Vegetarian on Vacation
When Joe and I started planning our trip to Europe it wasn’t a honeymoon and it also included a few more stops. It’s amazing how fast things can change! While the original trip included a few days in Amsterdam we decided to spending more time in Austria and focus on day trips. Looking back it was the PERFECT decision, since it allowed us to change plans when the weather wasn’t cooperating. After searching thru a good dozen tour books at Barnes and Noble, I decided that Rick Steve’s series seemed to be the best fit for us with his large focus on walking and biking tours. I also appreciated the number of vegetarian restaurants he listed in his guide books, something frequently left out by many of the other tour guides. Looking at the list of options for Vienna, I was shocked by how much things had changed since my first BIG trip to Austria almost 10 years ago. At that time a request for a vegetarisch meal was meet with wide eyes and a brief moment of panic, and dinners that closely resembled breakfast. Needless to say I was thrilled to see that more and more restaurants are including vegetarian meals in their menu, and there are also a handful of vegetarian/vegan restaurants starting to pop up in the city.
While in Vienna, we went to two such vegetarian restaurants both of which included a Bio-Bar for a full veggie experience. The first place we went to was located near the Holocaust Memorial near St. Stephan’s in the heart of Vienna. The Bio Bar von Antun is located in a quiet square not so far from the hustle and bustle that is Stephanplatz, making it an ideal place for a leisurely meal. We went for lunch on a Sunday and ordered two of the daily specials. Joe enjoyed a stuffed potato dish with rosemary polenta and mushrooms, while I enjoyed marinated tofu served with asparagus and dumplings. The vegetables were amazing, and we later found out that everything was from gathered from a local market.
On our last day in Vienna we wondered down to the Naschmarkt where I indulged in some amazing sour cherries, before going on a hunt for lunch. After debating the dozens of pop-up restaurants at the market we decided to go wondering down Mariahilferstrasse instead. Upon the advice from our guide we looked down the side streets for a quieter place to eat and were eventually rewarded. Nice Rice is located down one of those side streets, right before you reach one of the many H&Ms. Originally we were heading to the Gasthaus located at the opening of the street but they had just stopped serving lunch. Seeing the bright green signs advertising Nice Rice, we continued down the alley in search of outdoor seating. While we weren’t able to find outdoor seating, we were able to get a seat indoors overlooking the alley. I set about translating the daily special menu while Joe looked over the standard menu, which included an English section. After confirming with our waitress that everything was peanut free, we decided to indulge in the three course lunch special of the day. Our meal started with an amazing root vegetable soup that was amazingly creamy for being dairy free. I was able to gather that leeks, carrots, and sweet potatoes were involved but I have a feeling that there were some other vegetables present as well. Our salad course was simple and delicious, featuring seasonal vegetables tossed with a simple balsamic vinaigrette. The main course was a true highlight of the trip, and one that I’m hoping to recreate this week. It featured rosemary polenta, topped with a layer of goat cheese, followed by a layer of lightly sauted eggplant before being topped with a dill yogurt sauce. Cherry tomatoes were also tossed in along with some arugula, which gave a nice crispy contrast to the rest of the dish. Everything about the dish reminded me of the Austrian meals I had before, to the point that I kept having to remind myself that it was vegetarian!
The rest of the trip I enjoyed some of the more standard vegetarian fares, noshing on käsespätzle, dumplings, and my favorite soup: knoblauchcremesuppen. I have tried recreating this garlic masterpiece more times than I care to admit, but have yet to get it close to the richness of the soup. I will be giving a try again shortly, and I’m hoping that maybe this time I’ll be able to figure out the secret to the richness of this incredible soup.
I’m not sure when we’ll be able to go back overseas, hopefully sooner than later since there is still so much of Austria I want to show Joe. I can only imagine how many more vegetarian restaurants will be in Austria by then, and I look forward to trying out as many of them as I can!