Monday, August 16, 2010

An Austrian Celebration

This year, my father celebrated his 60th birthday. Since he is the definitive "man who has everything," we decided to make him an old school dinner as a tribute to his Austrian heritage. (My great-grandmother, Karoline, was born in Vienna; as a young teen, she migrated to the U.S. where she worked as a professional cook!) Of course, when I think of Viennese cooking, I think of breakfast pastries (they invented the croissant), intricate tortes, and schnitzel. So, the choice of Sacher Torte for dessert was a given. But how exactly does one incorporate the fresh gulf catch of the day into a menu based on the cuisine of a small, landlocked European nation? Turns out that lightly poached fish topped with a cucumber sour cream sauce was the perfect choice! Check out the rest below...

Pretzel rolls from 1994 issue of Bon chewy and salty.

Ben's luxurious snapper bisque -- a high note of the meal, made even more surreal by the soothing sounds of Vienna's finest composers.

An old-school throwback of German-style potato salad.

Spinach souffle seemed a logical choice given the German name - Spinatauflauf Karoline! The recipe came from Gourmet magazine's hardback publication of "Old Vienna Cookbook" -- another vintage keeper!

The main course of poached snapper.

The famous Sacher Torte - named after a hotel in Vienna, it is a light chocolate cake, filled with apricot jam, and glazed with ganache. It's sinful when topped with whipped cream.

The final touch of the evening was the genuine silver coffee service. An extremely tarnished coffee urn was polished to reveal the United Airlines logo! It appears to be a retro pot from the 1970s, used for service in the first class cabin. The rest of the set came from a 25th anniversary gift to Ben's parents. Note the whipped cream (or "schlag") -- a worthwhile indulgence that takes coffee to another level! Happy Birthday, Dad! Hope you enjoyed the gastronomic virtual trip to the mother land!

(Mom - thanks for taking the photos while we cooked!)


  1. awesome job! and a big thanks to everyone that worked to make this a very special bday celebration! except for the sound of the gulf of mexico lapping up below our balcony you would have thought we were back in Vienna!