Posts tagged ‘sacher hotel’

July 21, 2011

The Great Dessert Search, Edition No. 1: The Original Sacher-Torte

Original Sacher-Torte from Sacher Hotel

Guests at the Sacher Hotel receive small squares of Sacher-Torte in their rooms. (Copyright photo by Julia Pelish)

VIENNA — About a year ago, a friend of mine came up with the name for The Great Dessert Search — a compilation of the absolute best sweet treats on the planet (or at least near Toronto). With space in the Toronto Star Travel section tight, we haven’t been able to start it up there. So, I’ve decided to run the series here. If you’ve got a dessert you’d like to nominate, let me know, or write about it yourself and send in photos if you have them.

First, though, we start with one of the world’s most famous and decadent desserts: The Original Sacher-Torte.

This treat has everything a renowned culinary creation should: a global following, a history as rich as its ingredients and the ever-present term “secret recipe” attached to it. First invented in 1832 by Franz Sacher, the treat will remind you of a Black Forest cake but with a much smoother, firmer chocolate icing and a more elegant fruit spread between the two cake layers.

The cake’s great history includes a fight over its ownership. When Sacher invented it, he was a 16-year-old apprentice to the personal chef of a Viennese prince. His son, Edouard, reputedly perfected the recipe while working at Demel bakery. Edouard then started the Sacher Hotel in 1876 and brought the cake with him. A lawsuit ensued between the hotel and Demel for rights to the name “sachertorte.” Cafe Demel and the Sacher, which are about 600 metres apart in the lovely historic district of the Austrian capital, now serve their own versions of the cake. “The Original Sacher-Torte” (about 4.90 euros, or $6.70, a slice) is what you find at the Sacher Hotel in Vienna and Salzburg, and the “Demel Sachertore” (3.70 euros, or $5.05) is on the menu at the popular café that employs only women in the kitchen.

READ ABOUT WHY ELSE YOU SHOULD GO TO VIENNA

Cafe Sacher menu in Vienna

Cafe Sacher at the hotel details the history of its most famous treat. (Copyright photo by Julia Pelish)

It’s become custom for visitors to Vienna to try both to decide which is best. It’s not a taste test anyone I know of has passed up. While the Sacher Hotel says it still holds the original recipe, the main ingredients are well known. The chocolate sponge cake layers are separated by apricot jam. Dark chocolate icing covers the cake and a chocolate medallion with the Sacher name is pressed to the top of servings at the hotel. A dollop of whipped cream comes with it on the side and a cup of melange (cappuccino-style coffee) is recommended to accompany it.

Sounds divine, right?

To tell you the truth, the first time I tasted sacher-torte I wasn’t all that impressed. It was earlier this year at Roy Thomson Hall, when a delegation from Vienna were in town for a performance from the city’s famed Philharmonic Orchestra. They brought with them pounds and pounds of the cake to share with Torontonians. I thought it was a touch tart and the chocolate flavours not memorable enough. After a recent stay at the Sacher Hotel, though, I’ve joined the cult.

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July 11, 2011

Having a ball in Vienna

Ballet dancers at Fete Imperiale in Vienna

Ballet dancers loosen things up at Fete Imperiale in Vienna. (Richard Tanzer photo for the Vienna Tourist Board)

VIENNA — This enchanted city’s Fête Impériale began the way I expected a Viennese ball to unfold, with pomp and circumstance in the form of a marching band and speeches by politicians and organizers. A crowd of about 3,000, including luminaries such as Frank Stronach, attended to witness performances of ballet, opera and the waltz on Thursday night. I jetted over for the spectacle, which I believed would be fittingly grandiose but also as stuffy as a tuxedo collar. After all, it was a black- or white-tie affair, and such evenings can descend into the unbecoming sight of very wealthy people measuring each other up.

Turned out, though, that Vienna did what it so often seems to — it surprised and amused.

As the “William Tell Overture” played, ballet dancers emerged — with the men dressed in Fred Astaire-like long tails and the young women in slinky red gowns — to perform wonderfully for 15 minutes to a medley of classical favourites. Nothing unusual about that. But just as some of us in the audience were thinking the men had to be sweating through their bow ties, they stripped. Ripping off their tuxedos and pants, and baring themselves to boxers short of the full monty. With their clothes went any notions the ball would be overly mannered.

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May 20, 2011

5 Vienna travel tips

St Stephens Cathedral in Vienna

The 137-metre spire of St. Stephen's Cathedral towers over the old city in Vienna.

VIENNA — The capital of Austria is one gorgeous, well-managed place and it’s easy to get around here. You don’t have to be a seasoned traveler to find Vienna comfortable and accommodating. Here are some tips for your trip that may make it more enjoyable than you expect:

  1. Explore the old and new city. Like just about every European city, Vienna features a beautiful historic centre with spectacular architecture and a towering church spire looming over everything. Still, to really see what makes it special, you’ll want to get away from the crowds outside of St. Stephen’s Cathedral and beyond the Ring Road, which circles the old city. The new part of Vienna is filled with cool stores, innovative restaurants and fantastic bars. Check out Schon Schön, Max and Bar a.m.
  2. Save on transit. Vienna has an expansive and diverse public transit system that includes an underground Metro, buses and streetcar/tram system. There’s a quirk that says you have to pay 2.20 euros if you buy your ticket on a tram or bus, but if you purchase an advance ticket it’s only 1.80 euros. You can get those advance tickets at “Vorverkauf” (“advance tickets”) kiosks in the Metro stations and at some tram stops. Also, if you’re traveling on the transit system for only one or two stops, you can buy a “half-price ticket” for just 1.10 euros. Visitors can purchase unlimited-travel passes for a number of time periods; for 24 hours it costs 5.70 euros and for 72 hours it’s 13.60 euros, and you can even get an eight-day ticket (27.20 euros). Thing is, Vienna is so easy to walk — and walking is always the best way to see a city — that you may not need to take transit more than twice a day, if at all, meaning you can stick to the advance tickets and save, or simply opt to stay on foot. When you want to travel to the outskirts of the city, you can purchase a 24-hour pass that can get you to Schönbrunn Palace and Grinzing in one day.
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