Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Attempt at Being Austrian

As I mentioned in my post on an Austrian Christmas, I attempted to make Gluehwine and Austrian Christmas cookies. The Austrian cookies came out decent, the Gluehwine, not so much.

Given the Gluehwine recipe was so simple I thought it'd be easy.

1 Bottle of quality red win
1 Cup of water
1 Lemon
1 Orange cubed and placed in the pot
1 Cinnamon stick
3 Cloves

Bring all to a boil and serve.

I'm not sure what I did wrong, but something just wasn't right. Neither myself nor my boss found this to be drinkable, let alone enjoyable... it tasted as if it needed some sugar, perhaps, to counteract the lemon juice.

Then on to the cookies, Vanilla Crescents:

1 cup (225 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (115 grams) vanilla sugar, plus extra for dusting
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup (170 grams) ground almonds
2 cups (220 grams) all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together. Add the eggs and vanilla until incorporated. Add the ground almonds and flour. Beat until soft and smooth.

Roll dough into a large ball, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400F (200 C) and line a standard baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove dough from fridge. Cut dough into 1 cm wide pieces, roll and form crescents.

Bake cookies for about 10 -12 minutes or until light brown on the bottom. Immediately remove to a rack to cool for 5 minutes.

While cookies are still warm, sprinkle vanilla sugar on top. Cool cookies completely on a rack.

The one issue I ran in to was the fact the sugar was labeled "vanilla sugar." What in the world is vanilla sugar? I've heard of table sugar and granulated sugar and confectionery sugar and BROWN sugar... but no vanilla sugar. So I guessed. I picked up a bag or confectionery sugar and hoped for the best.

I must admit that I don't think that's what the recipe was talking about because the cookies resembled that of donuts as they were sizzling in the oven (or perhaps that was the two sticks of butter.) In the end, they did come out pretty well, no complaints from the several people that tried them.

Overall I think this proved one thing: I am not a master chef. However, while I did not get the opportunity to participate in a real Austrian Christmas, it was nice to try the traditional wine and food of the country with which I've become so involved recently.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

An Austrian Christmas

Working so closely with the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, I'm extremely interested in their culture and traditions. Given the season, I contacted a friend of mine at the Austrian Trade Commission and asked about her traditions.

In Austria, Christmas Eve is the biggest day of the holiday. The tree is decorated on this day, not weeks ahead like it tends to be here and the majority of people attend a religious mass in the afternoon.

Once the families return home, the children eagerly await Chirstkind (baby Jesus,) not Santa Claus, who brings the presents to the children. [There has recently been a lot of debate around the Austrian acceptance of Santa Claus as this concept is believed to have been created by Coca-Cola in the 1950's, but that's a story for another day.]

Once the children have been alerted Christkind has come and gone, everyone gathers around a tree adorned with lit red candles and sparkling ornaments. The family usually will then sing a few carols, read from the bible, pray and THEN open their presents. Quite different from the children of the US who wake their parents up at 4am to open their presents (or at least that's how we did it in my house.)

After all of the presents have been opened, the adults and children gather around the table, share some Austrian Sekt and then they feast! Their meals consists of Foie Gras, a light Italian salad of chopped potatoes, carrots, peas and pickles with mayo, ham & garlic bread dipped in horseradish, Gebackener Karpfen (Fried Carp), turkey, goose and/or fresh fish from the river.

For dessert, weinhachtsbackerei which are Austrian Christmas cookies and they drink Gleuhwine which is Austria's version of spiced wine. Both of which I made last night to share with the office today. The cookies came out okay, the Gleuhwine, not so much.

Overall, a traditional Austrian Christmas sounds absolutely delightful. Reading the story, I could not help but smile. Special thanks to miss Stephanie Artner for sharing this with me :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Win a 7 day, 6 night trip to Austria's Wine & Food Country!

The Austrian Travel Office is hosting a contest from now until January 15th for a 7 day, 6 night trip to Austria focusing on Wine & Food; Art, Architecture & Design; Nature, Outdoors & the Alps; or Classical Music & History - you can choose your adventure!

To enter, just log on to Facebook and become a fan of the Austria. Official Travel Info page. From there, click the contest link on the Facebook page, fill out a short questionnaire and you're on your way!

The trip includes round trip airfare for two from JFK to Austria and hotel accommodations for 7 days, 6 nights.

For additional entries, fans simply have to Tweet about Austria using the hashtag: #itsgottobeaustria.

The winner will be selected via a random drawing in the middle of February. The winner will be notified by February 17th through Facebook messaging.

For more information on Austrian travel, visit their official website.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Nine Cheers for Austrian Dessert Wines!

Recently, Austria was awarded 9 of the ten top spots in the International Sweet Wine Competition, Concorso Internazional di vin Passiti organized by the Academia Della Muffa Nobile a.k.a. the Italian "Botrytis Academy" all of whose board members are part of the Italian Sommelier Society.

Although the Austrian wine were part of the 585 pool of contestants from every wine-making region of the world, their superior quality shown through.

Five different wine makers were honored in this competition: Erwin Tinhof, Franz Heiss (Winemonger), Weingut Elfenhof (Schlossadler), Hans & Christine Nittnaus (Wine Bauer) and Martin Pasler (Winemonger).

It's no wonder the Austrians did so well in the competition - after all, they've been making wine for thousands of years. Although the US market is still just beginning to become familiar with Austrian wines, there is no doubt that these dessert wines are of high quality.

Truth be told, I love a good, sticky dessert wine from just about anywhere, but the Austrians seem to have a knack for it unlike anyone else. These wines aren't overly sweet. Instead, they are perfectly balanced and delightful.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tasting Away with Emerald Wines

Friday afternoons are Austrian Wine tasting days around these parts and the past two weeks have been quite a treat!
(sorry for the delayed posting, it's been quite busy around here lately!)

First, the Szigeti Gruner Veltliner. Although we had the chance to taste this at the Spit & Twit event on Nov. 8th at City Winery, we felt it deserved a second tasting where we were able to devote our full attention to the wine. Pale lemon in color with fine bubbles the yeasty bouquet of the wine also had subtle hints of apple. On the palate, the light fizz enhanced the interesting touch of golden honey and sweet golden apple not necessarily expected from a Gruner Veltliner. This wine is made in the traditional method but totes a much more modest price. At $17-$24 retail, this is quite a value!

Later in the evening, I paired the Szigeti with baked lemon-cod, a light salad, ovened red potato wedges, some good company and Christmas decorating and it was truly delightful!

That same day, we also tasted the Fred Loimer Riesling Langenlois Terrassen, 2008. Pale lemon color with a bouquet of green apple and stone fruits. Hints of melon and lemon also come through on the nose. On the palate, this wine shows incredible acidity with notes of apricot and green apple enhanced by lemon citrus. Quite delicious! The remaining contents of this wine were enjoyed by my car floor, unfortunately, so I wasn't able to pair it with anything!

Both these wines are imported by Emerald Wines, a division of Winebow.