It's All Organic In The Tyrolean Capital
Remember mad cow disease? Never came to Innsbruck. That was thanks to a radical experiment by Tyrolean farmers: they actually let their animals eat grass rather than pellets manufactured from other animals. That's the way things are done in this beautiful part of Austria where a high quality of life is a reality, not a daydream, reflected in every aspect of living in Innsbruck. Even the tap water is mineral water, naturally devoid of the toxins and other residual scourges of urban existence we have been trained to accept as the normal byproducts of modern life. In Innsbruck, whose glorious mountains act as natural filters in addition to stunning backdrops to tourist photographs, food is grown locally the old-fashioned way, but it's certainly presented in original ways.
Lunch at Europa Stüberl, located at the Grand Hotel Europa, brings an unexpectedly modern twist to several traditional dishes. May is asparagus season in Austria, which means chefs are working overtime to find new ways to present green and white dishes to their patrons. From sautéed asparagus to cream of asparagus soup, an astonishing array of variations of this exalted stalk makes its way onto local plates. Europa Stüberl is no exception, with paper-thin slices of full-length asparagus stalks accompanying its dishes, innovative in both ingredients and presentation. For example, medallions of venison and goose liver are paired together with asparagus risotto and an orange sauce; the play of flavours is superb, only surpassed by the exquisite delicateness of taste bursting from the tonka bean mousse as dessert.
Another great place for a hearty meal is The Wilder Mann in the village of Lans. This unassuming inn serves smart meals in rustic/luxurious surroundings that attract city residents and visitors up a few hundred metres to enjoy the finesse in preparation that makes this a Wild Man happily included on any culinary itinerary. One of the joys of Innsbruck is the proximity of country living to the cosmopolitan city centre, and locals take every opportunity to enjoy the peace and quiet as well as the duck pâté and the käserahmspätzle, a Tyrol favourite of homemade gnocchi-like pasta in a cheese sauce made from several of the fine dairy products this part of Austria has to offer. Don't be fooled into thinking it's a bit too twee for thee; if in doubt, the Grand Marnier semifreddo will set the record straight.
As in the rest of Austria, Innsbruck also has several excellent restaurants defying the stereotype of tradition. The amazing 360° bar is a small circle of glass set on top of a glass shopping arcade in the centre of the city, offering, as its name suggests, full views of Innsbruck's wonderful architectural treasures and the mountains beyond. The bar is just a catwalk away from Lichtblick, where cuisine is an art right from the aperitif of elderflower prosecco cocktail to the bread basket and through to the various dishes that match the views in the impressions made. The chic ambience draws an afterwork crowd and expense-account types looking to impress out of town visitors. No doubt their objective is achieved long before the last mouthful of dessert disappears.
One of the most rewarding dining experiences is also the least ostentatious. Alfred Miller's Schöneck is a discreet place in the hills above Innsbruck. Needless to say, the views are impressive, and the hours pass like minutes when sitting on the terrace admiring the city below, spooning sangria sorbet into oblivion. In winter, the rooms come alive with a fireplace warming the heart(h) of visitors who come to Innsbruck in winter to enjoy the excellent sports facilities in this city that twice hosted the Winter Olympics. And then there's the food; far ahead of his time, Mr. Miller toiled for years to establish his reputation. The rest of the world finally caught up with his masterful pairings of flavours and his restaurant now enjoys the success it always deserved.
Smart connoisseurs will have stashed a few bars of Austrian chocolate acquired earlier in the day at the wonderful R. Rajsigl, the city's most impressive chocolate shop very close to the top attractions like the Imperial Palace and the Golden Roof. Ms. Gabriella Schretter perfectly exemplifies the pride that Austrians have in maintaining their traditions while bringing them into modernity. A third-generation purveyor of chocolate, the shop has been in existence at its present location at Maria Theresienstrasse 18 since 1917. Two other of Innsbruck's best culinary shops are also nearby; s' Speckladele sells the types of sausages and dried meats for which the Tyrol is famous. s' Speckladele procures its products directly from the farmers; its reputation is such that this little shop has customers all over the world who have their favourite sausages sent to them. Look for the 'Speckschwemme' sign at Stiftgasse 4. S' Culinarium is another must-enter world of delicacies, most of them liquid, where local creations of the highest quality are sold.
In between all the eating, take in the sights of Innsbruck with an Innsbruck Card, which includes both public transport and entry into a long list of cultural and sports facilities in the city centre and in its outskirts. A visit to the Zaha Hadid-designed Bergisel skijump stadium is a must; its restaurant offers a breakfast special to start the day with outstanding views of the city. On the other side of Innsbruck is another Hadid creation, this one the ultramodern Nordpark Cable Railways, which whisks passengers up to more than two thousand metres above sea level in about twenty minutes. For more private travel, the very personable Rainer Ammann can take visitors around town—or around Europe—in total comfort. The dry wit and twinkle in his eye are bonuses for the traveller lucky enough to be able to book him, such is his popularity and reputation.
To get an idea of what to see and do in Innsbruck, Innsbruck Tourism has an extensive website with lots of helpful information in planning visits for the Early Music Festival or skiing events throughout the winter season.
With Innsbruck closer to Zurich than to Vienna, Zurich Airport is a convenient gateway to the Tyrol. SWISS International Air Lines and Swiss Railways can easily transport international arrivals to Austria's Shangri-la.
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: R.L.B