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

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 the Mozartbombe. Both include that recognizable pistachio green marzipan.

"Aida Vienna" by Original uploader was KF at en.wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia; transfer was stated to be made by User:Closedmouth.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aida_Vienna.JPG#/media/File:Aida_Vienna.JPG

“Aida Vienna” by KF via Wikimedia (Creative Commons)

The Mozarttorte at Café Aida doesn’t go overboard with the pistachio marzipan, it’s used as a layering element between two slabs of rich chocolate cake, and the whole thing is wrapped in a mocha ganache-like icing.

Aida is a chain but an old one: It’s been in business since 1913. They have 30 locations in Vienna, easily spotted by their pink neon signs. It’s tempting to dismiss them for their prevalence, but that does an injustice to their baking. Aida’s coffee isn’t the best in Austria, but their cake is quality, franchise or no.

At the Café Schwarzenberg, the specialty is the Mozartbombe. The Mozartbombe is on a chocolate base, similar to that of a Sachertorte, and it’s got chocolate cake between layers of pistachio whipped cream. The cake is dome shaped and covered in bright green marzipan. It’s gorgeous until you get your fork into it and then, it’s a delicious mess.

"Cafe-schwarzenberg-innen-viennaphoto-at" by Andreas Poeschek, viennaphoto.at - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 at via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cafe-schwarzenberg-innen-viennaphoto-at.jpg#/media/File:Cafe-schwarzenberg-innen-viennaphoto-at.jpg

Cafe Schwarzenberg by Andreas Poeschek, via Wikimedia (Creative Commons)

The Café Schwarzenberg opened in 1861 and there’s just one. The room has lofty ceilings and dark wood furniture and a pastry case right by the front door that features not just the Mozartbombe, but a variety of other fancy cakes too. The cafe is popular with tourists, but that doesn’t seem to keep the locals away. As a result, there’s a real international vibe, what with all the different languages floating around.

Mozart himself you can find three blocks away – the Vienna Opera House is just up the road – and while it is possible to hear his work, he remains silent on the issue of pistachios.

Top image: Mozart torte at Cafe Aida by Pam Mandel

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, baking gingerbread was the provenance of nuns and they found that a communion wafer kept the cookies from sticking to the pan.

This style of “lebkuchen” is translated more literally as “honey cake.” A similar batter is baked into little brick shapes, layered with jam, iced with chocolate, and topped with candied fruit. That configuration comes layered with nougat, too — ground nuts and chocolate and butter in an icing-like paste — or it might be layered with marzipan. The round cookie is a more traditional, it’s typically got an icing sugar glaze, though they do come coated in chocolate with colored sprinkles on top. They may or may not have raisins in them, but they’re always very sweet.

Bad Aussee is a pretty riverside town, very traditional, surrounded by glacier capped mountains. On the main highway, there’s a barn of a place with a giant sign that says “Ausseer Lebzelterei.” (Aussee is the region, and a lebzelterei is a gingerbread factory.) This place makes gingerbread right on site. Some days, you can look through he picture window just inside the front door and see bakers hard at work.

Gingerbread Apartment by Pam Mandel

Gingerbread Apartment by Pam Mandel

This particular gingerbread factory was founded in 1892 by the Hungarian trained pastry chef Gustav Lewandovsky. Lewandovsky stocked the baked goods at the spa in town. Victorian and Edwardian era European spa culture must have been considerably more indulgent than the yoga and juice fast situations those seeking revitalization put themselves through today.

The salon that still bears Lewandowsky’s name is lovely but it’s more fun to see the old gingerbread molds and  vintage packaging on display at the roadside stop. It’s also cool to see the machinery that was used as mass production methods came into place, the giant enamel mixers, the stacked baking ovens, and to have so many kinds of gingerbread to choose from.

It’s a roadside attraction kind of place, but the snacks are thousands of times better than anything you’d get at the World’s Largest Frying Pan or The Second Biggest Head of Abraham Lincoln. The only downside is that you may eat all of your souvenirs before you get them back home.

Top image: Bad Aussee Townscape 6/52 by Johannes Ornter via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Austria in 6 Cakes: The Kaiser’s Favorite Guglhupf

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. It was also common knowledge that Ms. Schratt greeted the Kaiser’s regular visits with a freshly baked guglhupf, or bundt cake.

Picture of a "guglehupf" cake.

Classic Guglhupf  via Wikimedia

If, heaven forbid, Ms. Schratt’s guglhupf failed to rise, she would order one from the Konditorei-Kaffee Zauner. The bakery claims to still use the original recipe — it includes four eggs yolks and fresh yeast. None of that dried quick rise stuff for the Kaiser, no sir. The guglhupf has a few variations — there’s yellow cake marbled with chocolate, or chocolate only, or sometimes, there are additions like berries or raisins. Typically, the finished cake is dusted with powdered sugar, but it might be glazed with a chocolate ganache.

Until the Kaiser made the guglhupf popular with the 1%, the cake was considered a bit low rent since it requires no spendy ingredients. Compare it with the snobbier Sachertorte which needs fancy chocolate, double cream, and apricot jam. The humble guglhupf is yeast, butter, flour, eggs, and milk. You can fancy it up, but you don’t have to.

The Pastry Case at the Zauner

The Pastry Case at the Zauner by Pam Mandel

The Zauner’s Pfarrgasse salon is a fine place to enjoy a slice of guglhupf if you don’t happen to have a paramour doing your baking. The cafe has been in Bad Ischl since 1832, before the Kaiser made it cool. The setting reflects the formal style of the Kaiser’s time — there are chandeliers and potted palms and portraits of royalty on the walls and the staff wear immaculate white shirts, but it’s not a stuffy place. People in their hiking gear (or ski clothes in winter) mix with ladies in furs and older gents wearing traditional Austrian attire. Zauner has a second location on the river esplanade — that one’s been restored to the original 1940s decor.

Regardless of where you get yours and in what style, it’s not just a slice of cake. It’s part of a royal tradition involving a Kaiser, a confidante, and cake for breakfast. You know, simple country pleasures, Austrian style.

Top image: Kaiservilla at Bad Ischl via Wikimedia

A holiday travel gift guide that doesn’t stink

Ed. Note: This time of year we see lots of gift guides, almost always filled entirely with free products that companies sent editors so that they’d be included in their gift guides.

Since all the stuff people offered to send us was rather lousy, we turned to someone who knows how to pick a good gift, my wife. Her gifting has become legendary, and not just because she once kidnapped me for a Tokyo escape on my 30th birthday (but that’s a pretty good example). She finds little things that others ignore, and pulls a package together in ways you can’t always imagine.

So in a move that combines both nepotism and public service, we turned to her for holiday travel gift guide advice. You last-minute shoppers can direct your thanks to her Twitter account.

–Jason Clampet

You’re making a list and checking it twice. Your peeps love to travel and you want to get them something awesome. But you don’t want to get them a passport holder or a yoga mat holder or anything that they will open and say, “Wow. Thanks… This is… Nice.”

So here is our very discerning pick of the best gifts to get people who love to travel.

Stocking Stuffers

Have a friend who’s totally stressed out. Give her a $9.95 month long subscription to Dave Romanelli’s “Meditate On.” The meditations are short, not overly New Age and full of Dave’s mellow, surfer vibe. Check out the sample, Meditate On Hawaii.

The New York Oyster Map

The New York Oyster Map

Food maps from All You Can Eat Press are limited to New York, but anyone who loves food would appreciate one of these in their stocking. No matter where you live, it’s worth it for the inspiration alone:

We love the:

Many things at Flight 001 are fantastic (even the passport holders we promised not to mention), but we like these little pouches with travel encouragement:

In our house, we can’t keep these En Route notecards in stock:

En Route Notecards

Illustrated En Route notecards.

The Aromatherapy Associates Mini Bath and Shower Oil Collection is great for travel. But it is also great for when no trip is on the agenda and you want to close the bathroom door and pretend like you’re at a Four Seasons.

Each mini vial is good for one shower or bath and the scents are: ontains Relax Light, Relax Deep, De-Stress Mind, De-Stress Muscle, Revive Morning, Revive Evening, Support Breathe, Support Equilibrium, Support Lavender and Peppermint

We especially like to order this from Net-A-Porter and get it wrapped in their beautiful signature black box with the grosgrain ribbon:

The Try the World food boxes send monthly selections from some of our favorite places like Paris and Istanbul. Their special holiday box includes 8 full-size items including Urbani white truffle oil from Italy, authentic Swedish gingerbread thins and Favarger heritage Swiss chocolate. Just the thing for the holidays when people drop by unexpectedly. Oh, do people not drop in unexpectedly at your house? Our bad.

One of our favorite cookbooks this year was Smoke and Pickles by Edward Lee. You can nab a signed copy at Gwyneth Paltrow’s website, GOOP for the very low price of$29.95.

Not a fan of the Gwyneth? Understand. But this is signed.

Gifts for Children

storybook-double-sleeping-bag

Let’s Go Adventuring double sleeping bag.

This is by far, above and beyond, our favorite book to give as a present to kids. Around the World with Mouk is the story of a French bear who goes around the world from Greece to Madagascar, from Burkina Faso to Bondi Beach. Mouk’s itinerary is inspiring for both little ones and grown-ups alike, the bear and the author, Bouvant, have both got mad travel game:

Another great book, Kiki and Coco in Paris, and the doll that inspired the book, a collectible, handmade, rag doll by artist Jess Brown. Both are available at Land of Nod:

We love a camper and this Jetaire play tent will be the starting point of dozens of imaginary trips, while a double sleeping bag will carry your little ones from the front porch to the back yard to points beyond. Let’s Go Adventuring? Yes, please, thank you.

Pricey Gifts

An Airline or Cruise Line Gift Card: Jet Blue recently discontinued their gift card service, but Delta has picked up the slack. They do both egift cards and physical gift cards with a fetching photo of a plane on it. Nothing says, “Come see me!” or “I miss you!” or “Go have an awesome adventure” like a gift card that can actually be applied to travel:

We are not ashamed to say that we love a good cruise. Having recently sailed Royal Caribbean’s newest Quantum of the Seas, we would be very happy to get even a $25. gift card from that line. We had the most delicious breakfast at Devinely Decadence, the healthy restaurant by Biggest Loser Chef Devin Alexander.

A Relais & Chateaux gift box.

A Relais & Chateaux gift box.

We loved the roller skating, the rock climbing and all the maxing and relaxing we did in the solarium. And dinner at Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italian was as good as some of the best meals we’ve ever had on land.

Royal Caribbean gift cards come in denominations of $25, $50, $100, $250 and $500.

Relais and Chateaux Gift Box: These gift boxes can be used for hotel stays, meals or a combination of both. They are pricey, but so worth it. (Note most of the hotels and restaurants are abroad so do read the fine print about these fine establishments.)

  • The Tasting Celebration Box, 249 Euros is good for a three or four curse dinner and a glass of wine or champagne for two at 196 restaurants around the world (although only one in the U.S., the White Barn Inn).
  • The Romantic Getaway (389 Euros) is good for an overnight stay, a 3 course-dinner for two and breakfast for two at 159 properties around the world.

… And Everything Else

hongkongglobe

A Globee Hong Kong city globe.

Globes can be cliché, these clever mini globes (some are also night lights and savings banks) are not.

For guys, you can’t go wrong with Paul Smith for printed laptop sleeves or the flight bag.

And while the Paul Smith Havana wash bag is supposedly for men, we think it makes a chic clutch for the chicas.

We get it. You love your Kindle. It’s so light. You’ve got a hundred books in your backpack and it’s light as air, yadda yadda yadda. We have two words for you: Juniper Books. They package collections of great books that look as visually stunning on the shelf as they are extraordinary to read.

A custom collection of Hemingway novels.

A custom collection of Hemingway novels.

More than ever, we travel via our plate. Gift the gourmand in your life with the World Spice Gift set. An amazing cookbook and 13 custom blended spices to whip it all up. Need convincing, check out this sneak peek recipe.

Veronica Chambers is the author of over 20 books for adults, young adults, and children, including the James Beard-award winning “Yes, Chef” and the memoir “Mama’s Girl.” She focuses on gifts at Gifty McGifty. 

Travel Links We Like for 12/12

We don’t like to think that collecting links to stories we liked this week is lazy blogging, we like to think it helps justify all the online reading we did while we were meant to be working on something else. We also like to think it will help you discover something you’ll like too.

So here’s our soon-to-be weekly roundup of Travel Links We Like.

Notable Travel Books of 2014, by Andrew McCarthy
McCarthy begins his roundup with the admission that travel writing is complicated these days: “in our Google Maps world, even once sleepy places like poor Provence have become hackneyed and played out.” He still manages to find five titles — three titles about exploring the world and two compilations of stories — to recommend. There are some familiar names in the roundup, including Gadling contributor Pico Iyer and former features editor Don George, who wrote and edited, respectively, two of the titles. Head down to your favorite independent bookstore and stuff your loved ones’ stockings with them.

Quantum of the Seas: The First Cruise Ship Built Specifically for Selfies, by Paul Brady
For a two-day cruise to nowhere, the Quantum of the Seas sailing out of New York in mid-November produced a surprising amount of good stories. From Scott Mayerowitz’ doubtful look at his prospects for finding joy on a mega-ship to the Verge’s video segment about the boat’s tech perks, this wasn’t your typical boat packed with freeloading hacks. Into the good pool jumps CNT’s Brady, who looks at the boat in context of the social media sharing trend that Royal Caribbean hopes the boat’s extensive tech will encourage amongst its passengers.

image1

An #cockpitview image uploaded to Instagram.

Have emotional support animals gone too far?, by Heather Poole
Everyone’s favorite literary flight attendant (with the exception of some grumpy avgeeks) has some measured thoughts about the many bogus emotional support animals airlines are being forced to deal with with a rising frequency. She tells tales (sorry) of roosters, pot-bellied pigs, and five first-class Spuds MacKenzies, as well as allergic passengers and miniature ponies. Short story: Flying is a zoo these days.

By the way, the answer to the question posed in the title is most certainly “Yes.”

The pilots of Instagram: beautiful views from the cockpit, violating rules of the air, by David Yanofsky
Quartz alerts us to a problem we didn’t know we had: Pilots that like Instagram as much as we do. The site monitored pilot-friendly hashtags on the social media network for six months to highlight the frequent snapping and uploading of pictures from cockpits, done largely when pilots are not permitted to snap pictures. The rules pilots operate under appear to be anachronistic at times — cameras are OK, but cameraphones in airplane mode are not — so there does appear to be a compelling reason to get some updated rules out there that can cut out distractions.

The top destinations of 2015: A new approach to listicles

Robert Reid is one of my favorite travel experts in print or in person, even if he rarely manages to ever stay true to the title of his “76-Second Travel Show.”

Last year he wrote a story for our big sister site Skift about the trends driving different publications’ picks for their respective 2014 top destinations lists. It boiled down to three main angles:

The most popular pick for editors is a place linked to a specific event, anniversary or news-related topic, like the World Cup or the 100th anniversary of WWI (almost half of the total). Next are secondary destinations that appear overdue for a shout-out (over a quarter of the total, including destinations like Nicaragua’s Little Corn Islands, or Puglia, Italy).

Last is almost destination-agnostic, lists of new hotel sites or tours to plan a trip around (25% of the picks, including all of AFAR’s list).

Yesterday he posted his pre-emptive list of top destinations for 2015 — but not really. Instead of a the typical smattering of unexpected locales, under-appreciated gems, and revarnished classics, Reid instead explained a more interesting approach to helping others figure out the top destination that may be just right for them.

Watch below for his three pieces of advice.

Top 10 destinations for expats in 2014

The list of popular expat destinations has long included Northern Europe and Switzerland, known for their happiness, famed healthcare programs, and exceptional quality of life.

These countries still retain some of the top spots, but this year the top expat destination belongs to a country in the opposite hemisphere: Ecuador.

The 2014 InterNations Expat Insider survey states that this South American country is becoming a hub for expats looking to take advantage of the financial benefits they can reap there.

Ecuador came in first on the personal finance and cost of living indexes, and it also ranks the highest of all surveyed countries for ease of making friends. About 82% of expats also said they find it easy to settle down and feel at home in Ecuador. The country also ranks first for personal happiness, and 42% of expats living there say the plan to stay “possibly forever.”

Rank Country
1 Ecuador
2 Luxembourg
3 Mexico
4 Switzerland
5 U.S.
6 Singapore
7 Spain
8 Philippines
9 Australia
10 Hong Kong

The top expat nationalities and countries of origin are the U.S. and UK, but English is not the official language for half of the top ten most popular countries for expats. And four of the top five have official languages other than English. Expats feel this is one downturn to living in Ecuador, for example, where a third of them said it’s difficult to live there without speaking Spanish. Still, another third said learning the language was easy, and English is still prevalent in most of the top countries where English isn’t the official language.

Ecuador is followed by Luxembourg, Mexico, Switzerland, and the U.S, with Luxembourg and Switzerland ranking high for quality of life and working abroad. Mexico ranks highest for ease of settling in, and the percentage of expats wanting to stay there forever at 44% is even higher than Ecuador. Roughly one in three people also said their relocation to Mexico is work-related.

For American expats, the top three countries they move to are Germany, Italy and China, and one-third of them are working, with 47% working in a manager-type role.

Sweepstakes: Experience the Future of Travel with an All-Expenses Paid Trip to NYC

Curious about what the future of travel will be like?

Working in the industry already and looking for inspiration? Thinking of launching your own startup? Enter to win an all-expenses paid trip to New York City for an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at some of the companies at the forefront of travel innovation today.

On day one of the tour, learn about the future of the hospitality experience firsthand by staying at the Gansevoort Park Avenue NYC, which has the first heated indoor/outdoor pool in NYC, a tri-level rooftop with striking views of the Empire State Building and Manhattan skyline, and a ground-floor trattoria, Asellina, offering Italian-inspired fare. Once your settled into your room, network with the Silicon-Alley based founders of HitList, AllTheRooms, and BonVoyaging, who are disrupting different areas of the travel industry. Afterwards, opt to unwind with a cocktail atop Gansevoort Park Rooftop or visit Exhale spa to give yourself time to brainstorm some ideas for your own startup.

On day two of your tour, attend the Skift Global Forum to understand the changing trends in travel across sectors, geographies, and functions in the travel industry. Learn from the Head of Global Hospitality at AirBnb, the former CEO of Virgin America and other top executives on what is shaping the future of the Travel industry.

Click here to enter a chance to win a Tour of the Future of Travel in NYC. One lucky winner will receive:

  • Free flight to NYC from anywhere in the continental US
  • Two (2) nights at the Gansevoort Park Avenue NYC
  • One (1) free ticket to Skift’s Global Forum covering the Future of Travel in NYC on October 9th, 2014
  • Exclusive access to four (4) travel startups located in NYC

Read sweepstakes rules here.

This is not a relaunch

We’ve made a few updates around here, but this is not the “new” Gadling. At least not yet.

The changes you see are all about moving Gadling from AOL to its new home at Skift. There are some links to Skift.com stories, which we think matter to Gadling readers because you’ve always had an interest in travel news, both on this site and elsewhere. But we know that’s not the real reason you come to Gadling.

You’ve come here for many years because you want to read about how people experience travel. That will return soon.

But right now we’re getting rid of the mountain of spam comments, the strange network ads, and the look that had seen few updates over the last five years. It’s designed to be simple, clear, and focused on the content.

We’ve kept the same tags and categories as before. And we’ve kept the same footer linking to other sites that we like. In this case a rotating cast of independent travel sites that have compelling content to offer.

So please stick with us through this transition, and know that a new-ish Gadling is on its way.

Skift Acquires Gadling Travel from AOL

It’s been quiet here for a while, but that’s about to change. I’m happy to announce that Gadling is becoming part of the Skift family.

You may have read about us in this Gadling interview when we launched nearly two years ago. Since then, Skift has become the largest travel industry news and information site in the world. Over the short two years of our existence, our brand has become the lingo in travel.

As AOL has decided to focus on MapQuest as the center of its travel strategy, it wanted to find a good home for Gadling.

That’s us.

Additionally, we’re excited to announce a partnership with MapQuest, leveraging their global mapping platform and collaborating on relevant content. MapQuest serves 40 million multi-platform users every month, providing directions, local search and discovery, and mapping solutions for everyday needs. “We love what Skift is doing and believe their work leads the market. We look forward to working with Skift to bring great travel content and services to consumers and the travel industry,” said Brian McMahon, general manager of MapQuest.

We will take over Gadling’s extensive online presence, from the website to its popular social media feeds, and continue to build it as an inspiration and news-you-can-use companion to the business-focused Skift site. We’ve long been fans of Gadling’s style of travel and writing and we’re happy to be stepping in now. Gadling will stay as is for a short bit while we tinker behind the scenes.

Stay tuned, we’re just getting started.