Austria comes to New York: wine and food pairing at Wallse

I have a new favorite restaurant in New York, and it is called Wallse. Located one block from the Hudson Promenade at 344 W. 11th Street, this ambient venue puts a modern twist on classical Viennese dishes, all within a dimly lit space that could also be classified as an art gallery, with contemporary pieces from artists like Julian Schnabel and Albert Oehlen on display.

On Tuesday, I was invited to an Austria Gala Dinner held at this restaurant, which included mingling, learning about tourism in Austria, and, best of all, wine and food pairing. Upon arrival, guests were offered glasses of sparkling wine as well as hors d’oeurves like wienerschnitzel and tuna tartare. After networking and meeting people from Austria’s tourism industry, guests sat at arranged seats to begin a wine and food pairing.

The first course included a choice of local market greens with spicy radishes and pumpkinseed oil or spätzle with braised rabbit, wild mushrooms, and sweet corn. I chose the second option, which was paired with a sweet white wine called Neuberger-Tinhof 2008. From talking to the Austrians at my table, I learned that spätzle is basically a type of soft noodle. The meat was tender and mixed with the sweetness of the corn was a perfect combination. Not only was the starter course delicious, but the servers never allowed anyone’s wine glass to be empty for less than a second.For the second course, the choices were between a pan seared brook trout with roasted cauliflower, almonds and raisins or boiled Kavalierspitz with root vegetables and apple horseradish. Once again, I chose the second option, purely based on the fact that I had no idea what it was and love being surprised by ethnic foods. This dish was paired with a red wine that reminded me of Shiraz and was called Blaufraenkisch-Markowitsch 2009. I learned that Kavalierspitz basically means boiled beef, and mixed with the apple horseradish, which reminded me of apple sauce, was definitely an interesting flavor.

For the desert course, the options were between Salzburger Nockerl with huckleberries and sorbet or Schokoladentorte with salted caramel ice cream and whiskey sabayon. Despite the fact that everyone at my table ordered the Salzburger Nockerl, including all the Austrians who kept insisting that it was their favorite desert of all time, I ordered the Schokoladentorte, just to be different and also to see what it looked like. This course was paired with a desert wine that was much lighter than the desert wines I am used to sampling in Long Island, New York, yet still sweet, called Auslese-Kracher 2009. When the deserts came out, I instantly regretted not getting the Salzburger Nockerl. Not only was it much bigger than my desert, it looked so interesting, especially the texture. Made with egg whites, eggs, sugar, flour, and custard sauce (which is what I was told by my dinner companions), the desert looked like crispy yet soft mounds of sweetness. Luckily, the man next to me let me try his, or I probably would have cried, because it was incredible. Not too sweet, but very satisfying.

If you’re interested in learning more about Wallse and Viennese fare, click here. Want to plan a visit to Austria for yourself? Click here.