8 September 2016

Graz: capital of culinary delights since 2008. 2/2

Here’s a culinary tour of the city

I’ve left you waiting for a few days, but here’s the continuation of my tour of Graz.

I really wanted to get well involved in this little culinary tour of mine … so in the centre, close to the Franciscan church, I stop in a small but very special shop that sells chocolate specialties: Linzbichler, that gets its name from the family that has been running this little chocolate atelier for over 40 years!

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I meet Peter, that has been running the place for the past 27 years and tells me all about how they work. What amazes me is that Peter isn’t actually a producer but he relies on producers from Italy, Austria, France and Germany.

Because I’m Italian, I’m immediately curious about where they actually have their chocolate workshops and I discover that Peter also works with a chocolate maker from Trieste, Ota from San Dorligo della Valle, that makes some special dragée, made with San Dorligo olive oil and with salt from Pirano… exquisite!

As we chat I get to taste some excellent Austrian chocolate, made in Styria: Zotter. Here is a small chocolate-bar: polenta, coffee and rum. The idea of eating polenta in a chocolate bar was a little strange, so strange that I had to finish the entire bar, and I can assure you I didn’t do it out of manners!

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I also get to taste other more exotic variations, like mango, and he explains that the selection changes with the season: in the summer there’s more fruit and flowers, in the winter more spices.

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Then Peter offers us some Truffles: cute little chocolates stuffed with the best and greediest fillings, my favourite of which is the red current and almond cream filling.

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After all this chocolate the ideal is to have a nice coffee, so I drag Sabine (my great guide) and Andrea (my photographer) to a lovely bar I noticed the evening before: Bar Albert!

Along the main street there’s a small but incredible bar, where a large 3kg can of coffee catches your attention, with a Qubik coffee grinder on top!

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When I travel around I always enjoy trying the local food, but there’s one aroma that is always best from home: coffee!

And incredibly I found my favourite coffee here in Graz! I try an espresso and then I absolutely need to meet the person who had the brilliant idea of using a coffee that isn’t that well known.

And here he is, round eyed like Iris Apfel, a black apron and a cloth on his shoulder: Albert!

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A pleasant chat with him and I’m tasting local food again, with explanations worthy of a high level restaurant!

I tried an incredible raw ham, seasoned for 27 months, a Vulcano Schinken, produced in Styria with love; for their first 8 months the animals only eat corn and then barley. This way, Albert tells me, they grow gradually, reaching 40% of body fat. With a long seasoning the external part becomes very hard and this is important because the ham doesn’t lose its moisture. In the valleys of Styria even the Lard is very appreciated, usually from the mangalica: a pig with fur like a sheep, which is especially fat and tasty.

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Albert has also put some excellent cheese on the plate, seasoned 8 months in a cave (which reminds me of Zidaric’s Jamar – from Trieste – but with a slightly different taste).

It’s produced in a small town in the eastern part of Styria, Arzberger, and the cheese is called Stollenkase.

All this lovely food is accompanied by excellent wine from Tement, 48 hectares of vineyard in the Styrian countryside. In this case Albert decided to produce his own label, such a good wine it was that I went back to the hotel with a box of 6 bottles loaded on my shoulders 😉

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A splendid city: a fusion of tastes, architecture and design, where you walk among history, passing by the splendid Oper Graz and visiting the 40 open air spaces dedicate to events (there’s a specific itinerary to follow for them).

Enchantful!

But let’s get back to the Capital of culinary delights and its 30 restaurants. Unfortunately I didn’t get to try them all but the two that are worthy of a visit are: Carl and Der Steirer.

Two very different environments. Carl with the cuisine of Philipp Haige and Marcel Gaube, wins the golden medal as best restaurant in Graz in 2016.

Here the dishes have an international twist, and are developed with great creativity. The key to their success is the quality of the ingredients, so the creativeness of each dish has the best results, trying to coordinate in the best way all the flavours of the food.

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The environment is elegant and modern, with an outdoor area along one of the main streets of Graz, where you can find a little shade on a hot summer day.

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Der Steirer, is slightly different; from its glass windows you can see the 350 different wines from Styria, all on sale and displayed with an Ape Piaggio. Here, among the boxes of wine, you can sit at the main table to eat something all together. It’s a young environment, the perfect place for an informal dinner. The wooden tables are set with mats and they serve dishes of traditional Austrian cuisine with a little influence from modern cuisine.

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The best stop if you want to try different wines and even buy a few bottles, because every month they have 12 labels on offer and even more at the wine bar!

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Graz, you truly were a great discovery, I’m not even back home yet but I’m already planning my next trip here!

I’d really like to see you all dressed up for Christmas (https://www.graztourismus.at/avvento/it/visite-guidate/avvento/passeggiata-nel-centro-storico), so I’ll probably be back with the cold season!

See you all soon!

Ph. Andrea Zangrando

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