A Taste of Graz


The Hills Are Alive with Austria’s Culinary Treasures – Part 2.
(Read Part 1 – A Taste of Vienna)
A Taste of Salzburgerland – Pt 3
By Debbie Stone


Travel writer Debbie Stone talks about her culinary adventures in historic and beautiful Austria, on Big Blend Radio.

Though Vienna is certainly a showcase for many of Austria’s wonders, there are a number of other cities that spotlight different regional specialties, especially when it comes to food. Among them is Graz, Austria’s “Capital of Delight.” Located in the southern part of the country, about 95 miles from Vienna, in an area known as Styria, Graz has long had a reputation for its robust culinary scene. Everywhere you go, you’ll encounter gastronomical pleasures, from food festivals and guided food tours to cooking demos and special events like the Long Table of Graz. Held once a year in August, this unique culinary experience takes place in the historic center of the city, where long tables are set up as a giant open air restaurant. Guests, of which number 700, enjoy a multi-course dinner paired with specific wines, which has been planned by noted chefs and master sommeliers.

With its mild climate, fruit, veggies and vineyards thrive, and farmers markets abound in Graz. For an introduction to the products of this region, stroll through Kaiser-Josef Market, where a colorful bounty of scarlet runner beans, apples, farmer’s bread, smoked sausages, homemade cakes, tomatoes and more is on display. In the autumn, pumpkins dominate along with bottles of pumpkin seed oil. Known as “green gold,” Styrian pumpkin seed oil is world famous. It’s so special that it was declared a protected product by the EU-Commission, with a strict set of guidelines and criteria to assure authenticity. The best way to learn about this acclaimed oil is to participate in a tasting session at Gasthaus Stainzerbauer, a local restaurant that has a tradition of fine food in Graz. You’ll learn about the history, cultivation, processing, nutrients and usage of the oil via a memorable sensory experience. I became an instant convert upon sampling this magical substance, with its dark green color, rich roast aroma, nutty kernel taste and light, fresh sensation. Dinner at the restaurant followed with plenty of pumpkin-related dishes, including a heavenly pumpkin soup, curd cheese with pumpkin seed oil, pumpkin seed oil ice cream and even pumpkin tiramisu. As you travel through this region in fall, you’ll quickly become aware of how pumpkin, in all shapes and forms, makes its way into everything.

Visitors might also notice that many restaurants have fried chicken on their menus. Styrian fried chicken is in a class of its own, made with bread crumbs and typically served on a bed of greens with potatoes and scarlet runner beans. And of course, it’s marinated in pumpkin seed oil! Landhauskeller is reputed to be one of the best places in Graz for this dish. You’ll dine in cozy style amid 16th century pillars in an old government building.

Styria has a reputation as the Tuscany of Austria. More grape varieties are cultivated here than in any other winegrowing area in Europe. The region produces characteristically light, dry wines, with the fruity taste of ripe grapes. The most popular is Welschriesling. With its fine, full-bodied touch, it’s a wine for any occasion. Beer lovers don’t despair, as Graz is home to several breweries and brewpubs. Styrian beer is reputed to be the best in Austria, with Reininghaus and Puntigamer at the top of the list. And if you think you need to drink one of those ginormous steins, rest assured, you can order just a “pfiff” or a “whistle,” which is a small glass, ideal for midday consumption.

  • Care for a libation & Award-winning Chef D¦llerer has a reputation for using regional products and melding tradition with innovation
    Care for a libation & Award-winning Chef D¦llerer has a reputation for using regional products and melding tradition with innovation.

Graz boasts an Old Town that counts as one of the most well-preserved city centers in Central Europe. Nowhere else will you find outstanding architecture of all styles in such a concentrated area, from the Middle Ages through the 21st century. This UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site on the banks of the Mur River is a treasure trove of palaces, romantic inner courtyards, elaborate frescoed facades, stately churches and charming squares. It’s also a mecca of museums showcasing art, archaeology, science and military history. Taking center stage, though, is the Kunsthaus Graz, an architectural icon that serves as an exhibition center for contemporary art. The unusual biomorphous structure is known locally as the “Friendly Alien,” thanks to its unusual shape and the one thousand plus acrylic glass elements that form its skin.

The town’s traditional landmark is the medieval Clock Tower, which is located atop the Schlossberg hill, the highest point in the city. You can reach Schlossberg on foot up a series of 300 stairs, via the funicular, or by taking a ride in a glass elevator that ascends inside the mountain. Atop, you are greeted with a dramatic panorama of the surrounding mountains and red-tile roofscape of the city below. Take time to walk along the network of footpaths around this lovely spot and when you feel the need for sustenance, head to the Schlossberg Restaurant, where the food and views are divine.

Deborah Stone is a travel and lifestyle writer, who explores the globe in search of unique destinations and experiences to share with her readers. She’s an avid adventurer who welcomes new opportunities to increase awareness and enthusiasm for travel and cross-cultural connections. Her travels have taken her to all seven continents, over 65 countries and 45 U.S. states.


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