Rise and shine in Austria
Breakfast is quite a different affair outside the United States. In Austria, it’s simple, restrained and delicious.
So a word before we get to the goods. Before we left for Austria I’d read a story that suggested you find one place you love in your temporary home and frequent it often. You go from stranger to tourist to almost a local. So that’s what we did for breakfast. Mark found Cafe Standard about two blocks from our apartment and we went there almost every morning.
In the beginning the servers (who may well have also been the owners) were polite but formal. As we kept coming back formal turned to warm and by the time we left they seemed genuinely sad to see us go.
And here’s the huge difference. Austrian coffee houses don’t want you to leave. Part of the culture is that you linger in conversation or reading one of the numerous newspapers offered to guests. There’s no such thing as turning a table. You have to actively request the bill before it’s delivered. If you spent three hours in a coffee house, buying only a cup of coffee, no one would bat an eye.
So just as in the United States, breakfast starts with coffee but Austrian coffee houses are not your Waffle House. Coffee is a culture in Austria. There’s no such thing as just a cup of coffee. There’s Cappuccino (just what you think), Einspanner (espresso with whipped cream) and a slew of other options. In my case, it was Melange — espresso with steamed milk.
It’s always served with a small glass of water to cleanse the palate before enjoying your coffee and a biscuit or small chocolate. Refined. Lovely.
On to the goods.
This is the basic breakfast every Austrian eats. A perfect soft-boiled egg, a crusty roll called a handsemmel, good butter and great jam. King Daddy was not partial to soft-boiled eggs before the trip but he was so devoted to them by the end that we brought back egg cups.
You can up your game with a cheese plate, an amount I am sure the Austrians assume will be shared but which the uncouth Americans did not. The mound of cheese in the front with chives is “fresh cheese,” a creamy cheese similar to cream cheese but lighter and more delicious.
You can really go to town with a breakfast that includes various cured meats. This one was at the Budapest Bistro, where we felt like we were betraying our allegiance but only because Cafe Standard is closed on Sundays. This one also included a Hungarian cheese spread called Korozott.
We get home. We have a day off to start getting over the jet lag and King Daddy asks a question he never asked before the trip because it’s a meal he ordinarily doesn’t eat. Where do you want to have breakfast?
We looked at each other blankly and then said simultaneously, Vienna.