Tag Archives: travel

Road Food Part One: Austrian Airlines and DO&CO

DH and I have been on the road for two weeks.

One one hand, it’s super fun to be out of the house for awhile. Seeing new places and exploring new cultures is really awesome. But on the other hand, those of us who often prefer our OWN restaurant (i.e. eating our own cooking), putting ourselves in the exclusive culinary care of a higher power can be fearsome!

The beginning of almost every trip I go on is always somehow a cluster f* of time-evaporation, bungled packing schemes, and “Oh gosh! I forgot my (fill in the blank)…” I never fail to fantasize that I will be all set to go and have 20 minutes to eat before I have to be out the door. Note I said…”fantasize.”

Which leads to the specific topic of this post: airplane food.

Austrian Air now allows passengers to pre-order specialty onboard meals. A company called DO&CO provides this service, and also handles food service to myriad high profile events including Formula 1. They just established a new hotel in Vienna’s first district that is describes itself as an “architecturally adventurous and sybaritic hotel experience in downtown Vienna.” While I wouldn’t describe the catering choices we experienced as “adventureous,” I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and consistency of what we got for our 15Euros per meal. 

On our short flights to and from Switzerland, I preordered a Caesar’s Salad, while DH ordered the authentic Wiener Schnitzel.

Image Here’s the Schnitzel…it really looked and tasted great!

Image  Here’s the Caesar Salad…

Each meal was served with a classic Viennese assortment of fresh, fragrant rolls that were both tasty and super warm, and the desserts that accompanied each were yummy and well-presented. The Caesar came with a sort of spongecake wafer topped by a multi-layered fan of sliced strawberries and creme fraiche.  The Schnitzel came with a sort of chocolate custard/mousse. I must admit waking up the next day thinking about those berries!

We pooled our rolls and used the ingredients of both meals to make little schnitzel-wiches. Why? Well, the biggest challenge the meal presented was the presentation of the salad. While all of the little dishes fit perfectly on the tray — totally engineered for complete modular assembly — I don’t think anyone ever tried to eat this meal on an economy class tray table. The problem? Cutting!

The romaine, as shown above, is served as entire leaves, rolled tightly, then cleverly wrapped with a thin slice of grilled zucchini. The chicken pieces, tomato slices, and hearty chunks of parm surround the crossed lettuce. Looks great but is totally annoying to cut every bite on a wobbly tray table. Without a stable surface or elbow room, I just gave up. We ended up tearing the undressed rolled leaves into the necessary sandwich-size bits and digging in. Washed down with lovely crisp Austrian Gruner Veltliner, our modification hit the spot AND occupied most of our 1hr15min flights to and from Switzerland. It’s food AND an activity!

Best thing? Was great to know that dinner (outbound) and lunch (inbound) were taken care of and that we did not need to mess with finding time on the front end of travel to eat. Nor did we have to fret that our hotel’s restaurant would be closed by the time we arrived. Thumbs up, Austrian! 

Note that domestically within the US, United Airlines has been offering onboard meals for purchase for at least 3 years now. The offerings are very consistent, yet often are only snacks depending on length of flight AND availability. Being able to pre-order a specific hot meal would sure be a welcome evolution. For awhile, Pour le France catering out of San Francisco provided onboard meals for purchase on United…I wonder what happened to stop this service. It was really nice, especially if one had tight connections between flights and no chance to eat before boarding. Anyone who travels for a living knows this story all too well!

Next post: Eating St. Gallen and Zurich!




Peanut Patriotism

Peanut butter is hard to find in Vienna. Natural peanut butter (or variations thereof) is impossible to find. No matter what kind you find, it is also expensive. Like ridiculous expensive. When DH and I married a few months ago, my mom wanted to give us a “kitchen machine” for a wedding gift. AWESOME. So, we got the Kenwood Cooking Chef. In the US it’s only available through Williams-Sonoma. I ordered ours through Amazon.de, as Kenwood is a UK company and distributes freely throughout Europe. This, my friends, is the ticket to truly scrumptious and CHEAP peanut butter with zero additives, no preservatives, no sugar, no nuttin’ but nuts.

Ya got three steps to this process:

1.) Buy the peanuts: look for organic if you can find them; here in Vienna, we have a wonderful outdoor market (the Naschmarkt) where I suspect that I will be able to find some really interesting and cool peanuts from North Africa, Greece, or Turkey. When I get around to it, haha. For now, I’m buying 400g bags of in-shell peanuts at the regular grocer — it takes 1.5 to make enough goodness to fill my 16oz American peanut butter jar.

2.) Shell the peanuts: warning…it really does take a long time to do this step. If you could find peanuts in a large quantity that were pre-shelled, this would be ideal. I haven’t found them yet, but I look every chance I get! Come up with a meditation, do it while the kids are playing and need supervision but not intervention, have some friends over…just do it.

3.) Grind them up in the food-processor: Cuisinart, Cooking Chef, blender…it doesn’t matter as long as you have the wattage to achieve a great grind. With the Cooking Chef, it takes me about 3.5 minutes of pulsing to get what I want. important: Keep going. After the first 90 seconds or so, you may get discouraged and think that you need to add liquid. The peanuts will simply be chopped up and not be creamy in the least. BUT…Keep going. At about 2 or 2.5 minutes, the peanuts will begin to release their natural oils, which will smooth it all out. It’s magic.

Living in the US, I never gravitated toward peanut butter. It was sticky, gave me peanut-breath, and had a lot of calories. Even the high protein content wasn’t enough for me to be willing to be an addict. Here in Vienna, however, it has become a touchstone of my American-ness and a link to my motherland.