Hello! Please come in and enjoy the strains of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
I’ve prepared a special late afternoon tea as a tribute to Vienna. My husband and I visited this remarkable city back in the mid ’90s. Memories of the opulent architecture, palaces, cathedrals, opera, Royal Lippizzaner horses, china, and pastries fill my head. There’s no place in the world like Vienna for pastries. A friend offered to show us around the city, and she’d placed Café Landtmann on our agenda. Famous as one of Freud’s haunts, the restaurant sits near Vienna’s center of government.
“Isn’t it funny that the building that holds their politicians is called the Rathaus?” my friend commented.
I’ll make a disclaimer right here: Vienna is known for its coffee, not tea. To the uninitiated, Viennese coffee can come as a shock. It’s strong. So strong, we thought our spoons might melt in our cups, and we affectionately started referring to the hot beverage as Rotgut. Even in my younger days, my stomach couldn’t handle it. Our friend suggested we try a Melange, the Austrian version of cappuccino. Even that proved too stout. I had to keep asking our waiter for extra milk. Take a sip, add a shot of milk to the cup, nibble on a pastry. Then start the process all over again until there is enough dairy to take the edge off the robust drink.
It was ten a.m. on a weekday, and Café Landtmann was filled with well heeled patrons. Unlike Americans, the Viennese think nothing of leaving work for a leisurely pastry, coffee, and cigarette. Our waiter, dressed in a black jacket, crisp white shirt and tie, accommodated me. Paneled walls with fancy bouquet inlays and moldings, chandeliers, rich fabrics, and tall arched windows clad in lavish drapes surrounded me. You get the idea.
All this luxury comes with a price tag, which leads me to my next standout memory of Vienna. Back then, I drank a soda every day. I’d become dependent on its sugar and caffeine. In Austria, when you ask for a cola, you get a small juice glass worth. I’d had it. I was exhausted late one afternoon when I plunked down at an outdoor café opposite the famous Sacher Hotel. “I’d like a large Coke,” I said to the waiter. “Large?” he inquired, with raised eyebrows. I don’t think he’d ever heard of the word in relation to a cola. “Large!” I confirmed.
I got my big beverage (a little more than a can’s worth), and I’ve kept the receipt in a scrapbook of our trip, along with a photo of my husband’s shocked expression (this is the man who chose to walk from a train station in Salzburg to our hotel in order to save cab fare, busting a wheel on his luggage that required an expensive fix — much more than the $5 fee for a ride). The soft drink cost $7, in 1995, with a good exchange rate. I must add, it was worth every penny to me!
I’ve chosen the most opulent spot in my house to set up our tea. In honor of the Sacher Torte, ubiquitous in Vienna, I’ve prepared a strong apricot tea. See these pretty Mozart Kugeln candies? I first sampled them in Austria. They are filled with a chocolate cream surrounded by hazelnut, almond, and pistachio paste. I’ve also sandwiched apricot jam between wafer cookies, topped with a dark chocolate piping — another tribute to the torte. Try one of these apple blossoms, a yummy pastry topped with caramel.
In Vienna, we saw a production of The Magic Flute. The composer is featured throughout the city, as is Strauss. Formal waltzes are held several nights a week, so you can dance the night away, if that’s your cup of tea.
My wedding dishes grace a lavish cabinet. I think the china motif reflects an Art Nouveau design. The city offers many examples of the movement. One of my favorite painters is Gustav Klimt, but I missed the opportunity to see his work in Austria.
These napkin rings are cherished keepsakes of my visit to Vienna. I regret not purchasing the matching place card holders. Perhaps I couldn’t afford them after paying for my cola!
Don’t be afraid to use your best china. It’s meant to be enjoyed.
Drape your tea table with rich fabrics, like this damask runner with tassels, for a special touch.
Pipe chocolate icing in the form of your guests’ initials onto treats. I used a store bought tube. Snip the corner off a Ziplock bag. Squeeze a small amount of icing into the plastic bag and pipe whatever design you desire. Practice on a paper plate until you feel confident moving on to the treats. I suggest freezing small amounts of icing to thaw out as needed. This way, you will always be ready to add a monogram on a cookie, cupcake, or candy. Your friends will be thrilled with the personalization!
Thank you for coming. If you ever get the chance to visit Vienna, jump at it! I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself, and do pop by anytime!
COPYRIGHT 2016. VICTORIA BENCHLEY ALL RIGHTS RESERVED