For a child who enjoyed reading the encyclopedia, the internet is a dream come true. As I was pondering the question of the oldest restaurant in Europe, rather than searching through pages and pages of a heavy book, I had several answers in just a few seconds. And not just one answer, but a Top 10 list, more than enough for a long rainy afternoon read.
Using the qualifier of simply oldest established restaurant, not longest continually operating restaurant, I agreed with the writer of the Top 10 list. The winner of the Top 10 list is in Salzburg, Austria, St. Peter’s Stiftskeller. A tavern within the Benedictine St. Peter’s Abbey was used to serve passersby in need as well as important visitors.
The Carmina anthology issued in 803 AD, written by Alcuin, Charlemagne's follower, noted that the Emperor Charlemagne and the Bishop of Salzburg dined at St. Peter's Abbey. Was this the place where Charlemagne decided that his subjects should be Christian?
The Stiftskeller of St. Peter's can probably claim the title of the oldest restaurant in Europe. A few of the other diners mentioned in the writings are Christopher Columbus, Johann Georg Faust and Amadeus Mozart. Through the centuries, wars, invasions and other national event sometimes closed the monastery to outside visitors, but the Stiftskeller has been in operation otherwise.
The style of menu has altered somewhat over the years but has stayed true to traditional Austrian cuisine, such as Weiner Schnitzel - a thin piece of veal, pounded even thinner, done with an typical flour, egg wash, bread crumb coating, then fried. Schnitzel can be made from foods other than veal, but only called Weiner Schnitzel if it is veal, by Austrian law.
A traditional food served through the centuries is a sausage known as Weiner Wurstels - translated “Vienna Sausages.” I don't believe these come in a small can.
Stews and goulashes made from pork, venison, boar or beef were also on the menu. These are always accompanied by a sturdy bread and a mug of beer.
Another favorite dish is called Tafelspitz. Made from various tougher cuts of beef as ordinary fare, but for elaborate parties beef tenderloin was used. It is simmered in a broth with root vegetables and herbs. The meat is sliced, served atop of the vegetables then served with a condiment of apples and horseradish.
In reading about the delicacies from Salzburg, one particularly caught my attention. The presentation is spectacular, it is delicious and best of all, it comes with a delightful story. The story tells that Salome Alt, the concubine of Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich Raitenau, created this confection. She gave him 15 children. Sadly, his 15 sins caught up with him, and he was jailed for behavior unbecoming an archbishop.
It was said that the meringue tops of this tri-topped souffle resembled the three mountain peaks that surround Salzburg. The confection was known as Salzburger Nockeri. In 1938 an operetta called Saison in Salzburg-Nockerin (Season in Salzburg-Salzburger Nockerin.) The fluffy mountains are lauded as “Sweet as love and tender as a kiss” in German.
These tender as a kiss meringue dumplings are popular, not just in Salzburg, but through the area.
In the 21st century the St. Peter Stiftskeller features evenings featuring Mozart, a favorite son of Salzburg. The music, the setting, the dinner - all relate to Mozart. In looking at photographs of their menus, the dessert plate is garnished with a silhouette of Mozart … very cool.
Salzburger Nockerin - Austrian Souffle
l 1/2 Tblsp. soft butter
l 1/2 cup sugar
l 1 cup (about 6 oz.) fresh raspberries
l 1 Tblsp. milk
l 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds and pulp scraped out
l 4 egg yolks
l 1 tsp lemon
l 7 egg whites
l 1/4 cup all purpose flour
l 1/2 Tblsp. confectioner's sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush butter on a 10-12" shallow oval baking dish or ovenproof platter. Dust with 1 Tblsp. sugar.
Spread raspberries in center of dish, leaving about a 1 inch border. Sprinkle milk in border.
In large bowl, scrape vanilla seeds and pulp into egg yolks; beat briefly with whisk until smooth. Whisk in lemon juice.
Place egg whites in bowl of electric mixer. Beat on medium speed until frothy. Add 2 Tblsp. remaining sugar. Continue beating on medium speed, gradually adding all remaining sugar, until whites are very thick, smooth and creamy and the consistency of softly whipped cream. Continue beating a minute or two longer, until beaters leave marks in surface. Increase speed to high and beat 10 seconds. Whites will be dense and will old their shape but will not be stiff.
Fold half the whites into the yolks. Sprinkle with flour. Add remaining whites and fold in.
Pile egg mixture in three large mounds close together on top of raspberries, each covering one-third of the dish. Make mounds in a line along the length of the dish. Place in preheated oven and bake 10-12 minutes, until surface is golden brown.
Remove from oven, sift confectioners' sugar over the tops of the peaks. Serve immediately.
Fran Ginn is former chef/owner of The Back Door Café, who retired after 31 years in the food industry to be a grandmother. She can be contacted at email@example.com.