Visiting friends – a report by Markus Andexer
Easter Monday marked the end of the winter season at the GROSSARLER HOF. We had a great winter, with incredible days of skiing under clear blue skies and the best possible snow conditions. It’s difficult to get used to the sudden eerie quiet around the hotel. It’s as if the entire area is in a deep sleep. Most hotels and restaurants are closed, and renovation and maintenance work is in full swing all over the Grossarl Valley, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that time stands still and we put our feet up for a few weeks. Now is the time to start thinking about the upcoming summer season, the next winter season and beyond – and to mix business with pleasure. A culinary trip to Burgenland and Styria was the ideal change of scenery.
So we made our way east. The first scheduled stop was in Upper Styria: dinner at the Steirereck am Pogusch in Turnau. If you’re looking for authentic, award-winning inn-style cooking, you won’t be disappointed: a fabulous experience! On Thursdays, the restaurant’s motto is ‘it’s what’s inside that counts’, with a menu dedicated to all things offal. We were powerless to resist and ordered the homemade black pudding and the fried lamb’s liver. At the Steirereck, you can be confident that the preparation of these specialities is absolutely faultless. The wine list, or rather the lack of it, is another a highlight. You simply head down to the wine cellar and pluck a bottle off the shelf. The approach is uncomplicated, yet incredibly professional. A visit to Pogusch for lunch or dinner is always worthwhile. We will definitely be back.
Burgenland was Friday’s destination. Lake Neusiedl, to be exact. Our friend Leo Hillinger invited us to share a special culinary event: in late April each year, he hosts an asparagus dinner at his vineyard. Around 100 guests arrived at 6pm, just in time for aperitifs. Leo greeted his guests in his trademark laid-back manner, and invited them to sit for dinner, as he was ‘absolutely ravenous’. A delightful four-course asparagus menu followed, paired with Hillinger’s wines. There was musical entertainment too: live music by Hocky & Sister made the party go with a swing. A highpoint of the evening was the fashion show by VOI fesch, the fashion brand with a social conscience. VOI is an association that promotes art of people with disabilities, and VOI fesch is their first project. Seeing the designers’ joy as they presented their work was wonderful, and the roaring applause at the end of the show kept going for a long time.
Our long weekend wasn’t just about good food and wine; we also made use of the bikes we had brought from home to get a little exercise. So, at 8am the next morning, we set off from Weiden am See. As a convoy of four, we headed through the Leithaberg region towards Bruck an der Leitha, Parndorf and so on… Our morning ride lasted around two hours before Leo had to get back to the vineyard for a meeting.
We then left Lake Neusiedl See and headed further into central Burgenland. Our next stop was to visit winemaker friends in Deutschkreutz and Kleinmutschen. We arrived at the Pfneisl winery at 3.30pm. We could hardly have had a warmer welcome, with corks popping and sparkling wine glasses being filled faster than we could keep up. The atmosphere was brilliant as we, Angelika, Gerhard and Lisa Pfneisl were joined by some of the GROSSARLER HOF’s favourite regulars. Then came the wine tasting. Gerhard and Lisa proudly presented the wines from their latest vintage while Angelika prepared a delicious meal.
What’s a Sunday without a lavish lunch? That’s exactly what we thought, so we tucked into seven courses at Saziani Stubn at the Neumeister winery. Head chef Harald Irka is a mere 25 years old, but he amazed us with his creations. Chef Anna Neumeister gave us a tour of the wine cellar, and then showed us the beautiful herb garden. Everything was fresh and homemade, as we could tell by the delicious smells and tastes.
We spent the final evening of our trip at the Ratscher Landhaus in Ratsch an der Weinstrasse. Michaela and Andreas Muster realised their dream of running their own hotel and restaurant around eight years ago. We watched the sun set from the cosy terrace with – what else – a glass of Styrian Sauvignon Blanc. And it wouldn’t have been a trip to Styria without fried chicken, salad and pumpkin seed oil for dinner. I first met Andi Muster in Chicago and we have since become close friends, visiting each other in Styria and Grossarl respectively.
Before we headed homeward, we called on another friend, Wolfgang Maitz, at his winery. Wolfgang showed us his current vintages and put together a fantastic tasting package for us to take home. His daughter Sissy attracts all of the attention, of course. No matter how good the wine tastes, you can’t help but be mesmerised by the cute little 18-month-old toddler. It’s hard to say goodbye, but there’s plenty of work waiting for us at home. Brimming with new ideas for our kitchen and wine cellar, we set off on our return journey…