Austria in 6 (or More) Cakes: The Pistachio Problem

Mozart torte at Cafe Aida by Pam Mandel

Mozart torte at Cafe Aida by Pam Mandel

For reasons that are hard to track down, the Mozart Kugel – Austria’s famous Mozart Ball chocolate – is filled with pistachio marzipan. Theory: Mozart made several journeys to Italy as a young man and while there, he became fond of pistachios which were commonly used in Italian desserts.

But.

The pistachio has been in trade since biblical times; it was a highly valued crop. So it’s also possible that pistachio is more random choice that relies on the nut’s identity as a luxury item – we’ll use pistachio because it’s fancy! Mozart is fancy! So, Mozart equals pistachio!

Maybe. Maybe not.

It’s not just about chocolates, it’s also about cake. There are two front runners in the Mozart-something cakes race, the Mozarttorte and …

Austria in 6 Cakes: Gingerbread Translated, Twice

“Lebkuchen” gets translated from German as “gingerbread,” but that’s not quite right. The word “gingerbread” sets expectations for it being the kind of stuff you’d build a house out of, though that variety does get used in edible architecture.

There are also those ubiquitous gingerbread hearts, decorated in icing sugar with your sweetheart’s name and a swooping script that says “Ich liebe dich” — I love you —  or maybe just “Greetings from this twee Germanic town.”

The stuff used to deliver messages or act as culinary sheetrock is all fine and well. But more interesting is a cakey sort of cookie packed with honey and spices and baked on top of what’s essentially a communion wafer — in much earlier days, …

Austria in 6 Cakes: The Kaiser’s Favorite Guglhupf

The Kaiser's Villa, Bad Ishcl

The Kaiser's Villa, Bad Ishcl

The Austrian town of Bad Ischl hit the spa scene in the early 19th century, but it became the Next Big Destination when Kaiser Franz Josef started using the location as his summer retreat. When Vienna’s weather became too oppressive in the summer time, the Kaiser and all his hangers on would pull up stakes for the cooler alpine climes of Austria’s Salzkammergut. The Kaiser’s entourage included his companion, the actress Katharina Schratt.

It’s said there was a secret path between the Kaiser’s summer place and Villa Schratt, the country home the Kaiser purchased for his lady friend. It can’t have been so secret if morning Kaiser sightings made the phrase, “Oh, the Kaiser’s had his guglhupf!” part of the vernacular. …

And the Winner of Sound of Music Live Is…

Mirabell Gardens, Salzburg
Jasper180969 via Flickr

Last night’s live production of The Sound of Music on NBC got more flak than Maria did for being an unsolvable problem nun. The acting was bad, the costumes St. Pauli-esque and the mountains… gasp! They were fake!

But there was one winner in last night’s performance: the city of Salzburg, Austria. Home of the Von Trapps, setting of the original movie and now site of thousands of Edelweiss-blasting tour buses and gazebo-worshipping 16-going-on-17-year-olds, Salzburg enjoyed a flurry of love last night.Some viewers reminisced about past visits to the Austrian city (and the nearby lake district):

Many were eager to show off their inner Maria:

For some, it inspired new interest in traveling to Austria:

Others piped in from Salzburg, where the Sound of Music is apparently still a hot jam after almost 50 years:

There was also the inevitable “there’s more to do in Salzburg than the Sound of Music”:

And finally, more Sound of Music Live bashing — this time in defense of the real place:

So while Carrie Underwood and Vampire Bill may not be winning Emmys, it was a good night for the beautiful city of Salzburg. Which by the way does have more to offer than the Sound of Music, including a wonderful Christmas Market, which is open right now.

Read Lou Reed’s European Travel Diary

LouReed.com

Rock icon Lou Reed died yesterday. The former frontman for the Velvet Underground was 71. He’d undergone a liver transplant earlier this year.

Upon news of Reed’s death, The New Yorker unlocked access to “Diary by Lou Reed: The Aches and Pains of Touring,” which it published in 1996.

In the piece, Reed chronicles 10 days on the road, talking about stints in Lintz, Antibes and Prague, and lost luggage, lengthy layovers and exploding shampoo bottles. The similarities between Reed’s travels though and your last European visit ends there: Reed was hanging out with David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Vaclav Havel.

The Passing Of Music Legend Lou Reed