather I am doing so of my own volition because I am that much a fan of Austria.