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Posted by portugalpress on May 18, 2017

The Resident daily digest

Last night was an event particularly close to the heart of Vila Vita Parc, for the Managing Director, Kurt Gillig, and the head chef of the 2-star Michelin Ocean Restaurant, Hans Neuner, are both very proudly Austrian. And when it comes to the regional cuisine and wines of the country, their pride borders on obsession. They have both dedicated most of their time to promoting all things Portuguese, and especially the local Algarve ingredients that feature so prominently in Hans’s cuisine, and so it was with particular pleasure that they welcomed some of their home country’s top young chefs and leading winemakers to create a truly Austrian evening as part of the resort’s Fine Wines & Food Fair.

The evening started with a Champagne reception, overlooking the gardens at Vila Vita Parc, with the first two of the amuse-bouche servings presented as finger food, followed by a few more appetisers served at the table in The Ocean Restaurant ahead of the five main dishes.

This dinner will stand out in my memory of great gastronomic experiences for many reasons, utmost amongst which is the appreciation of the gastronomy of the different regions of Austria. The five main dishes were cooked by chefs from Salzburg, at the foot of the Alps, from Wachau in the Danube river valley, from Techelsberg near the Italian border, from Trautmannsdorf in the east, close to Vienna, and from Neufelden in the rural central north region.

Each chef represented aspects of the regional cuisine interpreted in contemporary style with great skill and finesse, starting with Thomas Dorfer from the famous Landhaus Bacher restaurant whose cured trout with white asparagus, salted egg yolk, rapeseed oil cream and vinaigrette paid homage to the fertile river valley of the Wachau region, pairing flawlessly with a fresh and zesty Riesling from the same region.

Chef Andreas Dollerer is renowned for his Alpine cuisine and his restaurant uses only local ingredients, meaning no seafood whatsoever. He tricked us with an Alpine Jackobsmuschel, which roughly translates to Alpine freshwater scallop, but when the scallop shell came to the table we found that the flesh of the mollusk had been replaced by a morsel of beef bone marrow, served with cabbage, smoked egg cream and fermented garlic, another excellent wine pairing, this time with Gruner Veltliner Der Ott, from the Bernhard Ott winery.

The next dish was pure comfort food, with chef Hubert Wallner showing that his region close the Italian border can give the neighbours a run for their money when it comes to pasta making. His “Techelsberger Kasnudel” was a pasta case filled with creamed celeriac, nuts and truffles, simply delicious, served with the slightly richer Spiegel Gruner Veltliner, also from the Bernhard Ott winery.

The rural region of central northern Austria, a land where cooks are expert in the concept of nose to tail eating, was represented by chef Richard Rauch with lamb tongue, kohlrabi, green strawberries and a herb from his local forest know as Waldmeister. This strongly flavoured yet well-balanced dish was paired with an unusually full-bodied Sauvignon Blanc, Ried Moartfeitl from Weingut Neumeister.

Our final meat course of young maibock deer, delicate in flavour and meltingly tender, was steamed in black current leaves and served with black currents, beetroot and juniper, Weingut Neumeister’s Pinot Noir Ried Klausen was another excellent match.

And finally dessert, from chef Josef Floh, hailing from the Danube valley to the west of Vienna rounded off the menu splendidly with a suitably light concoction of polenta and buttermilk served with cold brew coffee and a Gruner Veltliner pudding wine from Weingut F.X. Pichler.