Mrs. NH: Oh, crud. You forgot to season the brisket.
Me: Crap. You handle the girls’ breakfast and I’ll do it now.
You see, we take our brisket pretty seriously in the NH household. It’s a rare, expensive delicacy in the Czech Republic. It’s even more special when it’s accompanied by homemade creamed sweet corn – flash frozen in the waning days of the summer. To top it off, Mrs. NH “invented” her own SaSo seasoned sweet potatoes the last time we had this and I could have eaten the whole damn batch. Twice.
The girls like it, too (not the sweet potatoes – too much of a kick in SaSo). But to be completely honest, we have to fill them partially full of “appetizers” before dinner or I swear my 8-year-old daughter would eat 2 lbs of brisket all by herself. But honestly, who can blame her? (Coincidentally, I came home to the smell of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies this evening. Stop judging.)
We’ll freeze some of this batch of meat for barbacoa tacos to be enjoyed on some crappy-weather January Sunday. It lightens my mood just thinking about it.
If there’s a place all epicureans should visit before they die, it’s Vienna’s Naschmarkt. Mrs. NH and I trekked there this past weekend and were blown away by the sheer variety of food on display and for sale. The market itself is located in the southwest quadrant of the city just outside the middle ring. It has a pretty rich history, almost as rich and varied as the amount of food that it contains.
We spent at least five hours there on Saturday. We couldn’t help ogling the fresh exotic vegetables, meats, spices and dried goods of all shapes and sizes. Granted, we live in Prague where it takes a good deal of searching to dig up anywhere near the diversity of product – not to mention freshness. However, the vegetables on display at the Naschmarkt look as if they were picked seconds before being put on sale. The fresh seafood offering there looks as good as any I’ve seen in coastal towns and the variety of cheeses, olives and wine is enough to make all but the most jaded Italian blush.
Now, let’s talk about the pasta. You may remember that I lamented not having fresh pasta available at the Little Italy Deli down the street from my house in Prague. Well, there is no such problem here. There is arugula ravioli, truffle ravioli, fresh tagliatelli, parpadelle, and all other sort of vowel ending pasta that you can imagine. I’ll admit, for a minute I considered how long the commute would be from here to my Prague office.
Before we drove to Vienna, we were aware of the bounty that awaited us at the Naschmarkt and we arrived with a cooler and made plans with the hotel in advance to reserve a little fridge room. Beware: the market isn’t open on Sunday so, you’ll need to do all of your shopping on Saturday. And shop we did: 30 falafels, assorted olives (including pistachio stuffed), gourds, wine, cheese, more Italian olives, pumpkin seed oil, and plenty of drooling over the fresh produce.
Finally, there was a peculiarly Austrian aspect to the market. About halfway through one of the rows of goodies stood a fellow in a dark suit over barrels of pickles in brine and sauerkraut. In the 2-3 minutes I watched him, I saw him dig a gigantic wooden spoon in the kraut and offer tastes to passers-by. Wow. You don’t see that at Dean and DeLuca.
To me, the market is the highest form of capitalism. It is all quality product. Some of it is mass-produced and some of it is real hand-crafted artisan fare. Still, in this market, there is only the best and quality mass-produced sits happily beside small-batch. He who ends up winning here is the consumer. The sheer experience of the market is worth the visit – even all the way from the Czech Republic.